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Is Bodyguard Training Amusement Tourism?

When we watch a story that includes bodyguard training, it’s hard to tell if they are going to war or to a black-tie red carpet event. All that bootcamp-like action with hundreds of sit-ups, yelling, and shooting looks nice on television but it’s no wonder that a connection with real-life work cannot be seen. Because there pretty much isn’t any.

A common perception from the public is that bodyguards are big, strong, badass fighters, ready to jump in front of a bullet. Intellectual faculties are, of course, optional. The majority of professionals prefer different terms, such as executive protection, close protection or personal protection agent. Mainly to avoid the cliché. But then, you turn on the TV and there is an exciting story about the “secret world of the bodyguards” or “the best bodyguard schools in the world”.

Unfortunately, many providers offering executive protection certification do focus almost exclusively on police and warfare training, A quick Google search will show heavily armed wannabe special forces shooting from a moving car, yelling, rappelling or showing off their martial arts skills. The costs for the whole experience are astonishing as well. But does that make sense?

Anybody with experience in this profession who has appropriate training would be shaking their head. Most of the job consists of intelligence, gathering information, analyzing and evaluating dangers, and planning accordingly so they never have to do any of those things that look great on TV.

There are exceptions, of course. Personal protection in war zones demands military skills. And that is why they are performed almost exclusively by close protection agents of the military anyway. Close Protection in some countries where organized criminality is more powerful than the state institutions is likely to have shooting included. But in almost all bodyguard jobs in the world, a well-done job means tons of awareness and little or no action at all.

So why do people book those “bodyguard bootcamps”, sometimes including flight and accommodation, breakfast and free daily yelling into your ears? Are there so many professionals that, secretly, wanted to be navy seals but all they got was a lame “bodyguard” t-shirt? This would explain, in part, people paying thousands of dollars for those bodyguard amusement parks that are unrelated to their real jobs.

The other part is money and prestige. It is not uncommon that alumni from those training schools become VIP protection instructors themselves right after they get back home. Their credentials? They were trained at one of the toughest bodyguard schools in, let’s say, the Middle East. Ordinary people watch a video of what they do and come to the conclusion: If they train that tough, they must be good. And then become willing to pay higher prices. 

At the International Association of Personal Protection Agents, we advocate for all types of qualifications to include meaningful theory and tactical training as well as the practice of real-life situations until they are internalized. If a IAPPA Certified Close Protection Agent ever has to rappel down a building with their client and start shooting from a moving car, they have not paid attention to the rest of the course. If you find yourself in a situation where you need police or special forces skills, you call 911.