"Scaling Force" by Rory Miller and Lawrence Kane. A Review

Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision Making Under Threat of ViolenceScaling Force: Dynamic Decision Making Under Threat of Violence by Rory Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Self-defense instruction, martial arts, and Krav Maga are selling like hot cakes on a Saturday morning! Why? Some folks simply want to enhance their self-confidence; others have had their peace of mind stolen by the viral fear-breeding in our culture; a few are mesmerized by the glamorous brutality of “Olympus Has Fallen” or “Die Hard”; and then there are those who have been real victims of violence who never want to be victimized again. Into this mix of motives comes a sensible 342 page paperback, “Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision-making under the Threat of Violence” written by Rory Miller and Lawrence A. Kane, both of whom are seasoned in violent confrontations from a law enforcement and security perspective.

“Scaling Force” looks into the bigger scenario of violence and defense, guiding the reader through the various types of violence (social and predatory); situational awareness; legal ramifications of self-defense; and the six levels of force (presence, voice, touch, empty-hand restraint, less-lethal force, and lethal force). The main concept that acts like scaffolding around a building project is the importance of I.M.O.P (Intent, Means, Opportunity, and Preclusion).  If you must retaliate or forcefully respond to an assault, you need to be able to vocalize the reasons behind your defense: that the bad guy intended attack; he had the means to do harm; he had the opportunity to actually do you injury; and you were precluded from escaping (36-9). Miller and Kane, like a pack of feral dogs jaw-locked on a piece of bone, will not let the reader forget this, and for good reason; “If one or more of these conditions are absent, you are on shaky legal ground” (36). A milder aspect of this scaffolding is that the victim must know when to (as well as when not to) stop. The authors press home how important it is for the victim not to slide into becoming the victimizer, or the assailed to become the assailant.

Throughout “Scaling Force” the authors’ premise is doggedly drummed and chanted like a rap song, “The goal of self-defense is not to win the fight, but rather to avoid combat in the first place” (49). Don’t fall into the “Monkey Dance”; don’t look like an easy mark; use your head to avoid an attack; beat the predator at the “victim interview”; beware of the bad guy’s use of dialogue, deception, distraction and destruction. Even the way Miller and Kane picture the moment of combat takes the fascination out of the fight. It’s not going to be pretty; it will likely smell bad and be slimy; nothing will go as nice and neat as your training might make you believe it will; there will probably be arrests and you will be one of the arrested; there are cameras and court scenes after it’s all done; and then there is the personal angst and regret. The authors have done an excellent job in stripping away the theatrical charm many people have about a fight.

With all of the above pulsing through the book, nevertheless “Scaling Force” is about self-defense, and Miller and Kane take it serious. Moving through the different levels of force, they pull out and examine almost every piece, explaining, pointing, and describing. And each section is riddled with personal, real-situation examples. The authors know their business; they know their assailants and aggressors; and (it seems to me) they know their audience.  Though the book is packed with tons of information, it will help a reader become less of a victim and more aware of what they could be up against.

“Scaling Force” has one serious glitch, though. In describing moves, holds, bars, and hits, there are no pictures or diagrams. The places on the human body, how one twists, throws, punches and grabs are left to the imagination. To offset this, there is the DVD by the same name. The DVD doesn’t show everything, but it beefs up what is lacking in the book.

I have been very impressed with “Scaling Force”. The tone and tenor of the book is sound, sober minded and sane. It addresses areas most people would never think of with regard to personal protection, as well as showing the holes and blind-spots in most self-defense programs. This book (along with the DVD) would be a significant addition to any martial arts school or self-defense curriculum. I highly recommend the book.

Thanks to YMAA for the free copy of “Scaling Force” used for this review.

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