The Samurai Cop is back at Orange Coast College, nearly 50 years after graduating from the school he credits with preparing him for his law enforcement career.
David Dye, 68, returned in the fall as a part-time campus safety officer.
During his 34-year career with the Costa Mesa Police Department, his colleagues dubbed him "the Samurai Cop," an homage to Dye's two passions: law enforcement and martial arts.
"After my retirement, I wanted to get back to my roots. I wanted to give back a little bit of what I got from the college," he said. "I regard the campus as a city within the city of Costa Mesa."
Dye's experience as a police officer and a martial arts instructor make him "more than overqualified" for a job as a public safety officer, said John Famer, chief of campus safety for OCC.
"We have former police officers come in here and think that being at a college is like being in a police department and it's not," Farmer said. "It's not just a matter of kicking butt. It's a matter of being diplomatic and getting the job done and he has that quality."
Dye, a California native, graduated from OCC's police academy in 1967 and became a full-time Costa Mesa police officer, a job he kept until he retired in 2000.
He became interested in self-defense while attending high school in Inglewood.
"I got picked on a lot because of my red hair," he said. "My dad taught me how to box and got me interested in martial arts."
While working as a police officer, Dye moonlighted as a martial arts instructor. In 1980 he opened Samurai Cop Self-Defense Academy, 1360 Logan Ave, Suite 108 in Costa Mesa, where he could teach others to avoid danger and defend themselves.
Dye, who has practiced martial arts for 51 years, has black belts in Yoshinkan Aikido, Shotokan Karate Jutsu, Kodokan Judo and Jujitsu, and the Hawaiian martial art of Kaihewalu Lua.
"My martial arts career was my life outside the force," he said.
But the two aren't completely unrelated.
He credits much of his success as a police officer with his martial arts training, which gave him the ability to defuse situations before they turned violent.
"If it wasn't for my martial arts training, I wouldn't be where I am in my law enforcement career," he said.
In addition to the numerous classes he teaches several nights a week in his academy, Dye also helps fellow officers learn defensive tactics to assist them in their careers.
He has worked with Orange County Regional Sheriff's Academy, members of the U.S. Army Special Forces at Fort Bragg, military police at West Point and Marine Corps martial arts instructors in San Diego.
Campus safety officer Tim Winer trained with Dye when he started at OCC in 1997.
He continues to use Dye's techniques.
"Maybe six months ago there was a situation where a mentally ill person wandered in off the street and began throwing things around the Associated Students office," he said. "He wasn't able to respond to my verbal commands and it became necessary to control him physically. I was able to do so without injuring myself or the person by using Dave's techniques."
The next generation
After partially retiring from the CMPD in 1997, Dye stayed on as a reserve officer working at night, which gave him more time to spend with his two then-young children.
"I was at home with my kids during a time when most parents weren't," he said. "Those were very special years for me."
Now that his children are grown, Dye's martial arts students are like his surrogate children.
"I love teaching kids," he said. "I get very attached to them. When they grow up and go onto college, I go through separation anxiety like their own parents do."
Brothers Brandon, 17, and Joseph Farnam, 15, have trained with Dye for the past eight years.
While Dye initially intimidated the pair, his intensity eventually pushed them to devote their energy to self-defense.
"If there's a point you reach where you don't think you can do any more, he'll push you past that," Brandon said. "It's his nature."