I’m starting to think that everything Rory Miller has ever written should be required reading for all martial artists, regardless of their style.
Miller is an experienced martial artist and corrections officer. He came to the attention of the larger martial arts community in 2008 with his publication of Meditations on Violence, a book which conceptualized the dynamics of real-world violence and explained how it differed from what most martial artists train to deal with in the dojo. Any serious martial artist should read that book, if only for his explanation of the difference between the “monkey dance” of ritualized social violence and the actions of predators who will stack the odds in their favor to ensure that the violence they instigate is entirely one-sided.
Miller’s latest book is ConCom: Conflict Communication A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication. (Unfortunately currently available only as an e-book, otherwise I’d be buying copies as gifts for several friends.) This book originated as a course taught by Miller and Marc MacYoung for teaching law enforcement officers the communication skills to deal with potentially violent criminals. Based on feedback from their students they realized that the principles of the course applied not only to calming down an aggressive suspect but also to handling interpersonal conflict elsewhere, whether in the workplace or in a relationship.
The genius of Miller’s work lies not in any uniquely original insights. Rather it rests within his ability to explain concepts in a way which is simple enough to be understood easily, yet accurate enough to be genuinely helpful. (In a refreshing contrast to most writers of self-help books, Miller does not insist that his theoretical constructs for explaining his ideas are literally true – just that they map the territory well enough to be useful.)
Miller’s model for understanding conflict rests upon the idea of the triune brain, although he has put his own spin on the concept. Most of the book is spent teaching the reader how to understand conflicts arising from the “monkey brain” which governs much of our social interaction. By recognizing how the scripts played out by this “monkey brain” can create or escalate conflict, the reader can learn how to either break out of those scripts or use them to create a better outcome.
The book also examines the mindset of a predator using those social scripts to enable violence and explains how tactics designed to defuse social violence may play into the hands of such predators.
Many martial arts instructors give lip service to the idea of only fighting after all other options (such as avoidance or verbal de-escalation) have been exhausted. The problem is, unless you understand the dynamics which give rise to violence in the first place your attempts to avoid or de-escalate that violence will be so much thrashing around in the dark. This book will help you shed light on that darkness.