Self-Defence Training for Bodyguards: Unarmed Combat in Personal Protection
Many assassination attempts in the past have shown that effective prevention of the attack was only possible by rapid and determined intervention with close combat methods. Even in the case of a would-be assassin armed with a handgun, for example the attempt on the life of former US President Ronald Reagan, the use of a firearm is often inappropriate. In this case John Hinkley was immediately overpowered by Secret Service agents and spread-eagled on the ground without the use of weapons. Returning fire would have constituted far too great a risk to the general public. Moreover, even a trained marksman seldom takes less than three seconds to spontaneously draw and fire a concealed weapon.
If the use of a firearm is dispensed with, it usually takes less time than this to cover the usually short distance to the attacker and prevent him from continuing his attack by physical means. It therefore follows that a firearm is by no means a universal panacea for dangerous situations, as its use very often represents an unjustifiable danger to innocent parties and in many cases constitutes a waste of precious seconds when compared to unarmed techniques.
A sideways fighting stance is not very suitable for screening the client.
One impressive example is the attempted assassination of the former President of Turkey, Mr. Özal. While he was giving a speech on stage an assassin standing amongst the public opened fire with a pistol. The bodyguards reacted immediately and returned fire until their magazines were empty. The assassin remained unscathed, but a large number of bystanders were injured or killed. Only when the firearms of the bodyguards became useless did they overpower the perpetrator with physical force.
The logical conclusion is that the best possible training in unarmed combat techniques and regular self-defence training are indispensable for active professionals. A frontal pre-fight stance offers the best possible protection for the person to be screened. What requirements must be met by a martial art to render it suitable for effective use in personal protection?
A frontal pre-fight stance offers the best possible protection for the person to be screened.
Starting with a conceptual comparison between the most common styles and taking into account the expected threat situation, one finds that the space required by many to carry out most of their techniques is not available in the most frequently encountered personal protection scenarios. In a dense crowd or narrow passage effective methods are needed which can be executed even in a very confined space, therefore a close combat art is clearly preferable.
As soon as the threat materialises the client must be screened by the bodyguard using his entire body width, however the majority of martial arts favour an angled pre-fight stance to offer the opponent a smaller target area. This produces a clear conflict between the fighting position instilled during training, which the body instinctively adopts when danger threatens, and the need for effective client protection. As it only makes sense to present oneself as a target if a bullet-proof vest is worn, this is a further reason why an angled fighting position is a disadvantage against attackers carrying a firearm or stabbing weapon. By virtue of its shape a ballistic vest primarily protects the chest and back areas. By adopting a sideways stance we present the unprotected armhole side of the vest to the opponent, however, which negates its protective effect. Accordingly martial arts that use a frontal pre-fight stance are much more suitable, as they provide significantly more visual and attack protection for the client.
To immediately prevent an assassin from carrying out his planned attack without hindrance, it is necessary to cover the distance to him as quickly as possible and put him out of action at once. The aggressive forward pressure this requires should be a fundamental principle of the self-defence style chosen. Martial arts whose defensive techniques are based on avoiding action or retreating tend to be unsuitable for this purpose, even though this behaviour is often seen as laudable for private self-defence purposes. The same applies to more pacifist martial arts which mainly rely on throws and locks with very few blows and kicks. Even though a bodyguard must be able to subdue a troublemaker quickly using control and restraint methods, these are no substitute for the immediate stopping power of blows when it comes to ending an attack as quickly as possible.
Owing to the very varied threat profiles of different clients one increasingly often sees women or smaller, less conspicuous men working in personal protection in addition to the typically very tall and broad bodyguard. These must also be able to use the relevant fighting techniques effectively, therefore strength-oriented, blocking martial arts styles are unsuitable because the strength of the attacker is primarily opposed by the possibly lesser strength of the bodyguard. The need is therefore for a martial art which is effective whatever the strength and size of the opponent, and which also makes it possible for protection personnel measuring less than 2.00 metres and weighing less than 130 kg to overcome an attacker.
The obvious choice is therefore a close combat system such as Wing Tsun, which is learned by police units with comparable personal protection duties.
The frontal pre-fight position, strong forward pressure and high level of effectiveness are an advantage to a bodyguard who practices WT. The particularly high close-range effectiveness of WT is a safety factor when overcoming attackers in confined spaces, e.g. in the middle of a crowd or in a narrow passage. The particular effectiveness of WT also reduces the need to use a firearm, which in turn reduces the possible risk to innocent bystanders. Attacks on e.g. the tennis player Monika Seles and politicians such as Oskar Lafontaine or Wolfgang Schäuble have shown the need for unarmed defence against attacks with cutting/stabbing weapons and firearms at close range.
The measure of all things is probably the defensive measures taught in e.g. WT or Escrima, or other similarly realistic styles.
In addition the self-defence training should include exercises in which the equipment and weapons commonly used by bodyguards and potential perpetrators are used, by way of preparation for any eventuality.