Recommended Reading

I thought it would be good to create a list of recommended resources! This one’s for books and all other things to read. If you know of a book, or have written one, that you think should be here then get in touch.

Barton-Wright, E.W. The Sherlock Holmes School of Self-Defence: The Manly Art of Bartitsu: As Used Against Professor Moriarty. Ivy Press. 2011. ISBN 978-1-907332-73-9.
This is a real beauty, and very interesting. Perhaps not the most practical of how-tos for this day and age, but it’s nevertheless a fascinating insight into what the self-defence tactics that were being developed a while back might have looked like, in the UK at least. There’s 8 chapters as follows:

  • 1 – How to deal with undesirables
  • 2 – How to escape when attacked from the rear
  • 3 – How to escape when seized by an item of apparel
  • 4 – Defence against an unarmed opponent
  • 5 – Use of the stout stick
  • 6 – Use of the short stick or umbrella
  • 7 – How to throw and hold a man upon the ground
  • 8 – Self-defence from a bicycle

It’s a fascinating little book, extremely entertaining, and the way it is written is both eloquent and often very funny! For example, on page 126: ‘Afterwards, when you have dealt with your adversary, it is entirely possible that you will find your cycle lying unharmed on the road-side.’ I love how it refers to the attackers as ‘ruffians’ and ‘undesirables’ – there’s something very cool about it all. Tally bally ho, then!

Bishop, Bob and Thomas, Matt. Protecting Children from Danger: Building Self-Reliance & Emergency Skills without Fear. North Atlantic Books. 1993. ISBN 1-55643-159-7.
Simply put, this is an invaluable addition to anyone’s bookshelf. I would go so far as to say it is essential reading for all who are to be at all responsible for children either as a parent, an educator or even an uncle or godparent. With more people thinking along the lines presented in this book when it comes to children, the world will be a safer and happier place. There are fantastic ideas in this that I definitely recommend everyone take a look at.

Cameron, Nick. The Complete SAS Guide to Safe Travel. Judy Piatkus (Publishers). 2002. ISBN 0-7499-2286-9.
It’s as it sounds really – a great resource for your personal security when travelling, but really most of the tips in it are applicable to your everyday personal security. It’s not all about human threats, but it’s all essential knowledge in my opinion. Chapter 12 about terrorism is particularly useful in today’s political climate, chapter 7 is about personal security and chapter 8 is devoted to safe travel for women, with some basic ideas of vulnerable areas to attack. All in all, it’s exactly what you’d expect from the title – an extremely useful resource. There are probably later revisions than the one I have, so I’d go for those if you have the choice.

Cooke, Nathaniel. How Not to Get Hit: The Art of Fighting Without Fighting. Tuttle. 2012. ISBN 978-0-8048-4269-3.
This book takes a rather different (and very welcome) direction than many others with its approach to self-protection. Indeed, it’s not until chapter 4 on page 123 that any physical methods are really discussed at all, and then they’re not in depth. This isn’t a book about step-by-step physical methods but rather it’s about one of the vastly more important areas of self-protection study: threat avoidance. It goes into detail about the psychology of assaults, statistics (and lies), fear and risk management. It’s very much worth a read and, as the back cover says, it answers the question that so few ask: “How can I make sure I’m not there in the first place?” One section oversimplifies and generalises different martial arts in comparing them, but then that’s what many readers will want in a comparison, particularly if they’re beginners. It should be noted too that on pages 177-178 some readers have criticised Cooke for saying that when attacked with a knife you should curl up on the floor to minimise the damage. Of course, anyone who’s done any training or (hopefully not) had experience of that kind of violence will tell you that curling up on the floor is not a good response. This, however, is (I believe) not what Cooke meant when you read it carefully. In discussing curling up, he only highlights the vital areas of the body that you should protect at all costs and draws your attention to the less critical areas that should be getting in the way (if not being there in the first place isn’t an option of course!). That’s how I read it, at least. He then goes on to give good advice about surviving an assault with an edged weapon, so I think the only danger there is in misreading his intention with that section. It’s a well-written book backed up by lots of interesting facts and statistics, with a nice visual style too. We recommend it without hesitation.

Consterdine, Peter. Streetwise: Be Your Own Bodyguard. Protection Publications, in association with Summersdale. 1997. ISBN 1-873475-52-7.
This one’s a classic. Though some of the information is now a little dated in this fast-moving world we live in, all of the advice is great. I heartily recommend this one. You can save a bit of money by downloading it from his site as a .PDF here:

Dawes, Mark. Understanding Reasonable Force. NFPS. 2006. ISBN 1-84667-012-8.
This is a truly fantastic book, and I highly recommend it for anyone in the UK, whether trained and interested or not. Not just a statement of what the law is, it’s a great guide for people unsure of how to interpret the ambiguous terms ‘reasonable force’, ‘necessary’, etc that crop up in discussions of this nature. It’s written in such a way that people without law degrees can understand it fine, and isn’t dry and boring while still being packed with useful information. There’s plentiful case studies and real examples, with references for you to do your own research. It clears up a lot of issues and leaves you equipped to clear up any remaining ones for yourself.

Dougherty, Martin and Birdsall, David. The Self-Defence Manual. Summersdale. 2003. ISBN 1-84024-227-2.
This is a wonderful and accessible resource which is well-written and presumes no prior knowledge. It’s a great starting point for beginners and, while it covers much of the same material as the other books on this list, it does so in a unique way that makes it a worthy addition to any shelf. Even the dedication is excellent and shows that a depth of thought has gone into not just writing a book, but writing it well. It breaks things up into logical conceptual areas and is easy to navigate. Its discussion of legal issues is good and goes into more depth than many books do, with some particularly good emphasis on the mindset of a successful self-protectionist. There is a short section on fitness training which is good but very basic. I would recommend reading into progressive calisthenics to put together a much better training programme. As with (almost) all books (alas, it often seems the inevitable nature of them), this and a couple of other sections are a little oversimplified and generalised when it comes to physical methods. I cannot recommend the covering-up methodology on p.199 though the rest of what the author says about parrying vs blocking is sound advice. While the rest of the methods are a generally good starting point in terms of advice, on p.231 there is a throw involving dropping to one knee. This is extremely dangerous to perform on hard and/or uneven ground, as there is a significant risk of damaging your knee in the process. While you can perhaps do it safely in training, doing it full speed with true ferocity against a frantically flailing opponent will very likely result in you hurting yourself. The other takedowns outlined are generally more effective. All in all, aside from the two small issues outlined above, this is a good and recommended resource. It’s very nicely written and enjoyable to read.

Kane, Lawrence A and Wilder, Kris. The Little Black Book of Violence: What Every Young Man Needs to Know About Fighting. YMAA. 2009. ISBN 1-59439-129-7.
This really is an excellent resource. I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the richest collections of real-life experiences that I’ve read. It’s geared more towards men and male violence and the legal information in it is, of course, geared towards the US legal system so readers from elsewhere should take specific advice from elsewhere, but it’s a very well-thought-out piece of literature. It’s influenced some things in my teaching which is perhaps the highest praise for these kinds of books!

MacYoung, Marc. A Professional’s Guide to Ending Violence Quickly: How Bouncers, Bodyguards, and Other Security Professionals Handle Ugly Situations. Paladin Press. 1996. ISBN 978-0-87364-899-8.
This is an often entertaining read filled with good insights into violence and how to deal with it. At times (at risk of sounding like the Lit student I am) this one can get a little bit too colloquial for me, as on occasion I can find the American slang difficult to understand. Overall though this is a good read, which I definitely recommend. His approach of looking at principles and concepts rather than techniques is definitely one I advocate very strongly.

Miller, Rory. Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected Ethically, Emotionally, Physically (…and Without Going to Prison). YMAA. 2011. ISBN 1-59439-213-7.
I said below that Meditations on Violence was quite possibly one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I meant it. I also mean it when I say this is even better. It’s not like a sequel, but more like a refinement, clarification and expansion of some aspects from Meditations on Violence with some new thoughts that are, again, extremely insightful. Again, it’s invaluable and I recommend to everyone, regardless of training, beliefs, philosophy, whatever. Just read this. It could save your life.

Miller, Rory. Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence. YMAA. 2008. ISBN 1-59439-118-1.
Quite possibly this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down – it just grabbed hold of my mind and didn’t let go. For anyone who trains in martial arts, self-protection or both, I recommend this possibly over all other books I’ve read on the topic. It is a truly invaluable insight into the difference between martial arts training and real violence, from an author who is talking from experience, not theories. It’s a rare thing to find an author on this topic who simultaneously knows what he is writing about and can write about it well, but Sgt. Rory Miller certainly can. It’s full of detailed information on the physical and psychological sides of violence, and is expressed in such a way that it’s easily understood. If you’re not entirely sure your training is up to the demands of real violence, give this a read. If you are entirely sure your training is up to the demands of real violence, give this a read anyway. I can’t recommend it enough.

Ready, Romilla and Burton, Kate. Neuro-Linguistic Programming For Dummies. (2nd Edition.) John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 2010. ISBN 978-0-470-66543-5.
NLP, and psychology in general, I always take with a pinch of salt when it comes to application to self-protection. Too often, people take psychology and try to apply it to violence and its prevention by attempting to make it fit or by generalise to the point where the knowledge can impede actual effectiveness. Even worse, if it becomes the focus of training without proper care being taken to instruction a student can become so lost in psychological concepts and things to look for that they focus on that more than on the mechanics of force deployment or escape methods! That said, it is useful and interesting knowledge and if applied and considered properly then it can be beneficial to bear in mind. Not all of the chapters are especially applicable or useful from a self-protection mindset but some of them are very useful when considering communicative strategies. If you want a bit more depth on talking people out of aggression and communicative preventative measures, this is worth looking at. It could also be useful for instructors who are unsure of their communication, engagement and motivational skills. A concise and simple introduction to some useful concepts.

Sōhō, Takuan. Wilson, William Scott (trans.) The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master. Kodansha International. 1987. ISBN 978-0-87011-851-7.
The Unfettered Mind (不動智神妙録 fudōchi shinmyōroku in Japanese, which translates more closely to ‘The Mysterious Records of Immovable Wisdom’) is a philosophical treatise rather than the more modern texts we’ve seen on this page, but it offers a deep and fascinating insight into the ways concepts from Zen Buddhism can be applied to martial arts. In terms of its usefulness to a self-protectionist, I found its discussion of the state of mindlessness to be most interesting. It’s definitely worth a read, especially to anyone doing a martial art who wants to get back to the ancestral core of what they’re doing. Very accessible as philosophical texts go, too.

Sun Tzu. Sawyer, Ralph (trans). The Art of War. Westview Press. 1994 (trans). ISBN 978-0-7624-1598-4.
I know this looks like it’s in the wrong place, but ‘Tzu’ isn’t a surname. 1994 is of course just the translation date for this one, as the exact date of writing isn’t certain. What we do know is that Sun Tzu was a high-ranking military general during the late Spring and Autumn Period (春秋时代 / chūn qiū shí dài) which was between 771 and 476 BCE (some say 403 BCE). However some scholars say that The Art of War wasn’t completed until the subsequent Warring States Period (战国时代 / zhàn guó shí dài) which was around 475-221 BCE. Anyway, it’s old! That we know! People may consider this as only a useful text for those who are into traditional martial arts, but this is not the case – its teachings are applicable to all walks of life – it’s a mindset rather than a doctrine of rigid tradition. It’s fascinating to receive wisdom of this degree from such an old text.
It can be read for free in English here:
It can also be read bilingually for those who want to see the Chinese text too here:

Thompson, Geoff. Dead or Alive: The Choice Is Yours: The Definitive Self-Protection Handbook. Summersdale. 2004. ISBN 978-1-84024-279-9.
(I believe my copy is the 2010 edition, which I think had seen a few revisions). It is exactly what it says it is! A great resource for basic techniques that, really, everyone should know about. They’re all very simple and can be employed by people with minimal or even no training – the real effort is in drilling them intensely and realistically enough so that they can become instinctive and actually useful for you as an individual! There’s lots of photos and it’s all split up into logical chapters. No jargon and associated rubbish in this – it’s just simple and useful stuff that anyone can understand. Seasoned self-protectionists might find it a little too simple in places, but it’s a great resource regardless. Chapter 21 has a series of case studies from the research Geoff did, with transcripts of interviews with offenders, etc. It’s an awesome resource, and I recommend everyone have a good look through it!

Thompson, Geoff. The Fence: The Art of Self-Protection. Summersdale. 1999. ISBN 1-84024-084-9.
A great book if you’re new to the idea of ‘The Fence’, particularly if you’ve never heard of it! However I will say that in all honesty it’s not worth getting if you’ve already got or read Dead Or Alive as The Fence‘s topics are all covered in there to more detail, and with much more besides.

Thompson, Geoff. Watch My Back. Summersdale. 2000. ISBN 1-84024-083-0.
This isn’t an instructional book or a thesis on the science of self-protection or anything like that, but it is a fantastic insight into real violence and the psychological effects it can have, particularly when you’re placed into a situation where you have a professional responsibility for the violence around you and to protect people. This was one of the first books I read on the subject of real violence, and it was the first book I read by Geoff Thompson. It’s a truly insightful read and I recommend it to everyone, particularly if you’re considering working the doors or doing similar work.

Thompson, Phil. Empower Your Kids to be Safe … For Life: Vital information every parent must know to keep their kids safe from child predators and violence. BookPal. 2009. ISBN 978-1-921578-31-1.
This, simply put, is a fantastic resource for teaching children to protect themselves. It’s absolutely brilliant, and should be considered required reading for all instructors teaching children, as it really is that well-thought out. It’s well-written too and accessible to those with no experience in self-protection. I heavily recommend this for all parents, carers, teachers, etc. I can’t recommend this enough.

Valdiserri, Anna. A Woman’s Toolkit for Recovery from Violence and Trauma. A. Valdiserri. 2015. ASIN B00WQ376TW.
This book is comprehensive without being overly wordy or weighed down with excessive jargon and case study after case study as many such things are. It’s a step-by-step, well-considered look at how to deal with the aftermath of a violent encounter. While its intended audience is women, there’s nothing that isolates men from benefiting from its guidance. It’s a very useful resource for men and women alike to understand the often complex psychological, emotional and social processes that go on after violence occurs. I would recommend this not only as a valuable exercise in understanding your own recovery but as guidance in helping others through the same. True justice is often not done to this aspect of violence by self-protection instructors, or may even be completely omitted from their training and study, and this book can assist very effectively with that shortcoming.

Vasiliev, Vladimir and Meredith, Scott. Let Every Breath…: Secrets of the Russian Breath Masters. V. Vasiliev. 2006. ISBN 978-0-9781049-0-0.
All I can think of to say about this book is that it is a brilliant and in-depth look at the Russian Systema breathing methods as taught by Vladimir Vasiliev and Mikhail Ryabko. It’s not just things to bear in mind from the perspective of combat, but it seems to be highly beneficial for health, fitness and relaxation. The only claim I will make with breath work, specifically Russian breath work, is that it’s worked for me and helped me through many difficulties, including my fears. I would highly recommend that this is worth a read.

Wade, Paul. Convict Conditioning: How to Bust Free of All Weakness – Using the Lost Secrets of Supreme Survival Strength. Dragon Door Publications. 2009. ISBN 978-0-938045-76-2.

Too often, calisthenics are done mindlessly just as a warm-up. Many often perform them with poor form and too quickly, relying on momentum and elastic recoil to fling themselves into the next rep. Those who can perform, say, a pushup well will often fall into the trap of staying with that movement long after it stopped challenging them and thus do not incorporate logical progression into their training. As a result, they plateau and stop making progress. Others focus on pushing or pulling increasingly heavy weights with unnatural movement patterns, ruining their joints in the process.

This is hands-down the best exercise approach I have ever encountered. At the time of writing this review, I have been following the six paths of exercise progression for a year and I have been noticeably and demonstrably stronger week on week, month on month, throughout. The progression of increasingly challenging movements in the six different exercises is not only enjoyable and motivating, but ensures that you build real, functional strength with natural and healthy movement patterns. This means your joints are looked after as well as your muscles. It’s accessible to people of all levels of fitness as the first steps in each exercise path are incredibly easy. You don’t have to be able to do a single pushup or leg raise to start this, but you’ll end up working towards feats of strength far beyond these standard movements. I cannot recommend this approach highly enough: it is now the cornerstone of all my strength training. It’s all I need.

Last updated on 03.09.2016


3 thoughts on “Recommended Reading

What do you think? Join the discussion below:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.