You paid thousands of dollars for training and thousands more on equipment, firearms and clothing. Add in the cost of travel, hotels, meals, time off of work and other expenses and you are finally qualified for work, according to you. But what does the Client value in a protector? It may be no surprise that interpersonal skills top the list. Good manners, eye contact, a firm handshake, a timely smile, and an expansive vocabulary are just the tip of the iceberg. Knowing how to negotiate, and more, knowing when to remain silent are also key to a Client choosing you over an ex-WPPS Private Military Contractor.
After decades in the protection industry, it is continually apparent that while “fieldcraft“ is absolutely valuable and indeed essential to a Client’s required prerequisites, it is the “intellectual” skillset with which the Client has the greatest exposure, (and hardest time finding).
Many laugh when first hearing about interpersonal skills in the personal protection industry. They believe that as long the client is safe, nothing else matters. We all know that we are getting paid for that 0,1% chance that may require us to respond to a threat and “save the client”, but the rest of our time will be spent interacting with the client, their family members, employees, domestic staff, and our own colleagues. And just as important are the paparazzi and the public, both of whom have cameras in hand. One wrong comment or gesture and the Client’s embarrassment results in your termination, and possibly a civil action.
Social interaction requires specific interpersonal skills. Your ability to react or reply appropriately is crucial. Using the wrong words with the wrong person and your years in the sand box or skill with firearms won’t save you. You will be fired within seconds. It happens every day and some of you won’t even know why.
Below we will try to give you some tips from ours as well as our colleagues experience and mistakes and even included some comments from past clients.
Your relationship with the client:
If you have any understanding of the industry at all, you know that you are with a client because someone within the client’s entourage has a fear that you have convinced them you can quash. In a combat zone, there is real fear of capture or death. In a large city in America, spy photos of the client out in public, drinking with friends, and in Mexico, Kidnapping. In many instances, you may be with the client 10 to 16 hours a day. So how do you spend that much time with them or their family, under that kind of stress without getting emotionally connected to them? Stick to the old adage: “Be seen and not heard”.
First of all keep in mind that the client is the one paying you, no matter how unrealistic his requests may be, you must adapt to his ‘’wants’’ and ‘’security needs’’. You may not be allowed to do what the job requires or have the manpower or equipment needed but you will have to adapt and do your job with what you have. You may be asked to be in position X and not Y because the client doesn’t feel comfortable otherwise. Consider too that it is also difficult for someone to get used to the idea of having strangers around them with every step they take and with every person they meet. Consider what you are doing that might be adding to or reducing their tension. Talking, staring, where you are standing, your cologne, or your actions can all add to a client’s frustrations.
The professional is one who can work with the difficult client, not the other way around. If you are lucky enough to work for that easy going client good for you, but most of the time you will have to deal with people that will test your limits. Have you ever had a client ask you to protect him but not to be within sight of him?
New professionals usually ask how they would deal with different challenges, like “what if the client asks me to have a drink with him”? What if the client asks you to do things that are out of your area of responsibility?
If you are a Close Protection Operative of the opposite sex of your client, then be prepared to deal with even more difficult situations. Traditionally mixing stress and fear with the comfort a protector can bring and the power and wealth of a client, (or his wife), and an opportunity……
Every one of us, client or Close Protection Operative (CPO), have different, social backgrounds and if you add to that different cultures then be ready to deal with more difficulties.
For many of us who have spent years in this business, (If we are successful enough to still be in this business), we have learned where our boundaries lie. If you are new in the business consider that boundaries exist for all of us. The client has them and so do you. When we are hired to protect a person, we are actually being allowed to step far inside their boundaries but they should not be allowed to step too far into ours. We will see a client in their most private and vulnerable moments, but what happens to our persona as “protector” if they see our weaknesses and vulnerabilities? And what happens if someone outside the client’s circle identifies our weaknesses or vulnerabilities?
How do we identify a client’s boundaries, and how do we educate them on ours? It’s really very simple; we ask. We should consider their social and moral code, their habits, vices and health issues and their fears. Sitting down with the client and discussing their needs and simply asking them where their boundaries are and letting them know ours is crucial to the success of a long term assignment. It may be no big deal for a client to ask you to enter a room where they are using drugs in a party setting or where he and his wife are in bed, but this may be beyond your comfort zone, (your boundary).
What is the difference between professionalism and friendship? Here is a simple rule: “You can’t buy friendship”. If you are being paid, you can’t be friends. If you want to be friends, stop taking the client’s money. Crossing the boundary between Professional and Friend is never successful.
From my personal experience I have found that when I was acting strictly professional the client was uncomfortable. Our task is to make them feel safe but when we appear ‘’untouchable’’ they believe we don’t understand their fears or what they’re going through. It is very important for them to feel we understand them. It is not easy to be the client….Sometimes they will open up and talk to us and we must show them we are listening. This is not friendship. This is part of our job.
If you get too friendly, then automatically your professionalism will suffer in your client’s eyes. Not because he doesn’t trust you anymore but because your laps in professionalism suggests to him that you won’t be taking your job as serious as is needed.
Consider how Psychologists work. They cannot offer professional counseling to people who are in their family or with whom they are friends. They certainly cannot start dating a client.
It is understood that you may share many hours with the client. Talk to him only when he talks to you or when you have to say something that affects his safety. Avoid starting a conversation but always be friendly if the client decides to speak to you. If you are asked a question, try to answer it with a single sentence.
Your relationship with the client’s family members will have to be the same. Don’t be too friendly with them or other staff or guests. Remember who hired you and why. Remember who cuts your check and who ultimately you serve. You should answer to only one person. If you assist or serve anyone else, it must be with the approval of the client and then only at no cost to them.
If you appear too unapproachable or “hard”, you will intimidate those you are serving. Too approachable and the family and everyone else will feel comfortable approaching you. And it will always happen when you need to be focused. Take a middle position with your client which is addressed with professionalism. Again, prior to accepting your contract you must clarify from whom you will be given orders and directions regarding your work.
As a CPO your job is to protect you client’s life and image. You are not there to carry their briefcase or shopping bags, etc. You also should not be carrying the client’s child on your hip, or holding doors open or performing domestic chores. Remember to keep your hands free.
Don’t be afraid to say “no” when you are asked to perform duties which are outside of your role. The client is hiring a CPO not a maître ’de or a butler. It is professional to politely refuse to perform a task outside of your agreed responsibilities instead of accepting it and putting in danger a client or your life. He has hired you to provide security services and nothing else.
The client must see you as an educated, well trained, experienced and professional person, and it is up to you alone to earn his respect. If your client respects you then any of your suggestions concerning his safety will be accepted by him positively.
Alcohol? NO, NEVER, EVER…..while working. But……
What if your client calls you for a drink or coffee while you’re not on duty? In this case you have to ask why he is calling you. Does he see you as a friend or do you think he wants something unrelated to work or to talk about your work? First, remain professional. If your client calls, you respond. Then avoid alcohol at all cost. Consider that in many countries and especially in the United States, if you are in possession of a firearm and you are questioned by police with alcohol in your system, you will be arrested.
Sometimes the most dangerous trap a CPO may fall into is to have a physical relationship with his client or the client’s spouse. Remember that movie where the bodyguard was sleeping with his client? Art sometimes copies life. Being emotionally involved with your client, (or anyone in their circle), no matter how unprofessional we see it, has happened with some colleagues. Understand that if this occurs, the CPO is always at fault. Because the client is dependent on you, they may be more likely to share raw emotion with you or let you all the way in to that last boundary, the personal physical boundary. Take advantage of this vulnerability and you are solely to blame. And if you think you found the love of your life, you will be replaced by the next person the client sees power or an emotional investment in. And who is going to write you that professional referral letter then?
Sexual Harassment is rampant in our profession. Male CPOs are approached by everyone who is attracted to the perceived power of the protector or by anyone trying to get to the client or get into the client’s circle. But if you are a female CPO it is much worse. You will get barraged from both males and females, clients, their family members, friends and then your colleagues. Additionally, sometimes due to culture, there are those who believe that because they hired you to protect them you are there also for ‘’extra services’’. There have been cases like these which have been unreported to authorities but are a common problem within the female CPO industry. Again, that sit down meeting with the client prior to taking the job is strongly suggested.
Your relationship with colleagues:
During our career we will have to work along with people who don’t share the same work ethic, qualifications, training and experience, background, morals or values with us. So whether we like or dislike someone, we shouldn’t allow it to affect our professionalism. Our first loyalty is the client’s safety and the study and mastering of the art and skill toward this goal. Our second loyalty is to the industry to which we have dedicated our lives. Loyalty to our colleagues falls within this, not the other way around.
As we all know, Close Protection is a profession that is unfortunately void of professional standards and requirements. Each country, and even each State has its own licensing or training requirements and in many cases no training is required at all. In light of this, you realize that you have to work to solidify a team with people who bring with them different experience, skills, training disciplines, standards, professionalism, culture, and ethics in the same way a sports team or elite military unit has to work through individual differences to become a uniquely cohesive team.
It is very important that each one on the team promote and maintain a strong working relationship with the others as well as the client, and of course other people who we may be in contact with (house personnel, office staff etc).
Some of the people you are working with may have more or less skill and may be younger or older. So in each situation you must address your issues with them with respect. Never offend anyone no matter the reason, never correct someone while anyone else in present. If you believe they made a mistake you can ask if he would mind a tip or advice. Not many people are open to advice from coworkers. If they refuse your help, respect it and leave it alone. If a colleague makes a sexual advance or even a comment that you are not comfortable with, address it quickly.
In our work it is very important when an issue occurs, to take immediate action to address it. Later you can do your research and as a team and correct it. As in any team, constructive criticism is meant to eliminate future problems.
Try to avoid conversations with your colleagues that include topics which trigger emotional responses like sports, religion, sex or politics. No conversation on these topics can contribute to your client’s safety.
Avoid discussion about family and do not share details about your family, spouse, kids or home life. You don’t know how the information may be used against you or your client later. Can you be blackmailed? Could this affect your client or team?
The only conversation you should entertain is the one that adds to your client’s safety.
Your relationship with fellow citizens and Law Enforcement:
In most countries your authority or legal ability to act is no more than any other citizen. Trying to get a free pass at the club or disturbing the peace will give you and your client a bad image. No you can’t stop the traffic, park whenever you want, stop people from entering in public places or ask to search them.
Many of our colleagues come from a Law Enforcement or Military background, they use to have their own language with their former colleagues and may work along with them or ask for their help. Remember that active Law Enforcement personnel have their own agendas. They are not part of our industry any more than we are part of theirs. Do not ask them to help you do your job. Some may abuse their authority and use it to get close to your client, and may even try to replace you. Be respectful and keep your distance.
Your networking activities
It is common and we see it almost every day in online networks or forums, people who hide behind a “screen” or “nickname” and make negative comments about other colleagues. It is seen by most as cowardly at best to make public comments about someone while hiding behind a false identity and further, without allowing the victim or viewing audience to verify the experience or credentials of the accuser.
Industry forums serve a couple of purposes. The first is to inform and the second is to allow comments and feedback for the purpose of informing. Unfortunately, they have become a place for the unimpressive to gain their 15 minutes of fame. These chronic complainers, seemingly have plenty of free time, (possibly due to their unemployment), and repair their egos by blaming or criticizing others. Yes, there are non-professionals and there are professionals, but a forum is not the right place to show who is who.
For those who like to comment on different articles or posts online (…that includes many of us…) before you hit “send” be sure you:
1) Read the article/post carefully. It is very disappointing to see colleagues who post a negative comment on an article when it is clear that they neither completely read nor completely understood it.
2) Offer a solid answer/opinion based on logical thoughts or facts (or evidence/search results). Recently, someone tried to show their disagreement with an author. Their only approach to a counter-point was insulting the author which actually proved the author’s point. Someone else tried to answer him by copying and pasting parts from the article and offering negative comments on the excerpts, which further proved the subject of the article; that some people in our industry can’t adapt their soldier mentality and behavior to the more polished corporate environment.
3) Answer in a manner that does not insult the writer or others.
4) Re-read and understand the article. Stating a disagreement is fine but following up with information that goes off topic and writing anything other than what is pertinent to the subject will only make you look stupid.
5) Read the article again,
6) Read your answer again from the perspective of your colleagues,
7) Read it once again from the perspective of someone who knows you,
8) If it doesn’t look professional/logical/in good taste or relative to the article provided, DO NOT hit that “send” button or “publish now” ….otherwise again, you will only end up looking stupid.
If you think companies and recruiting agents don’t look at a candidate’s networking profiles? Think again!
The bottom line is this:
If you lack professionalism on any level or lack interpersonal skills in dealing with people you work for, with or around, you will not be able to hide behind your experience, education or other skillsets.
Founder & Worldwide Director
Some may think it is the ‘’easy job’’ but when you get hired to protect a client’s most valuable asset, his child, you will find out that providing security details for minors is actually harder and more challenging than protecting adults. Consider as well, the immense amount of trust a client has to put in your ability before they offer you the opportunity and then not be overconfident in your performance. Kids are the fastest way to end a career, don’t underestimate the challenge they present or the rewards that service to them offers.
Today more and more celebrities, dignitaries, politicians and the corporate elite are hiring female bodyguards that are assigned specifically to protect their children.
The traditional huge thick-necked bodyguard accompanying a child to the zoo is giving way to the ‘’child-friendly image’’ of a well-dressed athlete with an I.Q. of 130+, caring for that child as if it was their own. Male and female bodyguards that can blend in with and adapt to the environment of parents and children are more likely to gain employment over the classic muscleman.
If you are in charge of protecting young children, you will either be their sole caretaker in public or be in charge of both them and their caretakers. Either way, you have challenges. If you are the sole caretaker, you will be as preoccupied with meals, diapers, tempers, and entertainment as with their security. If you are watching over the child while in the company of a nanny or parents, your job is immensely easier but also exponentially harder with the addition of each person added to the party.
Conditions are easier if the child is younger and cannot communicate because you don’t have to carry on a conversation, but harder because you also may have to carry them, thus occupying your hands. Easier if they can talk but harder when they can talk back or argue. Easier when they are older and can listen for and follow directions but harder when they want their own way.
The difficulty really comes when you are dealing with teenagers. An exceptionally high number of security details for teenagers has to be done covertly. This is to say that the kids just won’t want you around or cooperate with you if you are “in their space”. So forget about walking formations, suits, and stiff postures. Be prepared to dress casual and blend in. That includes both your physical appearance and behavior. One wrong move that embarrasses your young client and you are done, and with a negative review of your conduct reaching the parents, done for good.
Here are some hints to consider when protecting children:
If you can work with a caretaker or parent and allow them to care for the child, this is ideal. The adult would go through training with you to learn to understand verbal instructions and non-verbal instructions and you would not deal directly with the child or ever be alone with them. You must also consider your age and athletic ability when compared with the nanny or the parent(s). Could you pass for a spouse or parent or Aunt or Uncle?
When you interview a client prior to accepting an assignment, ask them about your limitations or role regarding their child’s protection. Typically, the client will not allow you to admonish or punish a child for misbehavior. You will be spending a lot of time with a child that may be developing his/her character. This is a very vulnerable period. Not many parents are willing and open to allow another person to correct their child’s behavior. So be sure to clarify your limitations in writing. Also, remember that attraction is a natural function in life and children learn to trust and become attracted to adults at an early age. This process averages about 6 months which is why it is recommended that you limit your contracts to that amount of time. If you are going to stay longer, you must obtain additional training as the emotional stress on you can be overwhelming over longer periods of time. Some may ask you to just act as a bodyguard and protect their child’s physical wellbeing and some will ask you to also educate them and correct bad behavior.
When it comes to children or teenagers protection, clients tend to hire bodyguards that will be assigned to the family and the child for many years. As one might understand, it can be difficult to place different bodyguards on a child’s or teenager’s protection during short time periods. In this case, they are looking for someone skilled and mature enough both professionally and ethically to protect but also work as a mentor for their child. Mentoring and teaching could include academia as well as self-protection skillsets. Make sure your need for income doesn’t overwhelm your ability to teach.
As with any client, there are roughly 50 mandatory questions that should be asked and answered and an additional 100 that could be asked. Many of these should be asked of the parents but many should be asked of the child while the parents are present. As soon as you get assigned to a child protection detail you must ask about their habits, his/her medical record ( blood type, if he/she is allergic to anything, etc), preferable places they like to spend time and of course who their friends are. Background checks should be conducted on every adult around the child, including the parents of friends. Include school staff such as teachers, coaches, bus drivers, school nurses, and cafeteria staff.
Have a conversation with the child. Explain to them why you are there and what your job is. Usually, they see you as a new person intruding in their life and someone who is there to spy on them and report anything they do to their parents. This initial bonding is critical to you keeping your job.
Deal with older children as adults. Have a conversation with them. Children are not stupid and like to be dealt with as adults. Respect their opinion and explain your position. Make sure they understand that your only duty is to keep them safe. An additional concern is reporting. Whether asked to report back to the child’s parents or not, you should keep very accurate notes and be prepared to deliver an accurate report to them. This may ruin trust so be very careful with this.
Allow the child some time to feel comfortable with you and trust you. Depending on the child and your approach, it may take them up to 3 months to start feeling comfortable and trust you. Don’t rush the process. Be approachable and let them decide when they can come closer to you. Again remember that this is dependent on your planned length of the assignment. Children by nature are very reactive and they tend to do the opposite of what they have been told. For the child, we are another ‘’intruder’’ in his personal life. It takes a great deal of patience and discipline to earn trust. Study this process and seek out a professional counselor if needed. Your client should retain one for you.
In the beginning, (with an older child), you will have to deal with a child who will be asking you to stay further away, don’t look at them, don’t open the car doors for them, don’t accompany them for shopping or to the movie theater. Of course, as you do your job, you will have to disregard or ignore their requests and although some in our profession may say it doesn’t matter what the child wants the fact is that at some point it does matter. At the end of the day, you don’t want to deal with a kid who will play hide and seek with you and see you as an enemy, but a child that will be cooperative with you and seek you out and trust you when danger threatens their safety or security.
Educate the child on security awareness topics. Children love learning new stuff and they will understand why you can’t stay back out of reaction range, How you can see them but not watch, how you can be close enough to hear them but not listen, why she/he can’t sit on the passenger’s seat next the driver, why you have to open the door for them etc…
Since much of teenager protection is done undercover, set some signals or codes with the child. Let her/him know what signs you can both use for cases such us ‘’stay there’’, ‘’go’’, ‘’come close to me’’ etc. AND Practice these every day.
Consider the child’s friends. Your presence around them can affect how your client acts or reacts. Avoid addressing the friends and never correct the child in front of them.
Another important issue to discuss with the child you are protecting is their online behavior. You may have to teach and explain why it is important for him/her to be very cautious about what information and pictures they post or share with friends. Many times, parents neglect these matters. You will become all things to these children. Take the influence you have over them seriously. You are not just protecting them, you are influencing them too. Children will learn to manipulate both parents and the protectors. Parents may become jealous or resent that you spend all your time with their kids or that you are “too close”. Address this issue early on. It will save your career.
You need a female bodyguard to protect your child? Contact us today
Founder & CEO
Over the years I have engaged in casual conversation with women who all end up asking “so what do you do?” Their surprise at my answer is usually followed up with “wow, I wish I could do that”.
Still, I am contacted by others who are interested in my profession but believe they don’t have the ability to pursue it due to a lack of experience or the finances needed to acquire the training. My response is usually that you can achieve anything if first, you get your rear end off of the couch.
I would like to share a story as an example of being able to achieve your dreams without overwhelming physical strength, money or luck.
There was a little girl who at the age of 8 witnessed firsthand her country’s civil war. Her country was transitioning from a dictatorship to a democracy. She and her family survived while dodging the crossfires. She replaced her childish hide and seek games with hiding for her very life…
A few months later her family escaped the violence and immigrated to another country. She and her parents and an 18-month-old little brother and all the family’s possessions with one suitcase between them made it to freedom.
The little girl had to learn everything all over again. A new country, a new language, new friends, new traditions and new life, and all within a culture that reminded her and even insisted that she wasn’t equal to them.
She managed to make new friends and learned how to adapt and be a part of another world. One evening, at the age of 16 she was a victim of an assault that left her badly beaten, robbed and almost bleeding to death in an alley. It took four years of therapy to learn to live with her frustration, nightmares, anger, and pain. The physical pain was a matter of weeks but the emotional pain took years to manage. She blamed herself as many do after an attack. Why didn’t she pay attention, see the signs, and know how to defend herself or just be able to run. And the worst part of it was that she couldn’t report it as her family at that time was illegal in the country.
After high school, she decided to become a bodyguard. She still can’t answer the exact reason as to why. She found it a fascinating profession, maybe she wanted to protect others, and herself. Still, today if you ask her what made her decide on this profession, she will say ‘’I don’t know’’….it just felt natural’’
She received her first training in close protection at the age of 19. She had no money for training so she borrowed it. She worked as a waitress to pay back the loan.
She had no military or law enforcement experience, but she knew she could offset those requirements by taking more and more courses and working her way up from the very bottom as a security guard. She offered to intern for security companies in order to gain experience.
She barely made any money. She went without and sacrificed everything in order to pay for further training and education in the security industry.
She fought sexual harassment, verbal insults, gender discrimination, exclusion, and pure alienation. She forged ahead without the support or respect of her peers which left her vulnerable to making extremely bad choices in some business relationships that cost her money, time and peace of mind.
She continued to concentrate on her training and maintained her work ethics. Eventually she was noticed. She had finally earned the respect of a few people who would refer to her as a colleague. People saw something good in her and trusted her. They offered her jobs or accepted her as a team member and guided her. She learned from them and achieved respect.
She was not lucky. Luck never followed her. Failed business relationships, broken trusts, financial failures and plain business misfortune. She suffered breakdowns, loneliness, exhaustion, physical and muscular fatigue, injuries, blood and scars, heating pads and ice baths and yes, admittedly, tears. But she always kept moving, even when she had to crawl she was crawling closer to her goal.
This girl was me…
I was born in a communist country, immigrated to Greece and created a company dedicated to the training of female bodyguards and female security professionals. That company is Athena Worldwide and Athena Academy, and it and its affiliates operate in the USA, Europe and in other countries. I am financially secure, help to support my family and continue to train every day and improve myself.
What I learned is:
-Find what you love to do and what you want to be, then make a plan to achieve it.
-If you don’t have the financial ability, sacrifice.
-Take the job that will pay off your debt. You can get the job you really want later.
-Any job you take can enhance your training and add to your experience. Find the opportunities they offer.
You don’t need a military or law enforcement background. There are opportunities within the security industry that don’t require them and in fact in some cases, being either of the former could disqualify you. Clients and companies used to hire people with military or LE experience because they wanted professionals who had specific mental and physical abilities and were able to work under challenging conditions and follow specific directions. While military and police personnel are trained in specific skills, they often lack the “social polish” and sense of ”blending in”, needed for close interaction with a client. Keeping in mind that soldiers and policemen are manufactured by their governments and trained to be dependent on them, it stands to reason that it is easier to take a socially polished professional and teach them the necessary protective skills than it is to retrain a soldier or a policeman how to smile, dress, blend in and dine at a 26 piece place setting.
If you can prepare yourself mentally and physically to allow an employer to trust your skills, you will be amazed to find out how easy it is to get a foot in the door of this industry.
If you don’t have any experience at all and know that 99% of job openings require prior experience, don’t be disappointed, I will admit that it is frustrating for employers too. So there are steps you can take that can add to your experience:
- Seek out and join professional trade organizations. Socialize with their members.
- Volunteer to assist with political candidates that cannot afford a security team
- Intern with a legitimate group or team and be prepared to start at the bottom
At the end of the day, we must realize that we are not living in a perfect world. No one has to offer us anything. As in any other industry, you have to fight to survive and fight just as hard to get ahead. Game rules won’t be fair and you will be pushed from one corner to another. Be prepared to be lied to and miss-led. Understand that you will be judged and passed over for work because you are too tall or too short, too heavy or thin, too pale or the wrong race or gender, or even because of your religion or hair color, eye color or because of tattoos or visible birthmarks or because of an accent or the wrong sounding voice, or because of your last name or the car you drive or ………………
But remember, no matter how many so-called colleagues mentally attack you or employers pass you over for work, as long as you keep focused on your goal and do well, there will be someone watching and you will be noticed. One day your hard work will pay off.
It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how much money you have. What matters is how badly you want what you want and how much dedicated you are.
……..Now tell me again, what is stopping you?
Founder & CEO
The first thing that comes to mind when people hear ‘’Personal Safety’’ is martial arts or firearms training. Being in the security industry the last 11 years I had the chance to attend many training courses. Continuing education is my first priority and I attend as many seminars and courses as possible each year. In all of them, the conclusion I reached is that preparation and prevention can be your number one tip for your safety whether you are a civilian or a security professional.
An experience I encountered at the age of 16 changed my life priorities and choices at that time. What I am today is the result of an attack I survived then that left me bleeding and half dead in an alley. I didn’t think that the attacker would “allow” me to live. I didn’t think I would live to see my family again. That “man” was the reason I got involved in the security industry and later into martial arts training.
In this article I would like to focus more on female self-defense courses and what can work for us and what won’t.
To clarify my comments here, I am not writing this article from a martial artist or an instructor’s point of view, but from the female perspective interested in learning some basic tips on how to protect her life.
My personal experience with martial arts began as a teenager and continues to this day but the bottom line is I’m expressing here my opinion as a woman, a student and a former attack victim, and I’m pretty sure some martial arts instructors won’t agree with it. My goal here is not to offend anyone’s work but to address some concerns from the female perspective.
During an attack there are many factors that affect all of us at the same time. There is surprise, physical pain, adrenaline and that horrible thought and feeling that someone else besides you can decide if you will be breathing the next couple of minutes or not…Your nervous system is red-lined. You experience a faster heart rate and rapid breathing and an increase in blood pressure. An effort from your body to control and adjust to the experience of the fear during the attack is in full defense mode. Some people might notice sensations in the stomach, head, chest, legs, or hands. Now multiply those physical responses with factors from the threat you are dealing with. Maybe a gun or knife or a much larger person or multiple attackers.
No matter how good a martial artist or instructor you are (no matter how many times you have practiced your art), there is nothing that can compare with dealing with a real life threat. Nothing can replace the experience and test you and your abilities more than an actual attack.
We know that in some cases women are stronger than men. Yes, there are examples of men being weaker, but generally speaking let’s agree that for discussion, men are stronger. The aim then is to help women think differently and a bit more strategically. We don’t have to learn to beat someone down, we have to learn where we should be, or what we should do so we don’t end up in a situation where violence is likely to occur. We have to learn to speak up when we are not comfortable –being vocal will Alarm a perpetrator as well as bystanders. No one wants to attack someone that will fight back or someone that will make a lot of noise or attract attention. As with all predators, attackers prefer to go after the weak, sick and vulnerable. It’s a simple “Cost vs. Gain equation.
We should not accept our environment as it is, rather, we should shape it and learn where we should and should not be. We can influence a potential attack simply through posture and by thinking ahead. Begin with “I won’t be a victim,” and then don’t allow it to happen. I would also suggest you consider what kind of environment you wish to be in and avoid those you know to be questionable. We can prevent danger and create a safer place for ourselves and our loved ones simply by being smarter and more prepared than a potential attacker.
No one can offer you a 100% safe environment, someone can attack you because the opportunity to do it exists. By being trained and self-aware, you prevent or postpone an attack. According to statistics more than 2/3 of the attacks against women could be prevented if they were trained in simple and basic self-defense.
Women, are known to have strong intuition, something that alerts us or makes us feel that there is something wrong with a person or situation. Use it! Think in advance what actions you could take that would provide you more safety. While you are driving, shopping, at home, dating, clubbing etc.
Research online will find many self-defense courses available but, 99% of them are delivered by martial arts instructors with no other qualifications. Even fewer of those Instructors are women. From my personal experience attending many of those courses, I found that the students were treated, trained and handled like martial arts athletes or professionals, and the major effort of teaching was focused on the fight or fighting back instead of avoidance and predator profiling. So, from the first moment students get in the class they learn how to become the victim and get involved in an attack.
The truth is, Self Defense Instructors make their money teaching what they know, and what they don’t know, they leave to someone else. Most have no formal training in altercation avoidance or conflict resolution so they teach reactive methods rather than proactive planning.
Now, my questions are how a normal woman, a mother, someone who has never delivered a punch or a kick in her life can learn fighting techniques in one to six lessons?
And more important, how can she apply what she learned in the gym successfully on the street? How will she react to a real threat from an attacker who doesn’t look like or act like or smell like her Instructor? Who won’t stop short of hitting her in the face or grabbing her body or ripping her clothes?
I see Instructors teaching blocks, arm bars, headlocks etc….I am over 30,with experience in sports and martial arts and I still don’t have the flexibility to make a successful headlock with my legs, and I’m wondering how someone is teaching that and believing that a woman with no experience or practice will apply it in real life?
I have been asking instructors if those techniques work in real life and for some reason they all say yes.
These Instructors are missing some important facts:
- They are male
- They have been practicing for many years
- They teach in a safe environment usually chosen by the student
I find it more dangerous to teach someone something that she is not ready to apply in real life than not teaching it at all. Teaching and reinforcing a false sense of confidence could lead to catastrophic failure. Can you imagine what would happen if a victim kicked an attacker and because of her fear-adrenaline, she kicks wrong or hits the wrong target? If he stays on his feet, He will fight.
Even if the attacker didn’t originally have the intention to seriously injure the victim, he might lose his temper or use more force than intended.
Not all attackers retreat if you fight back, some of them will fight harder and stronger.
More serious are knife and gun disarming techniques…Learning to disarm a plastic knife and gun can be catastrophically worse if the instructor has never used a firearm for his living. I have seen everybody participating in knife disarming, smiling and taking their time, doing it again and again….I’m not so sure if they would deal with it the same way if they had a real knife to practice with.
As a female I tried to apply some of the techniques I learned to real life.
Not all of them worked for me and I belong to the women who have a previous training in martial arts and sports, so it makes me wonder how it would work for a Mother or Grandmother?
I do understand the ”business part” of someone running a training course, but our responsibility as instructors starts with a loyalty to the people who are paying us to learn something that will save their life?
There are a small percentage of people who know what they are teaching and are doing it right. They have a background from law enforcement, martial arts and the security industry. They have gathered their experience and teach realistic techniques. There are people out there, professionals that are focused on teaching intelligence based tactics… brain vs. Braun. As women we must learn to think and out-think We must search for Instructors that know how to teach us, and know what to teach us. And we must learn under stress. We must allow ourselves to be tested under extreme conditions and continue to train to not be victims.
Founder & Worldwide Director
We chose our profession and we are fully responsible for the risks we are taking on our own life, but what about our family? The people who love us and are part of our life either by blood or personal choice… Those who accepted our way of living because they love us.
So we got through our professional development course, we got skills and experience and we can provide safety to our client, but are we sure we know how to provide safety for our family?
It is sad to see nowadays many professionals who work in security industry exposing their family members in social networks. Trying to stay in touch with friends or other family members and sharing your children’s or your spouse photos and info is something who give to all of us joy but if we think about it, it is very risky, especially when we do it in social networks when everyone can have access and we can’t control who is watching what.
Tagging your child, spouse, mother, sister etc is like targeting them as well. If someone would like to hurt your client he will first get to the one who is standing in between him and your client, and that person is you and everyone related to you. He will try to get intel about you and use it against you, make you weak cause your presence makes his action more difficult.
Before many years we had a story going in Greece, when a colleague was sent his child photo with a note: ‘’don’t go to work today….’’ He had to decide between his family, his own child and his client safety. If we think about it, it can happen to anyone, what would we do in this case?
Instead of thinking what we would do in a situation like that lets think what we can do to prevent it and provide to our loved ones more safety. Being in security industry we must learn how to work in low profile, try not to talk about your job and most of all about who your client is!!!
If you can use a different name while working, nowadays is way too easy to have access to anyone info online in USA that has to do with their marital status, financials etc.
Do not wear your wedding ring while working, do not talk about your family even to your colleagues, they may be trusted but you never know what someone can reveal by mistake.
Do not keep in your wallet photos or anything that would reveal information about family when you go to work.
Try to use different mobile phones, one for your personal life and one for your work. And the most important…KEEP AWAY SOCIAL NETWORKING any information and photos about your family. If you must use social networking places for your job then make sure you have two accounts, one for personal and one for business use and make sure those two have nothing in common. Nothing that would connect the one account with the other. Keep business contacts for business account and family members for your personal account.
Athena Academy Founder