Review: “Scaling Force” By Rory Miller And Lawrence A. Kane


I was provided a copy of this book by YMAA Publication Center for the purposes of reading and reviewing the book. While it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to give a positive review.

That said, go out and buy this book. Now.

Unless you live in a bubble and never interact with others, which not likely the case if you’re reading this blog, you have the opportunity of interacting with others in a potentially violent way. Sure, do what you can to avoid circumstances, etc., but things happen despite our best laid plans.

This is exactly where “Scaling Force” comes in. It addresses in extensive detail the six levels of force, in ascending order:

  • Presence – This can be a law enforcement, bouncer, security or other presence of authority, or it could simply be witnesses when the attacker doesn’t wish his actions to be seen. Sometimes it’s enough to de-escalate. In the case of social violence, where pecking order and ascension in a hierarchy require validation of actions, it’s actually enough to cause the violence to happen.
  • Voice – Sometimes proper use of our voice is enough calm a situation. Other times the words you choose and how you say it (body language, facial expressions, rate, tone, volume, etc.) are enough to escalate the encounter.
  • Touch – This can be anything from a girlfriend’s “It ain’t worth it, baby” light touch on a forearm to grabbing someone on their triceps to redirect or guide them. The point here is that it’s intended to be non-threatening, but it won’t always be interpreted that way.
  • Empty-Hand Restraint – This is when you actually are using force to detain or control someone against their will.
  • Less Than Lethal Force – Notice I didn’t say “non-lethal force”. The point of this level is intent. A punch to the stomach isn’t typically enough to rate as lethal force, but if the other person falls forward and hits his head on a table, killing him, guess what? That’s lethal force. This level could also include joint destructions, throws, etc.
  • Lethal Force – Without a doubt, the absolute last resort in most cases. This is the application of force with the intent to kill.

The authors go into much more detail of each level. They are also careful to express that the above is not a ladder. You don’t always move from one level to another in a direct progression. You may have to go straight from Level 2 (Voice) to Level 6 (Lethal Force), depending on the actions of your attacker(s). Or sometimes it fluctuates as tempers cool and then flare again. You have to be able to recognize the appropriate level of response and act.

Miller and Kane also spend a lot of time talking about legalities related to the use of each level. While this is not meant to be construed as legal advice, it will definitely give you something to think about. There is even a break immediately preceding Level 4 where the authors are clear to point out that if you apply anything in Level 4 or 5, congratulations! You’ve just committed a crime. Sure, it may be justified, and you better hope you’ve got the attorney to prove it, but once you put make contact with the intent to harm someone, it’s a crime.

Throughout the book are real-world examples provided by the authors, mostly of their own experiences in security or law enforcement, to help you understand the dynamics of each situation they are discussing. They are also very clear in helping the reader understand that everything they are talking about is still fuzzy in interpretation. What feels like the exact same scenario at different times could have completely different outcomes, even if you take the same course of action. That’s why you have to be able to adapt to the situation on the fly. Quickly.

Overall, this is an outstanding reference for everyone, not just martial artists, bouncers, LEOs, etc. Everyone has the chance of finding themselves in a potentially violent encounter, and they certainly don’t want to have On The Job training, so to speak, if they can forewarn and educate themselves.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

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