Posted by on December 16, 2019

During our self-defense sessions, people often express the concern that they won’t be able to protect against someone larger and stronger. This is very legitimate as mass and strength can give an attacker significant advantage. We cannot deny this but we must also go beyond brute strength. Rory Miller addresses this issue in his excellent book, Meditations on Violence. Miller describes a conversation he had with one of his students. 

As he recalls. 

“I told her to imagine a two-hundred-pound man holding a small cat. Could the man kill the cat?


“Now imagine I throw a bucket of water on them. What happens?”

“The cat goes berserk and starts scratching the guy up.“

“Does the guy let go?”


“So you’re telling me that an eight-pound cat can hurt a big man and you can’t?

“The cat has teeth and claws.”

“And you don’t?” 

She thought for a moment. “But I’ve wrestled with my boyfriend before and couldn’t do anything”. 


This “aha” for Miller is that the student’s sense of violence derived from a situation where “she had no desire to cause injury, no fear, ….”. In other words, she had a very restricted sense of what she felt she could do in a violent situation. (22-23)

The reality, however, is that when it comes to defending ourselves, particularly against someone larger and stronger, we sometimes need to go beyond such limits to survive. 

Of course, you have a choice. We have met people who said they could never hit, bite, scratch, etc… I admire and share an aversion for violence and always prefer avoidance and escape. The reality, however, is that some attackers have very bad intentions and civility must be tossed out the window. The only way to stop them is to fight without inhibition – like Rory’s cat. 

Violence is ugly. Succumbing to violence can be worse.  

Rory Miller, Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence. Boston: YMAA Publication Centre, 2008

Image by Yingnan Lu from Pixabay


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