Like other martial-arts enthusiasts of his generation, Edward C. Rose III was first inspired by watching Bruce Lee kick butt as Kato on the old Green Hornet TV show. But few stuck with it like Rose, a 48-year-old deputy in the Allegheny County sheriff's department. The North Sider and life-long Pittsburgher went on to create his own fighting style (ToraHana-Ryu) and to teach everyone from cops to kids a non-violent system for redirecting physical attacks Rose himself learned from martial artist Daniel Verkerke. In May, Rose became the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame's first inductee as a Law Enforcement Instructor of the Year.
Why train other officers?
For years, we've been trained to meet force with force. What I've been seeking to do is teach a system of martial arts that is nonviolent. What you're doing is using violence against itself, and redirecting it and controlling violence. It's a new concept. It's been a struggle to try to get the law-enforcement groups to say, "Hmm, let's look at this." So many police officers, when they're dealing with [violence], everybody just piles on and it's a fight.
Who have you taught?
We've had classes for the deputy Allegheny County sheriffs.
How does it work?
We've taken things that are natural movements, things that you do naturally. If somebody startles you, the natural thing you do is your hands go up. Whenever a fist or elbow or whatever is coming to you, you're using your natural reflexes. You don't have to spend years of training.
How did martial arts help you on the job?
[Years ago] I was on patrol detail. Whenever you came into conflict, knowing how to handle yourself was very positive. When I teach martial arts, one of the things I teach that's so important is, it's 90 percent mental. Dealing with prisoners now, I deal with some pretty bad people, and very rarely do I actually get into a confrontation, because number one, I radiate confidence. The other thing is I treat people the way I want them to treat me. When I see aggression, I deal with it on an intellectual or spiritual level first, and then I don't have to deal with it on a physical level.
How does that work?
A lot of aggression is fear-based. When you address the thing the person's afraid of, then it's very easy to de-escalate a physical confrontation, even verbal confrontation.
What about teaching kids?
It's not always positive to take an inner-city kid and teach him how to punch and kick, because sometimes it's blending in with the violence they may already have. What we do is teach them a nonviolent type of mentality, first of all, so it takes them away from wanting to hit somebody, or thinking they need to hit somebody. You teach them right away to look at violence totally different. When you're violent, you're actually vulnerable.
What is your instructional method?
What I teach is to find yourself. For instance, this system does really well with handicapped people, because you're not asking them to do something that's like someone who may not be handicapped. They're learning how to express themselves, and learn what their strengths are. I've done really well with autistic children, ADHD kids, because instead of trying to make them do something, I find out what they're about, and teach them how to express themselves. And in turn they learn control. They learn to control their emotions, they learn to control their energy, and it makes it easier for them to apply themselves in school and life.
As a deputy, you've also done some high-profile bodyguard work?
Probably my most memorable one was I was working the vice president at the time, Al Gore. I was assigned to a particular Secret Service agent. I got a chance to be right there, guarding the vice president along with the Secret Service. Which is really cool, because normally they're very strict about that.
Some years later, now he's no longer the vice president, he came to Pittsburgh, and when you're a former vice president, you don't get Secret Service protection. But there was some kind of threat or something. We had a team, but I was the one who was with him everywhere he went. I think he went to the Pittsburgh Technology Center and then he went to the Duquesne Club.
So what was he like?
He was nice. He was probably nicer ... he was more jovial as the former vice president.