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Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Scaling Force (Book)

Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision Making Under Threat of Violence 
Rory Miller and Lawrence A. Kane
YMAA Press
Oct 2012

It took me a while to get Scaling Force. I'm not entirely sure why, except that Rory has a lot of stuff out there, and I can only read so fast. But I recently got my hands on the Scaling Force DVD (review coming soon), and I figured I should read the book for a full comparison. I'm really glad I did...this is another gem from Rory.

In talking about self-defense with martial artists, I've noticed that there are often two big gaps in their training. One is the psychological aspects of self-defense (what we call Fight One in the PDR/SPEAR System). The other, and honestly, probably the most often ignored, is the legal aspects of self-defense (what we call Fight Three in the PDR/SPEAR system). Scaling Force presents a system and method for martial artists to address fight three in a pretty comprehensive fashion.

The Thing Itself

I read this book on Kindle, so I can't comment on what the hard copy version is like. The kindle format generally works well. My only complaint (and it is a minor one) is that the kindle version seems to think that every single section is a new chapter, which meant that the little ticker at the bottom constantly said "one minute left in chapter" or "chapter complete". Like I said, minor complaint.

What's Inside

Scaling Force begins with an overview of some fundamental self-defense principles. Rory's breakdown of social and asocial/predatory violence appears here, as does some information on situational awareness, the IMOP principle and other legal niceties, and an explanation of what the Scaling Force...scale (it's not a continuum, the authors tell us) is. The scale offers six stages of potential responses to a confrontation: Presence, Voice, Touch, Empty Hand Restraint/Physical Control, Less Lethal Force, and Lethal Force.

(I should expand on that, actually. The point the authors are making here is that the scale isn't something you move up through during a confrontation--you just enter at the level that's appropriate. You don't start with level one if level six is what you need.)

This is all very solid information, though long-time readers of Rory's work will find some of it (particularly the social/predatory violence information) familiar, and possibly repetitive. Personally, I find a good review of good information always helpful. For anyone who is reading Miller for the first time, this stuff is invaluable.

The remainder of the book is six chapters, each devoted to a stage on the force scale. Each chapter provides a breakdown of the force level: how it works, what the key concepts are, and some ideas for drills and training at each level. The information here is all very detailed, but it's presented in a way that's easily accessible for a general audience. None of it is particularly style or system specific, and most of it could be integrated into just about any training system without a great deal of strain.

What's Good

The whole thing.

The legal aspects of self-defense have got to be one of the most overlooked areas of self-defense training. Possibly even more so than the psychological aspects (which at least get some lip service). Scaling Force offers a solution for that. More importantly, because the information is presented in a non-style specific way, it's information that can be integrated into any training method that's concerned with self-defense. Just reading the book will probably illuminate some holes in your training. Actually putting this stuff into practice will fill those holes nicely, and expand all of your skills as a martial artist (or as a human being).

It is worth noting that while each chapter contains some drills and concepts for working on that particular level of force, getting into any level in greater detail requires going beyond the scope of the book. Chapter Four, for example, contains a nice discussion on the mechanics and tactics of joint locking, but getting really good at joint locks is going to require some time on the mat, and probably some hands on training with someone who is good at that sort of thing. That's not a complaint--going in depth on every section of this book would make the book so enormous as to be unwieldy.

Who Is This For?

Self-defense instructors, martial arts instructors who think they are teaching self-defense, or people who practice self-defense but don't teach it. Basically, if you are interested in self-defense in any way, this book is a must read.

If you are a martial artist who ISN'T interested in self-defense, this book might still be worth reading, just to understand where the gaps in your training are. You might not care about filling them, but it's better to know they're there ahead of time than to ignore them and find out later.

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