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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rory Miller Seminar

The Internet is a strange and fascinating thing. Without it, I'm not sure how I would have ever heard of, let alone ended up in touch with, some of the most influential people in my life. Tony Blauer was recommended to me through an online message board. So was Mark Dellagrotte. Rory Miller wasn't so much recommended to me, but I "met" him on the same discussion boards that learned about Tony Blauer on. And while I might have found out about Tony or Mark without the internet, I damn well never would have "met" Rory without it.

What is interesting about the Internet, however, is that you can know someone for years through it, and never actually meet them. Which, until this past Sunday, was the case with me and Rory. Rory and I had talked online for years, and I am a huge fan of his book Meditations on Violence (available through my Amazon store), but I never had the opportunity to come face-to-face with him until last weekend.

I approached the seminar with a combination of excitement and apprehension. As I said, I really like Rory's writing--what he says resonates and makes sense to me. His descriptions of the drills he does sound sensible.

So why the apprehension? Simple--I had never met the dude. Never seen him move. A number of years ago, as I was looking into various self-defense systems, I came across another author whose writing I thought seemed logical and reasonable...until I purchased some of his videos, and saw that what he was actually doing did not, as near as I could tell, jive with what he was writing. I didn't want a similar experience with Rory. Happily, I didn't get it.

Rory's seminar was a very nice balance of physical drills and tactics, combined with some discussion/lecture on the realities of violence. On the physical end, he spent a lot of time on a drill he calls the "one-step", which is, in a very short description, a slow-motion fight (it's more complicate than that, slightly, but go to one of his seminars and find out for yourself). It seems to be the nucleus of a lot of Rory's drilling and training, though it's hard to say for sure. In addition to the one-steps, Rory spent some time drilling a couple of counter-ambush "entries", which are conceptually (and in one case, physically) very similar to the SPEAR. We also got to play with some blindfolded infighting drills, which were, really, really cool, and which I will be subjecting both PDR and Muay Thai students to at some point in the near future. The physical stuff wrapped up with some general stuff on elbow manipulations and striking from the ground. Again, all cool stuff to play with.

Rory uses that word "play" a lot. Pedagogically, I like it. Self-defense seminars can sometimes be very grim affairs (Rondel Benjamin, a fellow PDR coach, once said "talking about rape and murder is fundamentally not fun"). By making a lot of the physical stuff into "play", Rory dropped the tension level in the room remarkably, and made it a lot easier for people to learn. It helped that the seminar attendees were, in general, a really cool group of people. No one was there to put on an ego display, or show how tough they were. Everyone just had fun learning. It made for a very nice learning environment.

On the non-physical side, we talked about the realities of violence, the legal issues around violence (which was really, really valuable). Everyone remotely interested in personal safety should listen to Rory talk about violence dynamics--who starts fights, why they start, what they start over, etc. Rory has some really cool ideas on this stuff. A lot of it ties into the PDR curriculum pretty solidly, which is also cool. My new "dream team" meeting is to get Tony and Rory into the same room together (possibly with a bottle of good scotch), and see what kind of stuff they come up with. It'd be pretty cool.

As a teacher, I'm always watching other teachers. (Sometimes, I pay more attention to how teacher's are teaching than WHAT they are teaching). Rory is a damn good teacher. He is calm, encouraging, articulate, and willing to talk about just about anything related to the topic (like many good teachers I know, he has a tendency to tangent if not kept on track). One of the things I both liked and found really impressive was that Rory got through an eight-hour seminar without putting down anyone's system, style, or skill set. In fact, he explicitly said, often, "this is what works for me. If it doesn't work for you, do something else." And while he admonished us that all right thinking people are in-fighters (true), he also made a point to always empower the seminar participants to find their own solutions.

Also, he actually got out on the mat and played with people, which was awesome. Not all teachers will. I got to play with him a couple of times, and it was a blast. I would never actually want to fight with Rory, because that would hurt, a lot. But play with him. Hell yeah, that was cool.

If you are anywhere near Rory for a training opportunity, take it. I feel like he just scratched the surface of what he does, and I would love to see more. Definitely worth the effort.

[Also, much thanks to Jeff and Jessica for hosting the seminar. They opened their doors to a bunch of complete strangers, and made everyone feel very welcome.]

[I was going to do a comparison of some of the stuff Rory does with the stuff we do in the PDR, but this is long enough. I'll do that in another post, preferably after I've typed up my notes.]

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