“If you have ever thought about taking on a second job as a bouncer, solider, police officer or a prison guard, you should talk to someone who has had one of those jobs.” says Reality Based founder Jim Wagner, and other law enforcement and military agencies around the world, especially if you are looking for an instructor to study with. As I read more and more articles I notice that instructors and fighters say that they were bouncers. In Fact eight MMA world class champions were bouncers. Fighters like Rashad Evans, Bas Rutten, Frank Mir, George St. Pierre, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Cain Velazquez, Bart Vale and Joe Stevenson worked as bouncers. As you can see, these guys were top A champions. So were Judo Olympic medal champion Alan Goage and Judo legend Jon Bluming, and famous TV stars like Vin Diesel and Mr. T. who were also bouncers. One of the smartest men in America, with an IQ of 195, Christopher Michael Langan, was a bouncer. And let’s not forget to mention a man that once was the most feared gangster of all time, Al Capone, who worked as a bartender and bouncer in his late teens.
Why all the hype about being a bouncer, or why would Jim Wagner mentioned the word bouncer in the same sentence with solider or a law enforcement officer? Because, bouncing is a tough job, and it takes a special kind of person to be a good bouncer. A former bouncer, and great martial artist, John Hanson, had mentioned that Bouncing really is an art in itself. Instead of following your instinct to run from danger, you have to run into it. As you walk the crowd, you don’t know if someone will come out of nowhere and attack you because you threw him out last weekend. Recently there was an article in the New York Post stating “Obama Needs NY Bouncers”, to prevent party crashers like the ones who let themselves into a Whitehouse dinner event in 2009. It takes skill, intelligence, and heart to be a great bouncer. In this article I would like to share some of my tactics and use of force principles and other important items like how to spot a fake I.D. and dealing with club drugs. I also want to discuss the mental and physical aspect of the business.
In New York City, between 2002 and the present, there have been numerous attacks on bouncers by both patrons and the media. You will read or hear headlines like, “A brawny bouncer at a trendy East Village nightspot was stabbed to death yesterday after he confronted a man who lit up a cigarette in defiance of the city’s tough new anti-smoking law,” police said, and “Three bouncers at Queens Strip club were shot, one of them killed by disgruntled customer.” Correct training for bouncers is necessary in many areas. Some important areas of training are verbal de-escalation techniques, effective and safe separation skills, escort and removal, crowd control Defensive Countermeasure, Joint Locks and takedowns, and the Use-of-Force Continuum, which illustrate what you can and cannot do legally when it comes to using your self-defense skills. In today’s world, even terrorism survival is necessary. Why terrorism you ask? Just think about the nightclub bombings in Bali and Tel Aviv for example, these bombings destroyed many lives and businesses and with the right training, bouncers could have made a difference. Even though these incidents occurred in other parts of the world, it is only a matter of time before they strike close to home. It doesn’t have to be a terrorist act; it could be a hate crime, such as the 1997 bombing of a gay nightclub in Georgia. These random assailants can be deranged, jealous or vindictive individuals who want to come to your club and take revenge on someone’s spouse or other loved one or possibly one of your employees.
Use of Force
“The best bouncers don’t ‘bounce’ anyone, they talk to people.” Bouncers & Doormen (from the crimedoctor.com website)
The right training for doormen, bouncers and coolers is a critical component in preventing criminal charges and litigation against nightclub owners and their employees. The actions of one “bouncer,” or poorly trained security guard, can damage the business, the owner’s livelihood, and possibly send the establishment into bankruptcy. The bouncer’s duty is to monitor the crowd, to encourage positive behavior and to enforce the house rules. I call this job babysitting. You must remember you are being paid to be a professional “crap taker”. One second of pleasure in knocking the annoying drunk out can cost you your job, get you sued, and possible put you in jail time, so even of you get the satisfaction of knocking him out and shut him up, in reality he wins. The Use of Force Ladder I go by was created by Jim Wagner. There are five levels of threat
1. Intimidating demeanor
2. Passive resistance.
3. Active resistance
5. Aggravated Assault.
The five corresponding responses to these threats are:
1. Command Presence
2. Verbal commands
3. Controlling Force
4. Impact force
5. Deadly force.
Command Presence means appearing confident and in control. This is the serious presence the front line of defense should have. My demeanor often stops a problem before it escalates. In this situation he who blinks first, applies. A verbal command is used when attempting to remove the passive resistant patron from the club. The patron is not a threat as of yet, but still does not want to leave. Maybe he doesn’t know why you want him out. I often use a word play technique in these circumstance and say “I need to talk you out side, the music is to loud in here, don’t worry I’ll let you back in, you just need some air”. Another good technique is to find the civilized person in a group of rowdy friends or someone who appears to be able to lead and pull him aside and ask him to escort his friend calmly out of the crowd. Watch your words, they can come back and bite you and we’ll discuss this later in the article. Controlling force means actually handling the individual, but it is less about fighting, this leads us to escort removal.
Escort and Removal
When escorting a patron out of an establishment, there are a few things to keep in mind. You will see bouncers who lift a patron up in the air in a type of bear hug or choke, and then drop him or slam him to the floor outside. What people see is the big bad bouncer man-handling a patron. If the patron is drunk, he will be unbalanced and could fall the wrong way, hitting his head on the concrete, and you will be staring a law suit, or criminal charges, in the face. That is exactly what happened to Scoot Bolton in 2004. He got punched in the head by a bouncer, causing him to fall and hit his head on the concrete. The bouncer is being charged with manslaughter. When you drag an unruly patron out in a choke hold, a few things are happening. He is fighting you because he can’t breathe and you will unintentionally choke him harder because he is fighting you. If the situation is not an eminent situation (a fight) and if the verbal command was not successful or if the patron wants to stay where there are witnesses, the use of the hammerlock is in order. This shoulder lock is similar to the kimura lock, where the aggressor’s arm is held bent against his or her back, and their hand is forced upward towards the neck, thereby applying pressure to the shoulder joint. This is a good pain compliance hold for controlling an aggressor. Law enforcement officers often use this technique. I like to use a slightly modified version of the hammerlock. Impact force is when the gloves come off, or in my case, go on. You have the right to defend yourself when the punches start flying. I have been in 14 brawls as a bouncer. There was an 80’s club I use to work for where the Irish football team and an Italian football team got into an all out brawl, bottles everywhere, broken noses, you name it. There were 20 of us, but we were still out numbered. The best course of action in this situation is to protect your employees, then the money, then the innocent patrons, than get the fight out to the streets and defend yourself at all times. When the police come, stop and have your story together if you happened to put someone to sleep. This is when defensive tactics come into your arsenal. My suggestion is that you get a good Reality Based Instructor in your area. I can spend time explaining moves here, but if you are reading this article, you have probably been exposed to some form of self defense. Deadly force, of course, is when a knife, gun, bat, or broken bottle, comes to play. For this article I will use the example of broken glass.
An edge weapon is easy created in nightclubs because bottles are everywhere. The odds of having to defending yourself against an edge weapon attack is very high. You will use the same techniques you would use to defend against a knife attack. Once you realize that the attacker is pursuing you and you feel yourself retreating to avoid getting stabbed or cut, you must make a conscious decision to step to the right or to the left allowing the attacker to move past you. This will create a sudden “pause in combat” and will buy you a half or a full second of time. This movement, the side step, is known as the Tactical “L.” The extra second that it takes for the attacker to change direction will, hopefully, be enough time to deploy your own weapon, or time enough to allow you to strike an incapacitating blow (such as a knee kick or eye gouge for real situations) if you are unarmed.
Be careful of what you say while on the job. Statements made in front of patrons or employee’s, such as, “I’m not in the mood today, whoever steps up to me is going get knocked out” or “I just finish watching the UFC, and I’m pumped” can one day be used against you in a court of law. The last thing you want to see is one of your fellow employees on the stand testifying against you. Remember that anything negative you say on the job can turn around and bite you one day. Everyone comes to work with baggage, but you have to learn to leave it at home. One thing I try to do is shed my skin like a snake when I get to work and leave my problems at the door. This is the same thing I do when I learn from different instructors, I go and learn without any pre-knowledge of what I know so I can absorb what they have to teach, and than, when it’s all done I evaluate what I can add to my arsenal and what I can’t.
Walking through a crowded room
When I walk through a packed club, I tend to walk through the crowd with my right arm at chest level holding a flashlight. (pic)
Alcohol to the face
When a patron splash a liquid substance i.e. alcohol, liquor, or something else, on you face, there is a sequence of three keys defenses you must use. These will help you to quicken your reaction time and to neutralize the threat. These 3 defenses are, Turn, Wipe, Counter.
Turn your initial response is instinctive: Close your eyes and turn your head. If you have enough time, your hands will rise to protect your face.
Wipe then step back and use your sleeves to wipe away the residue that would otherwise drip into your eyes. Wipe the left side of your face from your nose outward using your left biceps, and then use your right biceps to do the same on the other side. This action should take one to two seconds.
Counter now you must take countermeasures. These measures can range from a quick grab or chokehold to a full-blown attack. Find your targets quickly because you may have only a few seconds of visibility. This is the same method Jim Wagner teaches for a chemical attack to the face, except we don’t need the Decon action since alcohol is not a life threatens substance.
The Zone (between 2-4, tired, color conflict)
Fighting is 90% mental and 10% physical. You might have heard a different version of this slogan, but all agree that your mental state during a fight has a greater affect on the outcome than your physical ability. There are a few things you should consider in the training mentally for an altercation. The hours between 2:00am and 4:00am are the most dangerous for the bouncer. Your guard is down because you are tired or hungry, or you are thinking about going home. Whatever the reason, this is the time when most altercations occur. I know this by experience and the study of numerous cases. In reality based training we use the color code system, which has been adopted by the marines and by Jeff Cooper who stated in his book Principles of Personal Defense that the most important means of surviving a lethal confrontation is neither the weapon nor the martial skills. The primary tool is the combat mindset. I will attempt to put forth the color codes as we would use them in the bouncer community.
The Wagner Personal Safety Color-Coded System
1. Caution (Yellow)
2. Danger (Orange)
3. Conflict (Red)
Secure (White) – at this level you are in a secure area, when you first enter work, before your shift begins, and when you arrive through your door at home after work.
Caution (Yellow) – this is the level you should always be at when you are in public. You should be alert to your surroundings (people, escape routes, likely ambush sites, etc.), but you should not be overly paranoid.
Danger (Orange) – at this level you are exposed to possible danger and you are distinctly aware of it. This is the zone you must be in during your entire shift at work in the nightclub or bar. You don’t know if someone is approaching you to ask a question or to harm you because you kicked he or his friends out of the club at some time or another.
Conflict (Red) – this means that you are actually engaged in conflict or moments away from engagement. At this level your training and experience is what you will rely on to survive. This means all bets are off and the gloves come on. I literally put my cut resistant gloves on between the hours of 2:00 am and 4:00am.
After a conflict has taken place and it has been dealt with, your emotions run high and the adrenaline is still up. Be careful not to take it out on someone else who pats you on the shoulder or steps on your shoes. This is when I like to use a certain exercise called fight and write. The goal of this exercise is body control. To participate in this exercise, you will need 2 sheets of paper and 2 pens. Next, spar with one another for 20 seconds, than stop and quickly go to your paper and write a paragraph or your name about 15 times, than resume a 10 second fight. You will see how difficult it is to control your breathing and your heart beat. If you keep practicing this, you will eventually learn how to get your heart rate and breathing quickly back to normal. MMA fighters need to get this science down, so they can go move to the next round and fight.
How to Spot a Fake ID
Lets finish this article by discussing Fake ID’s. Fake ID’s are on the rise and it is getting more and more difficult to distinguish the fake from the real. There are a few things you can do to help spot a fake ID. Some of what I will tell you is just common sense, but I will tell you anyway just in case it helps to remind you.
When checking the person’s ID, look at the photo. In Jim Wagner’s Crime Survival class we teach this in helping to identify the criminal. A person can change hair color and shape, but the facial features never change (unless they get major constructive surgery). Also look at the Height and Weight; on the card. Does it match? Look for signs of tampering. Fuzzy numbers or letters, red eye in the photo or bumpy surfaces, rough edges, etc. Check the expiration date. A license with an expired date may signify it is a borrowed license as the original license holder may have given it away when it was no longer needed. In contrast, check for an ID, which is marked as a duplicate. This could indicate the original license holder may have requested a second license for someone to use. Watch the person who has the ID for signs of nervousness. Nervous body language such as darting eyes or fidgeting can signify it’s a fake. Ask questions that the card holder should know about what’s on the ID to see if there is a hesitation before the response. Ask the person for a second or even third form of ID if you are still unsure.
I got into the bouncer business a small man at 6′ 165lbs soaking wet and I wore glasses because I was blind as a bat. I remember my first day, I was getting looks by the other bouncers, thinking to themselves, what is he suppose to do to protect anyone. I was the bouncer that patrons often want to fight. If there was a 6’6, 270 pound bouncer and a 6′ 165 pound bouncer, who would you try to start a fight with? They soon found out why I was hired. I can handle all types of parties and crowds, from Hip-Hop to Techno from thugs to rowdy Europeans. I was fortunate enough to be taken under the wings of two of NY night club’s best known bouncers, Big Lou Vega, who taught me the rough and tough side of the business and Cliff Cooper, who taught me the smart side of the business.