Words As A Force Option Part I
“After thirty-five years of using both physical karate and Verbal Karate
professionally, I can tell you the latter never once helped me. And I was an expert at
it. In fact, Verbal Karate burned more bridges, alienated more people, and lost more
opportunities for me than anything else I can think of.”
“In the professional realm, Verbal Karate is the unprofessional use of language,
because you?re using words to express your personal feelings.”
“Whenever you use in a harmful, destructive way those words that rise readily to your
lips, you have employed the easiest use of language: Verbal Karate.”
Dr. George J. Thompson, ‘Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion’
I’d like to introduce CRGI members and its readership to the late Dr.George Thompson,
aka ‘Doc Rhino’ via an obituary:
AUBURN, N.Y. Dr. George Thompson, the English professor-turned-street-cop who
ultimately taught one million professionals the art of verbally redirecting negative
behavior, passed away June 7 at his home in Auburn, New York. He was 69.
Doc Thompson contributed columns for many years for both CorrectionsOne.com and
PoliceOne.com, beginning in 2005. He helped our community examine how conscious
communication impacts the job. He regularly contributed tactical tips, too, and had us
thinking about human interaction as a tool for police.
Dr. Thompson was affectionally called “Doc” by the professionals he trained in his
methodology of Verbal Judo. To develop his tactics, he would watch police officers
participate in real-time crisis situations and observe strategies for talking down
Using what he observed from the “salty old dogs,” as he liked to call the LEOs, he
assembled a legion of global trainers who brought the lessons to police forces. He
trained departments large and small, including the NYPD and LAPD. He also worked with
the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Private enterprises outside of law enforcement have been trained in his methodology,
too, in order to protect employees from verbal assault and physical violence. Verbal
conflict mitigation can be applied to harassment and bullying in general as well as
the issues that are more specific to police.
Dr. Thompson held a B.A. from Colgate University and a Master?s and Doctorate in
English from the University of Connecticut. He completed post-doctoral work at
Princeton University in Rhetoric and Persuasion and went on to author four books, also
publishing work that appears in magazines and periodicals. Major networks like 48
Hours and Inside Edition have reported on his training techniques.
Doc often called his communications strategy “martial art of the mind and mouth,” and
was a fan of martial arts himself. He achieved a 2nd Dan in Judo.
Doc Thompson survived throat cancer for many years, and staunchly committed himself to
a busy speaking and training schedule despite his condition, which reduced his ability
to speak for extended periods of time.
He had recently received treatment to enhance his breathing, and he passed away
unexpectedly. Doc?s family includes his wife, Pam, their nine-year-old son Tommy Rhyno
Thompson, two adult children, Kelley (Ronald) Monach and Taylor (Valerie) Thompson,
and five grandchildren.
Doc’s very first book in a series of four is titled: ‘Verbal Judo: Words As A Force Option.’
When Doc personalized my copy, he quipped “This started it all!” Doc loved rhetoric.
Rhetoric: Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the capability of
writers or speakers to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific
Indeed. It started a revolution in Police Tactical Training. Using words instead of or in
conjunction with using force. Doc didn’t invent this stuff – Police Officers have used this
stuff for years. Doc admits that his FTO/partner, Bruce Fair, was the one that got him to
My first introduction to Doc’s calling was ‘Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion.’ In it,
I got to ‘know’ Doc. He had an easy style of writing, and didn’t want his work to just be
perceived as ‘cop stories.’ Indeed, they are good cop stories, but with a very imaginative
message ? to teach others how to talk to people in crisis.
The first image I recall seeing of Doc, is one where I was reminded of Telly Savalas, minus
the sucker ? bald, bold, and silent. Through his cop stories, I gleaned an insight into some
very interesting strategy. In the movie Fort Apache: The Bronx, Paul Newman portrays a
Police Officer. In one scene, the responds to a call ‘man with a knife’. He cocks his hat
askew, walks up to the confused man while acting ‘crazy.’ Mr. Newman’s performance stops
the actions of this man, who now has is trying to figure out what is going on. This is an
example of exactly what Mr. Fair does during one story. Mr. Fair used an very unusual tactic
to de-escalate two parties during a domestic disturbance call.
In his Chiron Training series, Rory Miller does something similar. He de-escalates an irate
inmate by using an unusual strategy. This strategy got me to thinking differently about a
career that I had been thrust into with no training.
During his research, and over the course of many years, Doc finely honed his ‘program’ and
took it to the streets for validation and correction. His Verbal Judo was then taken to the
seminar circuit, where again it was refined. It became incorporated into many local
academies. Why? Because it works. It’s fairly easy to pickup, and even makeup – it’s not
that regimented, and it does encourage personal growth. You can make VJ your very own
tool, as I have. Yes there can be a learning curve, but you have the opportunities before
you to use it – evert, single, day.
We get so caught up in being ‘me’ that we often forget that it’s not always about ‘me.’ If
you are trying to be a part of the solution, you need to let your ego go and really try to be
just that. Using words as a force option is also about using silence – yours.
“You can do better!” Dr. George J. Thompson
You CAN do better. It takes a lot of conscientious work to get there. And that means:
1) Jettison your own ego.
MAXIM # 15: “Be disinterested when you punish.”
2) Become a better listener.
“Here then is the powerful sentence that will allow you to interrupt anyone without
fear of bodily harm: ?Let me be sure I heard what you just said.?
Dr. George J. Thompson, ‘Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion’
3) Remove your emotion from the equation.
MAXIM # 16: “When you punish for clearly defined rules violations, set aside personal
indignation. Respect the authority that empowers you to discipline.”
4) Respond, don’t react.
“Verbal Judo will teach you to respond – not react – to situations.”
“When you react, you?re being controlled by the situation. When you respond, you?re
dealing with it.”
Dr. George J. Thompson, Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion
In Part II I’ll share some of Doc’s sagely advice – his 16 Maxims, and 11 Things You Should
© Copyright 2015, tb