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Physical Intervention in Executive Protection: The Art of Getting in the Way

I have done Martial Arts for many years. I have done kicking arts, I have boxed, and I have done grappling arts. I have reached the rank of black belt several times. I have competed, instructed, coached, and owned a martial arts school. I have taught law enforcement professionals in weaponless defense and control tactics. I can say that defending another professionally poses a whole different set of challenges, obstacles, and a disciplined mind set. So what are some take a ways and what is the training methodology?

Here in the United States we live in a gun culture. "I won't do any work without a gun." Sound familiar? Look at this photo of U.S. Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy. I doubt he ever thought of using his gun. His job was to get big and shield the President from gunfire. The assailant shot from 15 feet away and was taken down by force but not by gunfire. So if we and our principal, the person we are protecting, are close to the threat how do we respond? And, how do we train?

In Self-Defense someone puts their hands on our neck to choke us. We do a learned move and we stop the attack. When training you should build up to three people: The Principal, The Protector, and The Attacker. All attacks should be directed toward the principal and not the protector. Think about where a principal wants to engage the public. The protector shouldn't be in front of the principal and is usually behind the principal. Close enough to engage but far enough away that they're not in the way. Clearly you will be looking at behavioral indicators. Our job is not to box it out, kick it out, or roll around on the ground. When practicing you should never be thinking about yourself but thinking about the principal. If you're on the ground and the principal is standing how do you get back up efficiently and tactically to get to your principal.

You're too small to be a protector. Stature has very little to do with protection. Of course if you are a large imposing, menacing, and intimidating protector there definitely are advantages. But no matter how large the Secret Service agents were protecting President Reagan a shooting was still going to happen. No matter who was around Christina Grimmie a shooting would have likely still happened. The big guys were standing around Arnold Scwarzenegger and he was still kicked in the back by a much smaller assailant. Anybody can protect anybody. This is the true art of getting in the way. You always want to win the fight but the job of a protector is to selflessly care more about the principal than yourself. If you have that dog or child that doesn't let go of your legs you understand. Be that protector that is a huge disruption to the attacker.

Of course the more distance we have from a violent situation the more time we have to manage the damage. This is why advances and risk assessments are done prior to the operation. But equally important is controlling that chaos. That extreme adrenaline that goes through your body when a violent or chaotic situation is taking place. That's why drill instructors yell at you while you are trying to remember a rifle serial number. To apply mental pressure to you. We are in control of our emotions the whole time. If anger gets the best of us we lose control, cameras catch us, and we now have embarrassed ourselves and the principal.

This is where our Cover and Evacuate drills come from. Getting our principal to safety immediately and under chaotic circumstances. There are times to fight it out, but in most cases we just need to cause that interference to protect our principal. We want to do it with no harm to them and no embarrassment or damage to their reputation.

Stay fit and train for the environment that you are working in. Always be in the present and do the job effectively until the job is done.

Stay Safe and Stay Vigilant

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