Scaling Force --Dynamic Decision-making under threat of violence. YMAA, 120 minutes.
Roy Miller has created five DVDs, all of which I’ve seen, and written several books, of which I’ve read four. I’ve been very impressed with all his work so far, and even went so far as to attend two of his seminars. I was also quite pleased and impressed with both him and the material presented. Having said that of all his DVDs this is the only one I would not give five stars. Is it bad? No, it’s well worth watching. I think anyone who watches it will get something from it. But is it great, as great as his other materials? I don’t think so. As for Lawrence Kane, I’ve read two books him as well and thought they were good too and look forward to reading others. Both men are good writers and martial artists with a firm grounding in self-defense and an ability to analyze and communicate well.
However, like another reviewer at Amazon, I strongly recommend that someone interested in the subject should first read Miller and Kane’s book “Scaling Force” before watching this video. That’s where most of the real factual content can be learned. But having said that, I don’t wish to condemn this DVD entirely. It does supplement the book and provides new examples and perspectives on the lessons taught, although I question if a person could get a good, well rounded grasp on the material by watching this DVD alone. To a large extent, I felt that in this DVD they got away from the focus of the book, and taught about a wide variety of self defense, crime avoidance, and awareness related subjects instead.
The basic presentation style, in my opinion, was not chosen to fit the content of the book and the lessons the authors wanted to teach, but instead they went with the approach Miller used in his four other DVDs. Miller is in a room with several other people. In this room with these people, he lectures, tells stories, discusses, demonstrates, and answers questions. Periodically, this is interrupted by Lawrence Kane, who was not able to be present giving lectures and telling stories on his own to give his own spin on the materials. Now anyone who’s met Rory Miller probably believes like I do that if he were to talk about grocery shopping on a school bus, just to give an absurd example, you’d learn a great deal of valuable stuff. So it’s not like this is devoid of content. On the other hand, it would have been nice if they had supplemented this with charts, diagrams, computer graphics, and other sorts of visuals to illustrate the lessons and clarify points.
The basic idea of the book and DVD is that when one is faced with violence or the threat of violence one needs to respond in an appropriate way with an appropriate degree of force. In the book and DVD, Kane and Miller divide potential responses into six different levels.
The first of these is “presence.” Often a situation can be defused or avoided merely by one’s presence, particularly if the potential assailant is being observed. Miller gives an example of someone who caused a suspicious car to leave the neighborhood simply by photographing its license plate and letting the person inside see that this was being done.
The second level of response is “voice.’ Many situations can, indeed, by defused through talking. Talking of course, does not include just negotiation but also talking down emotional distraught people, letting potential assailants know you’re aware of their intent, or even tricking people.
It was this part where I was most disappointed in the DVD, largely because this section of the book is so amazingly good. I would recommend without hesitation that any EMT or emergency responder interested in improving their emergency communication and crisis intervention skills read this section of the book. Unfortunately, I do not think they would get the same benefits from this DVD. One reason for this is, ironically, Miller’s professionalism and desire to produce quality materials. He states in the DVD that although he and others of the people present are skilled and experienced in talking emotionally distraught people down, they chose not to demonstrate this in detail in the DVD because they are not good actors and would not show it well.
The third level is touch. In many cases, a situation can be defused when the right person places a hand on someone in the right way. Examples are shown.
The fourth level is the use of restraining and other hand to hand techniques. This is, of course, the point where most martial arts and self defense training begins.
Although the book speaks of level five, less lethal force, and six, lethal force, as separate entities in the DVD they are combined. It is explained that the reason for combining the two is because in a real conflict situation a person will react automatically with a mixture of instinct and training and not be able to distinguish clearly between the two levels of force.
This is just one more example of the differences between the book and the DVD. In the DVD, there is an assumption that the audience is ordinary people, “citizens” who do not normally respond to violence, and not people who face it regularly such as emergency service personnel or large event security people. It also one example of how the DVD is much less organized than the book. (Some will respond that violence is inherently disorganized. One of the things that I love about Miller’s work, however, is that he is able to see the patterns in it.)
In conclusion, there’s much in the DVD that’s worth paying attention to. There’s a lot of good material on how to avoid violence and increase one’s awareness of dangerous situations. Miller and Kane know their stuff. On the other hand, for those expecting a video organization that tightly follows the format of the book, they are likely to find this disappointing.