Protection officers worldwide who have extensive unarmed combat training will unreservedly answer this question with; “Of course!! How can a protection officer not have any self-defense or unarmed combat training! How can a protection officer not know how to physically protect?”
But of course, those many, many (and I mean many) protection officers worldwide with little or no self-defense or unarmed combat training, or who are too just damn lazy to train, will undoubtedly say; “No! Unarmed combat training is irrelevant and not necessary for the modern protection officer.”
What do I think? Based on my many years in the industry, as well as on my experiences living in high-risk and challenging arenas including Russia and the Middle East, I absolutely believe that EVERY SINGLE protection officer in the world should not only be trained in unarmed combat… but should be experts in unarmed combat! I believe that if you cannot disarm, disable and defend your Principal against an attack, then you should not be looking after his or her safety. Period. I will never understand the irrational, stupid philosophy of so very many people working in this industry who have no close quarter combat of self-defense training whatsoever. Try telling a Russian bodyguard that you are a protection officer but you don’t have any close quarter combat experience, he will laugh his head off!
The arguments (well, excuses) put forward by CPOs without any combat training are varied and often include; if a protection officer plans his operation carefully looking at and countering every single possible risk, then there would never be any need for any physical confrontation or intervention, so then, why should a protection officer train for something he or she will probably never need?
Of course, all operations should be planned carefully meticulously! Of course, all operations should cover every possible eventuality too! It is what we do! But this argument for not training in unarmed combat is mainly made by the inexperienced and novice protection officer, because seasoned operatives will absolutely know it is never possible to counter every single eventuality, because you cannot ever fully plan against something that cannot be understood, and another person’s thoughts, feelings, impulses or actions can never be completely understood. The fundamental objective of a CPO is to make things extremely difficult for an attack on your client, but even with immense resources, manpower and capabilities of some security companies and organisations, and even with the best and most experienced security operators available, security has at times still been breached; Presidents have been assassinated and top businessmen kidnapped and killed. Attacks have often been made on impulse too, with no prior planning from the attacker. It happens. Fact. So what would an untrained CPO do if someone did impulsively jump over the barrier and run towards his or her film-star client at a film premier…? Run away?
Of course, most CPOs with or without unarmed combat training would say they would still try to stop an attacker, but most would simply not have the ability because they have never been trained to. You cannot do something you have not been trained to do. Fact.
I have also heard an argument for not training saying that (for example), the UK and the USA are so very different when it comes to violence and the use of weapons and firearms. I agree, the US has a prolific use of firearms whereas the UK doesn’t, but this argument is completely irrelevant because people do get shot and stabbed in the UK each and every day of the year, so therefore regardless of the fact that more people in the US own guns, the actual risk of weapons being used is exactly the same. And just because we don’t have as many guns in circulation here in the UK as in the US, knife crime here is soaring! The risks of an attack maybe statistically less, but they are still there, and therefore training in disarming techniques should be part of every bodyguard’s ongoing training programme, regardless of where you live in the world.
I also heard one very stupid and ignorant CPO argue that disabling an attack could result in a prosecution of the bodyguard; this was his genuine argument for not training in unarmed combat! He didn’t want to get arrested if ever he had to use his training countering an attack. Yes, I know, hard to believe that someone actually working in this business and with a UK SIA licence to protect actually thinks this way. My reply was simple; firstly don’t be a bodyguard if you think that you might get arrested for doing your job and secondly, an untrained, unskilled bodyguard is actually more likely to do more damage and could possibly go too far in order to compensate for their lack of skills than someone skilled and trained. To disarm and disable an attacker in a controlled and efficient manner, or to kick the shit out of someone in untrained and uncontrolled manner; I am not a legal expert but I am sure a court would favour the first.
Also, if a five-man BG team consisted of only one unarmed combat trained BG, if an attack did occur and the unarmed combat trained BG was disabled, what then? Not only the Principal, but the whole team would be at risk because no one else had any training!
Someone recently said to me that they have been working in close protection for almost ten years and have not trained, nor will ever train in any form of unarmed combat. Their reason is because nothing has ever happened and they plan each operation so well they are confident nothing will ever happen.
I think this attitude is arrogant and completely wrong. How can someone in this industry, protecting the life of someone else, even think this way? But sadly, many, many do.
I wonder how many thousands of protection officers worldwide can honestly put their hand on their hearts and say they have the necessary close quarter combat training to counter an attack on their client, if an attack ever happened? Probably very, very few. And I wonder how many protection officers worldwide are arrogant enough to say they don’t need any unarmed combat training, probably very, very many!
I remember chatting to an American friend and extremely experienced protection officer who, throughout his very long career, has protected US Senators, two US Presidents, and some of the most famous celebrities in the world. When I told him that the British Government SIA had not made any form of self-defence, control and restraint or unarmed combat training compulsory for Close Protection Officers, he almost fell off his seat laughing! When I told him there were well over fifteen thousand licensed close protection operatives in the UK, with probably about 80-90% having no unarmed combat or self-defence skills whatsoever, he was then visibly shocked. Actually, he didn’t believe me! He thought I was pulling his leg. When he asked me what psychological vetting and controls were in place for hopeful CPOs, I said that, apart from a criminal record check, currently in the UK there are no other vetting requirements to get a licence to protect someone else’s life. When he asked if fitness was a factor in training, I told him no; you can be totally unfit, hugely overweight, have no self-defence training, be unable to drive and, before attending a course, sweep streets or stack supermarket shelves, and yet still get a British Government approved licence to operate as a Close Protection Officer in the UK. Blood drained from his face. He thought either I, or the British Government (or both!), were completely mad.
“How can the British Government license protectors that are simply unable to protect?” he asked unbelievingly. “And how can the British Government accredit a protection course which simply does not prepare anyone, in any way, with the physical skills required to protect?”
I told him that when licensing for CPOs was first introduced into the UK, the Security Industry Authority placed total and absolute emphasis on advance training and conflict management skills, but omitted many of the other key and immensely important skills that are most certainly required for protection officers when things don’t always go to plan. They stupidly and naively thought that, with even the basic skills, most situations could be resolved effectively. What idiots!
I have been very lucky in my career both in security and protection, as well as later as a writer and author, and have travelled the world meeting BGs from many countries including the USA, South America, The Balkans, Russia (and many other eastern European countries), and almost all are tough men and experts in unarmed combat. The best bodyguards are undoubtedly the best trained, so if you want to be one of the best, get yourself fully trained and don’t make excuses for your own inadequacies.
Should protection officers be trained in unarmed combat?
By: Robin Barratt
Robin Barratt started his career in the security industry working on the doors, he then made the transition into close protection and has gone on to work all over the world, specialising in providing security and protection services in Russia. Today, Robin is known as a successful freelance writer and published author. For more information, go to: www.robinbarratt.co.uk