I will preface this review with an admission: I know very little about kickboxing. I don’t know about any of the athletes; I know nothing about how it’s scored; and I have little interest in watching it. Despite all of that, Mark Miller’s memoir is utterly fascinating. His story is raw and emotional enough to touch anyone with even a little interest in human resilience.
In the sometimes uncomfortably frank Pain Don’t Hurt, Miller talks about his childhood outside of Pittsburgh, being raised by a physically and emotionally abusive father and an alcoholic mother who did her best to ignore her son getting knocked around by her husband. He also draws a heartbreaking picture of looking to his older half-brother for protection, only to watch him get drawn further into drugs and disappear time and time again, ultimately dying from an overdose.
Rather than following in his father’s steps as a basketball player (Miller’s dad played briefly in the NBA), he chose baseball, wrestling and eventually stumbles into kickboxing. The fact that Miller can come across as engrossing when detailing something as insider-ish as mundane as his training regimen says a lot about his open and honest writing style.
An engrossing memoir that’s more a story about human survival than just a book about kickboxing.
Pain Don’t Hurt: Fighting Inside and Outside the Ring by Mark “Fightshark” Miller with Shelby Jones/Anthony Bourdain and Ecco/Hardcover, 224 pages/2014