Meditations on Violence Cover

It is perhaps fitting that I read this book in the midst of a week when the attention of the world was focused on the city of Boston and the horrific marathon bombings and the resultant massive manhunt. While Sgt. Rory Miller does not focus on terror and terrorism per se, he does give insights into the mindset of people who think nothing of killing their fellow human beings. His description of predators in Chapter 4 of this book make for particularly fascinating reading.

The book covers more than just the topic of predators. It delves into the issue of martial arts and training as it relates to the real world based on his experiences. He brutally addresses the fact that the vast majority of martial arts school do not address the real world. Two quotes from his book come to mind:

“Here’s a rule for life: You don’t get to pick what kind of bad things happen to you. You may prepare all your life to take on a cannibalistic knife wielding sociopath. You may get stuck with a soccer riot. Or a road rage incident with a semi. Or a pickup full of baseball bat swinging drunks. Or nothing at all. You don’t get to choose.”


Martial arts and martial artists often try to do it all. They teach self defense and sparring and streetfighting and fitness and personal development as if they were the same thing. They aren’t even related.

Very, very different things get lumped under the general heading of “violence.” Two boxers in a contest of strategy, strength, skill, and will. A drunken husband beating his wife. Two highschoolers punching it out in the parking lot. A mental health professional trying to hold down a schizophrenic so that a sedative can be administered. An officer walking into a robbery in progress finds himself in a shoot out. Soldiers entering a building in hostile territory. A rapist pushing in the partially open door of an apartment. An entry team preparing to serve a search warrant on a drug house with armed suspects. A Victorian era duel with small swords.

Given the above, is it any wonder that Sgt. Rory Miller has a dim view of the marketing of the martial arts industry in general?

The topics that Sgt. Miller addresses in his book range from discussing the types of violence,  predators, training, adapting martial arts to reality, and dealing with the psychological consequences of a violent incident.

While much of his book is based on his personal experiences as a corrections officer, he imparts great insights that may be universal and it would be a particular shame for a reader to ignore his advice regarding the gap between martial arts fantasy and the reality and how to adapt your training to be more realistic.

Indeed, the core topic of the book explores the differences between martial arts and the real world. Having been in the martial arts for 30 years, I have seen a fair share of myths, fantasies, unrealistic training methods, delusional beliefs, cult-like behavior and an obstinate refusal to evolve with the times. I have seen martial arts instructors teach material that is completely unworkable and rooted in fantasy. I have also seen martial arts instructors fail to evolve over a period of 30 years and thus refusing to acknowledge the changing reality of today’s world. Sgt. Miller’s experiences, as related in this book, tackles the gap between fantasy and reality head on.

I highly recommend this book as a part of any martial artist’s library. On a side note, I should note that, while reading this book, I was struck by some overlap between Sgt. Miller’s experiences and that of my wife, who is a social worker. The overlap concerns the types of people he has encountered and those that my wife has encountered in her job. There are some seriously screwed up people in this world. Thank god for law enforcement/correction officers like Sgt. Miller and for social workers like my wife.

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