1. I note you are the first modern-day certified female bodyguard in Greece, as well as one of the top 20 female bodyguards in the world. What motivated you to become a bodyguard?
I come from a Balkan, ex-communist country, and I lived through a civil war, with people who belonged in gangs equipped with guns shooting in the streets. I had one picture in my mind all those years, when I was 7 years old: my grandmother hurrying me down the street covering me with her body to protect me from the shooting. She was not trained, she was an ordinary elderly woman trying to protect her granddaughter. From an early age I knew I wanted to work in protecting others’ lives. Bodyguarding is one of the most ancient professions. There always were and there always will be people who risk their lives in protecting others. Something we all have inside us is the feeling of protecting others.
2. You recently started Athena Academy, a training center for female bodyguards. Where is Athena located and what does it offer?
Athena Academy’s goal is to train and certify professional women instructors worldwide, so we can say that Athena can be located in every part of the world. Everyone who wants to offer women self defence can be our instructor. It is not necessary to have a specific training background, just to have that spark, the care for others and community. We can train, certify and give our instructors the tools to work with. With our group of security specialists and our experience in security industry and martial arts, we can offer a unique curriculum worked by the most experienced instructors, people who have real-life experience in hard situations. Athena Academy can offer you different courses such as Female Bodyguard training, Nannyguard training, Women Self Defence, Child Safety & Protection, Stalking & Harassment, Urban Awareness and Krav Maga.
3. Athena teaches women to think about security from a different viewpoint rather than trying to “even the playing field”. Can you explain this system and do you find it effective?
We are not trying to even the playing field, as many other martial arts studios and self defence centers seem to say. We know that only in some cases are women ultimately stronger than a man. Yes, there are examples of men being weaker, but generally speaking, I will say this is not the case. So, the aim is to help women think differently and a bit more strategically. They don’t have to learn to beat someone down; they have to learn where they should be so they don’t end up in a situation where violence is likely to occur. They have to learn to speak up when they are not comfortable –being vocal will scare the daylights out of a perpetrator. Additionally, women need to speak up in places like their work, where they go to school and other public places they frequent and not be afraid to tell management, heads of community colleges or their bosses when the environment they are in is not safe.
We should not accept our environment; rather, we should shape it and learn where we should be and where we should not. We can take control just through our posture and by thinking, “I won’t be a victim,” and then not allowing it to happen. I would also like for people to consider what kind of environment they do want and then go out and seek such.
4. You are writing a book set for release in 2010 entitled Femme Fatale: The Chronicle of Female Bodyguards. Since I write a series based on a female bodyguard, this is one book I know I’ll read. Tell us about the book.
The idea for the book is to present to the public real female bodyguard stories, what motivated them, the training they had to go through, the problems they had to deal with in a ‘’male’’ dominated industry and some important and spicy cases they have worked with.
5. You hold a degree in psychology, are trained in various martial arts and are working on an instructor rating with the International Krav Maga Federation. You have accomplished so much. I’m sure your martial arts training is an asset to your career as a bodyguard. Is your degree in psychology an asset, as well?
A martial arts background is necessary for someone who wants to work in the security industry. You don’t need to be an expert but have the basic knowledge. Psychology studies are my other passion. I find human behaviour and ways of thought very interesting. It’s amazing how everyone’s behaviour and reactions in one similar case can be totally different, like their fingerprints. My studies in psychology have helped me a lot in different cases. It is very important to understand your client’s fears and feelings for the incoming threat. I can now work better with women and children because I know how to make them feel more comfortable and secure. It is not easy to be threatened and to have strangers around you all the time. Also, now I feel more able when I have to do evaluation of a threat and an attacker.
6. What are the requirements to enter this interesting field? I am sure it requires training, but does it also require certification and licensing?
For someone to be a bodyguard, he/she has to understand and accept the ever-present level of threat and that, in some cases, it will be necessary to use their bodies as a shield for their clients. This is not so easy because, as humans, our instinct tells us to protect ourselves in dangerous situations. It requires many hours of practice to overcome it and learn automatically to cover someone else with your own body.
Being in good shape and having knowledge of martial arts is also important. In many cases, you need to respond in difficult situations that will require a much better physical response. Also, it is very important to have a clean criminal record. Some training schools ask for a clean criminal record of even your parents. The next step is to find a certified training course which means that their curriculum has been validated and their instructors meet the necessary standards. After your training, you have to apply to the state for your licensing. This can differ in every country.
7. What specific training is required to become a bodyguard?
The training curriculum may differ between schools, but the basic training similar to many of them is: weapons training, armed and unarmed combat, anti-terrorism, estate and event security, surveillance and anti-surveillance training, body language, how to identify explosive devices and react, driving skills, walk drills, anti-kidnapping skills, protective intelligence, Krav Maga techniques, formations, etc.
8. I imagine in today’s world, a bodyguard must remain up-to-date on all the changes taking place, especially with technology. Do you attend additional training once you’re past the basic training as a bodyguard?
To work as a bodyguard, the basic training we mentioned above is required. But because the world changes every day and new threats are coming up, we need to go through continuum training. There are many different additional training courses available, depending in what section someone needs to be more qualified.
9. What is your favorite weapon and why?
Despite my profession I’m not at all a fan of carrying a weapon. I have seen the damage they can cost and I’m trying to avoid their use. We say in bodyguard terms, if you take your weapon out of its case, that means you have failed in your work. Our work is to prevent the threat before it leads to a gunshot. But if the threat level of my client is high risk and I need to carry a gun I prefer to work with a Glock 19 or 25.
10. We are interested in learning about different areas of the world. Tell us about where you were born and where you now live.
I was born in 1982 in Albania, which is a small country belonging to the Balkans countries near Greece. Because of the situation when communism fell in 1990 and the subsequent civil war, my family immigrated to Greece. I have been living in Athens, Greece since the age of 8. I find this country very beautiful but I always visit my country at least twice per year.
11. We love animals. Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
I love all kinds of pets. I used to have dogs and a cat, but now because I live in an apartment, I’m sharing it with a water turtle, Scuba, and some birds, a parrot and 2 canaries. I wish I could be able to live in a house so I could have a dog again. And I prefer to adopt a dog or a cat from a shelter. They need to be saved first and need much love and care from us.
12. Have you been to the United States? If so, what’s your favorite place? If not, where would you like to visit?
I visited the San Francisco area last March during a business trip. I found it very interesting with totally different views from the countries I have visited before. I have always liked your country’s home architecture with the wooden houses and the big yards. Also, I enjoyed the hospitality of the people and their kind behaviour. I can’t wait for my next trip to the US.
For more information about Denidea Zinxhiria, CPSS, and the Athena Academy: