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Lifeforce and The Swallow

by Bob Duggan

If you have an interest in using your martial arts experience professionally, go to EXECUTIVE SECURITY INTERNATIONAL, LTD.

ESI is the oldest training academy in the United States that offers Certification or an Associate Degree in personal protection, investigation and intelligence operations.

The following article is by Bob Duggan, founder of ESI and the first American student to study the art of Hwa Rang Do.

Origins and Inspiration

When I first learned the legendary stories about the ancient Hwa Rang in Korea, I thought that Hwa Rang Do could serve as a model to emulate in this century. Hwa Rang Do was an institution of young men who were selected from the aristocratic families, trained in the fine arts as well as the martial arts to defend the nation and the culture of the clans. The Hwa Rang was the precursor of the European Renaissance Man. As a member of the privileged aristocratic class, the Hwa Rang were trained in literary arts: poetry, music and Buddhism. For more than a thousand years Hwa Rang literature dominated Korean education and culture. But these were perilous times that required dedicated and skilled warriors, so, the Hwa Rang were also trained in all the modes of combat: archery, swordsmanship, empty hand combat.

In modern times, there is no equivalent of this unique institution. There is no school or academy that trains a 21st Century bodyguard in the tradition of a liberal arts education that would train disciples in a comprehensive martial arts system as well as history, philosophy, science and spiritual disciplines as well as prepare graduates to be the most highly trained security specialists in the world.

Executive Security International, Ltd.

When I founded Executive Security International, Ltd., my goal was to establish a training academy that would merit the respect and recognition of professionals working in the field of personal protection. I formed ESI as a corporation in 1980 with the intent of establishing the rudimentary elements of just such an institution as the Hwa Rang.

Yet, I must concede that ESI remains an academy for specialist, focused on the narrow goals of providing its students skills of the personal protection trade, not a broad base education. Even its martial arts training which I designed is meant to serve a narrow purpose of teaching specific skills on the assumption that ESI students already have a base in the martial arts. Time and money are the major factors which limit the feasibility of launching a liberal arts college for Bodyguards. Tuition for such an academy could easily cost 20 to 30 thousand dollars per year. This is a daunting sum that most students who might want to pursue a career as a highly trained Bodyguard.

Guarding the President


ESI is celebrating its sixteenth year as a training academy. We offer an unique program of sixty-eight college credits leading towards an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice with a major in personal protection, intelligence operations and investigation. ESI is the only institution of its type that has had its curriculum in these special areas approved by a committee of peers by a national accrediting agency and a state commission of higher education. ESI is currently developing the third and fourth year curriculum that will lead to a Bachelors of Arts Degree with an emphasis on security management, audio countermeasures, casino gambling, and fraud investigation.

The concept of ESI originated from the Aspen Academy of Martial Arts that was founded in 1973 by the late Marshall Ho'o, Bob Bishop, Thomas Crum, and myself. The Aspen Academy operated for a decade as a martial arts institution that attracted the finest exponents of Asian and Western martial arts with teachers like Dan Inosanto, Koichi Tohei, Joo Bang Lee, Fred Degerberg, Mitz Yamashata and John Clodig. They came to train students in a nonsectarian atmosphere and a fraternal regard for the contribution that each art made to the students.

While the Aspen Academy was an important bridge between martial artists of many different persuasions, it did not have as its central purpose the application of martial arts skills to the professional world. On a personal level, I was hired by several clients in the U.S. and Mexico to provide protection largely based upon my martial arts experience. However, internally I felt inadequate for the responsibility. Even though I was the first American to study the Korean art of Hwa Rang Do under the Grand Masters, Joo Sang Lee and Joo Bang Lee, there was something missing. Indelibly imprinted in my mind was the belief that the ancient Hwa Rang warriorpriest was the archetype of the modern Bodyguard, but that neither the Academy nor the martial arts training provided the a sufficient basis to function on a professional level. It was this idea that lead to the creation of ESI in 1980.

What was lacking in this ancient model was modernization, and an institution that trained professionals in the latest body of knowledge and the most advanced technology. As a result of working in the personal protection field, I knew that a professional bodyguard had to know more than just martial arts, handguns, and how to walk in a diamond formation. He or she must know people, how to read their behavior, their facial expressions and body gestures. He or she must know how to create the sense of security for the client which means anticipation of trouble and how to manage it in advance. For the professionals in the personal protection business, resorting to martial arts or a weapon means that they have failed to do the job right from the start.

Knowing that the contemporary Samurai/Hwa Rang was going to need a broad base of skills and resources, ESI not only had to offer classes in Tactical Combat Shooting, Executive Protection Driving, and Bomb Search & Identification, but must develop courses in Behavioral Psychology, Electronic Security with an emphasis on audio countermeasures as well as perimeter security, First Respondent Medicine, and Social Relationships & Manners.

As we developed the academic refinement of our modern Samurai/Hwa Rang, we were compelled to invent much of our own material. For example, Psychology, as taught in the universities, is directed at psychological analysis and personalty archetypes. We, on the other hand, are focused on detecting the specific behaviors of an emotionally deranged person, or the facial expressions or body language of the predator in a crowd who is about to launch an attack. My initial efforts to recruit teachers who understood the difference was a complete failure. I remember my first two instructors, who were from the University of Chicago, taught our course in Observational Psychology; they spent the entire day discussing the sexual proclivities of paraplegics. I pondered over this massive misunderstanding of our purpose and concluded that most of academia had no clue to the needs of our profession.

We were interested in predicting or anticipating aggression; they were on a different planet. A few years later, I identified one university professor, Dr. Paul Ekman, who spent thirty years studying the relationship between facial expressions and primary emotions. He wrote two books, "Unmasking the Face" and "Telling Lies," that focused on observable behaviors of facial expressions as the road map to concealed emotions. Ekman's book, "Telling Lies", applied this information to detection of deception. We adopted both books as training manuals in our Home Study section of the six hundred hour program on Executive Protection and later shifted them into the Advanced Investigation Program.

But there was still a large void....namely, dangerousness and its prediction when it counts. For some years prior to establishing ESI, I developed interest in the precursors to violence of the assassin; that is to say, the Tells or Clues to Dangerousness which precede the act of violence. After the attempt on the life of President Reagan, I noticed a photograph of John Hinckley in Time Magazine moments before he fired the fateful shots that wounded the President. His face was contorted in an expression of worry and anger. The crowd of reporters surrounding him were all smiling in response to some cynical humor that the photographer uttered to them. Hinckley was clearly out of sync with the mood of the crowd. My contention was then, and is now, that the failure to protect the President was the failure to observe the "Tells" or the Clues to Dangerousness at that instant.

The Secret Service Agent who tackled Hinckley did so in two seconds after the first shot was fired. It was an extraordinary performance, but it was still too late. Hinckley emptied his gun in 1.8 seconds and hit somebody with every shot, including the President. Reaction is simply not fast enough to overcome the assault that is launched first. No matter how skillful one's martial arts or combat shooting abilities, the aggressor will always win, if he or she is first to act. Not to mention the enormous liability of firing into a crowd will in all probability result in the death of a lot of innocents. There are some personal protection schools that believe in the "Spray and Pray" philosophy. I ran across this strategy in Mexico where there are several international training organizations competing with ESI fortraining contracts, and at least one of them believed in a battlefield protocol for executive protection which literally means firing "down range" until the weapon is empty. Hitting the target is not a high priority.

Where this philosophy was applied several years ago in protecting President Ozal of Turkey, six bodyguards emptied their autoloaders in the general direction of the assassin, killed ten innocents in the crowd and injured fifty others in the stampede to escape the fusillade. They never did hit the wouldbe assassin. He was finally kicked into unconsciousness. Of course, that could only be done after the "Pray and Sprayers" had emptied their weapons.


The choice of a school philosophy is perhaps the single most important criteria that determines whether the school survives over the long haul. At the time I started ESI, in the early 1980's there were a number of "Survivalist" schools that offered instruction in Paramilitary training, "AntiTerrorism", "Hostage Rescue" and "Personal Protection". Few, if any, of these schools exist today. There are numerous reasons why any business fails, but the one trait they all shared was a selfconcept of paramilitary adventurers. Since the concept of Executive Protection has nothing to do with guys dressed in camouflage or "SWAT NINJAs", students realized that these were fantasy adventures and spent their money accordingly. ESI adopted a sharply different self-concept modeled after the U.S. Secret Service...I chose key staff of instructors from Secret Service, and the school preached a protection philosophy that corresponded to the Secret Service's outlook:

The first principle of this philosophy is prevention and avoidance;
Second principle is, if all else fails, "cover and evacuate;"
Third principle, intelligence collection and countersurveillance can not be underestimated.

These LATTER two skills far outweigh the importance of martial arts, shooting and evasive driving as an antidote to kidnaping, terrorism and all forms of planned violence whether it is an obsessive stalker or a politically motivated attack.

Support Staff

The next big decision in ESI's formation was the selection of support staff. In the beginning, I selected my staff of instructors based upon their name recognition in the field of their specialty. ESI's reputation grew exponentially in proportion to the reputation of its famous instructors. Yet, it proved to be a mistake! As "corporate" as it may sound, the most important criteria is whether your staff is "preaching from the same hymnal". The trouble with picking instructors based upon their personal fame is that they tend to believe the universe revolves around them. We find this problem among martial artists especially; in precisely the calling that professes self denial and suppression of the ego, you find the most irrepresible ego. In the long term, it is very destructive to allow large egos expand at the expense of the schools central focus.


The institution and its point of view must always take precedence over any individual nomatter how famous or exalted. The school "culture" must weave a thread of logic from beginning to end, and where egos are too great to subordinate to a school's philosophy, a new preacher needs to be found. ESI integrates many different disciplines and teachers into a logical coherence, and wards against dogmatism in the form of "Experts". My personal opinion, after much bitter experience, is "the Bigger the Expert the Bigger the Dogma".... avoid it at all cost. These Experts tend to believe their own preaching, and this tends to diminish their capacity to look critically at truth.

Truth, in the absolute sense of the word, can not be known. One can only know some aspect of what is true or not true. Truth is born of experience, and tested over time. ESI comes up against this axiom with every class it teaches, and is affected in some degree by the constant reminder that there is still more to learn and pass on to its students.

Bob Duggan, President and Founder
Executive Security International, Ltd
Call Toll Free 1 800 874-0888


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Copyright © 1996, Bob Duggan
Designed by Bob Duggan July 1996

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