Female Bodyguards…the early days of Japanese female close protection

In 1979 when Margaret Thatcher  was coming into power as Britain’s first female Prime Minister, rejected a female bodyguard team while attending the Tokyo economic summit.  Thatcher was assigned a detail of 20 “karate ladies”.  She rejected the offer for the level and type of protection based upon not wanting to be singled out and treated differently than her male counterparts.

The Japanese secured the event with 26,000 police officers.  Since Thatcher had not used female close protection at home, she was content with having predominately male executive protection on her side.  We can’t know for sure if the female bodyguards were given another task during this event or if they were just put the way side.  But, we think that the Japanese government in some ways was forward thinking.  They obviously saw the value in having a female close protection unit for visiting female dignitaries.

Of course there are many reasons female’s should be looked at as a valuable resource when planning protective assignments.  Looking at what type of client you have is always a precursor to assigning the best man OR woman for the job.

The Pope and Berlusconi’s Close Protection Bodyguards

Can we say that the Pope and Berlusconi’s close protection agents failed?

Within 10 days we saw two attacks happen to the two most famous and well guarded men of Italy.  First there was the attack toward Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Milan on December 14, which caused him a fractured nose, and broken teeth.  Then there was the over zealous person who attacked toward Pope which took place on December 24, in Vatican during Christmas Eve Mass, which caused him no body harm this time, but his image was probably a little bruised.

We sure are not going to doubt their close protection agents abilities.  It is known that personalities like Silvio Berlusconi and the Pope will have some of the best security details around.

So, then, what went wrong?

Every professional close protection agent will tell you that when your principal is a politician or someone who has adoring fans any public exposure can be a security team nightmare.   VIP’s whose existence is dependent upon their fans support, have to deal with people who want to shake their hands or hug them.  So, can a close protection agents stop a fan from trying to ‘’touch’’ the Pope or Silvio Berlusconi?  For sure she can’t stop all incidents.

For the Pope’s attack, we are sure that everyone who was taking part in Christmas Eve Mass was checked for weapons before they even entered the church.  The person who attacked him was a common woman, who waited for him to be close enough for her to show her over zealous admiration and the she jumped in to say hello a little too close.  The Pope’s close protection agent as we  see  on the video reacted very fast and took her under control.  In this kind of situations you can’t do many things.  You cannot know how someone from the crowd will react, if he is a really a fan or he is waiting for the right moment to attack. You just have yourself alerted  to any suspicious actions and react fast to prevent the worst.

From the other at the case of Silvio Berlusconi’s attack we saw a 40 year old guy who was among the crowd holding a small metal souvenir replica and when he came closer to his target he threw it and cause the damage to severe damage to his face. In this case what would his close protection agent do? What is very important to think here is that when someone wants to throw an item toward you, they generally  need to have the space to do it.  We have seen in many cases where an attacker uses paint, different kinds of vegetables, cakes, etc.   Being part of a close protection team means you have to pay attention to people that are around you, especially what they are holding items that may not be compatible with the environment.   It is on human’s first reaction as something is coming toward you to cover yourself or change direction.  But, when you are in charge of someone else’s safety, then you have to think and act immediately and become the human shield between your principal and the thrown object.  This is something that we can’t learn all at once, but in our training at Athena Academy you will learn how to adapt to these kinds of situations so that you can be prepared for the eventuality that some day you will probably deal with the common issue of items being thrown at your principal.

Denida Zinxhiria

Founder, Athena Academy