Title: Meditations on Violence:
A comparison of martial arts training and real world violence
Publisher's site: YMAA
Amazon link: Amazon
Price £15.95
ISBN #: 978-1-59439-118-7
Date: 2008
Author/s Rory Miller

Cover of Meditations on violence book

Meditations on Violence : A comparison of Martial arts training and real world violence

Meditations on Violence is a book that does exactly what it says on the tin.  The author, Sgt Rory Miller, is an experienced  martial artist with what is these days a rare commodity – genuine experience of dealing daily with some of the most dangerous people and situations  any of us could ever have the misfortune to encounter.  Just for starters he cites five incidents where he was attacked first hand by knife/blade wielding attackers...

The book is not the usual self defence manual, but rather delves into the grey area between training and reality. The first sections deal with analyzing how appropriate given techniques may be to certain situations; this is complicated further by adding increasing levels of environmental and physical complexity and considering how appropriate the response may be to the given situation. Miller makes this complex matrix accessible and approachable, and encourages the reader to explore the concept using their own favourite dojo combination.  Suddenly that ‘killer’ tournament combo isn’t quite so effective in the real world.

As the chapters move forwards he explores the mindset and strategies of the criminal and other violent elements of society. Of key importance is the fact that these people do not abide by the same rules as the rest of us. In their eyes, they are not breaking the law for they do not follow the same laws as the rest of society.  Society has enforced operant conditioning upon the majority of the population, and this controls what we do, when we do it, etc. The darker elements of society according to Miller rely on this to cause maximum shock and impact when they decide to act.

In the final chapters Miller explores, what he deems, the necessary mindset and decision making processes required to deal with surviving such an encounter. The majority of this advice concerns deciding in advance what you as the reader would deem unacceptable enough to necessitate a violent response and the level to which this would be actioned.  Familiar concepts such as zanshin are given real world relevance.

Throughout the book the author draws heavily on sensible and accessible analogies. I have personally found some of these very useful in class and as such the book is a useful teaching resource. On a more serious note however, I would add that many of the examples used to describe criminal behavior are extremely graphic and disturbing. These clearly show the huge chasm in mindset between society and the individuals concerned, but make the book unsuitable for non adult readers.

As a matter of interest, Miller provides an extensive and contemporary bibliography of further reading, and I greatly enjoyed the books on it, which were highly relevant.

In summary, I would consider this book essential reading for all serious martial artists regardless of style or grade.  This book represents a reality check for every martial artist.

Review by Sensei Richard Hadley, R16 UK

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