The Grueling Training Regimes of China's Female Bodyguards

A woman in a combat pose
A woman in a combat pose | Shutterstock
Sally Gao

In recent years, China’s private security industry has boomed along with the country’s growing ranks of super-wealthy elites. Employing a bodyguard is something of a status symbol among Chinese business tycoons, and in recent years, female bodyguards are increasingly preferred. But while female bodyguards in China command high salaries, only the toughest candidates make it through the grueling training regimes at China’s bodyguard academies.

Women bodyguards are in high demand in China nowadays. Not only are they more inconspicuous than traditional, male bodyguards (easily posing as, say, a secretary or personal assistant) they are also the protectors of choice for women executives and celebrities. Approximately one third of Chinese millionaires are women, and two thirds of the world’s self-made female billionaires are from China.

Because female bodyguards are in high demand and short supply, they stand to earn more than their male colleagues. At security firm Zhongzhou Tewei, based in Shenzhen, female bodyguards earn 40 percent more than male bodyguards.

It is illegal to carry weapons in China, so bodyguards have to be highly skilled in martial arts, disarming attackers and driving. In China’s bodyguard training academies, trainees are sometimes also coached in things like etiquette and makeup.

One such school, Genghis Security Academy, is located in Beijing and trains both male and female students:

In the video, a graduate of the school explains that female bodyguards like her are becoming increasingly popular. “Female bodyguards are ideal for female executives, and for wives and children,” she says. “We’re inconspicuous, and tend not to draw attention.”

At Genghis, many trainees come from military or competitive martial arts backgrounds. During the first 24 hours of a 28-day training camp, the recruits are not allowed to eat or sleep, and are required to complete a series of tasks and obstacle courses. These include finding objects underwater, crawling on their bellies through mud, enduring the weight of a person on their bellies, and carrying heavy logs while being sprayed in the face with water. Near the end of the 24-hour period, they’re put in a cold, dark room and instructed not to fall asleep. Anyone who begins to nod off is sprayed with ice-cold water.

A woman crawling on her belly

The regimes are similarly brutal for trainees at the Tianjiao Special Guard and Security Company, where female recruits have to endure having glass bottles smashed over their heads as part of their endurance training.

Tianjiao hires trainers from Israel and Russia, and also works with the Chinese military. The company trains its recruits for eight to ten months before they go on to become professional bodyguards.

Meanwhile, students at Yunhai Elite Security must complete a three-mile run every morning, followed by drills in punching, kickboxing, and sparring. Female trainees also receive training in etiquette and putting on makeup.

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