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Think Like a Criminal

Rory Miller, Kortrijk 2015

A couple of weeks ago I took four days away from the wife and kids, and spent a good chunk of money, flying to Belgium for a seminar with Rory Miller. Regular readers will have heard me banging on about his superlative Meditations on Violence. Rory and I have corresponded a little over the last few years, but this was the first time we would actually meet. I asked him when he was next coming to Europe, he said December, Kortrijk, so I signed up to the seminar regardless of the topic. Really, I just went to get my copy of Meditations signed.

Mission accomplished!

But the topic itself was fascinating. This was not a hands-on technical seminar; it was all about learning how criminals think, and therefore how to avoid becoming a target. We spent most of the time in the lecture hall. Yes, we did actually plan and demonstrate a violent crime, and it was pretty chilling how into it some of the participants got; I ended up playing an old lady being tortured for information about where she kept her jewellery! As well as mugging an old Italian couple in downtown Brussels, with my partner in crime, a Brussels lawyer, who clubbed them over the head with a gun.

The seminar was hosted by brothers Koen and Jan Vandersteene, representing Systema Belgium and Ryugi Kortrijk, and took place in the “House of Violence”, an old farmhouse that has been converted into a training centre, complete with dormitories, kitchen, lecture room, and lots of outdoor training space. There were about 50 participants, from all over Europe (though I think I came the furthest), with a wide range of martial arts backgrounds. One of the real side-benefits of the seminar was meeting so many new people with whom I had at least one thing in common. I even met one person there who had read one of my books!

I wrote copious notes during the seminar, then condensed them onto a single piece of paper (in pencil), then rewrote them into the computer. This process massively aids retention, because by re-arranging the material, you have to think about it. One interesting aspect of the way Rory taught the class was that he deliberately allowed space on the flipchart and time in the class for “tangents”: interesting sidebars to the main seminar. It provided a  way for students to get what they came for without derailing the class plan.

Flipchart showing tangents.

I asked Rory whether it would be ok to share all this information. His answer was interesting: “this information could save somebody's life. What kind of an asshole would I be if I didn't let people share it?”

So, here is the pdf version of my notes. You're welcome 🙂


This is my last post before Christmas hits in force, so let me just say Merry Christmas to all my readers, and see you next year!

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