Saturday, August 2, 2014

Book Review: "Facing Violence" by Rory Miller

Book: Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected by Rory Miller (2011; 242 pages)

Overview: A book on self-defense, focusing on recognizing and identifying threats, avoiding violence, what happens in a violent encounter, and the aftermath.Chapter 1 provides a general overview: the difference between fighting and self-defense, the threat, scaling force, legal implications. Chapter 2 explores some basic categories of motives behind attacks and street fights. Chapter 3 discusses techniques to avoid, de-escalate, or escape a violent situation.Chapter 4 covers issues of when you are first attacked. Chapter 5 discusses reasons why we may freeze during an attack or fight, and how to overcome freezing. Chapter 6 covers the fight. Chapter 7 goes into the aftermath of a fight.

Impressions: Most books and training material on self-defense--even what you will learn at a dojo or a self-defense course--focuses on what to do once you are attacked. A few, such as Massad Ayoob's In the Gravest Extreme and The Truth About Self-Defense will educate you about the legal implications (both criminal and civil) of using force to defend yourself.  What sets Miller's book apart from the majority of other books on self-defense is that Facing Violence discusses the the lead-up to violence. By identifying what is happening, you have the opportunity to avoid the violence, or at least not be caught completely flat footed. And, as an added bonus, it discusses a couple defensive maneuvers to use if (when) you are attacked unexpectedly. In all, I think this is a must-have book for anyone interested in self-defense, whether armed or unarmed.

Notable Points: There is an incredible amount of information in this book. I am on my second read through it, and expect that I will need to study it much more. It is impossible to give any reasonable summary of the information in a single review. However, one thing that stood out for me was the explanation of the difference between social violence and predatory behaviors, how to recognize each, and how to avoid or de-escalate fights or attacks in each category. You will recognize each of the general categories of social violence when you read it. However, the books fits them into a category and framework that allows greater analysis.

The basic types of social violence are: the Monkey Dance, the Group Monkey Dance, the Educational Beatdown, the Status Seeking Show, and Territory Defense. The Monkey Dance and Group Monkey Dance are essentially a fight based on and around establishing dominance. These generally start with the threat taking offense at something said or done by the victim to serve as justification. The typical beginning starting line may be something like "What are you looking at?" or some other challenge.

The Educational Beatdown is the result of violating a rule or taboo and, therefore, is a physical lesson. It will generally be preceded with warnings which, when ignored, result in the beat down.

The Status Seeking Show is the result of the threat trying to establish a reputation for violence, craziness, or violating the rules. The target of such an attack is generally against an outsider--not a friend or an enemy.

Territorial defense is exactly what the title describes: a reaction to defend territory, an idea, a belief, etc., from an outsider. Although it is a form of social violence, it requires an asocial attitude toward the target or victim--"othering"--to make it easier to justify and make the attack.

Moving into asocial violence, Miller also describes basic types of predators. In warning about predators, he notes: "Predators do not see their victims as people, but as resources. Who you are has no more emotional weight than the wrapper his hamburger came in." Thus, even if the Predator is not a pure sociopath, whatever feelings or consideration he may have for you will have been overcome when he makes the attack. The two types of predators are what Miller describes as the resource predator (someone who wants what you have--the mugger, robber, car jacker) and the process predator (someone for whom the act of violence is the reason for the crime).

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