40: Rory Miller on Violence, Self Defense, Social Conditioning, and Fear of Death

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Rory Miller has 17 years of experience working in maximum security detentions, booking, and mental health facilities; for 14 months he was an adviser to the Iraqi Corrections System, working in Baghdad; he is the author of several books Meditations on Violence; we talk about self-defense, the false assumptions martial artists make about violence, breaking the “freeze” response, fear of death, fear of embarrassment, how a criminal thinks, Steven Pinker, the decline of violence in the world, the power of violence, human nature, and much more.

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Full Audio of Interview on YouTube

Rory Miller Quotes (from Podcast)

“One of the problems with martial arts, especially if you want that martial art to make you feel safe for self defense, is that people want answers. People want to feel comfortable having answers. But there is nothing out there that’s an answer to all the bad things that could happen.”

“It’s not uncommon to spend 5, 10, 20 years for a martial artist to study what to do when a bad guy attacks him, and yet spend absolutely no time studying how bad guys actually attack in reality. I only see that in martial arts. There is no way you would ever go to a medical doctor and he would say that he has never bothered to study diseases or injury, he just focused on studying surgical techniques and drugs.”

“No one remembers their training until after the first 3-5 encounters.”

“If someone (who is not dealing with violence as part of their job) had to use serious self-defense skills five or more times, they need to make better lifestyle choices.”

“There are four ways that things get into your head: teaching, training, condition, and play.”

“A lot of times what we are training and what we are conditioning are working against each other, and it’s the conditioning that comes out in a fight first.”

“People who play hard have a huge edge over people who don’t play hard but pretend that they do.”

“Death is an inevitability. The world has a 100% mortality rate. No one gets out alive. A lot of the self and ego that people get defensive over is a wisp of smoke anyway.”

“In infinite universe, everybody is wrong, just accept that. If you can just start there, it gives you a lot of freedom to learn and to make things better, because then you’re not trying to making things right, you’re just trying to make them better.”

“Most of the mistakes that people make in a fight aren’t because they are afraid of dying, but because they’re afraid of looking stupid, they’re afraid of being embarrassed.”

“Everything involved in self-defense is breaking a social taboo. We don’t usually yell at strangers. We definitely don’t hit strangers. Even guys who practice martial arts all the time. We’re hitting friends, people we know, not strangers.”

“I believe everyone is a natural fighter, but we’ve been conditioned not to be.”

“Part of being good is exerting will when nature wants you to be bad, when nature wants you to eat the weak, to say: not today, I don’t need to do that, I’m not going to.”

“Violence works. The rarer it is, the better it works.”

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7 thoughts on “40: Rory Miller on Violence, Self Defense, Social Conditioning, and Fear of Death”

  1. I love the line “its not self-defense if you can walk away.” So true and something that my father taught me when I was young.

    1. When you look at the situation objectively, walking away is often an option, and when available, is usually the best option.

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed Lex. As well as your other writing. Wishing I could visit PA and get a roll and beer in with you…… someday.

    1. Brent, write me an email if you’re ever in Philly. I’ll also be in the San Francisco area quite ofter in 2015 if you’re ever up there.

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