Books worth reading, all available from the
‘Force Decisions’ by Rory Miller. Appropriate use of force, if force is unavoidable, is something many instructors do not understand. Being taught by such people can lose you your liberty if you do not read this and translate the lessons into your own jurisdiction. Knowledge is a powerful thing when it is appropriately applied.
‘Conflict Communications’ by Rory Miller. I love Con Com, I teach Con Com. EVERYONE should read Con Com. Rory and Marc worked hard on this and the results are a real paradigm shift in how we see conflict on an interpersonal level. Reading con com is like having a skin lifted from across your eyes. Rory’s version of con com is a must read book. I am really looking forward to Marc’s version too having had a sneaky preview.
‘In the Name of Self Defence’ by Marc MacYoung. This is an encyclopaedia of a book. It is perhaps the best thing Marc has written to date and that is not just because I get a mention in the acknowledgements. This book cannot be read straight through, it needs and deserves to be read in bite size chunks it is so thought provoking. In my opinion this is a must read book for anyone working in the self defence or martial arts industry.
‘Secrets of Effective Offense’ by Marc MacYoung. I have used a lot from this book in my teaching of both Self Defence and Ju Jitsu. The book breaks down how our body functions and then reconstructs it to make it more effective. Marc simplifies what others make complicated and this is based on his vast experience and knowledge, experience is the best teacher.
‘Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence’ by Sgt Rory Miller. This book compares and contrasts the world of martial arts training and real world violence, Fantastic read this and go get it now. Rory has the gift of being able to use his own experience as a corrections officer and martial artist to explore actual experienced violence and the training arena.
‘Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected’ by Sgt Rory Miller. Building on the lessons in Meditations Rory now examines in more detail the way we train to prepare for violence and where the gaps are in many martial art approaches. Ethical, moral and legal implications of using violence in self defence are examined and analysed in detail, read this book asap.
‘A Professionals Guide to Ending Violence Quickly’ by Marc ‘Animal’ MacYoung. Highly informative and entertaining read as can be expected from Marc. Been there, done it and got the T Shirt does not even begin to describe the author. He has a unique insight into understanding violence and surviving it in its most extreme forms. A must read.
‘Cheap Shots, Ambushes and Other Lessons: A Down and Dirty Book on Streetfighting and Survival’ by Marc ‘Animal’ MacYoung. One of the first books I bought when I was making my way to black belt in Ju Jitsu and trying to work my new interests with my own experience of violence. It’s a rock and roll journey and I loved it. No punches pulled, sorry for the pun, definitely a must for those with no or little street violence experience.
‘Left of Bang’ by Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley. The Combat Hunter Programme was developed to reduce the number of casualties being inflicted upon US Marines in Iraq and Afghan by IED’s and ambushes. This is a superb read and invaluable to ANYONE who is concerned for their personal safety. People bleed non-verbal information through expressions, actions, stance etc, and the information is there if you know what you are looking for. Reading people is a skill, the intentions of that sweet talking individual is probably being contradicted, possibly reinforced, by the way the stand? Read the book, you will not be wasting your time.
‘What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People’ by Joe Navarro. One of my favourite books recently, I recommend this to all my students. Read alongside Left of Bang, here Navarro provides the best descriptions of how to read peoples non-verbal communication explaining how the lies made up by the frontal cortex are betrayed. I really wish I had learned this stuff when I was much younger.
‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg. Incredibly comprehensive study into why we behave as we do, and all of us are creatures of habit, and more interestingly how we are often manipulated into behaving that way. This study delves deep into how we can, once we understand the processes taking place in our brain can begin to take back control and choose not to continue destructive behaviours and develop constructive ones.
‘The Righteous Mind’ by Jonathan Haidt. Now here is a diversion into moral psychology and a damned interesting one too. We all like to think, believe even, that we try as much as possible to make rational decisions. We are not governed by our emotions at all, others maybe, but not us. We take a read of this book and the interaction between our biological and cultural evolution and then go look in a mirror and say you are different, I dare you.
‘The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements’ by Eric Hoffer. I bought this after seeing Hoffer being quoted a lot on social media; I also studied mass movements at university. Whilst exploring what informs and motivated true believers in religious movements, Hoffer’s analysis can be applied to understand the tribalism and cult like behaviour, groupthink even, of many in the martial arts/self defence industry.
‘Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfil Your Potential’ by Carol Dweck. A very interesting comparison of the fixed and growth mindsets ant their implications for our behaviour. Dweck uses a nice range of studies, including her own research, and quite a bit from Haidt’s the righteous mind. A criticism is it gets a bit repetitive but is very useful for looking at how people see themselves and others, helps understand how and why people train and learn.
‘Species: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari. We are the apex predator on this planet, understanding human’s means understanding how effectively we have used violence to create the world we live in today. I have read quite a few books on evolution socio-anthropology etc and this is a great one off read to see what an incredible journey sapiens have experienced and how experiences over millennia have shaped our cultures and behaviours. If you do not read this then you cannot fully comprehend what we are capable of.
‘Human Universe’ by Professor Brian Cox. To be fair it took me two attempts to get past the first few chapters. This possibly the strangest book in this list but it does help put things in perspective. Again it shows what sapiens are capable of and how incredible we are as a species. My reading was that the universes as they are being discovered are seemingly endless, scientific exploration seems to reach its limits then reaches further again. I think that is exactly the same for individuals, we push ourselves to achieve new things, things we never contemplated years ago, like me riding a motorcycle or achieving my 4th Dan, then we look at what to do next. It is a good complimentary read to Mindset and Species.
‘Understanding Reasonable Force’ by Mark Dawes. Anybody coaching in martial arts or self defence should read this. It is an idiot’s guide to the subject. Mark clearly cuts through the legalese and jargon and gives good, practical advice. Concise and very easy to understand.
‘Sharpening the Warrior’s Edge: The Psychology and Science of Training; by Bruce K. Siddle. The psychology and science of training without too much jargon. Some really fascinating stuff here that really examines how we learn and how we coach, yes it does tax the grey matter but that muscle needs exercise too! I really enjoyed this book and am not surprised it came so highly recommended. A must read for coaches if you want to be a cut above the herd.
‘Para Fitness and Training Guide’ by Major Sam McGrath. Inspirational guide to improving your fitness levels, whatever your baseline. Packed with sound information, advice and guidance, you may never get as fit as the Para’s but if you follow some of the examples in the book you will improve your health and fitness. This has certainly caused me to re-examine my attitude towards my fitness training and to up my game.
‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know’ by Ranulph Fiennes. This is an extraordinary man. Read this and you will see what resilience is. Fiennes is a bit of a hero of mine and I have read some of his other books, fact and fiction. He has pushed his mind and body beyond the limits that most of us would never reach.
‘Fit to Fight’ by Peter Consterdine. Hard to beat this book, Peter is a legend and I have learned a great deal from training with Peter who is uncompromising in his approach, highly recommended read this.
‘Streetwise’ by Peter Consterdine. Expert advice from somebody who has been there, seen it and got the T shirt. Peter’s striking power is incredible.
‘Watch my Back’ by Geoff Thompson. Hard to put down autobiography, tough, gritty and pulls no punches. Geoff is a philosopher and warrior and one of the nicest most genial men you could meet and having trained with him a few times a superb martial artist.
‘Born Fighter’ by Dave Hazard. This is a great read, Dave is a formidable, world class martial artist and training with Dave was a real treat he gave me some valuable coaching techniques. Read this book.
‘Get Tough’ by Major W.E. Fairbairn. Classic unarmed combat manual as taught to the British Commandos in World War Two. Battle proven, simple to use, techniques.
‘101 Safety and Self-Defense Tips: Lessons from the Experts’ by Alain Burrese. A great compilation that every martial arts/self defence student should read, remember all instructors are students too, or should be.
‘The Gift of Fear’ by Gavin De Becker. Excellent and accessible read that helps us to rediscover our survival skills.
‘Combatives for Street Survival: Hard-Core Countermeasures for High-Risk Situations’ by Kelly McCann. As it says on the tin, hard core countermeasures for high risk situations. Plain speaking throughout with great examples and excellent photographic examples. I am not a fan of this type of presentation but this is the best example I have come across and as an infighter myself I found it helped me to look at ways to analyse and improve my performance.
‘On Killing’ by Lt Col. Dave Grossman. Former US Ranger and Paratrooper and more than competent academic. This book is a real eye opener and explores in detail the psychological cost of learning to kill. Explore some rich historical material and lays bare how much military research and effort has gone into making soldiers more likely to kill. The interesting material on distance and killing is relevant to martial artists and self defence instructors as if we are teaching people to use violence, even legal violence, then we need to look at the effects it will have on those we teach if they do have to use force.
‘Violence: A Micro-Sociological Theory’ by Randall Collins. OK so I have a sociology degree so this was right up my street. I really enjoyed this book, well argued points with great supporting examples, a very thorough examination of the social origins of violence. I must admit a lot of it is obvious when you think about it but that is the point of the book, to think about it, a lot.
‘Inside the Criminal Mind’ by Stanton Samenow PhD. Very illuminating insight into the dark world of the criminal mind, (excuse the pun). Challenges many assumptions we hold on why and how people become criminals.
‘Without Conscience: The DisturbingWorld of the Psychopaths Amongst Us’ by Robert Hare PhD. Very easy to read guide to identifying psychopathic behaviour using actual case studies of some very nasty people. Helps us to come to terms with use of force on these people when necessary, stop thinking they are like you, they are not, read this and learn.
‘The Sociopath Next Door’ by Martha Stout Phd. As the above, no nonsense plain English guide to spotting the sociopaths amongst us and damn, there are loads of them, it’s like a zombie dawn out there, best hide…..
‘In Sheeps Clothing’ by George Simon PhD. Do you meet people who seem to be manipulative? Read this one evening if you are not sure, you will spot them then, what is worrying is how effective these people are; learn the tactics and tricks they employ to get what they want regardless of the cost to others.
‘Cruelty’ by Kathleen Taylor. Not for the faint hearted but worth persevering with. Very detailed examination of the human psyche and our capacity for cruelty.