Though I had read several of his books, emailed with him and followed his blog, my first seminar with renowned self-defense author and teacher Rory Miller certainly wasn't what one might expect when initially meeting someone. We were discussing what we loved about martial arts and what we wanted from training partners and mid-sentence Rory changed direction and asked:
“Can I be mean to you?” I replied “sure” and Rory lightly slapped me in the face. “Now, you smack me.” I obliged and within 10 minutes of meeting each other, ice and one major social taboo (face touching among adult males) had been broken. We both smirked and a fascinating journey into the ethical, legal, mental, emotional and physical journey into the concept of violence began.
Rory Miller serves, for me, as a sort of martial bullshit-o-meter. He's experienced and skeptical, while not quite a pessimist, and he's very much focused on keeping people grounded in their understanding of the difference between martial arts training and engaging in unavoidable, potentially injurious violence experienced with predatory criminals. He has trained and he has fought and he understands, through experience, what training does, and does not cover. His goal is to function as a guide to efficient, realistic ways to acquire the capacity and capability for real world violence that have the highest probability of transferring to worst case scenarios.
Rory is also comfortable with how many answers he doesn’t have because our answers can’t be his and his can’t be ours. He urges us to search for our own solutions based on what we knew about ourselves and though it is a bit uncomfortable at first, I eventually got to the point that I enjoyed the feeling that there was no guru and that there is no map. There is only what we come up with, how we tweak it, and what it does or may do because self-defense is all about ordinary people taking the power and responsibility to avoid, escape or destroy those who would make them victims.
Miller’s methods are broken into four primary ways of relaying information, principles and skills: teaching, training, playing and conditioning.
- Teaching is conceptual and doesn't really come out in fights but it’s good for legal information and ethical processes: two essential components which must be ironed out before anything goes physical.
- Training can provide great skills and is more accessible during violence but is hard to apply in initial violent encounters.
- Playing (yes, the fun kind) is an amazing way of experimenting with ideas and convincing your brain, through the stimulus-response relationship of the act and resulting enjoyment, that using physical skills, even dangerous ones, against another human being is worthwhile.
- Conditioning, also referred to as “emotional engineering,” is the most high percentage way to install responses, even to sudden violence. Conditioning is effective, even in first encounters, and is as simple as stimulus, response, and reward.
Rory Miller is the author of:Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence
Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected