Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meditations on Violence by Sgt. Rory Miller

Sgt. Miller is a martial arts expert and a former prison guard. He’s both trained and experienced in the application of personal violence in real world context. (At least, to the degree that prison is part of the real world.) In this short memoir and instructional guide, he focuses on some of the deltas between the idealized training that many martial artists receive and the realities of violent interpersonal conflict. The book is about two hundred pages long and covers a lot of practical ground (where violence occurs, what it’s like when it does, what types of people commit violent crimes, how you can deal with the threat, etc.)

Mr. Miller is convincing in some areas, and comes across as a self-aggrandizing blowhard in a few others. The writing is uneven. (No suprise from a prison guard rather than a professional writer) and Mr. Miller comes across as either arrogant or flaky on some occasions (I suppose his profession might engender a certain stance of arrogance in order to succeed, and a lifelong devotion to martial arts has certainly made some people flaky before). The book also is in desperate need of a good editor; much of this feels like a first draft that went straight to print.

Some of his observations are quite interesting. A chapter of the different types of hostage situations that occur and how to deal with them (as one of the hostages) was quite interesting. A section on "places where violence occurs" was equally interesting, and probably right on. Then he went on to describe in 4 broad categories the types of violent criminals that populate jails. His chapter on "predators & process predators" was chilling. Made me get up and check the alarm twice last night. Lots of it is common sense stuff, but lots of it is also analysis of crime statistics and reports which is interesting. Makes me think that I should pick up a used textbook from a basic course on criminology, and I’ve already ordered a few additional books on violence and its resolution. We’ll see how others who have explored this topic compare.

I'm going to train with Sgt. Miller next weekend, so it'll be interesting to see what he's like in person.

As a followup: In person, I found Rory Miller to be an engaging speaker with a down-to-earth demeanor. His lecture covered much of the material in this book, and provided a preview of his next book, which I'll certainly read.

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