Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | December 28, 2009

Pope Attack: Bodyguard Techniques

As I watched the Pope being dragged to the ground, I watched intently to see how the bodyguard reacted and what technique he used to take down the attacker. I am not a professional bodyguard and I have no “right” to critique the bodyguard, but here are my observations. The bodyguard was too late. Is this because he was too far away from the Pope to offer real protection? He should have been able to intercept the person, whereas in this video, it appears he had to grab the woman from behind. He also seemed hesitant, like he felt he would be able to take her down by just pulling on her arms. His reaction should have been swifter and harder.

I’ve been thinking about takedown techniques if I were in that situation. I never played football in high school, but I think a good old fashioned football tackle would be appropriate here. I’ve also been running some tai chi techniques in my head, and most of my visualizations in this situation would involve some kind of clothesline take down, wrapping up the person’s neck or grabbing their head or hair to twist them down.

In a situation like this, it seems to me you want to take the person down fast and hard, get in close, intercept, and slam them down. Tai chi body mechanics would work well, but I think you have to encorporate them with some other violent technique–really just following through in the highest sense of tai chi and bring them down–using techniques like slant flying or brushknee twiststep in a grappling way to tie up your opponent and bring them down, fast. But in this latest case with the Pope, a good old fasjioned football tackle would have worked very well.


  1. Hey Neal, thanks for commenting. Again, I don’t want to second guess the poor guy, but, yeah, I think grabbing someone by the neck and directing them down is the way, as long as you’re there in time. I mentioned to another commentator that it is a mix of being no mind, or wu wei, and total mindfulness and awareness.

  2. Where was the Popemobile?! Perhaps the Pope took exception to Bill Hick’s sarcastic observation of the Popemobile being a sign of “faith in action”.

    You are both right, the bodyguard appeared to be too late in his reaction. He probably wasn’t expecting it, though his job is too expect these things, right?

    Going on my bouncing experience I probably would have grabbed the assailant by the neck and dragged her to the ground, stopping her in her tracks. Who knows how you’d react unless you were there.

    Good site, by the way. Interesting stuff.

  3. Hi Mike,

    By the way I added a like to your website… I generally add all interesting sites I find.


    • Cool. Thanks John. I’ve liked your site for a while because you have the real life experience to back up what you say. My tai chi, while very martially oriented, is still in the realm of philosophy and theory as I have not been in the situation to use it in real life. So, when I see real life situations playing out, I contemplate how effective what I know would be, In many cases, I feel very confident, but there are some situations in which I’m not sure. My level of awareness and level of skill makes me think, yes, I could have taken down the woman in the red sweater headed for the Pope. If it was a 250 pound bodybuilder, I’m not so sure… Anyway, let’s here it for the good old american body tackle!

  4. Hi Mike,

    I saw this story on the news and learned that apparently this was the second attack from this person.

    Being a body guard is a hard job. I briefly did that but at the time in my youth, I would have punched or kicked the person out rather than try to grapple (I was probably a poor body guard).

    My rational would have nothing to do with laws or appearances but rather knowing if I went to the ground – I could only handle one attacker at a time.

    You are right on with your critique about the bodyguard was too far away. Some ways to fix this might have been to have more guards or less exposure (farther fences).

    If I were to grapple with someone, there is nothing quite as effective as a tackle if they are not trying to avoid you but rather they are focused on a target.

    It does not matter the martial art one applies so long as they use workable techniques.

    Great post!

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