Scaling Force: A Review of Rory Miller and Lawrence A. Kane’s Book on How to Choose the Right Response Level

It’s not often I read a book twice within six months. But that’s exactly what I did with the latest book from Rory Miller and Lawrence A. Kane.

Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision Making Under Threat of Violence is essential for anybody who studies self-defense. As a karateka, most of my time is spent working strikes, locks, grappling, and other physical ways to defend myself. However, as the authors state at the end of the book:

Spending a decade studying Level 5 (less-lethal force) and praying for any situation you might get into will just happen to be justifiable and solvable at Level 5…that’s not a strategy. That’s just stupid.

More than just getting involved in a physical altercation, the authors identify six levels of force: presence, voice, touch, empty-hand restraint / physical control, Less-lethal force and lethal force. If you’ll notice, the first half of these does not involve “martial arts” in the sense of combat. Instead, it largely revolves around situational awareness and a sharp mind. The latter half deals with a person making an affirmative defense – recognizing he or she has committed a crime, but making a defense to a jury or judge as to why that person acted in that particular way in that particular situation.

What I really like is that this book is not a martial arts instruction manual. Knowing self-defense is more than knowing 200 different ways to choke someone. Self-defense is knowing where to be (and where not to be), who to surround yourself with (and who not), and, if you need to, how to escape a physical altercation.

In other words, Scaling Force is a 300-page mental exercise that prepares you for the worst while hoping for the best.

(Full disclosure: YMAA Publishing Center sent me a copy of this book in order to review it.)

By Adam Bockler

Adam Bockler is a B2B marketing professional, a DDP Yoga instructor, a personal trainer, a multi-time USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductee, a blood donor, and many other things.

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