Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence” as Want to Read:
Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,505 ratings  ·  149 reviews
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 subject martial arts were designed to deal with: Violence. Sgt. Miller introduces the myths, metaphors and expectations that most martial artists have about wh ...more
Paperback, 181 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by YMAA Publication Center (first published January 1st 2008)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Meditations on Violence, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Meditations on Violence

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,505 ratings  ·  149 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence
Jan 29, 2013 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 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
Eric Plume
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Martial Artists, Would-Be Martial Artists, Authors, Abuse Survivors
Shelves: r-and-d, favorites
Once again, quick establishing of bias; I am friends with the author. That doesn't change my opinion of his work, considering I became a fan of his writings before I had the good fortune to meet him.

Before I picked it up, I'd heard that Meditations on Violence was required reading for several specialist branches of law enforcement, and could be found on the bookshelves of many martial arts dojos.

After reading, I can see why.

In a concise, clear and often glibly humorous style, Miller breaks do
Mylon Pruett
Jul 11, 2015 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
Gijs Huppertz
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book might be the best book I have ever read about violence and the psychology behind violence. It is very refreshing to see someone write about the true impact fighting has and also why some fighting techniques are just worthless when it comes to a true violent situation. It is one of a kind in his own way and I would recommend it to everyone who does a fighting sport or who is just interested in the psychology behind violence.
Mar 10, 2010 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
Jan 24, 2010 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
Jun 05, 2016 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
Andy Arnold
Good not great

I take martial arts and have developed a slight interest in self-defense. Enjoyed Miller's perspective in this book. Easy read. Miller shares his real world, bare knuckle experience in law enforcement and as a prison guard.

Bottom line is avoidance is the best self-defense strategy. Stay away from sketchy people and sketchy places. Know what to look for and trust your intuition. Also, adrenaline will dampen the benefits of training in attack mode, assuming the rare occurrence that
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: defense
First I must thank Sam Harris for recommending this book.

This book is incredible. I am trying to find other words right now but can’t. So much to think about. So much to follow up on.

I keep trying to find a way to sum this book up in a way that does it justice. I can’t do it. Just read it. Hopefully you get out of it what I did. If not, then I am sorry, you wasted a few hours. There are worse things.
Oct 14, 2020 added it
Short version: wow. Longer version with quotes and whatnot: ...more
TEELOCK Mithilesh
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Often times, self-defence training fails to accommodate the unpredictability of potential hazards. Martial arts practices can be overly geared toward competitive performance, which can cause them to lose sight of real-life applications. This book consolidates essential fighting basics with the reality of the street. Even though Miller emphasizes astute coordination to ensure the debilitation of aggressors, he never appears to lack compassion for the people involved. The statistics may be unsettl ...more
Sep 06, 2015 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
JP Andrews
Apr 22, 2016 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
Mar 18, 2012 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
Jul 12, 2013 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
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
Logan Spader
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: development
This book was a fun read but the author is annoyingly egotistic and continually uses stories to brag about how awesome he is. He also makes a lot of wild claims but rarely references sources for these claims about the general population. With that said, he has a LOT of really interesting stories about violence which makes up for all of his bragging. I also liked that he did not hold back when explaining some of the horrendous crimes he has heard of. This is not a book for people who want to stay ...more
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to my by a friend with a wonderful tea garden who is also trying to read more books. Most of the books he's picked up are non-fiction too and have some overlap with the areas I am trying to read more in.

This one doesn't necessarily fit into the areas I'm trying to read more of but I have read a few martial arts books, mostly on aikido, and was keen to hear more from an author who has dealt with violence as a constant throughout their life.

Personally, aggression
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
For all the practical advice, the pseudo-macho posturing is too much. I get it, dude -- you are a BAMFer. If you've been a prison guard for as long as you have, and you can "take down any mixed martial artist in the world", that's as grand as a cupcake, but it gets to the point where the reader just sighs and starts thinking about what dinner's going to be.
May 16, 2016 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.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars, rounded to a 4 based mostly on a relatable essay in the final chapter.

This was an easy, and necessarily sobering read that I imagine would be especially useful for anyone who feels invincible after taking a few kickboxing classes, and who might benefit from injection of a healthy dose of reality. The no-nonsense writing style well matches the commonsensical advice provided throughout the book, and the occasional gruesome anecdote is a good reminder to appreciate the EMTs, law enforce
Bernie Gourley
Apr 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in the cold, hard realities of violence.
Shelves: martial-arts
I’ve long realized that all martial arts are models. Models are simplifications; they inevitably leave elements out—sometimes because those elements don’t seem relevant and sometimes because they can’t realistically (re: sanely) be included. Those of us trained as social scientists say two things about models. 1.) All models are wrong, and 2.) All models lie. The question is whether your martial art is the least wrong, i.e. tells the most acceptable lie, for your purposes. Rory Miller’s work ill ...more
Joseph Hirsch
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I think the writer William Burroughs once said words to the effect that "No one controls life, but anyone with a frying pan controls death." I mention that in the context of this book because one doesn't have to be an expert in violence to hurt others, but one does need some level of expertise or training to even begin to gather the skill set to defuse a violent situation. It takes years to become a good soldier or cop, but it takes one vial of PCP to become good at violence. It's also hard to b ...more
Mar 08, 2012 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 with
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strong Food for Thought

As a civilian with almost no real experience of violence, outside of the civilized context of martial arts (and that experience a recent addition to my life), as a mother of small children, as a human who wants to be able to take care of herself and her loved ones, when I stumbled across this title I knew I needed to read it.

With insight and a completely no-nonsense attitude, Miller talks about his experiences with violence, his encounters with violent criminals, the psych
Amelia Quirke
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Concise and practical, Rory Miller lays down the psychological, sociological and cultural parameters in which violence can occur and outlines the practical steps a person can take to disrupt this.

I was recommended this book by my self defence instructor, who uses many of Rory's teachings in her work, and I'm totally hooked. Rory's no-nonsense approach is refreshing and funny, and above all invaluably helpful. He forces you to rethink your own biases and the inherent flaws in martial arts traini
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: martial-arts
A good read for anybody concerned with the mental practicalities of violence and self defense (not just martial artists). For martial artists, this points to how self defense situations are different from training in terms of environment, mentality, and biochemistry -- providing a real slap in the face so that you can take an honest accounting of your ability to defend yourself. Readily applicable for every reader are the categories of criminal and types of violent encounters. I suspect many a p ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sgt. Rory is a good writer. He understand his audience really well. His audience is made up mostly of tough-guy martial artists who train a lot, and not so tough-guy martial artists who also train a lot. He talks to us as if we were a bunch of girls sitting around in our nighties at a pajama party. In walks Sgt. Rory with his big boots, body armor, sim-guns, SWAT team-prison guard experience, with talk of predators and the monkey dance. With bravado and humor, he kindly offers to set us straight ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence
  • Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps' Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life
  • Free Will
  • On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
  • Enter the Kettlebell!: Strength Secret of the Soviet Supermen
  • Zen in the Martial Arts
  • On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace
  • Tao of Jeet Kune Do
  • "Thug- Jitsu" Intelligent Asymmetric Responses to Real World Violence
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Red-Headed League (Mandarin Companion Graded Readers: Level 1, Simplified Chinese Edition)
  • The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century
  • A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy
  • Star Maker
  • Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
  • Girls Can't Hit
  • The Definitive Book of Body Language
  • The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques for a Healthier, Slimmer, Faster, and Fitter You
  • The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain
See similar books…
Sergeant Rory Miller is a corrections officer, a martial artist, and an instructor in both of those areas.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
13 likes · 7 comments
“Here's a rule of life: You don't get to pick what bad things happen to you” 17 likes
“Do not interpret anything I say here to mean “don’t fight back.” I’m also not going to patronize you with half-truths or platitudes. This is ugly on many levels: the level of the incident and the level of social conditioning to “get along,” which can make it so much harder to decide not to be a victim. This means that if and when a woman chooses to fight, it must be a total effort. In many cases, there is no level of force that will simply discourage a male attacker. He must be incapacitated. This is my advice and I think this mindset is critical, but the actual statistics are less grim—many assailants do run away and do not escalate when they encounter unexpected resistance.” 1 likes
More quotes…