Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Facing Violence

I received a couple of copies of Rory Miller's new book Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected from the publisher and immediately started reading the book. What I like about the authors of violence prevention books at YMAA Publication is that they focus a lot on the psychology of violence, preparing your mind and understanding what violence is and isn't. However, I often feel that they offer up similar advice to those who are thuggish types who tend to escalate violence and those who are minding their own business and encounter violence out of the blue. In my opinion, the psychology between these two is immensely different and should be reflected in how to think and respond.

In the first chapter and throughout the book, Miller discusses the legal and ethical aspects of violence. He talks about how laws set the standard for behavior and you will be held to it. "You must know how the law limits what you can and cannot do--and then you must adapt your training to work within those limits."

Miller goes on in the book to discuss how most middle class types have little idea about how criminals think (true enough) but focusing on how to defend yourself constantly to a jury is not exactly the best mindset for what to do when facing unexpected violence. Say you are coming out of a movie and someone jumps you with a knife? "Gee, what would the law say to do here?" is not going to help you survive. Knowing when to fight and when to flee is paramount here, not second guessing jury decisions. Sorry Mr. Miller, but as the saying goes, "I would rather be judged by a jury of twelve than carried by six."

I think regular people have enough problems displaying or even thinking about violence. Overcoming that in this culture is hard. As much as experts lament the "culture of violence" that we have in our society, the truth is, in our day to day lives, most normal people are not used to violence and have no idea what to do when it strikes unexpectedly.

Miller does a good job in this regard. He discusses the ethics of knowing where your line is before you come in contact with violence. He talks a lot about "breaking the Freeze." Freezing is "the state of not moving when you are in danger." Miller does a great job here of describing how to practice getting out of a freeze. He tells the reader to practice doing hard things and gives other suggestions.

Overall, a very good book for learning specific techniques when confronted with violence and a good manual for young guys (or older ones) who tend to be hot-headed and need to learn to manage their anger. However, the real people who need this book will never read it. They will be too busy disregarding the law, not worrying about the legalities of what they are doing and clearing their minds of anything but their next criminal act. For those who are not criminals and predators, but just innocent potential victims, a clear mind allows focus and forethought on the task in front of you. If it is unexpected violence, a plan is good, a head clouded with legal fears is not.

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Blogger Zorro said...

Massad Ayoob is another expert in knowing when and how to cross the line, specifically when firearms are involved. He is possibly the greatest expert in the US on the topic of deadly force and firearms.


9:27 AM, May 24, 2011  
Blogger Athanasius Kircher said...

Thanks for pointing this out:

"a good manual for young guys (or older ones) who tend to be hot-headed and need to learn to manage their anger."

I will recommend it to friends teach and are taking Anger Management classes.

12:54 PM, May 24, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...

Another test.

4:37 PM, May 24, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey! Blogger accounts are finally fixed. So, to what I tried to comment earlier.

Classes. Books are fine for browsing, but if the unfortunate opportunity presents itself, only physical conditioning works.

Get a good class.

4:39 PM, May 24, 2011  
Blogger Stosh2 said...

I agree with Oligonicella. You must actually do it - not just read about it or go to lectures about violence.

It's just like reading about swimming and then thinking you can actually swim when you're thrown into a strong current over your head the very first time you've been wet.

6:18 PM, May 24, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

I agree guys, but the PS3 made me a better putter. Over winter I played a lot of Tiger Woods golf, and a 30 foot putt was a 50/50 chance for me after lots of rounds. That spring, when I got out on the links, I would look at a 10 foot putt and think "easy."

My accuracy from 10 and in went WAY up, just because I was delusional. So maybe a really good video game would be better than a book at getting you prepared for violence. 8)


11:50 PM, May 24, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...

Trey - golf has a very low reaction time. 8)

10:32 AM, May 25, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Game theory teaches that your opponent is learning too. I wonder how many of these books fall into the hands of violent criminals and show them how to improve their game. The natural assumption is that people buy books like this for self defense, but it is just as reasonable to use them to improve your offense by better understanding how people will defend.

10:53 AM, May 25, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Professor Hale,

I don't think it's like one country against another, it's more like the majority of a society against people who have no impulse control or insight into what is going to happen in the future when they just do whatever they want.

In other words, most violent criminals are dumb-asses who don't really understand anything, and most white-collar criminals have egos that far transcend anything they have read.

3:02 PM, May 25, 2011  
Blogger Xiaoding said...

"I wonder how many of these books fall into the hands of violent criminals and show them how to improve their game."

Yeah, cause that's what violent crimminal do, buy books and read them! This explains all the fights I get into at Barnes and Noble!

6:39 PM, May 25, 2011  
Blogger Observer said...

Either you didn't really read this book, or your reading comprehension skills need tending to.

9:43 PM, May 25, 2011  
Blogger Doom said...

I so don't understand most people's weakness here. While I deplore the brutal I have known little else for most of my life until early adulthood. I honestly think everyone should have to face personally directed violence to the point where they make a choice to surrender, realize that won't help, and make it through to a point of not surrendering by fighting back, finding allies, or finding a champion. Some never would make it through though. Some people would rather surrender, immediately, fully, than ever have to take a risk. As much as I hate to fight, I hate those who are too afraid even more. I must sound terrible to some people, you maybe. Just imagine what I think of men, and even women, who just roll though.

7:07 AM, May 26, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Olig, really! It is BEST when the reaction time is slow! Good one pal, gave me a chuckle this morning.


8:54 AM, May 26, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Doom wrote: "I so don't understand most people's weakness here. While I deplore the brutal I have known little else for most of my life until early adulthood."

Sounds like you grew up in the trenches and have had ample, or more likely too many times you had to defend yourself. So you have a practiced response of going into aggressive behaviors when the situation calls for it.

I think a lot of the folks who struggle with freezing when they should fight have had few fist fights and are used to dealing (internally at least) with angry parents for the most part. Freezing is not a horrible strategy when dealing with an angry person who loves you. But it is woefully lacking when dealing with an angry person who is ready to assault you.

I am glad things are better for you these days pal.


4:07 PM, May 26, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

As far as I'm concerned, each angry person who wants to rage and fight might be doing it for a unique reason. The could be legitimately scared, imagining things, getting something from bullying another person, in desperate need of a mind-altering substance, or this is their general everyday demeanor. Another challenge to be layered on top of that is why they see you as a threat or why they have chosen you out of all the other potential victims available. It might be because of your physique, looks, gender, race, social status or that you are a family member and can't get away. All of these things need to be considered before one makes any decisions on how to react. I'll react very differently to a large man in a dark alley than too my getting-crazier-by-the-day violent mother.

7:19 PM, May 26, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...


Your suggestion is fine for an argument that you don't believe is going further. Bad for violence, which by definition is underway.

The only thing one needs to consider in a physically violent situation is what can I do to ameliorate the attack.

Any thought given to *why* the attack is occurring will get you hurt. React. Think later.

8:29 PM, May 26, 2011  
Blogger Ken said...

I find it incomprehensible that people would not expect violence from other people. Like Doom, I never knew anything else in childhood. Are there really schools without fights? That seems just plain weird.

9:43 PM, May 26, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

Olig, it's not quite that simple, thinking only about what to do to ameliorate an attack. If your violent attacker is a crazed 77 year old woman with a history of osteoporosis you are thinking about much much more than amelioration. One wrong move on my part breaks a bunch of her bones. And since I know very well that the truth will never emanate from her lips I think about a lot of things. Some violent attacks need to be handled with great care.

10:02 PM, May 26, 2011  
Blogger Andrew_M_Garland said...

I like this site.

No Nonsense Self Defense, a website by Marc "Animal" MacYoung.
Who is going to rob you?

Mugger:  (points gun) Give me your money. Quick.
Mike:  Oh well now. Are you serious? I don't have much money on ..
Mugger:  (bang)

== ==
A mugger doesn't hold the same values as you do. He has no sympathy or empathy for you. Whether you live or die is no matter to him. Except as it might affect him, he has no concern about your emotions or what you think. If those do affect him, he'll view it as interference with him getting what he wants, and you won't like the results.

While he could pull that trigger on a whim, most people are harmed by a mugger because quite frankly, they pissed him off. They either tried to stall him, argue with him, resist ineffectively, or scare him away.

The mugger is only concerned with himself and the NOW. He has no fear of the police, nor does he have any concern about long term repercussions. The threat of prison is like threatening to send him to his room.

Often, he considers that YOU are holding HIS money for him. Most importantly, he has absolutely no hesitation about pulling the trigger, because you don't matter to him.
== ==

11:44 PM, May 26, 2011  
Blogger Fen said...

My problem is that I would not just want to stop the mugger, I would want to kill him in the most henious way, as an object lesson to others. Then display his head on a pike.

I would then target his mother and father. And his little dog too.

Yes, I know, I'm working on it.

12:07 AM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger Thucydides said...

No Fen, like this:

He lets the last Hungarian go. He waits until his wife and kids are in the ground and then he goes after the rest of the mob. He kills their kids, he kills their wives, he kills their parents and their parents' friends. He burns down the houses they live in and the stores they work in, he kills people that owe them money. And like that he was gone.

12:39 AM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger Tony Lekas said...

Thanks for the reference to the book. I teach the NRA Personal Protection classes and train others to teach them. We do discuss these issues in the class and do some drills to simulate responding to a threat rather than just target shooting. We have a lawyer do the legal part.

While I do want the students to come away understanding what they should and should not do and how to reduce the chance that they will have to use deadly force I am concerned that they may not be able to respond effectively in the case of a sudden attack.

When I see reports of the large number of cases where someone successfully defends themselves it does give me hope.

12:46 AM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger Nicholas Darkwater said...

An armed society is a polite society.

1:26 AM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger Kzintius said...

The best way to say it is that "Fate favors the prepared mind". Any individual who takes a walk without considering the dangers is foolish. I live in a city where the crime rate is high. Granted most of these occur on the other side of the city on occasion they occur closer to home. Whenever we go for a walk I prepare myself mentally for violence and being able to defend me an mine. I run through scenarios that could take place and figure out how to diffuse them as quick as possible. As morbid as this may seem to some I'd rather be prepared then a sitting duck.

2:14 AM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger Nom de Blog said...

Ken asked: "Are there really schools without fights?" Yes. Fighting is absolutely prohibited at school now, and the penalties for fighting (or even just being punched, which isn't the same thing) are so draconian that the kids nowadays focus on finding subtle and un-punishable ways of picking on each other.

11:06 AM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger Unknown said...

Cham --

"Olig, it's not quite that simple, thinking only about what to do to ameliorate an attack. If your violent attacker is a crazed 77 year old woman with a history of osteoporosis you are thinking about much much more than amelioration."

No, you're not. In this sense, it meant make better as in eliminate the attack.

What part of eliminate the attack causes harm to the 77yr old osteo patient? It could (in this case) mean friggin' walking fast - and by that I mean, your example is purposefully on one extreme, ie: an absurd argument.

I think your mistake is assuming defense means hitting or kicking.

11:37 AM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger Ken said...

Wacky Hermit: Sorry, but I'm not convinced. There were draconian penalties at my school too. All they did was give more incentive to bullies, since they were losers who had nothing to lose (since after all, what's another 6 months in reform school?).

11:59 AM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger Memphis said...

The first thing we do, we kill all the lawyers.

Sorry, that thought just came to mind as I was reading this and I couldn't shake it.

1:51 PM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

I had two kids in my office talk about getting hit yesterday. Bullying is not something any policy will eliminate. You can cut it WAY down by, you know, really watching the kids at school, sitting at their lunch tables, and being present every second of their day. But policies do not end bullying. That is another progressive delusion.

You certainly can show a bully that picking on you will not be without danger, and they will generally find someone else to bully. Bullies usually do not like fights, they like to bully people who they can dominate. That is very different from fighting.


1:52 PM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Often, he considers that YOU are holding HIS money for him. Most importantly, he has absolutely no hesitation about pulling the trigger, because you don't matter to him.

In Cincinnati, at least a couple of people have been shot for refusing to give their cell phones to someone. Drug dealers like to steal cell phones so than can make calls that can't be traced back to them. They don't ask for money or anything else, just the phone.

2:00 PM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger Cham said...

Your Cincinatti drug dealers aren't so smart. We had 2 guys rob a guy for a phone and were caught a few minutes later after the police made a quick call to the carrier. The phone was GPS enabled. Take the money and drugs, leave the phone with the owner.

3:39 PM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Cham - LOL. As more and more phones are GPS enabled I suspect cell phone theft will decline. I've heard of a few high school kids who swiped a phone being caught like that.

5:57 PM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger Roy said...

Ken said: "Like Doom, I never knew anything else in childhood. Are there really schools without fights?"

Well, you have to understand something. For a lot of adults, school was a long time ago. I am 57 years old. The last fist fight I was ever in happened when I was in high school over 40 years ago.

9:39 PM, May 27, 2011  
Blogger The Duck said...

I think Dave Grossman's book ON Combat does a better job than Millers

6:32 AM, May 28, 2011  
Blogger Matthew said...

Andrew Garland beat me to it.

MacYoung's website is a treasure trove of personal knowledge and sound learning.

It is also as big of a black hole for time as TV Tropes as all of the pages are cross-referenced.

His page on "The best way to get attacked" is good reading to illustrate the chasm that separates how most of us think from the mindset of folks who live a lifestyle where violence is common and part of "normal" interaction.


4:56 PM, May 28, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen has written quite a few posts about self-defense and ways to prevent being attacked.

Frankly, if you're afraid of it, carry concealed and also carry some "starter" stuff, like pepper spray and electroshocker / Taser.

There are also homemade weapons that can be built that are probably more effective than a Glock in the purse.

I don't think a small woman is ever going to get to a point where martial arts alone will be enough against an attack by a husky man unless she spends most of her life on it.

4:06 PM, May 29, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with pepper spray and women is that they think they just have to spray a little bit toward the attacker - kind of like perfume - and it renders him completely helpless for evermore.

Aside from the fact that some people are immune to it (really), it is considered to be a way of getting a leg up in the rest of the fight.

I have no idea what the concealed-carry laws in Tennessee are, but that is really the best bet for self-defense.

4:08 PM, May 29, 2011  

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