In popular culture, the stereotypical bouncer is a giant muscle-bound hulk who is blunt in his manner and fairly quick to get physical. However, in the real world, the best bouncers have ways to deal with aggression in ways that avoid physical confrontations. A bouncer who’s good at his job knows many tricks to head off or contain violence. The key traits that allow them to do this are powers of observation, steady nerves, teamwork, calm in the face of provocation and a good mastery of psychology and body language, both one’s own and that of others.

As a security officer in a rowdy place with free-flowing alcohol, which bars and clubs tend to be, a bouncer is much more likely than a typical security guard at a location such as a mall to confront volatile situations involving intoxicated people. For this reason, a competent bouncer is always aware not just of the people who are coming in or leaving the establishment, but also the general vibe of the room, pockets of discord, women being cornered or threatened, individuals who are working themselves into aggression and other hairy situations.

When you notice someone getting aggressive or violent, stand back and take stock of what’s happening. The most important thing to note beforehand is the group dynamics, and you should always be aware of how many individuals are accompanying the person who is starting to make trouble. Almost everyone who makes the journey from a bar to a hospital has the same story – they got in a fight with one idiot and got jumped by five of his friends.

A professional bouncer will always get all the backup he can. This isn’t a martial arts ring and the objective of a confrontation isn’t to win fair and square – it’s to remove the aggressive individual(s) from your workplace and neutralize the threat with as little risk as possible. Bringing in half a dozen of your colleagues to push a troublemaker out isn’t overkill – it’s the smart thing to do.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of body language and posture. The mental aspects of self-defense are as important as physical training. The ability of an individual to maintain awareness of the situation, manage fear and pain, and act quickly can be the deciding factors in a fight if one should break out. Physical fitness and sheer size are powerful factors in one’s favor, but even if you are outweighed and outclassed, the proper attitude and posture can mean the difference between winning a fight and losing one. It’s possible for a smaller individual to project enough confidence to deter or demoralize a bigger opponent. Look the aggressor in the eye and don’t project even an ounce of uncertainty.

Keep calm and know that even if someone gets violent and is too drunk/high to feel pain, being sober and rational puts the advantage on your side. For example, if a drunken idiot has started to flail at you inside the bar, maintain your composure and retreat towards the door. Once you’ve lured him out under the pretext of “taking it outside,” go back in and slam the door. See you later – not!

These are only some of the skills that you need in order to be good at your job and avoid injury. To be a great security officer, don’t just rely on the bare minimum of your CT guard card training – learn the mental arts of the bouncer and be effective and safe.