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Attack on Slovakia's Prime Minister: 1960s manuals are useless

On Wednesday, May 15, 2024, the world witnessed a shocking attack on the Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico. The incident occurred in the town of Handlová in the center of the country at the end of a government meeting.

Fico was in front of a crowd, separated by a security fence that is commonly used in such circumstances. He was talking to some citizens when shots were fired. The officers reacted quickly, but, as is often the case in such reactions, too late. The Prime Minister was shot several times in the stomach and was taken by helicopter to the hospital, where his condition was described as "very serious".

The attacker, a 71-year-old man from the town of Levice in the southeast of the country, was arrested at the scene of the attack.

Unfortunately, most of the dignitary protection services operate with manuals from the 1960s without realizing that this concept has been superseded. The device set up is the classic scheme of placing the agents in line along the fence which, as it turned out, is useless and even hinders more than it facilitates.

Managing the exact points of exposure and shadow agents, placed in advance at these points to gather intelligence, detect dangerous behavior early and react surprisingly before the attack, are the key to protection at public events.

Also, it is very likely that this person has staked out the attack site at least a day before, as most attackers of this profile do. Counter-surveillance in the days leading up to the event is of key importance in these circumstances.

 

Sadly, these manuals from the 1960s are still in use despite their obvious ineffectiveness. The only way to thwart an attack is before it happens, and for this we have many tools that we must know and apply. Only in this way can we make our profession safer for both protectees and protectors.

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It is true that executives "Don't Understand?"

It is surprising to many to discover that in the field of Executive Protection, one of the main threats comes from the executives themselves. It is they, through their actions, lifestyle and perception of security, who increase their own risks by often ignoring the security recommendations provided by their protectors.

I have been working for more than 25 years in the executive protection sector in Mexico and LATAM, operating and also training. The most frequent phrase I have heard from protectors, escort chiefs and also from some security directors is: "EXECUTIVES DO NOT UNDERSTAND".

We can hear this phrase over and over again in operatives, courses and consultancies that we are giving. Hearing these words for so many years and so often from so many different people and in so many different countries, we can come to only one conclusion: "Executives are the most intellectually limited part of the world's population because of their inability to generalized basic reasoning".

However, here something definitely does not add up: If executives were so devoid of reason, how have they been so successful in creating, directing or growing companies that are locomotives of the world economy? So no, it is not true that executives do not know how to reason, as the opposite is evident.

 

When we have this problem, it is much easier to blame the customer and feel good about it, even feel superior, because we are the ones who know and understand the things that these great men and women do not understand. This is something very favorable for our ego, but very bad for the job, since it does not bring any value, it does not solve any problem. Even the fact that the executive raises his own risks puts us, the protectors, at risk.

It is time to accept the hard reality, which indeed costs work (and also the ego), but once accepted it takes us to another level as professionals: It is not true that the executive does not understand, but that we do not know how to communicate and persuade him effectively. Our work and training is usually focused on different combat techniques, whether with weapons or empty hands, movie-like vehicular maneuvers and other activities that we generally never use in our work life. Many protectors even come into their roles fresh out of the police and military, with no specialized training in executive protection. So they receive virtually no training in communication and persuasion, skills that our profession requires on a daily basis.

Executives understand perfectly well, we just haven't put the principles of Executive Protection under the scrutiny of their often brilliant intellect.

Of course, in order to be able to effectively present the principles of executive protection to a client at this level, we must first of all know and master them very well, something that unfortunately few protectors actually achieve. A large number of agents and even protection managers have sometimes been doing repetitive work for decades, which has never been tested, generally developed empirically and with little specialized training. It is very difficult for these colleagues to stand up to the executive and submit to his scrutiny when trying to convince him. Add to this little training in persuasion techniques, and the result can be counterproductive.

It is not surprising that executives "don't understand", as even I myself had a totally wrong perception of executive protection before I got involved in it. Once you have the right information, presented in a logical way, the protectees understand perfectly well. In these 25 years of working with them, they have given me very valuable proposals once they have received useful information to process.

So the first step for the executive to "understand" is for the protector to know executive protection in depth, beyond the empirical. This, in turn, establishes the first principle of persuasion, which is the principle of authority. Likewise, it is key that the protector has a fluent language that the protégé understands, since talking about threats and risks is technical security language and must be "translated" into executive language, which is much more pragmatic and oriented to profits, losses and general corporate terminology. Another major principle of persuasion is empathy, as the protector must be perceived as someone similar, with whom the protégé can identify in some aspect. Therefore, terminology and language must flow. The search for points of identification is key to persuasion. Once this initial rapport is established, the executive is open to receiving appropriate communication using many other ethical persuasion techniques (which are beyond the scope of this article) and collaborating positively in his or her own protection.

Sure, there is always what we call "the impossible executive," the person you really can't work with (and therefore shouldn't work with either), but in our experience, they are in the vast minority.

One of the main reasons why, in Mexico alone in the last 18 months, we have had 16 executives murdered and 31 of their escorts, is the lack of knowledge of the basic principles of executive protection, both on the part of the executives and on the part of the escorts themselves. By knowing the principles well and knowing how to communicate them to the executive, we will make our profession safer for both the protectees and the protectors.

It is true that executives "Don't Understand?" Read More »

Executive Protection: the fatal resistance to change

On Sunday, March 17, there was yet another tragic event for our profession. The Pátzcuaro regional commissioner of the Michoacán Public Security Secretariat, México Cristal García Hurtado, and two of her bodyguards lost their lives in a brutal attack on the Zirahuén-San Juan Tumbio highway.

The victims were ruthlessly murdered, and after turning on the patrol car they were in, their bodies were decapitated. This act of violence took place near the town of Santa Ana Chapitiro.

According to official sources, an armed group intercepted them, forced them to get out of the vehicle and killed them. The commissioner was decapitated in this tragic event.

This unfortunate incident is one in a series of attacks that have occurred over the past 19 months. During this time, in Mexico alone, 15 executives and 31 of their escorts have been killed. The executives and their escorts have been massacred in each attack, even when accompanied by up to 10 agents armed with long guns.

Reflecting on what went wrong in this case, the answer is simple: the same thing that went wrong in the 14 previous cases. Executive Protection is conceived and practiced only as armed escorts who follow the protégé around without any strategy, waiting to react at the last moment.

Improvisation, ignorance and a good dose of arrogance that assumes that one knows what one does not know, generate these disastrous results. Victims are accumulating and it is still not understood that executive protection must take place far from the protected, both in time and space. For this the most important tool is proper communication and persuasion of the executive to achieve actions that reduce their risks. Once this is achieved, intelligence, counterintelligence, counter-surveillance, protective logistics, early warning and everything that reduces the vulnerability and accessibility of the executive to different threats must be known and applied. It is very unfortunate that, despite the number of victims, it is still not understood that changes in executive protection have no alternative. Only in this way can we make this profession safer for both protectees and protectors.

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Executive Protection: Alarming inability to detect gross surveillance

Hostile surveillance detection is clearly the Achilles heel of current executive protection, as in all the high-impact attacks and kidnappings in recent years in Latin America, criminals conducted prolonged surveillance of their victims without being detected, even though this surveillance was quite obvious and careless.

In a study on the subject, the famous Straford agency refers to the following:

"Given that hostile surveillance is so widely practiced, it is surprising to consider that, in general, criminals and terrorists are terrible at carrying it out. There are some exceptions, such as the relatively sophisticated surveillance conducted by Greenpeace and some other groups trained by the Ruckus Society, or the discreet and highly detailed surveillance conducted by some high-level art and jewelry thieves, but such cases are the exception rather than the norm."

Indeed, high-level jewel thieves, such as Olivera Cirkovic, the redeemed former leader of the Pink Panther gang, was highly sophisticated in surveilling her targets, to the extent that she installed video cameras in the parking lot of a jeweler in Athens whom she eventually kidnapped. But such sophisticated groups are rare.

So Straford is right: in general, criminals are very bad at carrying out hostile surveillance. We can give two recent examples from Ecuador: the mayor of Manta Agustín Intriago was assassinated in 2023 after being watched by the same little truck allegedly selling water for more than 15 days, without anyone noticing.

Likewise, recent investigations into the assassination of former Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio revealed that the site of the event where he was to be assassinated had been staked out in a stolen vehicle in the days prior to the assassination. Now, no sophisticated criminal vigilante is going to carry out this activity in a stolen vehicle, as this exposes him to immediate detection by specialized teams and also to possible chance arrests during the hostile surveillance operation-thus compromising the entire operation for free.

Professional criminals use stolen vehicles at the time of the attack only in order to avoid being traced, abandoning them shortly thereafter in pre-planned locations, but never to surveil the target.

Now, as much as Straford rightly points out the criminals' lack of sophistication in hostile surveillance, the unfortunate thing is that they don't need more! Why would the criminals invest time, money and effort in setting up a sophisticated surveillance system with multiple agents, vehicles and other coordinated resources if the same water truck for weeks on end is enough? Why would they care about the stolen vehicle if no one notices it anyway?

There is no need for them to be more discreet and careful, as their effort and sophistication match the need. However, they clearly have no need to do so, as the protectors lack the most basic knowledge of surveillance detection techniques, and counter-surveillance is not part of their standard procedures.

The good news is that protectors, if they decide to learn this important and obvious lesson and start implementing these techniques, will really need only the basics to detect criminal surveillance very easily, and thus dismantle the attack safely and well in advance.

Of course, over time, criminals will become more sophisticated in surveilling their victims, but this will require them to involve many more resources, people and logistics, and this too would be no guarantee against a trained counter-surveillance team. Moreover, setting up effective counter-surveillance, if done well, is much easier and cheaper than setting up sophisticated hostile surveillance. We teach this in detail in our courses.
If the protectors take the battle to this terrain, they have a significant advantage over the enemy. And most importantly: in the analogy of a soccer field, the game would take place in the middle of the field and not in front of the goal, as was the case until now, where goals were conceded at all times.

Shifting the weight of the operation to counter-surveillance, along with intelligence, protective logistics and early warning in a structured manner, will make our profession safer for both protectees and protectors.

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Attack in Bogota - The "driver/escort" does not exist!

Time and time again over the years I have repeated that the "chauffeur/escort" concept is cost-saving but ineffective, as one person cannot do two things at once or be in two places at the same time. A trained chauffeur can be very effective in reducing risks in transfers, but cannot cover the higher risk situations that seams statistically represent. I have explained this in detail in this video:

This is confirmed by the unfortunate attack that occurred on February 21 of this year in Bogota, Colombia, when businessman Hernán Roberto Franco was murdered upon arriving at his work in Parque de la 93, an exclusive area of the Colombian capital. In a security video circulating in social networks, we can see the moment when the businessman's vehicle arrives in front of the office door, he gets out of the vehicle and enters through the door, right in what we call the seam. At that instant, the assassin approaches, shoots the executive and flees. At that moment, the "driver/escort" comes out with his gun and shoots the fleeing assassin, who had already killed his protégé.

In social networks, many colleagues criticized the work of the "driver/escort" and, of course, the situation in general had several flaws. However, the fundamental flaw lies in the concept that a single person can do the job that should be done by at least two agents: the driver is responsible for reducing risks in transfers and having the vehicle in operationally convenient locations, while the escort protects the seams and the rest of the movements on foot. Protecting the seams, these high-risk exposures where most attacks occur, is no easy task. Recall that several Secret Service agents were unable to stop a single attacker at the seams during the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. So what can we expect from a single "driver/escort" who is asked to defy the laws of physics by being in two places at the same time, and also be held accountable for failing to do so? The "driver/escort" works fine as long as nothing happens, but when the attacks occur, the shortcomings translate into loss of life. A similar case occurred in Mexico when businessman Martin Rodriguez was killed in January 2021 as he left his gym.

The "driver/escort" concept saves money but generates a false sense of security, something that Mr. Hernan Roberto Franco paid for with his life. It is time to take executive protection seriously, to stop improvising and thus save both the lives of the protected and the lives of the protectors.

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Restaurants: the new "favorite" place for hired assassins Five keys to reduce risks in public establishments

In 2020, Aristoteles Sandoval, former governor of the State of Jalisco, Mexico, was murdered in the bathroom of a bar in Puerto Vallarta. In 2022, Salvador Llamas, former director of Seapal, was executed in a restaurant in Guadalajara. In 2023, the police commander of Zapopan, Jalisco, was killed in a cafeteria. In February 2024, two hitmen killed a mining businessman in a restaurant in Aguascalientes and a few days later, lawyer Bernardo Aguirre was executed in the restaurant of a luxury hotel in Monterrey.

In all these cases, the attackers posed as customers before carrying out their attacks.

In the day-to-day operations of traditional executive protection, for reasons I cannot explain, protectors considered restaurants as "sacred places", that is, magically protected spaces where no evil influence could penetrate. It was customary to take the executive to the restaurant, determine his seat and wait outside until he came out, believing that nothing would happen to him inside. However, as with many practices in traditional executive protection, this was unfounded, as these unfortunate examples demonstrate.

We can observe that the modus operandi of the assassins is to arrive at the restaurant, sometimes before and sometimes after the victim, sit in a place from where they can have the necessary view and proximity to their target, carry out the aggression when the victim is distracted and escape quickly in vehicles that were already waiting for them.

Here we can identify several flaws in the operational structure:

Intelligence: in several of the cases, there was no clear awareness of the scope of the threat, nor were the intentions and capabilities of the individuals and groups posing the threat known.
2. Counter-intelligence: in several cases, the assassins knew in advance where the victim would be, and this information came from his close circle.
3. Counter-surveillance: in other cases, particularly in the case of the Zapopan police commander, the killers knew the victim's routine, which shows that she was watched by the criminals for a prolonged period of time without realizing it.
4. Situational awareness: in the recent case of the mining businessman, the two killers were seated in the restaurant, at a nearby table, with hats and masks on. It is not possible to eat with masks on, which, together with the caps, evidences that their intention was not to eat, but to hide their identity in order to commit a crime, without attracting anyone's attention.
5. Protective logistics: what is common in all the above cases is that the restaurants, bars and cafeterias where the murders occurred were located in relatively fluid avenues at the times of the attacks, and were establishments easily accessible from the street, which greatly facilitated the escape of the criminals. In planning an attack, having an easy and quick getaway is the most critical and important thing for the criminals, because if the getaway is complicated, the criminal may be shot, wounded or even arrested, which could expose both the material and intellectual authors of the murder, which is the main concern of any criminal group. Therefore, the choice of restaurant is key to reducing risks. It is important to look for a location where the criminals during the escape will be exposed for a prolonged time to the actions of security agents and police, as well as cameras, and where traffic conditions at the given time are not favorable for the escape. This may include shopping malls or other similar locations, depending on the specific circumstances in each case, which must be previously studied. These factors significantly reduce the risks, and it is of utmost importance that the executive is aware of these principles. Since he or she is the one who decides on the locations, it is important that they are informed about the impact this has on their protection system. In addition, the location where the protégé is to sit should be one that is out of sight and out of the way, and should also allow for easy escape. In this type of threat, the protectors should be strategically placed on the table(s) that will allow observation and, if necessary, cover and evacuation of the protégé.

It is no longer enough to just take the protégé to lunch and wait for him or her outside the establishment. Threats have changed and so must the way we operate in order to make our profession safer and safer for both protégés and protectors.

Restaurants: the new "favorite" place for hired assassins Five keys to reduce risks in public establishments Read More »

What is the escort vehicle for?

In one of my recent publications, I addressed the serious risk of the lead vehicle and the escort vehicle arriving at the "seam" together. This mistake, as serious as it is frequent, has claimed many lives, the most notorious case being that of Mexican businessman Carlos Bildmart in August 2022. For this reason, I pointed out as one of the solutions to advance the escort vehicle to the "seam" in advance, to detect the ambush and prevent the executive from falling into the trap. For more information on the subject, you can watch this video:

On social media, one of my colleagues commented that this makes no sense, since "who will protect the lead vehicle if the escort goes ahead?" This statement reflects a bias, a false belief that lacks foundation. The idea that the escort vehicle stuck behind actually protects the lead vehicle is wrong.


Traditional executive protection has parroted this concept without understanding why for decades. However, in real-world conditions, this concept has proven fatal. Between 2022 and 2023, in Mexico alone, 14 protégés and 29 escorts were assassinated, and in most of these attacks the strategy of having the escort car attached to the back was used, a strategy that has been to no avail. In the aforementioned case of Bildmart, the businessman was killed along with five escorts who were following him closely in the vehicle. Similarly, in October 2023, police commander Alfredo Alonso López was killed along with ten escorts armed with long weapons in a vehicle that was attached to the back.


The tailgating concept is not only ineffective, but is also frequently used by criminals to neutralize escorts through the famous "billiards" strategy, where criminals collide or cause the escort vehicle to collide with the lead vehicle, quickly neutralizing both. This occurs especially when the escorts do not wear seat belts, which unfortunately still happens. This strategy is very common and was first documented in Germany in 1977 during the kidnapping of German trade unionist Hans Martin Schleyer. I have described many other examples in my book "Executive Protection in the 21st Century: The New Doctrine".

The most important and counter-intuitive rule of modern executive protection says: "what clusters does not protect". We may think that surrounding the protégé with agents and vehicles will protect him, but in reality the opposite is true. It is much easier to ambush two vehicles together than those moving at coordinated, planned distances and with a specific operational purpose. This is the great flaw in the concept of close protection, for by placing protectors close together, we are forcing them to act at the last moment when, usually, all is lost. Of course, I do not mean to say that the vehicle behind is totally useless, as there are cases where it has worked. However, its effectiveness is statistically very low and does not justify all the disadvantages and risks involved.

It is important to remember that, according to studies, the effectiveness of all reactive measures is only 3.7%, which is totally ineffective.

It is essential that the escort vehicle be used in a preventive rather than reactive manner. The positions adopted by the escort vehicle will depend on the study of the route in each displacement. In some circumstances, it will be behind, in others ahead, or parallel, but all will be based on an analysis that justifies its position at any given time, and not simply stuck behind the lead vehicle for no clear reason. When studying the route, we realize that criminals cannot ambush at any point along the route, but only in specific locations. Therefore, we chose to send the protection vehicle to those points in advance to detect the ambush and avoid falling into the trap. However, having it in the back does not provide much protection.

So, to the question of who protects the lead vehicle when we overtake the escort to the "seam". the answer is our proper risk assessment. We leave the lead vehicle "unprotected" in an area where an ambush is not possible or likely to occur, to send it to check the high risk ambush area ahead of time, preemptively. The lead vehicle is protected by the fact that at that place and time there is no one to attack it, and this is the result of our study and planning.

As you can see, modern executive protection is based on analysis and critical and structured thinking, not on brute force and reactive actions that can only yield results if the attackers are more or less inept, which, unfortunately, is less and less the case in Latin America.

There is an urgent need to change the way executive protection is understood and practiced to make it safer for both protectees and protectors.

What is the escort vehicle for? Read More »

Peruvian President's son's bodyguards assaulted and robbed of their weapons

On Monday, January 8, at around 10:30 p.m., in the city of Lima, Peru, three criminals assaulted two policemen who were working as bodyguards for the son of the Peruvian president, Dina Boluarte, while they were guarding his home.

According to Peru's Interior Minister Victor Torres, the two policemen "were half asleep" in the vehicle parked outside the home of Boluarte's son.

 

Several security camera videos released by local media show that the escorts' car was parked when another vehicle pulled up next to it. An apparently armed person got out of the car and assaulted the escorts, robbing them of their service weapons, as well as their cell phones, a watch, documents and personal cards. The assailants then fled in an unknown direction.

You don't need to be an expert in Executive Protection to realize the serious mistakes made by the protectors in this case. The most basic rule of personal safety is not to remain seated in a parked vehicle, much less while asleep. A large number of robberies and assaults occur to people in this position, making it statistically one of the most dangerous positions in the world. Not only did the escorts lack executive protection techniques, but they also lacked the most basic knowledge of personal safety.

Of course, this attack was not a coincidence. The criminals observed the bodyguards for several days or perhaps months before the assault without them realizing it, analyzed their behaviors, habits and surely realized that they had the tendency to be "half asleep" while guarding the president's son.

One of the frequent and serious mistakes made by protectors is to meet and talk once they have left the executive at their destination, completely ignoring their essential tasks. During standby time, protectors should set up observation points with proper separation between them, depending on operational circumstances, performing potential threat identification, deterrence, trying to detect hostile surveillance, etc. Being together and conversing exponentially increases the risks, but being asleep in a vehicle is the ultimate lack of professionalism.

Unfortunately, this is not the first case of this type. On August 6, the weapons of the Guatemalan president's bodyguards were also stolen, and there have been several cases in different Latin American countries where bodyguards were assaulted and even killed to take their weapons. This is just one of several ways in which the use of firearms can increase risks rather than reduce them in Executive Protection.

In this particular case, it is important to note that the protectors were police officers assigned to Executive Protection duties, which is a mistake as serious as it is frequent. We have seen the unfortunate results of these schemes in the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio in Ecuador, to mention just one example. There is a widespread fallacy that Executive Protection can be practiced by any police or military officer. This fallacy is claiming many lives. Executive protection is a sui generis profession that has its own methodology and specialized doctrine with specific skills and knowledge. Accepting this reality and training protectors accordingly will make our profession much more valued and, most importantly, much safer.

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Incident with Biden's motorcade: Coincidence or a set-up?

On the evening of Sunday, December 17, as U.S. President Joe Biden and the First Lady were leaving an event with campaign staff in Wilgminton, Delaware, a vehicle struck a pickup truck that was part of the presidential convoy, used to block a street during the event.

The incident occurred just as the president was leaving his campaign headquarters, at a distance of 40 meters, while walking on a "seam". Both the president and Secret Service agents stopped in surprise upon hearing the crash, directing their attention to the noise for almost 4 seconds, until they "woke up" and evacuated the president in his armored vehicle.

Some users on social networks tried to justify the behavior of the agents; however, one cannot defend the indefensible. The "seams," i.e., the exposures to the higher-risk environment generated by walking to or from a vehicle, are scenarios where most of the attacks on prominent public figures, including U.S. presidents, have occurred. There is no reason why these exposures should not be overcome as quickly as possible under normal conditions and, even more so, if something extraordinary happens at such times, as was the case that night. It may be understandable for an officer to stand by to assess the threat, but the protégé has no business standing exposed at a "seam," but must be evacuated immediately.

Instead, both the president and the agents remained distracted, like curious observers, prolonging their exposure in the most statistically dangerous situation for the protégé. It took the Secret Service agents almost four seconds to "wake up" and evacuate the president in his armored vehicle.

We explain more about the "seams" in this video:

However, there is something even more worrying in this situation. Shortly before the attack on Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2003, a motorist crashed his vehicle into the Serbian leader's convoy. At the time, it all seemed like a completely benign incident; however, it turned out that this incident was a "set-up", a reaction test by the criminals to gauge the response of the victim's security team, which was executed shortly thereafter.

You can learn more about the "tune-ups" in this video:

The White House reported that, in this case, it was an alcoholic driver and that it was a casual incident. Let us hope so, although we also know that in the protection of a president nothing can be taken lightly, and Secret Service specialists are aware of that. There are certainly many lessons to be learned from this incident. All of us who do operational work know that we make mistakes in our missions. Secret Service agents, despite the myth that surrounds them, are human beings like all of us, with successes as well as opportunities for improvement. Mistakes happen in operations, so it is important to learn lessons and improve procedures to minimize the damage they can cause.

Hopefully this incident is just an isolated case; however, if it was a "tune-up", I am sure the officers will gain valuable lessons that will make them more effective in the future.

Incident with Biden's motorcade: Coincidence or a set-up? Read More »

Why don't protectors react as trained in real situations?

Article written by
Ivan Ivanovich and Dr. Cecilio Andrade.

For decades, the training that has defined executive protection has been the use of firearms and hand-to-hand combat techniques. Course advertisements are replete with practitioners firing with all types of weapons and practicing various martial techniques, from krav maga to Brazilian jujitsu. These basic trainings are mandatory for all protectors, from employees of small security companies to members of renowned protection institutions such as the U.S. Secret Service, Israeli Security, British Security, Japanese Security, to name a few.

But what happens to all these outstanding protectors when faced with a surprise attack at close range in real situations, such as public events or other types of exhibitions? One would assume that these highly trained agents would draw their weapons and fire effective shots, or use some of the techniques of krav maga or aikido to subdue the aggressors. However, this does not happen in real situations.

We have analyzed 132 cases of attacks against prominent public figures in the last 123 years in 60 countries, and to our surprise, we found that in the cases where there was a surprise attack at close range none of the protectors analyzed, including the most famed members of the US Secret Service or Israeli Security, failed to draw their weapons to defend their protégés or use any of the sophisticated martial arts techniques they had been taught. They all did only one thing: they rushed at the armed attacker, even when he was shooting at their protégé (or even after he had killed him), and knocked him to the ground American soccer style, without using any particular technique. This happened in Russia in 1918, in Japan in 2023, in Italy in 1926, in Germany in 1990, in the United States in 1933, in Israel in 1995, in South Africa in 1960 and in France in 2002, to mention just a few examples that show that, regardless of their nationality, distance in time, country, continent, type of training, type of weaponry, operational conditions, age, etc., they all carried out the same action, totally opposite to what they had been taught.

It is relevant to mention that, despite the great danger this represented and how exposed they were, none of the protectors were injured or killed when executing this action, and they always succeeded in subduing the aggressor, although in many cases the aggressor had already killed the protégé, as in the case of the Prime Minister of Israel Yitzah Rabin in 1995 and the former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe in 2022.

Simplifying, we can say that there are two types of reactions: learned reactions and instinctive reactions. Learned reactions are those that protectors acquire through practice and repetition. These are the reactions of drawing the weapon and firing, blocking and striking, or performing a key or control technique, among others. Instinctive reactions are those that come to us from the dawn of humanity, where the most primitive system of the human brain acts, which focuses mainly on activating our arms and hands to put them between the threat and the rest of our body in order to protect it (of course there are many other instinctive reactions, but we highlight this one for the purposes of this brief informative article).

What is evident is that, in such rapid attacks and at such short distances, the most primitive system takes over, blocks all other learned reactions and activates the most primitive reactions to eliminate the threat. Without time to think, analyze or even assess the danger, the protector lunges at the attacker with the instinct of a predator, just as a lion pounces on a gazelle, knocks it to the ground and overpowers it. The study shows that no matter how much training is done in these specific situations, all training will be blocked and the most primitive reaction will prevail.

It is important to adapt the training of executive protection agents to take into account these primitive and evolutionary reactions. We cannot control these impulses, but we can manage them and redirect them toward more effective responses. It is necessary to look for ways of training that allow us to direct these instinctive impulses toward more appropriate actions in real executive protection situations. Achieving results in these trainings is certainly difficult, but not impossible.

We need to base both our operations and training on real studies and experiences, to abandon the movie fantasies that have caused so much damage, and to create a real and effective training and operation that will make this profession more effective and safer for both protectees and protectors.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

These reactions occur in the specific operating conditions described above. In other situations and circumstances the learned reactions are effective and necessary.

This article is made in collaboration with Dr. Cecilio Andrade, a recognized international expert in security and executive protection of Spanish origin.

https://cecilioandrade.blogspot.com/

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