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on 23 July 2008
At the beginning of this exceptional book is a black and white photograph of a bathroom with a swirl of sticky-looking muck on the floor and a few little droplets splattered across the side of the toilet. Since there is no color it takes a moment to realize what you are looking at, but this mess is clearly human blood, a LOT of human blood. You don't know what happened but it was obviously something awful. A slowly drying pool of blood is not what one might expect to find at the beginning of a typical martial arts book, but then again real-life violence is not a subject that martial artists typically understand or write about.

Like a pool of blood, violence is a very sobering subject; one that must be treated seriously in order to do any good. Meditations on Violence certainly fits that bill. It is a refreshingly frank, honest, and in-depth assessment that teaches readers how to think critically about the subject, determine how to evaluate sources of knowledge, and understand how to identify strategies and select tactics to deal with violence effectively.

As a corrections officer and tactical team leader Miller regularly tangles with hard-core predators. He describes his job this way: "I beat people up for a living. I can pretty the phrase up a lot, but in the end I get paid (and paid well) to go into a situation, usually alone and usually outnumbered by sixty or more criminals, and maintain order."

This is a guy who routinely survives brutal encounters that would leave the average person physically and emotionally shattered. Unlike most martial arts instructors, he has first-hand experience that separates longstanding myths and heroic fantasies from merciless reality. Using interesting personal vignettes backed up by solid research and undisputable logic he conveys this hard-earned wisdom in a highly effective manner. His insights on how to make self-defense work and overcome subconscious resistance to meeting violence with violence could very well save a reader's life one day.

While the author's no-nonsense tone can be a bit "street" and his examples a bit graphic at times, his psychology degree shines throughout the writing as well. This combination makes for a fascinating read. One of the best features of the book is an informative matrix that addresses various types of violence, demonstrating how they differ from each other and how the lessons from one type may not apply to the needs of another. Other important topics include the dynamics of violence, predator mindset, adapting training to the realities of violence, making physical defense work, and the after-effects a sudden assault or long-term exposure to a violent environment.

Miller's book is extraordinarily well written. Packed with interesting, informative and, most importantly, useful information, Meditations on Violence should be required reading for all serious martial artists, law enforcement officers, security professionals, and anyone else who might have to deal with violence in some capacity. It is illuminating and very likely lifesaving as well.

Lawrence Kane
Author of Surviving Armed Assaults and Martial Arts Instruction; co-author of The Way of Kata, The Way to Black Belt, and The Little Black Book of Violence

Note: this review first appeared in the Jul/Aug issue of ForeWord Magazine.
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on 9 July 2009
My first review for Amazon i think, and I have to say how much I enjoyed this tome.
Turned up Saturday lunch time & i had finished it by 3 that afternoon.

If you are a martial artist then i believe this book is of genuine service to you. Rory Miller has to utilise acts of force in his day job & teach these attributes to others. There is a palpable air to this book that what is being discussed is real & valid

Confrontations are not as the average martial arts practioner believes them to be. they are nasty, brutish, quick & surprising. Mr Miller talks us through some past experiences & provides insights & observations on violent incidents.

The book deals with the mindset, situation & aftermath of a violent assault & I think covers more ground than the usual self defence related material. Mr Miller's real life role (Now training U.S. armed forces in theatre, according to his blog) adds substantial weight & realism to the topics he discusses.

I found this book to be a real gem & will look forward to any new work with interest.

Rory, been reading the blog for a few months, excellent & bought this off the back of it, best wishes & you take care.

Matt Richards
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on 5 September 2008
"Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best books on self-protection ever written. I really enjoy books that cut through the crap and give useful (i.e. potentially life-saving) advice in a down to earth and accessible way. Rory has a great writing style and the hard-won information he presents is imparted in way that is very easy to digest. The student in the martial arts can run in to the problem of being given dangerous misinformation by people with no idea of what a real situation involves. There are also those who understand the realties of violence, but are unable to communicate it effectively. Sergeant Rory Miller is one of the rare, and much needed, instructors / authors who has both "been there" and is also able to effectively communicate what the unforgiving world of real violence truly demands. To get to the point, this in an outstanding book that all martial artist need to read.
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on 7 September 2010
This book was reccommended to me by one of my martial art instructors; a former prison officer and now police officer..so I figured if anyone would know about the gulf between training and reality it would bee him.

I have trained in various martial arts for about 20 years (on and off) and have sadly been in a fair few "real life" encounters. If there is one thing I took away from them it's the fact that my finely honed and polished techniques tend not to work in the real world. This is not to say that combat training is useless; but the reality is if you try and "do a technique" you'll probably find yourself in a lot of trouble.

This book dissects the reasons behind that and examines how training can help - but only if you have the right mindset. If you genuinely believe your martial arts training will give you a huge edge in a real fight then you need to read this book. If you are interested in the theory and psychology behind confronting violence; you need to read this book. If you teach martial arts; you need to read this book.

In short...you need to read this book!

Extremely well written, engaging, often brutal but also eloquent and concise. This is an absolute must-have for anyone engaged in any form of combat training; be it classical martial arts, sports forms or even the mililtary.

Read it and read it now!
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on 15 July 2012
Books on the Martial Arts are as many and varied as the styles themselves. The one constant is that they are mostly rubbish and mainly about making money. If you ever read just one book about surviving violence it should be this one. Your money, your life. The author has made me question the effectiveness of anything I learned in the dojo rather than in a real situation and showed that what works in one situation may get you killed in another. He writes from personal experience and has survived more violent encounters than most of readers are ever likely to meet.

Over the years I have read many different books, studied a wide range of different styles and watched more videos than I can remember. I gradually came to two conclusions and didn't like either of them, nor will you. 95% or more of what you learn is useless in a real fight, and there is no secret method, style or technique that will guarantee survival, never mind make you unbeatable. Most styles work very well in the dojo or tournament setting but would you buy a book on origami so you could service your own car?

When I was about 10 years old I realised that the only sure way of winning a fight was to be faster and nastier than the bullies and then they left me alone. I forgot this simple truth in my quest to be better than Bruce Lee but I was never much good at high kicks due to my own physical limitations and two finger press-ups make you good at press-ups, not fighting.

Instructors never bothered to inform me that film fights are meant to look good and engage the viewer, and are about as far from reality as The Force. Most demonstrations of techniques seemed to be to prove they were better than their ookai. They all pedaled the myth that the ultimate warrior will fell his opponent in an elegant and stylish manner to the applause and admiration of the onlookers. Get over it. If a technique looks good then, in my view, it is probably no use in reality. One of my senior students was recently criticised at a grading for "being scrappy" although his techniques were effective. Scrappy? Have you ever been in a street or bar fight that wasn't?
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on 13 August 2011
An excellent book that should be read by anyone who wants to explore martial/self defence and its 'realationship' with the real world of violence. This guy has seen it, done it and eaten the t-shirt. Fascinating character that begs for more on the pages. There are tantalising glimpses of who this character is deep down and I suspect he will open up with more books to come. On a par with books by Geoff Thompson though through his experiences and training it has a more american flavour to it and his writing style is more drawn out and rambling. But thats not to suggest it is less accessible, just different. Certain aspects of the book stand out for me especially his understanding of the criminal mind and the differences in what they seek from a victim. Also excellent tips and reflections on various training methods and how to impart a reality based scenario into them, Certainly connects with my own traning in martial arts, and asks serious questions with what I took for granted in the 'dojo'. There is a heck of a lot other useful info relating to the whole spectrum of the subject and I shall certainly benefit from this book and I know it will benefit and help anyone interested in this subject whether you are a into martial arts/self defence or not.
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on 6 December 2014
I work in a high pressure job with dangerous offenders. I found this book and his previous book absolutely fantastic. Both helped me understand not only the attacker mindset but also my own feelings as well. There have been times when I have felt less than brave in certain situations that could be deemed far less threatening than ones which I have dealt with and are no doubt life threatening with no problem. Rory has helped me understand what is going on with my biology and that in uncharted situations it is ok to have reactions that you are not expecting and that it in no way makes me or you a coward. If you work in a job similar to me or just want to understand the subject then I highly recommend this book.
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on 11 July 2013
This is a book written without any thought of self promotion. It is written by a prison officer with a great deal of practical experience who is not shy in explaining a point by examining his own past mistakes. This is not a " how to " technique book but a dissection of the process of violence.
The book is brutally honest stating some ugly truths which I as a police officer would echo. Bad things happen in bad places and are carried out by bad people. The best defence strategy for a civilian is to avoid those places.
This simple fact is avoided by many martial art experts advocating their own " latest " and " street proven" techniques. Miller is to be applauded for his deep analysis of what self defence really is.
Miller also examines the aftermath of violence in terms of legality and the psychological effect on the person. It is at times a sobering experience to read.
Miller puts forward the theory of " group monkey dance" and this part of the book alone is worth the price in its analysis of group dynamics that can lead to violence. I would recommend this book to anyone coming into contact with potentially violent clientele . It would be useful for social workers to youth workers to club doormen. It is that good a book.
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on 18 May 2010
Hundreds of books have been produced by so called experts on self-protection who all claim to have real life experience of extreme street violence. Claiming to have had hundreds of street fights and decades of experience as door security staff; I've often thought that perhaps they may just be stretching the truth a little or they are probably the type of people to have instigated many of their own confrontations and that they are the ones to steer clear of. I spent twenty years working as a doorman in Cardiff and I can count all my violent confrontations on one hand, actually, one finger!

Sgt Rory Miller on the other hand is completely different animal. Working daily in America's high security correctional facilities (prisons to us Brits), he deals with some of the most violent men on the planet every day of his working life. To steal from the blurb on the back of the book, he "teaches and designs courses in Use Of Force Policy & Police Defensive Tactics; Confrontational Simulations; and leads and trains his agency's Corrections Tactical Team." Bluntly put, when the proverbial brown stuff hits the fan, he's the man they scream for.

It shows too. Miller understands and conveys the pshycology of violence in depth as well as how to deal with potentially violent and very violent people by using pshycology as well as force on force. Making use of some quite shocking imagery, he drives home the true nature of violence and violent people clearly and succinctly and blows away any delusions martial arts experts may have that their art will protect them and others without having had any real experience or at least having trained in a realsitic way.

Possibly the best self-protection book ever writen. Certainly the best I've ever read.
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on 12 June 2012
This books is a gem in more ways than one.

It is one of the most insightful and informative books I have ever come across. It will teach you things you never thought you needed to know (if you are a regular person) - from the different types of violent situations that can arise and how to (attempt to) prevent them, through the conflicts themselves and why we are sometimes drawn to them, to dealing with the after effects.

Most remarkably though, it is not just an exposé of another world ("on the other side of the looking glass"), but of human nature. I stopped counting the parallels I drew between violence and "pick up" or even stand up comedy (!), and I am sure there are parallels with almost any aspect of human interaction, e.g. controlling your own state, influencing the other person's actions through it, to name but a few.

It contains life lessons, it's humbling, it's raw, it's eye-opening.

Do yourself a favour and get it - even if you are not into the subject. Especially if you are not.
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