Ifti Haq aka ‘Big Haq’ is well-known throughout the UK for his reputation as a security guard working for a variety of celebrities both national and international. His drive and passion separate him from others in the industry so we wanted to find out a little more about him as an individual and here’s what he revealed to us…
What were you like growing up?
I was actually a very fun and caring child and was brought up in a massive family so we always had the love of parents, siblings, aunties and uncles. I have 4 brothers and 3 sisters myself! We are probably the largest and most respected family in Crawley. My parents believed in strong discipline and so we were all taught that from a very young age.
I actually left home at 14 to live at my dad’s shop (a large cash and carry in the high street). I looked after the shop and worked there throughout school, college and university, and was basically working during any spare time that I had. I did an array of jobs, from cleaning, breaking boxes, being a butcher, to unloading lorries which were full of heavy stock of bags of flour and rice!
But I have always been a family man and firmly believe in respect and trust.
Were you a tough kid, did you get up to any trouble or fights?
I was never actually involved in any fights at school. I was kind of sensible and just wanted to study – I actually hated fights! I always avoided trouble but my first real fight was probably back in 1998 when my younger brother and I were jumped and attacked by around 30 foreign students in a cafeteria. We both ended up with cuts and lacerations to the head but managed to put at least 10 of them to the floor and 3 in hospital! That was my first experience in a gang fight…
Did you have any sort of training in fighting before you became a body guard? How did you learn to be the tough person you are today?
I’ve never had any specific fight training like MMA or boxing, and when I first became a bouncer it was really on-the-job training that taught me. I would watch and learn from fellow colleagues and the head doorman. These guys were veterans in the job and had so much previous experience. Over the years and by working with other head doormen I learned to become more disciplined. As the licensing regulations became stricter, we were taught more professional methods of ejecting trouble-makers out. This involved learning arm bars, arm and wrist locks, retraining methods and to diffuse the situation through communication. I also watched a lot of WWE Wrestling and mix martial arts on the TV and actually learnt a few new moves from this!
I have encountered hundreds of fights and confrontations during my time as a bouncer. In each situation you have to improvise and deal with it professionally. Sometimes it was me fighting one on one, sometimes it was me against a groups of guys, and other times it would be me trying to stop a 20 man brawl!
I also worked as a retail security manager for PC World for around 7 years and we had to watch every single person in the store and also monitor the CCTV. I was blessed to have worked with my mentor – Shaun Duffy – who taught me the mental awareness you need, and how to read people’s minds and study body language. It gave me a new found respect for law enforcement as we were dealing with the police and courts all the time.
I also worked in a kebab shop by myself (where most of the Crawley fights and trouble would occur!) This taught me to be on edge and always switched on. One person actually referred to me as the ‘Asian Terminator’ because I always looked left and right and in every direction where there were people! I never looked anyone in the eye if they were talking to me – even if was a friend because I couldn’t afford to be distracted. Every fight I was involved in was like a street fight, it was out in the open and I was the only security on duty till 4am!
As the body guarding goes, my combined experiences provided me with the discipline and mindset to be a celebrity minder. I also frequently go on YouTube and watch clips from other bodyguard training companies around the world. Last but not least, some of my inspiration comes from watching my favourite TV programmes such as 24 (with Kiefer Sutherland who is a former secret service agent/bodyguard), Spooks (which is about the UK Secret Service MI5) and films such as Roadhouse (with Patrick Swayze who was a bouncer) and The Bodyguard with Kevin Costner!
What made you first decide to get into this industry?
When I used to break boxes outside my dad’s shop, there was a pub next to us and I used to watch the bouncers on a weekend. How they dealt with people, the fights they had and the respect they commanded. Something just clicked in my mind and 2 weeks later I decided to do the security course and apply for my licence.
After this, I started to work in PC World as a security guard and also set up my own company. Whilst working in PC World, I got a phone call from one of the regional directors telling me that he had heard of my reputation and that he wanted me to bring some big guys down to a PC World store in South London to do security for the UK music artist Jamiroquai whilst he was singing for an album. After the job finished, Jamiroquai asked for the head of security (which was me) to go to his room – he personally thanked me and my team for a great job and also allowed us to take pictures with him. This is when I decided that I wanted to do celebrity minding.
What was your first big break?
My first big break was with Jamiroquai – It was me and my team, and my first individual big break was with US superstars Jagged Edge and when I was on tour around the UK with them.
My other big break was being a part of the Close Protection teams which were assigned to do security for Hollywood movie premieres in London. This included the premiere of the first Spiderman movie, where I was in charge of the VIP room and where stars such as Toby Maguire and Richard Branson were having drinks. I also worked security at the premiere of Star Trek Nemesis for the entire cast and Catch Me If You Can starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
As far as the Asian music industry is concerned, my first big break came from a music producer called Shayal who took me to events and gigs as his minder. He arranged for me to look after US R&B superstars such as Jagged Edge, Blackstreet, Ginuwine and Donell Jones. And through Shayal I also met H Dhami who passed my details onto to Rishi Rich and the rest is history as they say!
Was there any Initiation when you first got into the industry?
As a bouncer, being a British Muslim and with Pakistani heritage, it was very difficult for me in the industry. I was tested a lot and my initiation was to see how I could fight and if I could handle myself. My first initiation, if you can call it that, was when some bouncers saw me fighting 2 guys and they just stood back and watched to see what happened. Without trying to sound arrogant, I ended up controlling the whole situation and the bouncers and the head doorman were staring at me in disbelief! From that day on, I was asked to walk around the club freely, wheras before this I was constantly stuck in one point for the whole shift.
Initiation in celebrity minding came more from some words said to me by Rishi Rich. He said “yes, you’re a big guy, you look the part and I’ve heard from others that you can fight, BUT this industry is based on trust and honesty”. He had to trust me with his artists, with all their personal details such as their address, phone numbers, account numbers and also collecting money on their behalf and depositing it into their bank account.
How did other peers treat you when you first started?
I got to travel all around the UK with the stars and was treated like a VIP sometimes. When we arrived at the venue and after I had introduced myself to security, they treated me with great respect. All the local doormen in my home town know what I do and have the utmost respect for me and what I have accomplished so far.
What are the most satisfying aspects of what you do?
Either save someone’s life, save someone from getting a kick in, save them from getting arrested or even just chatting to them when they feel like there is no one to talk to. I have had people come up to me thanking me for one thing or another on numerous occasions.
In PC World, it was great to know I was making my colleagues feel safe and when I would stop a thief and save the company from losses. The emails and phone calls from the big bosses made it all worth while!
As a celebrity minder, it’s when the client thanks you and appreciates what you’ve done. Sometimes I get hugs and in most cases they put a tweet out or put a message on facebook saying thanks. Often their fans even put out messages out to say thanks, especially when I allow them to have pictures taken with the stars. I’ve also had fans make me ‘happy birthday videos’, asking to take pictures with me, and asking me for my autograph. One fan actually got me a hoody made with ‘Big Haq Security’ written on it! It was all very touching.
What is the hardest part about the job, or the least satisfying aspect?
Not getting paid! Too many promoters ask for free security for their clients, they don’t understand that this is my job. It’s also tough when you’re asked to drive and be the security at the same time. Driving for long hours, finding somewhere safe to park, being fully alert on stage for the performance, having to organise and over see the ‘meet and greet’ and then having to drive all the way back is extremely difficult sometimes.
It’s also really hard with racial slurs that a lot of people come out with, saying I’m part of ISIS or a terrorist and ‘p*ki.
What do you prefer most – the respect, the power or the excitement?
I prefer the respect and the excitement, I never like the word ‘power’ as anyone with that mindset can become rude, arrogant and complacent. I like it when people feel safe around me. It makes me happy that someone can totally rely on me with their life. Sometimes artists, especially female artists, get a little nervous on stage when there are guys in the crowd who maybe rude and drunk. When I’m on stage with them, they can let their hair down and perform with confidence.
When did you feel that you started getting the respect you deserve in your career?
I would say it was when the bouncers in the local venue where one of my client’s was performing came up to me and asked to stand next to me so they could watch how I work. It was kind of like they wanted to train and experience what it was like doing celebrity minding. Then when fans started to recognise me and either send messages on social media, or when we had a ‘meet and greet’ with the stars, come up to me and ask for my picture!
You’ve done security and bouncing alone outside a kebab shop at night, how does it compare to bouncing in clubs?
The kebab shop is on a different level completely. In the clubs, I had the back up of around 10-20 burly hench guys. At the kebab shop, you are all alone. In every situation you literally have to react within a second. You have no back up, no one to call and it’s all on the street!
Are you afraid when strangers want to fight you?
I’m never afraid but I get surprised and upset that a person or people would want to fight with me because I do all I can to smile and treat people with the utmost respect. But when they are drunk and high on drugs, there is pretty much no talking or reasoning with them… I pray as much as I can and ask for forgiveness and made my peace with the Almighty. And why should I fear some drunken idiots when mentally and physically I am at peace and have my very own bodyguard (to quote from the great Muhammad Ali) who looks after me!
Have you ever been injured on the job?
Plenty of times! I have been punched, threatened with knives, bitten, scratched, clawed and spat at. I’ve even had kebabs thrown at me!
Who have been your biggest clients individually, or in a team?
Mike Tyson (I was part of a team thanks to Naz Lockdown), Peter Andre, Jagged Edge, Donell Jones, Blackstreet, H Dhami, Rishi Rich, Jay Sean, Juggy D, Mumzy Stranger, Tasha Tah, Char Avell, Jay Kaden, Rameet, Humza Arshad, Preeya Kalidas, Ex-president of Pakistan General Musharraf – I actually got to work alongside Scotland Yard Close Protection Unit. I have also worked with Hollywood stars at premieres.
Bollywood stars include Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Kajol and Ajay Devgan (I actually spent 2 weeks with them whilst they were on a private holiday in London). I have worked with Ranbir Kapoor and his father Rishi Kapoor. They were not my personal clients, but were through other bodyguards who asked me to do security because they either couldn’t cover them or needed some help.
Who is your role model?
Aside from the beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), it has to be my father. In security, I guess it’s a mix between Jack Bauer from the hit US show 24, Liam Neeson from the movie Taken and Patrick Swayze from the movie Roadhouse!
What advice would you give to youngsters who are trying to get into this industry?
First and foremost give up any bad habits that you may have like drinking, taking drugs and flirting with women, these will actually put your client in danger. Also, be prepared for irregular sleep patterns, long drives and difficult nights.
Always plan when you’re on a job as well. Planning keeps your client safe and makes the job as smooth as possible. And I mean, plan your routes, have great time keeping, be presentable, don’t get distracted by fame or women who try to chat you up only to get close to your client. Be honest and always remain sharp, never assume a job is over until your client is safe at home.
What’s the difference between body guarding and bouncing?
With bouncing the main threats are drunk and drugged up people who make bad decisions and fight. It’s a case of getting rid of those people to ensure security to other people and the venue.
With body guarding it’s a lot more personal. There’s a lot of research to do before you set off for a job. Here, the only life that matters to me is my client’s. If there is a fight in the venue whilst my client is on stage, then my only prerogative is to get my client off stage and to safety. As a bouncer, you have to deal with all kinds of fights, as a bodygaurd, if someone comes towards my client, then I have to get my client out of harms way and not to mess around fighting whilst my client is unprotected. Obviously if someone manages to get to us then of course I will eliminate the threat and get my client to safety.
What’s the most difficult situation you have been in?
It was probably when I had to go on tour with 5 music artists at the same time! Looking after them in the vehicle, at service stations, at the venue and managing the ‘meet and greets’ was extremely difficult. A huge amount of planning and co-ordination was needed.
Once I was asked to do security for YouTube stars Adam Saleh and Sheik Akbar in Birmingham in an open field for a ‘meet and greet’ (this was management decision, not mine!) and we got mobbed by around 2000 screaming fans!
What makes you angry when on the job?
I guess it’s certain types of people, generally those who lie or are arrogant and disloyal. Promoters that don’t pay you are especially frustrating! Security and celebrities with big egos; regular stuff! Wannabe security guards are fairly irritating as well, they often take pictures with celebrities and say they were guarding them when they weren’t!
Do you have many enemies because of what you do?
Always! The moment you eject a trouble maker from the premises they make you their enemy. When fans can’t get a picture of the celebrity because of time constraints or other reasons, they blame security and turn into keyboard warriors and become verbally aggressive on social media as well.
Where do you see yourself in a few years?
Well, I had an accident back in July 2015 breaking my ankle, dislocating it and having ligament damage. I only started to walk in December 2015 so my aim right now is recovery. I have had plenty of physio and rehab and need to regain my strength and recover mentally. Once I have fully recovered I want to get back out there and do what I do best – protect people. I also want to get married!
How do you deal with attention from the opposite sex?
One of our prime directives is to scan and analyse each person within our range of sight. If I see a beautiful woman she’s just a regular person at the time, the second you start to ‘eye up’ a women you could get distracted which puts your colleagues and clients in danger. I am not concerned with any attention I get from women when I’m working. 99% of the time the attention is because the women wants to get closer to the celebrity and hang around them!
Do you get recognised in your area?
I have been one of the longest serving bouncers in Crawley so I do often get recognised. Working on the doors and especially at the kebab shop you see hundreds of people over the weekend. Since doing celebrity minding and doing some acting on YouTube as well as starring in numerous music videos it’s nice when local people come up to you and say “well done!” which is really nice
What aspects of the industry would you like to change if you could?
For artists to realise that us security guards also have a life and family to feed, we work unsociable hours to protect them, and a lot of the time that be overlooked and unappreciated.
If you weren’t a bodyguard what would you be?
A private investigator!
You said you wanted to get married, what’s your ideal woman?
Someone with a pure heart, who’s Funny, loves to joke around and watch WWE Wrestling! Hopefully someone who will allow me to have my own man room at home, doesn’t mind the irregular hours I do, and doesn’t put any ginger in curry when she cooks!
How important is trust, respect, power, love, money, and friendship to you in your industry and could you explain why?
Trust – Probably the most important, another human being is putting their life’s safety in your hands, if you have no trust from the client or industry as a whole, then you have no career or business being a minder.
Respect is earned and it takes time to cement your place in this industry. Once you respect others, like your client, management, fellow security and other celebrities then they will respect you.
Love. I guess love starts at home and if you have that love from your family and very close friends it will reflect and shine on you and people will see that in your personality.
Friendship. You have to always be professional with your clients, but overtime, provided you do a great job then you’re bound to become friends with the clients, their management and their fans.
Money. This is the least important as security don’t get paid that much or it’s always a freebie. Plus, money comes and goes, and since I have become great friends with most of my clients, I see it as more of a social outing when I travel with them to a gig! Chilling with clients, having a meal, going for sheesha at NEON Lounge and having a great laugh is enough for me!
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
Looking after mike Tyson and ex-president of Pakistan, General Musharraf.
What’s the biggest mistake you have made?
Not taking weight training seriously from the beginning of my career and not taking up a martial art such a MMA, Krav Maga or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! Also, trusting certain individuals too much.
You have the power of people’s lives and safety in your hands, how do you deal with that responsibility?
With great pride and professionalism. I think about security each and every day and always try to keep my mind sharp. There’s always room to learn and improve so I try to increase my knowledge all the time. Each client and each situation is different so as long as my core values and beliefs remain the same, the immense responsibility doesn’t scare me too much!
What makes you happy?
My family, especially my nieces and nephews.
Would you encourage your kids to get into this industry?
No. I would hope he would be successful for himself in a different way so he wouldn’t need to become a bodyguard in an industry that doesn’t pay much.
What’s your most prized possession?
My family. I wouldn’t change them. And my night vision single lens monocular!
Being a security guard is a tough job – what keeps you motivated?
My faith in Allah each time I leave my house. The constant respect that I am shown each time I go to a different town and city. The love from celebrities and fans and the messages I get on social media and on the phone make it all worth while.
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