This interview was conducted by Elie Edme for Corps Global, the English language version is reprinted in Conflict Manager and on the CRGI website with permission.
EE – What’s your martial arts background?
RM – Mother was a fencer and dad was a boxer and bar brawler, but that probably doesn’t count. Started in judo in 1981 when I went to college. Dabbled in everything available. Stumbled onto Sosuishitsu-ryu jujutsu when my wife (fiancé at the time) and I moved to Portland. I stayed with Dave, (my jujutsu sensei) until he retired and earned my mokuroku in 1991. During that time I was playing with everything I could. Martial arts was an obsession.
EE – What’s your professional background?
RM – How far back do you want to go? I’ve been a ranch hand, a porter, a dishwasher, picked strawberries– but the first job I had that included using force was bouncing in a casino in Reno in 1985 and 86. It was an education.
I went back to college after that and worked my way through with security jobs. Nothing particularly dangerous, just facility security for high-tech offices. Also joined the National Guard in 86. Went to Basic and AIT (Advanced Individual Training). I was a medic assigned to a self-sufficient TOW anti-armor unit.
Kuwait was invaded in 1990. Our intel said that Saddam Hussein had 5000 of the best (soviet) tanks made. I was in an airmobile, desert trained, anti-tank unit. I was 100% sure that I’d be in Kuwait, so my fiancé and I decided to get married immediately. The army doesn’t provide benefits to fiancés if a soldier gets killed.
Then the first air strikes pretty much wiped out the Iraqi armoured divisions. We were waiting for the call, but my unit wasn’t activated. And suddenly it hit me— I’m married. I have a baby on the way. So I started looking for a real job. The first one that came through was for the County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division. I took the job. And just like that, I was a jail guard.
Have to explain jails vs. prisons, since most of your audience is European. In the US, and there is some variation between the states, we have two different correctional systems. Prisons are for people who have been convicted of a crime and are serving a sentence of more than a year. Jails are where we hold people who have not yet been convicted— but are usually too dangerous to be out on the streets until trial— or people who have been sentenced to less than one year’s time or, and I think this is specific to my state, people who are on their last year of a longer sentence.
In jails, we would get the same people who would go to prison as well as some that wouldn’t, and we would get them while they were freshly arrested. Still angry, still with drugs in their system.
I spent the next seventeen years working there. A lot of time in booking (where we got our most fights) and in Close custody and maximum security. After I became a sergeant, I spent more time working mental health. I was a trainer as an extra duty and was on the CERT as well, first as a member, later as team leader.
Around 2008, I was recruited to go to Iraq as a contractor advising the Iraqi Corrections Service. Did that for a little over a year and came back to settle down, teach and write.
EE – What was the kind of violence you experienced in your professional life?
RM – It varied within a set of parameters. A lot of breaking up fights. A few inmates trying to monkey dance or educational beat down. Probably the most common was someone who wanted a reputation. Ambushes. A riot. Cleaning up a riot. A few planned set-ups.
Most were unarmed, because our contraband control was pretty good, but there were a few memorable ones involving shanks, fist loads and most commonly, flails (a pad lock or several bars of soap in a pillow case.) Several with people who were psychotic, some with full-blown excited delirium.
EE – What lead you to the warrior’s way?
RM – I don’t think I can express how much I despise that word. If you have served as a soldier in a war zone (I haven’t— I have been a soldier and been in a war zone, but not at the same time) you were a warrior. If you have never been a soldier in a war zone, calling yourself a “warrior” is just as despicable as any other type of stolen valour.
I studied martial arts at first to improve myself and then because I loved the training.
I went into a force profession purely to feed my family and discovered I was good at it.