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Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence

4.36  ·  Rating Details  ·  932 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
Finalist - 2008 Book of the Year Award by Foreword MagazineFinalist - 2008 USA Best Book AwardA Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real-World Violence Experienced martial artist and veteran correction officer Sgt. Rory Miller distills what he has learned from jailhouse brawls, tactical operations and ambushes to explore the differences between martial arts and the s ...more
Paperback, 181 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by YMAA Publication Center (first published January 1st 2008)
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Feb 01, 2013 Greg rated it it was amazing
Before I start rambling on about things, I want to say that this book is amazing.

I came across it because Sam Harris praised it in Free Will. So maybe you'll give me a little bit of leeway and consider reading it yourself, since it's not just another of those goony MMA books that I read from time to time.

Wait, did I just sort of say you should read this book? I guess I did. This is a book about how to stay alive in the unfortunate circumstance that real violence comes suddenly into your life. I
I first became aware of Rory Miller when he started posting on the Uechi-Ryu.Com forums several years ago (or maybe he was posting there first, and then I started; I can’t really remember). I was, at the time, a youthful aspiring martial arts instructor, just having gotten involved in Tony Blauer’s Personal Defense Readiness program, a new black belt in Aikido, and a student of a fraudulent and abusive kung fu instructor (though obviously I didn’t know it at the time). I thought I knew a lot mor ...more
Kater Cheek
Oct 04, 2012 Kater Cheek rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended on Amazon for people who liked THE GIFT OF FEAR, and since my library didn't have it, I took a chance and bought a copy. Wow. It's completely changed the way I feel about my martial arts training. Some of the writing is a little blocky, but he covers important factors of violence that are never discussed in the dojo.

Most importantly, I think, Sgt. Miller talks about the effects that stress hormones have on the human body, and how they make you behave. These behaviors (f
Mylon Pruett
Aug 09, 2015 Mylon Pruett rated it it was ok
Shelves: instructional
"Never, ever, ever ignore what your eyes see because it isn’t what you imagined. And strive to always know the difference between what your eyes are seeing and what your brain is adding."

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I loved the discussion it creates around real, and imagined violence. On the other the author seems of a contradictory mindset; I'll talk about that in a moment but first the things I liked. I loved that he strongly urges readers to understand the difference bet
Jul 09, 2010 Liralen rated it really liked it
This is very much a one-man meditation on experience with real violence against the stories and trainings of various martial arts. Miller is a prison guard and has seen a lot of real violence and people who have committed it on a regular basis, and this book is entirely about both the validity and doubt that one should use to regard anything one is taught.

I like that he talks about the blind spots of various methods of training, and what various martial arts are good for. I love that he starts w
Jun 05, 2016 Carolyn rated it liked it
My friend chose this book for our reading group because we are also all writers--and she thought it would help us to write more realistic fight scenes. Here are some of my reactions to this book, in no particular order:
* After reading it, I do feel more prepared to write realistic fight scenes.
* It was very disturbing.
* It was also very interesting. I was surprised to find that I couldn't put it down.
* There were a lot of insights that really rang true to me, even though they challenged my assu
JP Andrews
May 28, 2016 JP Andrews rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Wow, where to even begin.

It's tempting and easy to say this is a book about violence, but it's not. It's a book about the reality of of violence, how it plays out, our beliefs about it, the differences between those things, and the affect those differences have on our decision making.

In my teens I was involved with the Police Explorer program. As an adult I've been a correctional officer in the USMC, an armed security guard, a cab driver in a big city, and a licensed repossession agent. I've ste
May 13, 2016 Dani rated it liked it
3,5 stars.

I have a hard time rating this book. Parts of it are amazing, offering an unflinching, naked look at the structure of violence and it's physical and psychological effects. The chapters about the different types and patterns of violence, the effect of the discharged neuro-chemical cocktail on victims of assault and the benefits and dangers of combat training are extremely informative and well worth reading.

I enjoyed Miller's voice - this is a seriously hardened guy who absolutely refuse
Jan 05, 2016 Jacob rated it really liked it
From the title and backtext, I was expecting a book discussing martial arts and movie violence and how they are different from real-world violence. I don't really buy into the "movie violence desensitizes you to real violence" line since my own (limited) experience with real violence has been entirely different in terms of how my body responds. I thought this book might support or refute my opinion and I was looking forward to finding out why.

This book does talk about the difference between mart
Feb 03, 2010 Brian rated it liked it
I think Miller's book offers what the title promises, but it could've been a lot better. One of the book's strengths is in its advice on how to not act/look like a victim, to stay alert and assess threats wherever you go. It might feel weird at first, but it's good practice for anyone but the inveterate homebody.

While I think this book had some valuable insights, the author's posturing really started to get to me by the end. The subtitle suggests that this book is a thoughtful comparison of the
Superb. This should be considered a companion volume to Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear. Like that book, Meditations on Violence offers a lot of sound information, well organized and clearly presented, about how to avoid dangerous people and situations as much as possible and cope with them most effectively when you can't avoid them. It debunks a lot of the hype we hear too often about the martial arts, showing how they can be of value and also the ways in which they don't prepare us. Based o ...more
Mar 18, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating look into the world of criminal violence from the standpoint of a corrections officer who is also a trained martial artist. He talks about the gap between a stylized fight and what a real fight looks like, and says there is really no better way to prepare for a fight than, well, to be in one. And since most of us will live our entire lives without actually getting into a real fight, most of us, including martial arts experts, are ill prepared to deal with it.

This book skims
Beau Johnston
Mar 15, 2014 Beau Johnston rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime, self-help
This is an interesting book that covers a subject that most traditional martial-arts instructors won't cover in the dojo..... the impact of real world violence.

I have already encountered some of the issues they discuss; and the ones I haven't personally encountered, I have no desire to.

The information serves as a nice little reminder to those martial-arts practitioners who place a little too much importance in the color of their belt; you are not ten foot tall and bullet proof.
May 16, 2016 Scott rated it it was amazing
best book i've read in a long time. recommend it to everyone. could save your life and i'm not exaggerating.
Caleb Winebrenner
Apr 19, 2016 Caleb Winebrenner rated it really liked it
Every now and again, I like to totally stretch my mind by reading something way outside of my comfort zone. In this case, it was Rory Miller’s Meditations on Violence, at the recommendation of my friend and fellow performer, Cooper Braun. His endorsement was, “It’s an excellent study of human nature.” So I dove right in.

First and foremost, this is a book to challenge your assumptions. If you think you’ve seen “violent” or “criminal” types, this book will make you stop and really observe your int
Jan 17, 2015 Rollin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is something way out of my normal zone, saw a reference to this book elsewhere and decided to read it on a whim. I read the whole thing with interest, and even picked up another book recommended by author.

What this book contains, as advertised by the title, is elaborate descriptions of how real-world violence unfolds, in one-on-one encounters and small groups. Focuses on what really happens and how fast, what works and what does not, what are the best options for an individual being attack
Mar 12, 2014 Steven rated it really liked it
Other reviewers hit the nail on the head in regards to this being a must-read for any martial arts practitioner. I would only add that it is probably a bit on the intense side for someone just starting out in a martial art as a casual hobby.

For these people, that would like to know more about self-defense but looking for a lighter read, I'd recommend The Disaster Diaries by Sam Sheridan.

All that aside, I do think that all martial arts instructors ought to read this book as a wake up call about t
Michael Philliber
Nov 22, 2014 Michael Philliber rated it really liked it
Self-defense and martial arts schools are popping up all over the landscape promising to boost self-confidence, but more importantly, pledging to aid their attendees in self-protection. One will even find classes offered at the local “Y” or as part of a community college’s “Adult Continuing Education” program. The lessons feel right as instructors guide their learners through katas, sweaty times with kicking bags, repetitive maneuvers, and sparring. Sensei and karatekas train in ways of controll ...more
Christopher Taylor
Jun 23, 2014 Christopher Taylor rated it really liked it
Although this is more of a pamphlet than a full book, it is so packed with important thoughts and new perspectives it seems bigger. Rory Miller is a man who for years had "a fight a day" in his work as a corrections officer, and now he trains men to do the job as well as he can. His approach is very different from the "I have a perfect method" types, and he seems to realize as only a warrior can the awful truth of how bad violence is, yet how necessary it can be.

His thoughts on violence, its mea
Edward Kenny
Interesting perspective

Rory Miller's Meditations offers a thoughtful and experienced opinion on violence as a real and every day possibility for anyone and everyone. Drawing from his experiences in the martial arts and from his occupation as a corrections officer, he is able to pick apart different violent scenarios and events that he has witnessed. I was not sure what I was to get from reading this book, but I do feel like I walk away having learned a new viewpoint. I like how it is written mos
Jan 21, 2012 Richard rated it it was amazing
Rory Miller is the most important writer on violence working today. He has all of MacYoung's content (and more) without any of the good ol' boy affectations. If you practice martial arts, this should be mandatory reading.
Jun 08, 2014 Shane rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Any self-defense practitioner
Shelves: self-defense
In this hard-hitting, well-researched and at times rather technical book, veteran corrections officer Sgt. Rory Miller examines the disconnect between what is taught in the dojo and what is experienced on the streets. He covers training, the predatory mindset of criminals, and the real-life experiences of true violence as it happens, not as it is presented in the dojo. This book will likely anger many traditional martial artists, but the arguments and research do make a lot of sense. Don't write ...more
Matthew Dambro
Feb 27, 2016 Matthew Dambro rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up on a whim. I teach the legal issues portion of the Michigan CPL class. I was hoping for some facts and statistics that I could incorporate into my lecture. What I found was a kindred soul who suffered from the same affliction that I thought had no name. I was forced into retirement after thirty three years of being a juvenile court referee in various counties. What I did for a living was to break up families and lock up children. I dealt with evil and violence every day; al ...more
Mar 20, 2010 Sara rated it really liked it
This is written by a tough guy. He's a prison guard and martial artist, with lots of real fighting experience.

Basically, the point of the book is to explain to martial arts students that no matter how much they train, or drill in class, or work on a specific technique, nothing can prepare them for a real-life fight. Here are a couple of passages that sum up the book pretty neatly.

"There is a comfortable illusion that with enough repetitions, drills, or scenarios, real life will be 'just like tr
Jul 31, 2011 Paul rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Barry Eisler
This is a very worthwhile work for anyone studying or teaching martial arts, who is in close proximity to violence, or who just wants a systematic way to think about physical conflict.

The author, both a long-practicing martial artist and a veteran corrections officer, has extensive experience with violence in the controlled environments of the dojo and training halls, as well as in the chaotic realms of street ambushes and jailhouse brawls, and his purpose herein is to discuss how those types o
Apr 14, 2014 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: martial-arts, martial
Sgt Rory Miller was an unknown quantity to me before I read this. He was spoken of very highly on the Uechi Eastern Arts forum, and this volume has made big waves in that community. Meditations on Violence lives up to its name. It is a deep look into interpersonal violence: what causes it, what forms it takes, the perpetrator's motivations, and the means of surviving it. It is a challenge to the martial arts world: to stop living a fantasy: find out what works, and teach it.

Violence is a topic
Mar 15, 2013 Karla rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book because two different fiction authors I routinely read referenced it as having been useful in learning to write about violence. I thought this was an excellent book because it is thought provoking for two camps of people often in conflict regarding their view on violence. For the "soft-hearted liberal" this book makes a good point on how what can appear to be a clear cut case of police incompetence/brutality can be a, frankly, understandable biological, physiological, and psycho ...more
Heidi Nemo
Oct 27, 2008 Heidi Nemo rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: martial artists, self-defense folks
Shelves: self-defense
Read this since I've been teaching self-defense to women and trans folks for a little while now.

Very useful in many ways, and surprisingly insightful in others. But at times, I want to shake the bastard...his incredibly entrenched concept of the criminal as Other is frustrating. It may work for him as a prison guard, since it is one strategy for protecting his identity as someone who uses force that he needs to justify. Taken to its extreme, however, I think his outlook could end up being really
Mar 16, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-physical
Yeah, I rated a book out of 5. Now if I was an unthinking robot reading this, I’d probably have rated it 4/5 or so, but it came to me at precisely the right time, so it gets an extra rating for the emotional impact it has on me.

Sgt. Miller (“author”) is a man well acquainted with violence, and he wrote a book on how to survive it. It is subtitled “A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence”; however, other than a consistent theme of “Sparring doesn’t teach you how to deal w
Alisa Kester
Dec 23, 2012 Alisa Kester rated it it was amazing
I am so grateful to whichever author mentioned this book on his blog. I don't remember who it was, but I suspect Jim Butcher, because the way he handles violence (and training for violence) has really taken a leap forward, and the obvious influence would be this book. I never would have picked it up on my own, because the title makes it sound like it's specifically about the martial arts, I'm not especially interested in those.

This book is not about the martial arts, or at least the majority of
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Sergeant Rory Miller is a corrections officer, a martial artist, and an instructor in both of those areas.

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“Here's a rule of life: You don't get to pick what bad things happen to you” 7 likes
“Do you want to get over this?” This is her contract that will be used over and over again to remind her that SHE wanted to change and she was willing to pay the price. There is great power in the victim identity. Instructors and other students go out of their way to be accommodating and gentle. The survivor can often get out of any drill or derail the entire class by admitting her discomfort. This sentence allows the instructor to point it out when this happens, to point out that the benefits of victim status must be given up to outgrow the victim status. This is hard, but critical. The subtle power in the victim status often seems like the only good thing and the only survival tool to come out of the event. Many are reluctant, very reluctant, to give up a useful “victim identity” for a possible stronger self.” 0 likes
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