Open Up!

For many people who hold jobs, starting the work day is pretty straight forward: walk into the office with a cup of coffee, start up the computer, read some emails, and kill time until the boss catches you or you actually have to start work. Guess what? Many people who work security in nightclubs and bars often take the same approach: walk in the door with your 5 hour energy drink, set-up some stanchions, and kill time until the boss catches you or a customer shows up.

Honestly, it is easy to see why security staffers often feel that they don’t need to do much upon arrival. They figure that since the bar manager has been in the establishment for at least a few hours, the bar is set up, music is going, and they know when the first rush of clients is going to arrive, why should they do any work?

Uhm, because it’s your job.

And the better prepared you are to do your job, the better off both you and your place of business will be. I hate to burst your laziness bubble, but I guarantee that there is plenty for you to do prior to starting your shift or opening.

1) Pre-Departure – Yeah, you should probably be ready for work before you leave the house. And part of that is getting yourself in the right mental state. Think about what day it is and what type of crowd you are expecting (depending on the day). Is it Thursday Night College Night or is it Mellow Jazz Lounge Sunday? You have to be paying attention either way but chances are that Mellow Jazz Lounge Sunday will be a bit less stressful and as such will allow you to work in a state of more “relaxed awareness”.

What are you wearing? Are your clothes clean? Shoes look decent? Do you have all of your gear? Gel insoles? Flashlight (how are the batteries)? Breath mints? Cell phone? Earpiece? Nothing sucks more than showing up missing equipment or needing to drive back home to grab something.

2) Arrival and Greetings – You should be arriving 10-15 minutes early, dressed, well groomed, and ready to go. Do you look like you just rolled out of bed? Take a minute or two at the car (or hey, here’s and idea: before you leave the house) to make sure you look presentable. Believe it or not, looking the part will lead to acting the part. And acting the part will lead to you actually doing your job.

Say hello to the bar/nightclub/lounge staff that you encounter on the way to the equipment room or office. It will give you an idea of who is working and they’ll know that another piece of the security pie has arrived.

3) Gear up – Head to the equipment room or office and get your radio or any other gear that your workplace provides. Put it on and test it before you leave the room! Nothing looks more unprofessional than an employee testing equipment in front of a bunch of Patrons.

4) Find your Head of Security/Manager/Supervisor – Ask them, “Are there any special events booked or guests that will be arriving during the night? What post will I be manning? Any special orders for the night? Guest lists? Special guest requests?” You’d be surprised at how often a manager will forget to tell you things. By asking, you not only help to jog their memory, but get yourself even more mentally prepared for the night to come. The last thing you want to hear at 10:15 is “Oh yeah, at 10:20 we have a party of 30 coming in.” Ask questions, it never hurts.

5) Prep the establishment – If you are the first one on, here is a good checklist to follow:

Doors – Are all exit doors secure and in working order? That means do they open and close.

Restrooms – Do the doors work? Toilets flush? Sinks work? Many times YOU are the one that will have to deal with restroom issues. It makes sense to check them ahead of time and save yourself some possible aggravation.

Hallways,Stairs, and Walkways – Are they free of debris/trashcans/furniture? Make sure people can get around without climbing over or around things.

Front Door Check – If you are working the Front, do you have everything you will need? Make sure you have stanchions, ID books, count clickers, Nightly Report binders, and anything else your establishment uses at the Front Door.

Set-up – Any stanchions, tables, cash registers, ropes, chairs, etc. that you will use during the course of the evening. Have these prepped and ready BEFORE the crowds arrive. Otherwise you will have a logistical nightmare on your hands.

Briefing – Get together with the rest of the security team and your Head of Security or Manager and find out what else is going on that evening. This not only gets everyone on the same page, but finalizes your prep.

Now…you’re mentally prepared, your equipment is set, and you can really start your night. Take a deep breath and get to it!

Until next time…

The Best Martial Arts for Bouncers

Sorry for the delay in posting kids, but the last week was all about recovering from a weekend which consisted of many hours in a doorway conversing with individuals experiencing severely technical difficulties. In other words: dealing with drunks.

But on to the subject at hand…

Martial Arts for Bouncers

I have yet to work a job in Nightclub Security where the question, “So, where do you train?” didn’t rear its ugly head. Most bouncers know how to fight and the good ones (in terms of defending themselves) are either seasoned street fighters, have a background in martial arts or train regulary in some type of martial art. And as the testosterone flows, discussions of which style you train in and where you train inevitably crop up. For the record, I’m not an advocate of any style of martial art. If it gets you out of a sticky situation (which, had you been keeping cool and trying to defuse probably wouldn’t have occurred to begin with), I don’t care if you study Aikido or Break-A-Chair-Over-Your-Head-Fu. When self-defense comes into the equation, whatever works, works.

There are definite questions as to which type of self defense or martial arts training works best in a nightclub environment. And in turn, which type of self defense works best for you and your body type. Let’s take a look at the more prevalent styles and how they can ALL be beneficial (or detrimental) in some way or other. And for you blowhards out there who insist that your style is the best, try to open your minds a bit.

BOXING – Everyone should know how to box. And I mean everyone. Boxing teaches you footwork (which will get you out of the way), defense against head strikes (so you don’t get hit in the melon and fall down), and how to punch properly (which I hope you aren’t doing to Patrons unless it’s in self-defense.) Boxing is also great because you will get hit A LOT before you learn how not to get hit and believe it or not, this is EXTREMELY important.

Most people have never been hit in the head or body. When it happens for the first time, it can be such a shock that it will literally freeze them in their tracks. At which point they continue to get hit and well, lights out. Boxing will teach you how to take a shot, return a shot, or move away from the shot. The downside? A lot of people will try to tackle you when they are desperate or are losing a fight and boxing teaches you nothing about fighting on the ground.

BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU – Most bouncers these days are trained in BJJ, because it has become easily accessible and very popular over the past 10 years. It is also a component of most gyms that train in Mixed Martial Arts, which is where most bouncers train. Not only does BJJ help you think (it is a lot more mentally taxing than many people realize), it helps you defend against people trying to take you to the ground, or if you’re on the ground, gain the upper hand. And it works. It works great…

…until you are on the ground choking someone out and their friends decide to kick you in the head.

I call BJJ the best and worst martial art for Nightclubs. BJJ works wonders for controlling and submitting people, and much like Boxing, I think it ground fighting is a skill everyone should learn. But let’s face the facts: the ground is an INCREDIBLY dangerous place to be in an altercation. Not only are you exposed to whatever is on the ground (broken glass, dirt, whatever), but you are vulnerable to attack by anyone and everyone. By all means learn to defend yourself on the ground, but remember that once you are down there, you want to get up as quickly as possible.

KARATE/KUNG-FU – For years, Karate and Kung-Fu were the Holy Grails of martial arts. And in most places in the world they still are. Let’s face it, you don’t stick around as a martial art for several hundred (or thousands) or years without being effective in some way. And for the Boxers or BJJ practitioners who laugh at Karate or Kung-Fu, you’ve obviously never been kicked by a strong Kenpo practitioner or been hit multiple times by a Wing Chun specialist. Karatekas (yes, that is a word) are damn strong if trained correctly and an experienced Kung-Fu student’s hand are extremely sensitive and extremely fast.

That being said, these martial arts are no longer trained (at least in the United States) with the intensity and brutality that they once were. The sparring in Karate has turned into a sport system: one hit, one point, back to your corners, which trains you to hit once and back away…not good in a street fight. And the overblown mysticism and film portrayal of Kung-Fu has lead many a student to believe that they can take on multiple opponents with fancy moves.

The reality of street fights tends to be an adrenaline filled mess with little or no time to think of form or sweet moves. So while these arts ARE valid, you had better be training hard and realistically for them to work.

MUAY THAI KICKBOXING – The Art of Eight Limbs is DEVASTATING. It has an amazing defense system and will make you mobile. Offensively, a well-place elbow or knee shot is pretty much a fight ender. Muay Thai teaches you how to move and strike with brutal efficiency. If you can find a good Muay Thai gym, join it. But be prepared to be put through the ringer and come out the other side a solid fighter.

Unfortunately, Muay Thai has been extremely diluted in the U.S. and is mostly taught as cardio-kickboxing which will do nothing to help you in a fight. And much like its cousin Boxing, Muay Thai kickboxing does not help you on the ground. It is also really hard to kick someone on slippery, wet, muddy, or icy ground which puts you at a huge disadvantage in many places.

JEET KUNE DO – If you don’t  know, this is Bruce Lee’s fighting system/philosophy on fighting. Basically an all-encompassing approach to fighting that focuses on different ‘tools’ for different situations. And it allows its practitioners the ability to use  what works best for them and modify it to a fighting situation. Great because it teaches you how to fight in different ways and adapt to works best for you. Not great because it allows you to fight in different ways without focusing on one particular way. Many call it’s practitioners “Jacks of all trades, masters of none.”

JKD is great because it will give you a base knowledge of kicking, punching, grappling. The other bonus is its focus on realistic fighting and training scenarios. It is not so great because it you will not out-box a Boxer, out-kick a Kicker, or out-grapple a Grappler. And mostly because you are NOT Bruce Lee

ESKRIMA/KALI – The Filipino art of sticks, knives, and empty hand work. Efficient, brutal, deadly. It’s practitioners are dangerous people who know strange and unusual ways to kill you. Great system to learn how to defend against weapons, which makes it distinctly suitable for a bar environment. The issues? You can’t carry a stick with you everywhere and a knife should really only be used in a life or death situation. Another problem is that most people don’t train with weapons on a regular basis and the reality of a fight (either armed or unarmed) will often lock you up and help you to forget that you even have one.

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS – First off, not a martial arts system, but a training methodology. Much like JKD, a solid way to learn how to defend yourself, move around, and get in good shots. Excellent cardio training and great for your brain. MMA’s biggest drawback is that fighters are trained for the ring, not the street. There are no bells, cornermen, or rules in a street fight. And you don’t want to find this out the hard way, which is what usually happens to MMA fighters in the real world.

MMA will get you into shape, but it won’t prepare you for a dark bar and some drunks.

KRAV MAGA – Deadly and efficient. There is a reason it is taught to soldiers and civilians alike: it works and works well. The pros: it is deadly and efficient. The cons: if someone grabs you by the collar, your first instinct should not be to rip out their throat. Krav Maga people tend to look at the world in black and white, and unfortunately the real world of self defense is one of gray. Amazing system of defense, but you have to train hard to learn how to scale back your violence level.

STREET FIGHTING – This is not a martial arts style. It is a life choice, and a stupid one at that. If you are a good street fighter, chances are you have a record of assault and battery charges or are just an idiot who likes to get into fights. Either way, there is nothing productive or positive about what you are doing. If you’re lucky you will end up the hospital. If you’re unlucky, you’ll end up dead or in prison. If you aren’t a street fighter, don’t aim to become one.

CONCLUSION – Everything works, except the street fighting part. Learn the basics: punch, kick, defend. Each style will teach you how to do all three. It is up to you to find the style that works for you and train it in as realistic a manner as possible. Realistic training means hard sparring and reality-based drills. If you aren’t working up a sweat, you aren’t training hard. But if you are training hard in any style, you will be able to defend yourself. Maybe not in every single one of a million different scenarios, but well enough to get you home in one piece.

When looking for a place to train, ask them what their training and sparring is like, watch a class, and take part in a class. Don’t worry about obtaining a belt. As it’s been said, “Belts are made to hold your pants up.” Your martial arts studio should be open to the public, teach people from any background, and hold seminars that cover a variety of subjects. They should be focusing on you learning how to defend yourself and fight, not on how quickly you are moving up in the belt rankings.  They should also be focusing on how to avoid fights when necessary and what techniques to use in less-than-lethal situations.

Again, the key word is DEFENSE. Not how cool you look in your uniform, not how tough you think you are, and certainly not how loud you can yell “Hiiiiiiiiii-ya!!!!”

Until next time…

Language and Etiquette

Seeing as today begins one of the craziest weekends of nightclub work in my hometown, I thought it only fitting to discuss two of the most overlooked aspects of the working security: how you talk and how you act towards Patrons. Much of the discussion that we have here does focus on customer service, but these Language and Etiquette hold their own special place in the bouncer skill set. Do you talk to a Biker the same way you talk to a Business Owner? For whom would you open a door in a nightclub? And who leads the way down a hallway? Let’s find out, shall we?

Though it sounds like lip service, every customer in any type of nightclub/bar establishment deserves the same level of respect. Whether biker, banker, or bum, the language that you use for each individual should not vary. While smiles and nods can go a long way, what you say when you smile and nod can mean the difference between a physical ejection and an intoxicated Patron leaving of their own accord. The reason is very simple: people react positively when they are talked to in a positive manner. And we are ALWAYS looking for the positive reaction in this line of work.

So, before we dive into the meat of the matter, here are some appetizers:

1)    BE POLITE – A smile and a word of greeting can do wonders! Keep your tone friendly at all times. IF necessary to be firm, be firm but POLITE.

2)    THINK FIRST, THEN TALK – A rushed answer can often cause more problems. Make sure you know the correct answer before giving it.

3)    BE HONEST – If a Patron has a question you cannot answer, LET THEM KNOW. You can then try to get the right answer or find the right solution to their problem.

4) FIRST IMPRESSIONS CREATE LASTING IMPRESSIONS – A positive attitude should be the first and last thing a Patron encounters.


  • Women are to be addressed as “Miss. IF you are positive that a woman is OVER 50, you may address her as “Ma’am”. It is better to have a female Patron joke about no longer being a “Miss” than it is to have her upset about being called “Ma’am”.
  • Men are to be addressed as “Sir”. It doesn’t matter how they are dressed, who they are with, or what you think their background is, men are always “Sirs”. If possible, addressing a man by surname is preferable, “Mr. Jones, could I speak to you for a moment?”
  • Groups of women are to be addressed as “Ladies”. NEVER address a group of women (or men for that matter) as “Guys”. It is rude, sexist, and depending on your environment can be insulting. “We” and “Everyone” are acceptable substitutes, as in “How are we all doing tonight?” or “How is everyone doing tonight?”. You may be able to get away with “Folks”, depending on the nightclub/bar environment.

The key is always to make the individual(s) being addressed feel respected and noticed. Again, smiles and nods can go a long way. I know some of you are saying, “Dude, I work in a college/biker/dive bar. That’s just stupid. The customers don’t care what I call them.” Wrong. You show them respect and they will hopefully return it. If they don’t return it, continue to show them respect. And if they continue to disrespect you? Well, that’s for another post.

Everyone likes to feel welcome. Remember Norm from Cheers (or am I just dating myself)? There is nothing like a warm greeting to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Or at least get your attention. I’ll let you in on a secret: a proper greeting serves not only as a welcome but as great gauge of a Patron’s demeanor. If you give someone a warm hello and they blow you off, throw you a dirty look, or are just plain rude, it’s a red flag that this particular Patron may be someone to watch or at least note as they walk through the bar.


Here are some Golden Oldies from the Etiquette World, and yes they are still valid in this day and age!

  • Good evening
  • Good night
  • How may I be of assistance/How can I help
  • Thank you
  • You’re welcome
  • Excuse me
  • Pardon me
  • Please

Doorman, Floormen, and Roamers should take care to speak in an even tone of voice and refrain from cursing (that means don’t curse at all). Keep it classy.


Clubs can be crowded places, often with narrow hallways and doorways that seem to small to fit the average human. That is why it is important for you as a security staffer to know how to work your way through the environment. Knocking over a drink (or a Patron) can lead to so many different nightmare scenarios that it is easier to just describe how NOT TO:

  • Need to get through the crowd? Don’t muscle, lead with a hand. If you have to move chairs or stools, lead with a hand or your butt, NOT THE CHAIR. Better yet, have someone clear and light the way with a flashlight while you move the chair.
  • Hold doors open for Patrons when necessary. That means opening the door and standing to one side.
  • Never block hallway or doorway access. Stand to one side or far enough in front of the doorway that people have clearance to get past you.
  • Stand aside for customers who are entering or exiting doorways or are in the hallway. I see this A LOT in newer security staffers. They always move into the path of an incoming Patron and try to move past them. STOP! Let the Patron pass you.
  • Unless you are leading a Patron to a location (i.e. bathroom, cabana, booth), let them lead the way while you follow. Unless you are leading a Patron to a location, they always have the right of way.

You want to be as unobstrusive as possible while remaining visible. This is the Patron’s nightclub to enjoy and you running into them with chairs or blundering down the hall is not going to make their visit a pleasant one.


You can’t like everyone, and not everyone likes you. But when working as a security team, it is important to let petty differences or annoyances aside and work together. The guy you hate may save you from getting stabbed…hopefully. So treat your co-workers with respect, don’t try to one up each other (especially on the job, it’s just embarassing), and watch each other’s backs. Some more things to remember:

  • Remember the “no cursing” thing? In the same vein, not all topics of are suitable for discussion, especially in a low volume club where Patrons can hear you. Don’t embarrass yourself or your colleagues by discussing inappropriate or personal topics and resist the temptation to gossip about other members of staff.
  • Put down the cellphone. You are not a brain surgeon on call or a financial investor that needs to check  the opening numbers on the Singapore stock exchange. Keep your work life and private life separate as much as possible, and this includes limiting your personal calls. Besides which, if you’re talking, you’re not watching the bar.
  • Support your workmates and they will do the same for you. If you can see someone is particularly busy or stressed there may be some way you can help without affecting your own workload too much. That means helping the Doorman clear the sidewalk, picking up glasses the Roamers missed, and bringing the Static Posts some water!
  • Give your c0-workers credit where credit is  due. NEVER take credit for something that wasn’t your idea. Sooner or later you’ll get called out and then you’ll just look stupid.
  • Put some time into your relationships with colleagues. Sure, we all work nights and have crazy schedules but that doesn’t mean you can’t give up an evening for some drinks or go out for lunch together once in a while. This kind of networking will not only build friendships, but could help you find work someday!
  • Treat all co-workers with courtesy, irrespective of hierarchy. Low man on the totem won’t be there forever.


You might hate him or love him, but either way he’s cutting the checks. Navigating Boss Land can be difficult and touchy, but if you remember the basics, you should be fine. Know your boundaries. Your boss is always your boss, no matter how well you get along or how much they value your opinion.

  • ALWAYS remain professional and remember that they are in a position of seniority to you. Even the bar managers and owners I know on a first name basis, I try to address my their surname. It’s a respect thing They want yours (even if you feel they don’t deserve it) and you will get theirs by acting right and doing your job.
  • Make it personal. Ask about their lives once in a while. It’s o.k., they’re human. Just keep it within polite parameters.
  • Try not to be a smart ass. A snarky comment could be taken as witty repartee or it could get you taken off the schedule. Approach joking and sarcasm with caution.
  • If a crisis occurs, stay calm and ride it out. Then share it with the boss. You were  hired to provide solutions, so prove that you can.

A ton of stuff for this post, but I have a busy weekend ahead. To all my local staffers, be careful, stay hydrated, be patient, and above all else: BE SAFE!

Everyone else…we’ll see ya next time!