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.
Elie: Could you share an anecdote of a particular violent situation you’ve been in?
Rory: Everyone wants the epic fight, but most were quick and decisive, one way or the other. Here’s an actual report with the details removed:
Responding to a back up call in D10, I was the first to enter and saw two inmates fighting. Inmate A had Inmate B bent over a table and was choking him with his right forearm. I ordered them to “break it up” they did not comply. I repeated the order as I moved to Inmate A’s left side. They continued to struggle. I was concerned that the stranglehold Inmate A was using could cause serious damage quickly. Placing my left elbow on the back of his free right elbow to prevent him spinning into me, I reached around his head and used my finger against the pressure point under the nose. At this point I heard the dorm deputy threaten to deploy OC (pepperspray) and saw the canister. I levered Inmate A off of Inmate B and bent his head back with the pressure point until his balance was compromised to his rear. I then moved my right foot in a circle to my rear spinning my body and forcing him to spin off of his feet. Inmate A landed on his hands and knees. I ordered him to stay down and then pushed on his shoulder with my left hand as he started to rise and yelled, “Get down!” He went down to his stomach quickly. I couldn’t tell if he complied or lost his balance. I ordered him to put his hands behind his back while I knelt on his lower back. He complied and I applied handcuffs. The second responding deputy and I helped Inmate A stand and walked him to medical without further incident.
That’s the report. There was blood everywhere and this was the first incident where I used the nose peel to break up a fight. It was really effective and so quick it almost caused a problem— the other deputies hadn’t been able to tell what happened or why it worked, so the reports looked suspicious, like they were leaving something out. Also this is where the spine untwisting throw came from.
There are other stories, but most of them were about this quick. And simple. The only ridiculously long fight I’ve been in lasted over an hour, but I wasn’t in danger at all. The guy was trying to hurt himself. If any of us released pressure or relaxed, he’d try to bang his head against the floor. I finally thought to wrap a towel around his head and kneel on it until the transport team arrived with the right restraints.
Elie: What are the consequences of living a life in constant contact with violence?
Rory: It’s never constant contact, you can’t survive that. Even if you could, you’d burn out really quickly. And everyone’s different. I can sort of say what working the jail was like for me, but a lot of the people had exactly the same experiences and feel completely different.
For me, I liked it. It was a job that took all of your observational skills, your insight, your understanding, your communications skills and sometimes your fighting skills to do well. It was better psychology training than I ever had in the university and put all the years of martial arts into perspective. It absolutely demanded my best, and as a consequence, I grew a lot.
It would have been easy to obsess on it or make the jail my whole life, but I had a really good network of friends. People who would tell me if I was getting too dark or too cynical. People that could show me that no matter what I saw or learned in the jail, the world was, on balance, a good thing and that most people were good.
And I had really good mentors. People that told me to keep my sense of humor, to keep friends that had nothing to do with my work life. Mentors that proved to me that force professions are caring professions.
The only really big downside is how much I miss it. One of the side-effects of adrenaline is that anything you do under adrenaline feels more real. Nothing since, not even Iraq, has been as intense as that, and I miss it. And there is a huge amount of ego in being very good at something most people can’t even think about.
Elie: How did you make the transition to teaching and why teach?
Rory: The first time I was teaching martial arts (jujutsu) was for completely selfish reasons. I was spoiled. When Dave retired there simply weren’t enough people around that could play the game at the level I wanted to play. And the few that could couldn’t match my schedule. I worked night or evening shifts for all but 18 months of my career. Not many people could make a midnight or 0800 class.
That’s also the reason I quit teaching jujutsu. I was almost never on the same shift two years in a row, so the people who could make an 0800 class one year couldn’t make the midnight class the next.
I started teaching deputies when we had a bad year. There’d been an administrative decision to deal with crowding by double-bunking some inmates who should never have been double bunked, in my opinion. It also had the effect of cutting the inmate’s walk time down and made it a pressure cooker. Assaults on staff skyrocketed. In one year a third of our staff were attacked and 10% hospitalized. The hand-to-hand training we had wasn’t cutting it.
I’d kept my martial arts training fairly quiet in the agency, but the training sergeant was on the CERT team with me and knew about it. So he tasked me and a few other, notably Mac (Paul McRedmond) to redesign our defensive tactics curriculum.
We were given the impossible task of teaching people how to fight for real, at levels from just non-compliant handcuffing to surviving an ambush, in eighteen hours.
It turns out that if you have no choice and really care about the people, some things that seem impossible are possible.
Elie: What are the main types of violence a civilian may have to defend himself from?
Rory: It depends a lot on lifestyle. Using the taxonomy from Facing Violence most young men only need to be worried about monkey dances. Educational Beatdowns if they are stupid and arrogant. Other people need to be worried about mugging (resource predation). All women, to some extent can be targeted for process predation, like rape. If you’re a member of any minority group you might be targeted for a group monkey dance. And there are always outliers.
Domestic violence is another one. If you are in a relationship with a violent person, there will be violence.
That said, the world for the last few years has been extremely safe. Safe enough for people to forget or believe or pretend to believe that safety is normal. One of your early questions, about whether we are born or made violent— the question itself rests on the assumption that violence is an aberration. There’s always been some kind of balance, but I think the level of nonviolence we have had for the last little while might be the aberration.
Elie: What are the greatest myths about martial arts and real life violence?
Rory: This is changing. We have access to more information now than ever before, so for the most part, people have the myths they want to have.
There are two that I’m currently putting a lot of energy into fighting. The first is part of the idea that violence is abnormal. One of the most toxic things we do in the self-defense community is to try to make fighting “special.” Something that requires a lot of training. Something reserved for only the elite few. The warrior bullshit. As Tony Blauer often says, more untrained people successfully defend themselves every day than trained people. Humans are the apex predator on this planet for a reason. Any student that comes to you, no matter how meek and timid, is the product of four billion years of evolution. That’s a lot of built-in survival genes. But because they’ve been raised in an environment where they are constantly brainwashed that violence is unnatural and that good people couldn’t do things like that, they have been socially conditioned to be passive victims. They have even been taught that passivity is a virtue.
The second is harder because it is so subconscious. Most people, especially people that train, have this assumption that on a very dark day something bad will happen and they will do what they have been trained to do…and nothing will really change.
A lot of people will mouth the words and talk about legal ramifications and psychological stress, but that’s just paying lip service. If you ever have to use serious force, you will simply not be the same person afterwards. Doesn’t mean you will be broken or damaged. Most people, in my opinion, come out much stronger if they process it well. But you will change. Profoundly.