Born in Zigong, Southwest China's Sichuan province, Zhang Meili, 22, comes from a poor but loving family. Zhang was deeply impressed by the film Shaolin Temple in her childhood. Out of her outgoing personality grew an intense desire to learn martial arts when she was 12 years old.
In 2017, Zhang was admitted to Chengdu Sport University with excellent grades to study sanda, also known as Chinese kickboxing. In 2020, after graduating from college, she chose the profession of bodyguard as her future endeavor. After three months of basic training in Chengdu, Zhang went to Beijing to forward her career advancement.
After several special training camps for bodyguards at Genghis Security Academy in Beijing, Zhang Meili underwent training in hundreds of subjects, including striking, fighting, special driving, and intelligence reconnaissance. She gradually became a qualified female bodyguard and was thus hired by the academy as an instructor to teach security and defense training programs.
Female bodyguards have inherent disadvantages in terms of strength and endurance. They have to spend more effort and have a tougher time than the male bodyguards during training. It is commonplace to receive high-intensity training during their menstrual period. However, in Zhang's view, compared with male bodyguards, women also have many advantages: they are usually not very intimidating and can help thaw the atmosphere of the scene; they are sensitive, careful, and have a strong sense of defense; their movements are lighter and more dexterous.
"In each special training camp, female trainees have to undergo strict screening, and eventually only 20 percent of them can become bodyguards," Zhang says. "As long as female bodyguards train and fight hard, they are not inferior to male bodyguards. Despite the gender differences, their employment rate is much higher than that of male bodyguards."
Good physical fitness and close-quarter combat skills are not the most important criteria for a good bodyguard. These are just the most basic conditions. Personal bodyguards who meet these basic requirements are also divided into three levels according to other requirements: junior bodyguards can drive and proficient in anti-tracking and fighting skills; intermediate bodyguards understand official documents, can handle business activities, and know computers; advanced private bodyguards must understand foreign languages, and even make safety plans and organize customized trips.
"Bodyguards are for defensive purposes and cannot take the initiative to attack with weapons. Professional bodyguards must use skills and wisdom to arm themselves, protect others, and avoid all possible dangers," she says. As a practitioner, Zhang inevitably has to bear some of the misunderstandings stemming from stereotypes. "People have some misunderstandings about bodyguards. Bodyguards must not only be good at fist and kick, but also learn to identify risks, especially the true and false weapons and the size of the threat."
In fact, an excellent bodyguard must undergo one to three years of arduous training and on-the-job internships, be familiar with criminal psychology, be well versed in psychological tactics, and have the psychological qualities to survive in an emergency and high-pressure environment.
At present, in the domestic security industry, female bodyguards have gained a foothold. "With the rapid rise of China's economy, the demand for bodyguards is increasing day by day, and the professional requirements of housekeepers, bodyguards, drivers and other professions are becoming increasingly more stringent. Especially the rigid demands of female entrepreneurs and their families, they rely more on the services of a modern profession such as female bodyguards, and the employment of specially trained talents such as veterans and athletes has increased significantly," says Chen Yongqing, founder of the bodyguard training camp at Genghis Security Academy.
However, much to his regret, there are still too few female bodyguards, and "the industry norms for this new type of profession are not yet sound".