My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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 with the caution that personal experience should trump anything any 'expert' says, and starts with saying that the most important skill is to be able to see what is actually there. Not what one wishes might be there, planned to have there, or what one expects to be there. To simply see and respond to what actually exists, and that so few people seem to be able to do it after being attacked.
In complete contrast to "On Killing" there are no experimental statistics, only personal experience and opinion.
I also loved that for 99% of the book Miller shies away from anything even approaching spiritual or metaphysical like a Good American Male, and then in the last few pages of the book writes down the thing I'll probably treasure the most.
I also really loved his analogy that real violence is like a rhinoceros, of which very very little is known about in the wild by anyone. Whereas popular opinion of violence is like the unicorn, which is entirely mythical, but everyone *knows* that a unicorn has goat's feet, a single horn, is attracted to virgins, etc. etc. Just like many of the things people "know" about violence are just dead wrong as they learned it all from comics, movies, news media, teachers of martial arts that have no personal experience, or stories.
A warning, there is a lot of very explicit description of violence and the results of violence. But he does his best to tell it straight, not as lurid entertainment, but always to prove a point specific to his arguments. And he has some very, very strong (and to my mind very GOOD) opinions about what to do in certain very real situations, especially lots of good advice on how to avoid violence all together. I like his opinion that self-defense is all really about getting away with the least damage possible when you've already screwed.
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