Who's Protecting You?

This blog was posted on behalf of Shaun Gowland, Managing Director or Risk Contained (http://www.riskcontained.co.uk/).

After 5 days of intense and demanding training aimed at the Personal Protection Officer, who has left their ego behind and realised their hands on Protection Skills need either developing or, in some cases, building from a none existent base level, I thought it prevalent to bring this to the attention of clients, seasoned professionals and newly qualified PPOs alike reading this.

After seeing first hand the training presently delivered and the skill set across the industry I felt, in most cases, something was lacking. Add to this, it seems current operators have delusions of grandeur due to the somewhat poor level of training currently on offer and from what they have completed in the past. I decided to break this down and scrutinise what’s really needed in this job and ultimately what works and what does not. What you will see in my findings may shock you, especially if you’re a client/VIP/Principal and the team/individual who is protecting you can’t actually do the job you have employed them to do when it comes down to it’s basic form, hands on protection. In most cases these operators can’t protect themselves, never mind you. After going over my findings I set to and designed a fit for purpose entry level course to which, my thoughts and ethos of the course I will endeavour to set out below so that you can understand my thought processes, and hopefully this will make you stop and think for the better of the industry and safety of not only yourselves, but others.

5 days training are not going to make you the next Ninja, UFC MMA World Champion or Bruce Lee, never mind a competent PPO and really, that’s not what it sets out to achieve but what it it does do very well is give you the correct building blocks to work from and a starting point. Add to this a bespoke plan for each student to take away from the course to carry on training in a professional manner with optional quality refresher training, ongoing advice and workshops with qualified, insured and extremely experienced instructors.

When I started to put this together I knew this would be a much better bet than a 4 or 5 hour course sold as a days “Workshop”. I see no advantage in running a few hours workshop, that is simply not relevant without first addressing the basic skills of each student. The more detailed specific workshops should come later in a training syllabus. It’s no good addressing and teaching certain things like edged weapons retention/defence and giving the student a false skill set and, even worse, a mindset so that they think they can deal with such things after training a few techniques in a sterile gym environment. That to my mind is dangerous practice and one which is unfortunately aimed at the ego of the instructor and so far removed from the needs and safety of the student and more in the interests of financial gain. Spending an hour dealing with edged weapons is ridiculous and only furthers the false skill set of a delusional operator. Proficiency takes time and the quick fix zero to hero has no place in this world when it comes down to a life or death situation and the world of Close Protection. We simply can’t gamble that it’s going to work because it’s worked once before or you have seen it work once or twice on a You Tube video. Real factual based evidence and research is needed, exactly the same as conducting a threat and risk assessment or recce. Would you watch a You Tube video to make sure you got that right or to gather information? I hope not.

Through social media, I constantly see videos of pyramid scheme, self proclaimed, Martial Arts quick fix systems and so called Military Systems showing things like students repeatedly punching bags with no concept of basic striking and creating power which then move onto firearms strips and dealing with edged weapons, crazy! Without basics you’re setting the student up to fail in a real altercation. Don’t for one minute think your at a level which condones missing out basics, that is the mindset of someone who's setting themselves up for a huge fall. We all should be training fundamentals and basics constantly and revisiting things you think you know quite well. It will shock you when someone points out something that can fine tuned or substance can be added to what you already know. We are all students and we should never stop learning. I’ve been involved in Martial Arts for 20 years and I still learn new things every day and I hope that carries on happening too. Add to the mix adrenaline, the Flight, Fight or Freeze and in most cases the first fight they have ever had and your looking at a defeated student before the altercation even starts. I’m not going to name these schools/schemes/systems as I’m sure you know exactly what I’m referring to. Look at the same ones that offer instructor courses in a week, or thereabouts, and you will be close if not totally on the money. Instructors in a week, month or even a year is a joke stay clear of such charlatans.

My outlook on this field is simple and it’s simple for a reason, simple works! The people who fair the best in any altercation are the ones that can fight at all 3 ranges. Stand up, Grappling/Take Downs and also on the ground. This must be pressure tested and live “sparring” must be an integral part of your training. Scenario based training is still, in my eyes, manufactured and not realistic whatever you may think. Ongoing regular training is the key not a zero to hero few hour workshop without any form of competition style format to test the student.

I remember an old instructor of mine who, I quote, said “Think you can fight? Then get in the cage and find out!” He was right, that form of testing is as close to a deadly altercation as you can get without roaming the streets for the real thing. My first experience of the cage was not pleasant but what I took away from it that day was an understanding of where I was skills, fitness, mental attitude and aptitude wise. I moved on from that experience with a new found outlook on myself and where I needed to be whilst still popping back to ground me and assess my development. I would never have got that from a sterile training environment where the closest you get to a punch in the face is if someone missed a huge pad on a useless drill. If you have never had a punch in the face or similar then, you’re not ready for this job in my eyes as the first time you get one in the field you will not be able to think straight or do your job. Shocked, angry and uncontrolled will be your state of mind and that’s no use in this game. The same goes for any altercation, verbal or violent, if you’re dealing with it for the first time then you’re not going to be very good regardless of what you think you’re capable of, or, what you've been taught. This is the real world and in the real world you have a number of changing factors. The changes just in your own mind and body are hard to deal with, never mind the other person or persons. In short, don’t over estimate what you think you’re capable of as you will find out you’re nowhere near where you have built yourself up to be, and that alone is dangerous and impacts on the situation before it starts.

Once the student can grasp the 3 ranges and becomes proficient in those areas then we introduce the more skilled specific areas of Self Protection and our Client Protection Program. Both very similar but very different at the same time, both go hand in hand and skills are transferable to each shared still set.

Quite frankly I’m sick of the current trend of empowering people with false hopes for a guaranteed altercation in the future should they believe what they think works from what they have been taught. Many times I have seen of late, people being quite overt in their manner and turning a simple walkaway situation into a possible deadly altercation where they could be seriously hurt or even killed. I’ve witnessed 2 people die from a simple one punch altercation in my home town alone so I’m very aware of what can happen should someone not have the skills they think they have. This false skill set only makes the student gain, in my experience, a front of bravado and the mindset to speak their minds and carry out actions they normally wouldn't have done, and without the skill set to back it up when things do go drastically wrong. How do I know this? Because I’ve felt it and witnessed it first hand in the past and learned from my mistakes and the mistakes of the instructor and system at the time.

The mindset, thought process and verbal skills of the operator play a huge part in taking a confrontational situation from a dangerous one, to a walk away one, a reality and not just part of a training video. These skills are workable but I have found certain individuals almost have a natural ability in this and many of us could learn from them. A good training course should contain de-escalation skills as well as pointing out the triggers of when to act when there’s no way back and violence is the only outcome. The pre-emptive strike is a huge subject which, unfortunately, I can’t go into in this short article but may in the future. Knowing that all important break in the violence proceedings could mean the winning or losing of the fight, so please read up on this and educate yourselves on when to act and how to spot the signs of something that’s gone so wrong it’s fight time! It may just save your life and others. In short Verbal Judo is an art you all need to go out and find out about and embrace.

So why not use a single system Martial Art or self proclaimed Military System? Well, personally, I don’t believe a single system exists that can be moulded to each individual for use in this industry albeit in life. ‘We are all different so why can’t we have a system bespoke to our skills, body type, age and gender?’ Well in short you can with the right guidance and self exploration. I see current one system arts with specific skills being taught from 5 year olds to 80 year olds and further up and down that scale! One technique for all, for all ages, body types and genders which is ridiculous. One area that alarms me very much is Women’s Self Defence, things such as throws, eye pokes, bites, takedowns, breakaway skills and anti rape techniques being taught to 8 stone women who, unfortunately, are under the false assumptions that these techniques work in the real world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Try this scenario for instance; a 20 stone guy, high on drugs or alcohol trying to rape an 8 stone woman and you think a kick to the nether regions is going to work, sorry it will not and if you think your skills will work then sorry, you’re deluded and you have, more than likely, lost already, sucked into the false world of the pyramid money making arts.

Fighting is brutal, disgusting and should be avoided at all costs and not seen as something cool such as the media, film and TV portray. Fights that go on for hours with various attackers involving edged weapons and firearms are a joke and only fuel the current industry trend of developing the next “Jason Bourne” or “Bond” type person. We need to oust this from our industry and weed out the people who, ultimately, give the end client a false representation of the protection they are receiving. We currently live in a commercial world in the UK where nothing really goes wrong and long may that last, but this is changing rapidly and the people practicing these systems and promoting this false training method are going to fail and that could be at the cost of either the clients life or their own. Things need to change and we need to start to take the age old job of hands on protection more seriously and move away from current trends and be serious about our own skill sets and expectations of what we can and can’t do.

I’m sure this article will upset a few people out there who are devoted to what they are currently practicing but I implore you to open your minds and go out and try something new, challenge what you have been taught to see it’s application and if it ultimately works. “The cage door and mats are always open in our gym” as they say. If you can’t do that or think you don’t need to then stay where you are and let time teach you the hard way. I say go and experience all you can, that way you can choose what works for you and set your own pathway and progression, just get your basics right first! We are all students in this life and life won’t stop teaching us a lesson, easy or hard! Continuous Professional Development is key to life not just your chosen career and self protection is paramount in this job as well as our own personal lives. Don’t let the views of others cloud your own journey or pathway in the pursuit of certain individuals making money. Challenge yourself and your skills and find out for yourselves.

I’ll leave you with a "off the top of my head" quote I came out with during our last Close Protection Course which I seem to do lately, they either make sense or are just plain rubbish, normally the latter! “When your good your good and when your bad your bad” Now I’ll leave you all to choose which one you want to be, whether your looking at yourself as a PPO or your a client choosing the right or wrong person for the job.


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