Sunday, November 05, 2006

Beating Up Children

The weekend started a little strangely. We have a brand-new jail completely empty. The voters passed the levy to build it, but the people who run the county decided not to even allow a vote for the money to run it. Great big empty clean jail that doesn't smell like criminals.

Someone got the really cool idea of letting the Boy Scouts hold an over-nighter there. Even cooler, someone decided to have a group of deputies give brief little classes on what Law Enforcement does... but only the cool stuff: K9, night vision, special weapons...

I was asked to do the DT (defensive tactics) portion. Six twenty-minute classes for 40-50 Boy Scouts.

You can't give a refresher to an experienced officer in twenty minutes. A 1:50 instructor/student ratio? With children? I like children but even privately I won't teach them.

(Aside re: "Not teaching children". At its most basic, what I teach is about violence, fear and damage. Percentage increases in chances of surviving moments of real chaos and real evil. Kids don't understand that and more importantly it's not even healthy for them to learn of that world unless they are already secure in a separate, real and loving world. Very few kids can accept or understand the responsibility of taking a life or maiming another human--hell, if they can accept and understand it, they aren't kids anymore. The deepest reason, though comes in two parts- children can be affected on a deeper level than all but the most damaged of adults. A good teacher can become parent/love object/messiah to a child all too easily simply by caring and paying attention. That kind of power scares me. The second aspect is that I prefer students that already have a base of knowledge and experience, who are for the most part formed. I want to interact, not to mold. I want to give them tools and insights and not personalities. I want teaching and learning to be a partnership.)

Anyway, fully aware that this was just a step beyond babysitting and more entertainment than instruction, I agreed.

I arrived at the site and something was wrong. Sounds of shrieking and laughing and running penetrated the concrete block walls of the jail. I met the lieutenant inside. He said, "There was a slight miscommunication. Remember I said Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts, mostly fourteen to eighteen? It turns out they're Bobcats, Cub Scouts and Webelos. Ages are mostly six to nine. You OK with that?" Hmmmm.

The Chief Deputy took me aside later, "I trust you and everything, but you might have to modify your terminology a bit."

"No cussing, sir. Got it."

"I actually meant don't say anything like, 'tear his arm off and stick the wet end up his ass' or describing 'the wet ripping noise of tissue parting'."

"Except for that one zombie movie I don't think I've ever advocated using a dismembered..."

"Rory..." in the warning voice.

"Yes sir."

I went to check out the DT room and saw a herd of munchkins who had gotten into some of the training equipment- some were dressed in grossly over sized pieces of HighGear armor with padded batons and kicking shield- running all over the mat beating merry living hell out of each other with no adult supervision whatsoever. Adults were there, but they surely weren't supervising.

"At ease!" I yelled, "No shoes on the mats!" They seemed startled, but scrambled to get their shoes off. Half hour to kick off time. If I left them alone, they'd wreck the place.

"All right, gentleman. We're stuck here for a half hour. You wanna screw around or you want to learn something?"

"Learn something!" they shrieked. Shrieking seemed the basic mode of communication. So I got the entire group of them, as well as a couple of dads and others that drifted in playing at a sparring flow drill. By the end of half an hour they were working on blindfolded infighting. Not bad. One learning moment: A kid asked me if I worked there and I said I did. He asked what I did and I said, "Mostly, I beat people up for a living."

The kid started running around to all his friends, "This guy has the coolest job! He beats people up all day!" Some of the parents looked disapproving.

There was a brief ceremony before things kicked off where the Sheriff administered the oath of office and swore in the kids as junior deputies. I remember my oath of office pretty well, but I seemed to have forgotten the parts about doing my homework and listening to my parents.

Then the classes. First a talk about how fighting isn't like on TV and cops have to fight one of two ways, either putting handcuffs on someone without injuring them or fighting for their life. Then, if they were well-behaved (and only one group of the very youngest didn't seem up to it) the sparring flow drill. Then back to talking: "Okay, gentleman, the next part is all about PAIN. Who wants to learn about pain?'

"Yeahhh!!!!!" While the parents, especially the moms, cringed in the background.

Some pressure points, maybe elbow locks. "I don't want to hear about anybody using these on their little brothers or sisters or keeping everybody awake all night practicing. To make extra sure, I'm going to show your parents the pressure points I'm not showing you, including the one that will give you a headache for three days."

"Show us the headache one!"
"I won't use it, I promise."
"Can you make people go to sleep like the Vulcan neck pinch?"
"Show us that."
"No. I don't even know you."

Two kids over the course of the night took a concept I'd presented and ran with it. One took the elbow lock principles and applied it to the knee all on his own. The other realized he didn't have to use his hands for locks, he could get the same effect with his legs or belly. I announced that these two young men were my heroes for the night for thinking for themselves. One of the kids started glowing and presented every idea he come up with after that to me as a precious gift. Most of them were good, too.

At one point, showing them how to use a philtrum point to unpeel a wrestler, I realized that the kids were too small to get the really spectacular effects that you can get with adults. "I usually beat up adults. I need more practice beating up children." Unfortunately, I used my outside voice. One of the moms looked pretty horrified.

It was fun, in its own weird way. My ears are still ringing a bit and it might be days before my voice comes back completely, but the time was good.


  1. You are very good with children, and even as a kid you never seriously damaged me. But... They let you in with PARENTS? What were they thinking?

    Sounds like fun - time will tell if you have influenced a new generation of crime fighters or criminals.

  2. Anonymous2:22 PM

    I usually teach them how to run away, shrieking fire. That'll bust your eardrums. And no one ever hurt anyone else by running away. You can't even teach an aggressive use to running away. Foot stomp - double hand push - run away. That'll be $100 please, for the secret to self-defense.