Defense Starts with Awareness

OK it’s story time. I went for a walk this evening as I often do. There are some very nice wooded trails near my apartment, which are pretty secluded. Generally I only meet three or four people on an hour long walk. Today was the same thing, and it was today I really noticed a bad trend.

The most important part of self defense is awareness. You should always been aware of your surroundings when you are out and about. I don’t care if you’re in the local grocery store or on a walk, you should be alert to what is around you. You have a much better chance of defending yourself if you see the threat coming first.

This is not what I saw people doing on the trail. Two of the four people I met were yapping on their cell phones. They had no idea I was coming, nor what was around them. They were off in their own little world. The third person I met was listening to his iPod so loudly that I could make out the music when I was on the opposite side of the trail. The four person was an elderly woman out for a walk, she’s old and probably figures she has nothing to live for, but she was the most alert of the four.

The reason I bring this up is simple, the three people walking around and no paying attention are ripe targets for thugs. For instance if I had wanted to do bodily harm to them I could have easily walked right up behind them and they would have never noticed until it was too late. At that point I’d be in control and they would no be able to effectively defend themselves. Because awareness is so important Jeff Cooper came up with a color code system dealing with just this subject. It is as follows…

White – Unaware and unprepared. If attacked in Condition White, the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy or ineptitude of your attacker. When confronted by something nasty, your reaction will probably be “Oh my God! This can’t be happening to me.”

Yellow – Relaxed alert. No specific threat situation. Your mindset is that “today could be the day I may have to defend myself.” You are simply aware that the world is a potentially unfriendly place and that you are prepared to defend yourself, if necessary. You use your eyes and ears, and realize that “I may have to SHOOT today.” You don’t have to be armed in this state, but if you are armed you should be in Condition Yellow. You should always be in Yellow whenever you are in unfamiliar surroundings or among people you don’t know. You can remain in Yellow for long periods, as long as you are able to “Watch your six.” (In aviation 12 o’clock refers to the direction in front of the aircraft’s nose. Six o’clock is the blind spot behind the pilot.) In Yellow, you are “taking in” surrounding information in a relaxed but alert manner, like a continuous 360 degree radar sweep. As Cooper put it, “I might have to shoot.”

Orange – Specific alert. Something is not quite right and has gotten your attention. Your radar has picked up a specific alert. You shift your primary focus to determine if there is a threat (but you do not drop your six). Your mindset shifts to “I may have to shoot HIM today.” In Condition Orange, you set a mental trigger: “If that goblin does ‘x’, I will need to stop him.” Your pistol usually remains holstered in this state. Staying in Orange can be a bit of a mental strain, but you can stay in it for as long as you need to. If the threat proves to be nothing, you shift back to Condition Yellow. Cooper described this as “I might have to shoot HIM,” referring to the specific target which has caused the escalation in alert status.

Red – Condition Red is fight. Your mental trigger (established back in Condition Orange) has been tripped. If “X” happens I will shoot that person.

The three people that were not paying attention were in condition white. When out and about you should always been in condition yellow. Being alert doesn’t even take much. Just be actively listening, watching, and in general paying attention. Seriously what is so important that you need to be on the phone while your out for a walk? Why do you have to be listening to music? Sure both of these things are nice distractions but neither is worth your safety.

When I say this many people often call me paranoid and make up statistics (1 in a million is the usual one) of how unlikely it is that you will be attacked. Well it’s true you have a fairly small chance of being attacked but it’s a chance, and a very possible one. I’d rather be paranoid and alive that oblivious and dead.

Some people jokingly refer to this state of denial as condition rose. These people see the world through rose colored lenses. As far as they are concerned nothing could possible happen to them. These are the people most vulnerable to attacks. They are the ones criminals most want to prey on. Personally I don’t want to be one of these people, hence I pay attention when I’m out and about. And you should do. Remember that phone call can wait until you get somewhere secure.