Is the common internet utterance based in reality?
July 27th, 2022
“In China there was once a man who liked pictures of dragons, and his clothing and furnishings were all designed accordingly. His deep affections for dragons was brought to the attention of the dragon god, and one day a real dragon appeared before his window. It was said that he died of fright. He was probably a man who always spoke big words but acted differently when faced with the real thing.” -Yamamoto Tsunetomo
If you have delved even remotely beneath the surface water of the personal defense world that exists on line you have no doubt seen the phrase “be your own bodyguard” buttoned up next to a #.
While no doubt the phrase is meant to imply that your personal safety is your responsibility. A statement that many of us certainly agree with, and even a cursory examination of the last few years has brought legions into the fold as first time gun sales have soared through the stratosphere. But as one old sage put it; buying a guitar, a musician doth not make.
In my younger years, when I was being reared into the World’s fifth oldest profession one was taught that a “bodyguard” was a four letter word. A Protection Specialist was an individual who pursued his craft purposefully and that a “bodyguard” was a no neck thug who relied on his sheer physical structure or the bulging handgun underneath a cheap suit to thwart any undesirables. As I ventured forth into the world to protect the lives of more than a few executives and private families, I soon learned that there are more “bodyguards” than professional protectors. The water being wide between the two.
I also quickly came to realize that the average person held no such distinctions between the two, and the bodyguard was to the protection professional as the Marine is to the Soldier. That is to imply that the terms were interchangeable, thus one should not read that as a dig to neither the Marine nor Soldier.
This water became further muddied as the culture of conceal carry arose from it’s humble beginnings to having it’s own celebrity culture. As did the phrase “Be your own bodyguard” when it was borrowed by, then up and country singer, Miranda Lambert who touted that she carried a gun and didn’t have a security detail because, as she said “I’m my own bodyguard”. It spurred a lot of heart swelling among the gun culture and country music fans for very obvious reasons. The statement really said “I’m one of yours”, boots and all.
A journalist I knew at the time asked me what I thought about that and I said “One can be a Country singer or a Bodyguard, but one can not be both”. A year or two later a celebrity type magazine showed her out shopping and crossing the street, “bodyguard” in tow. Because as her star rose, so did the threat level against her personal safety.
The term we know, and that she made somewhat popular, gained traction in an earlier era as Jeff Cooper, founder of Gunsite and the Modern Technique, touted the phrase after he returned from some foreign locale, where he had trained a presidential guard in the Modern Technique. He stated, in effect, that a bodyguard was in essence a mercenary and that he was paid to be there. Someone with more money and ill intent could pay a higher sum and compromising the integrity of the security structure. Thus declaring “one must be their own bodyguard”. No doubt Cooper saw the potential for a coup in the making through loyalty that is only as strong as the money it is printed on, or ideology adhered to. A lesson Indira Gandhi, the third Prime Minister of India, learned the hard way when she was assassinated by two of her own bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, on October 31st, 1984.
One could suspect that Indira knew something was afoot, and that her life was in danger. During her last speech, given the day before her assassination she said “I am alive today, I may not be there tomorrow … I shall continue to serve until my last breath and when I die, I can say, that every drop of my blood will invigorate India and strengthen it … Even if I died in the service of the nation, I would be proud of it. Every drop of my blood … will contribute to the growth of this nation and to make it strong and dynamic.”
She was shot over thirty times by both a Sten SMG and a .38 Special revolver. One could argue that this somewhat reinforces the point of “be your own bodyguard” but, one can hardly be the head of state and in charge of one’s own security.
By contrast, famed World War II General turned President of France, Charles de Gaulle was advised by the head of his security early into his presidency that de Gaulle should not attend a state event due to the threat of an possible assassination attempt. De Gaulle simply replied “My job is to be the President of France. Your job is to protect the President of France”. While de Gaulle was famous for his arrogance, he also was not wrong in that instance.
We’ve come to a place in time where someone can simply throw whatever label they choose upon themselves and decree it so. Reason be damned. From a societal standpoint one would not have to venture too far down this line of of thought to recognize the obvious actors, but we have to also look at the more subtle labels as well. Many of the early social media darlings of the tactical world had prior military experience perhaps, but not combat experience. Or they had come to fame for their shooting prowess that stood on it’s own, but they decided they needed to sex it up a bit and allude to a clandestine background that simply never existed, unwillingly to say “I’m simply a gifted marksman, firearms enthusiast and believe in the personal right to self-defense”. The problem became in the Afghanistan and Iraq War era Special Operations warriors caught the most glamour of praise, and thus the borrowed and stolen valor arose.
With the pandemic came the rise of the “expert virologists”. Not just limited to that friend of social media but well into the medical field as well. Doctors from all disciplines were overnight weighing in on the local news channels, relevant experience be damned. So one might see, in a world where men and women who have made a profession in the realm of Executive Protection or being a “Bodyguard” the layman attaching a label to themselves that otherwise does not fit, something of a ding. Worse yet a hashtag to garner a following.
An individual should absolutely take a pro-active approach to their personal safety and their skill set towards personal defense. The world is continually reaffirming the fact that when the feces hits the impeller no one is going to save you, one is going to have to contend with the bad men of the world alone. Prevailing or dying. Thus, given rise to the moniker “be your own bodyguard”, and the prevailing sales of the latest and greatest concealed holsters, lighting fast mag changes and what we’ve come to call the Three T’s. Trauma Training and Tourniquets. All, everyone of the aforementioned are important skills to have, but these are tools in a tool box. However, in the world of Executive Protection having to deploy those skills has historically meant there were failures of the protection personnel leading up to that point. In other words, the skills with a firearm are not a primary skill of executive protection and that, personal security is a different capability than personal defense, while understanding the two are married to one another
So with that in mind, we are going to explore what the essential qualities are for someone in the field of Executive Protection in a series of articles. How that translates into the everyday life of people not employed in the field but concerned about their personal safety, security, and defense.
I will close with this. Do I think that the average person can in fact “be their own bodyguard”? I do not. The role of a Protector is a servants position, in that you are literally in the employment of another person to look after their personal security while they do their job and live everyday life. No one would run with the hashtags “be your own Navy SEAL” or “Be your own Special Forces”, and we all understand why. With that said, I also fully understand the context of which the phrase is implied, and as my mentor drove home to me over and over, you have to be willing to adapt.
So keep an eye out on the Guns, Gear, and Skills page for this new series.