To Fight or Not To Fight?

Actually, the answer to this particular question is simple: you should never fight. I suppose some clarification is needed. If you as a Security Staffer instigate a fight or start a fight yourself, you’ve failed at your job. There is no reason why you should get a Patron so upset that they take a swing at you and vice-versa.

But this does raise an interesting conundrum: if you are never supposed to get into a fight, do you need really need to know HOW to fight?

There are two answers: Yes and No.

Now that you are thoroughly confused, let’s break things down a bit.


We’ll start with the answer that most Security Staffers will scoff at. “That’s ridiculous!”, they’ll say, “If I can’t fight, what’s the point of working Security?” To begin with, if you are interested in working Nightclub Security to get into fights, you’re not a particularly smart individual. Fighting will not only get you and your workplace sued, but could result in serious injury to Patrons, and yes, you. Don’t believe me? Google “Bouncer arrested”  or “Bounder sued” and enjoy one of the millions of links that pops up.

Unfortunately, most Security Staffers have a fairly high opinion of themselves in regards to fighting. Guess what? You are neither Mohammed Ali nor Bruce Lee. You don’t have the strength of Mike Tyson or speed of Georges St. Pierre. And that is just a fact. Regardless of your “fighting skills” (insert eye-roll here), reality and the law of averages are continuously working against you in a fight. The person you are fighting could have friends, you could slip and fall, or surprise, surprise: you decide to pick a fight with a trained fighter.

I’ll take a moment to relay story. Several years ago, a BJJ brown belt entered a local bar. After a few drinks, he got into a war of words with another patron and they “took it outside”. Well, the brown belt took his adversary to the ground and applied a nice rear naked choke…only to be kicked in the head by his adversary’s three friends. He was then beaten unconscious and ended up in the hospital. So much for fighting skills. This story is not meant to disparage BJJ or even infer that the man fighting wasn’t well-trained. But it does illustrate that there are many other factors at work during a confrontation.

What will cover your behind 95% of the time as a Security Staffer will be your observational abilities, critical thinking, and non-violent conflict resolution skills. If you can’t notice an intoxicated Patron, decide if an individual needs to be asked to leave, or break up a fight in the initial stages, you need to bone up on your skills! First and foremost, spend more time with more senior Security Staffers. See how they relate to Patrons, ask them how they handle altercations, and have them critique you when you are on the job.

I highly recommend the book: ‘Verbal Judo: The GentleArt of Persuasion’ to anyone working Security. Dr. Thompson does a great job of breaking down how to remain calm in a tense situation, defusing anger from others, and give small tricks to “derail” angry individuals. A good read and incredibly helpful.

And finally, assess why you work in the field of Nightclub Security. IF you do it for the fights, I wish you luck, because it is going to run out sooner or later.

If you are a good talker, a good observer, and a good conflict resolver, there is a very good chance that you will  never have to raise a fist in anger or in defense. Any Nightclub Security Staffer worth his salt knows that avoiding conflict is the only way to get home in one piece.


On the other side of the coin is the reality of the Nightclub workplace. Patrons get intoxicated, tempers flare, and fights start. Alcohol’s effect on people is totally unpredictable. The two best friends who were doing shots together 30 minutes ago are suddenly punching each other. A girlfriend has gotten angry at her boyfriend and slapped him in the face. Someone has bumped someone else and fists start flying.  It happens and usually YOU are in the middle of it.

Everyone needs to know how to defend themselves. Period. Whether you are a 10 year school girl or an 80 year old man, you should know some basic defensive moves. In an earlier post we discussed the Best Martial Arts for Bouncers, and the conclusion was: choose what works for you. As my martial arts instructor once told me, “The best defense in a fight is a good pair of running shoes and an exit.”

No matter how good you are at talking, sooner or later you will have to insert yourself into an altercation. Whether breaking up a fight or separating two individuals who are about to throw down, you need to know how to physically intervene in these situations. More often than not, when a fight is broken up the combatants continue to swing and will turn on YOU. And it is a this point that your ability to protect yourself will come into play and could save your life.

Security Staffers do need to know how to defend themselves. Notice I said defend and not fight. Fighting involves two participants generally both agreeing to go toe to toe with one hoping for a victory. There is no reason for you as a Security Staffer to willingly enter (or start) a physical altercation. Even in cases where you need to break up a fight, you should be separating and restraining the combatants, not throwing blows. But you do need to protect yourself from the blows that may come your way. Just remember that the second you start swinging your fists, you become the aggressor and that is a problem.

So as you can see, there is no cut and dry answer to the question of whether or not one should know how to fight. In a perfect world, all conflicts and issues would be resolved with a calm demeanor and a little conversation. But the Nightclub environment with its mix of alcohol, adrenaline, intoxication, and testosterone can produce physical altercations. Know how to observe and talk, but be prepared to defend yourself at all times.

Until next time, stay safe.

Nightclub Security Positions (Part 5) – Head of Security

The Big Cheese. El Jefe

The Top Banana. Big Boss Man.

Numero Uno. The Chief.

You can call the person at the top what you will, but the responsibility list is long and detailed regardless of title. Most people think of the Head of Security (HOS) in a nightclub or bar as being the biggest, baddest, most dangerous individual in the crew. The person who can step in to pick up the pieces when things have completely fallen apart.

And in some regards this is true. The Head of Security does need to know the most and be able to handle just about any situation. Both more often than not, especially in today’s overly litigious society, being the biggest and the toughest can be a liability if you can’t first start with diplomacy and conversation. Let’s take a look at the responsibilities and chief concerns of the Head of Security.

Your “chief of staff’ must have knowledge of all pertinent Roamer, Floorman, Door Out, Doorman, responsibilities. That means they know how to do it all, from picking up glasses to escorting troublemakers. In order for the Head of Security to be an efficient member of the team they must be proficient in every aspect of security.

Formulation and implementation of  Security Staff Policies and Procedures is one of the keys to the HOS position. The HOS should meet with the Bar Manager(s) and Owners on a regular basis to go over policies and procedures and continuously re-examine existing policy to find gaps and flaws. These meetings are also a good opportunity to voice any concerns, go over upcoming events, and review recent incidents, events, issues.

HOS should also be in charge of interviewing and hiring potential Security Staff candidates, and conducting their initial walkthroughs and training. A disinterested HOS sets a bad example for a Staff. Your new Staffers need to know not only who the HOS is, but that they can look to him/her for direction and guidance. It is important that your HOS feel as comfortable talking to Staff and Management as they are talking to Patrons. Communication is extremely important to this position.

Job performance and disciplinary reviews also fall under the cloak of HOS responsibility. This set of responsibilities places the HOS as liaison between Staff and Management. This bridge between the two “cultures” is important as it helps to not only diffuse any tensions, but allows for more easily mediated conversation if there are problems or concerns. And while Management is often involved, HOS should be the individual talking to Security Staffers regarding their job performance. And while it is uncomfortable to discipline Security Staff, HOS must be directly involved in not only any disciplinary action, but in explaining to the employee why the action was taken.


The HOS should be one of the first to arrive on busy nights and one of the earlier arrivals on a regular night. This is to not only ensure adequate security (after all this individual should technically be able to run the place single handed, right?) but to take care of any pressing concerns for the upcoming night. Upon arrival, it is key that the HOS check in with his Staffers and Management as soon as possible. If posts for Staff are not set, HOS can then take the time to assign them or call for extra Staff should the evening require them.

HOS should be constantly roaming the establishment. (As a matter of fact, HOS Staffers are sometimes referred to as “Super Roamers”) They need to continuously check-in with Bartenders, Servers, Security Staff, Management, and every position that might have issues or concerns. A weak HOS spends their time locked in an office or schmoozing Patrons instead of actually making sure things are running well. The HOS needs to be prepared to insert themselves into any incident, complaint, or altercation scenario. More often than not, the appearance of the HOS will ratchet up the importance of any situation. Patrons know that things are now being handled by Management, not “just a guy in a security shirt”. 90% of the time this will diffuse tense situations, especially if the HOS is level-headed and talks to the Patrons in a calm, collected manner.

As the night progresses, the HOS must also be prepared to meet and greet Law Enforcement (for club walkthroughs or complaints), help the VIP Host with any VIP security needs, and if necessary, fill in any empty Staffer positions. And as if this wasn’t enough, the HOS should also be watching Patrons for misbehavior and excessive intoxication!

Post-shift, it is important for the HOS to meet with Security Staff and Management. Security Staff meetings do not need to be long, but the HOS must find out how the night went, if there were any incidents that were not reported, and most important: HOW THE STAFF IS DOING! This is the only time that the HOS can really get the low down from their Staff and they should make the most of it. They should also take this chance to let the Staff  know of upcoming events, schedule changes, notes from the night, etc. Once they are finished with Staff, they need a quick de-brief with Management to get/give even more information. After these end-of-night meetings, the HOS can then focus on any outstanding Incident Reports, paperwork, or Scheduling issues.

Being Head of Security is an extremely difficult balancing act. It is equal parts customer service, diplomacy, politics, and security. Your HOS needs to know when to step in to a situation and when to let the Staff handle it. The HOS must rely on training and brains first, for if they do not, disaster will surely ensue. Make sure that your HOS is level-headed and patient. Make sure they hold the safety and security concerns of your establishment as their main areas of interest, not meeting girls and being a tough guy. They must also remember that they are a member of a team, not a Lone Wolf out to protect their own interests. A team with a competent and fair leader will keep you protected all the time, every day.

Until next time…