Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence
Author: Sgt. Rory Miller
There are many interesting Martial Arts (MA) books on the market. I thought about first reviewing a Uechi-ryu book such as The Way of Karate by George Mattson or Karate: A Master’s Secrets of Uechi-Ryu by Ihor Rymaruk. As I went through my collection, I began to think “Why do most people train in MA?”. Why do you train? That’s when I knew which book to start with.
Whatever your specific reasons are for training, they will invariably be related to violence. Whether it’s you or someone you know having been bullied, mugged or worse; or simply wanting to learn “self-defense” because of all the local news stories, it all relates to violence.
Sgt. Miller is a corrections officer with years of fighting experience in multiple situations. He does a great job of explaining the different kinds of violence, people’s perceptions of it and how we deal with it afterwards. I appreciate the fact that he states upfront that he is only telling you about his experiences and observations. Take them for what they are and remember that nothing is more important than your own experiences. That said, he does provide useful insights and training for your body and most importantly, your mind.
Many martial artists will take issue with Sgt. Miller’s assertions that MA will really not help you in an “out of the dojo” attack. That your training and mindset are perfect for the controlled environment but not when you are attacked while in a calm, normal state of mind. According to Sgt. Miller’s experience, the “perfect” fighting distance taught in some MA styles rarely happens in real life – in a parking lot, a bar, bus station or in your own home; nor are the situations that some train for very realistic.
Sgt. Rory does not offer any one MA style or ‘way’ of fighting as a solution since none covers everything one needs to know. But he does give great training advice and outlines what kind of training will help prepare you for the types of attacks you may face and the physiological and brain reactions to being attacked unexpectantly. The book categorizes violence into different types with general defenses to combat them. These include training for surprise attacks (though it isn’t really a surprise if you’re expecting it), using confidence and boredom, and knowing when to flee and use counter attacks.
I realized before starting training in Uechi-ryu Karate that it wasn’t going to make me a “kick-ass” fighter like on TV, though I expected to and have learned some great offensive and defensive tools. According to the book, part of the issue with MA is that you usually only work on certain moves and many people going into dojos get their concepts of violence from Jackie Chan and Jason Statham movies. Training with this mindset can be dangerous to yourself and your fellow students. Time and distance are crucial in a fight and the simplest counter attacks are often the most effective.
I do like Sgt. Rory’s insights on the psychological aspects of violence for both the attacker and victim, and of the “Monkey Dance”. I have no real experience in this to the degree he presents but he provoked me into learning more about it. Challenging assumptions is a large part of this book and many of the author’s assertions can be very useful. I saw myself in some of the examples and am trying to improve on the ones I feel I need to work on the most.
So how does Sanchin and Uechi fit into all of this? Opinions differ greatly but this is what I can say.
Honestly I don’t know. I haven’t reached the black belt level. Black Belt training is where you really start getting into the “hardcore” Uechi training. As a 2 Kyu in my school, we do get trained in the basics of striking hard, fast and at your opponent’s weakest area available to you. This training is similar to some of what’s advocated in this book.
Sanchin training conditions your body to at least absorb some blows and protects your core. This may give you the opportunity to quickly counter-strike, get out of the way or run. As for the rest, I will find out more as I progress.
Meditations on Violence is a fresh offering in a sea of self-defense and Martial Arts books. It consists of one person sharing his experiences and observations on the causes of, types of and combating violence. The book has generated discussion on multiple forums and blogs and deservedly so. I agree with much of what is in the book, not all, and believe it should be required reading for all self-defense /martial arts teachers and students. It provides great information, advice and examples. Most of all, it makes you question your assumptions and way of thinking.