Basic self defense articles explain the value of being more aware of your surroundings, but few teach how to develop awareness. After 9/11, Americans heard about the need to be more vigilant, but no one I know was offering “How to Increase Your Vigilance” lessons.
One of the best ways to gain an increase in cognizance is to understand states of awareness as color codes. These codes often used by law enforcement, martial artists, and the military. Jeff Cooper, an American combat pistol instructor, created the original coding system as a way to size up threats, assess situations, and help avoid conflict.
Awareness Color Codes
Clueless –– offers the ideal victim to a criminal
People in code white are oblivious to their surroundings:
- A mother fully focused on getting her three kids into the car after grocery shopping
- A school kid waiting for a bus with eyes closed, listening through ear buds to loud music
- Someone whose eyes and hands are busy texting a message
- Anyone in an extremely emotional or self-centered state, leaving them too absorbed in their own mind or issues to be consciously aware.
In each of these situations, the mind is directed at a specific activity so that no awareness is used to scan nearby surroundings and activities. As far as predators go, people in code white might as well have the word “Prey” written in marker across their foreheads.
Alert, but relaxed – a warrior’s default mindset
This state of awareness is common for:
- Law enforcement officers
- Emergency response personnel
- People in high crime or war zones
- Martial artists
- People in the security field, including Homeland Security
- Those trained by the military
- (Unfortunately) Criminals
This state is not one of paranoia, fear, terror, or suspicion. It is the lack of an assumption that everything is safe and normal.
A person in code yellow is relaxed, scanning the area, but ready to take action if necessary. This state can be compared to a computer sub-routine running silently in the background at all times, pulling input and watching for patterns.
It is similar to how we drive our vehicles through our daily route. We don’t panic at every car that passes, honks, or brakes too fast. We keep “the big picture,” nonchalant but ready to stop at the slightest sign.
Threat assessment – see it coming and get out of the way.
When a person goes into code orange, they see potential danger developing and take stock of the situation. In this state, a person assesses options such as:
- Calling 9-1-1
- Running or walking calmly to an exit
- Moving into a more public or better-lit place
- Looking for places of concealment (hidden, but not safe from bullets)
- Looking for cover (behind something that can stop bullets)
- Changing your body language to match your plan of action
Being in code yellow allows you to move to code orange quickly, whereas being in code white prevents such action.
Action must be taken – defend, defuse, or depart by any means necessary
In code red, the attack is happening and you must immediately deal with someone’s violence, road rage, verbal abuse, manipulation, or anger. This is the time when the fight or flight instincts kick in and your Inner Warrior revs up for a response.
Having been in code orange, you would have had time to see the danger and generate a plan of action which you will now implement.
Frozen in fear – deer in the headlights
In code black, the body and mind freeze from the threat of danger or the actual assault, unable to take action. This results in total panic and complete paralysis. About the only thing that might work is the releasing of a person’s bladder or bowels.
Obviously, the best place to normally function is code yellow. Code yellow allows you to slip into code orange and out of harm’s way while leaving you better equipped to handle code red.
A criminal, however, would prefer to startle victims from code white directly to code black, because targets are easier to control and intimidate if they are not mentally ready to deal with an attack. Imagine how easy it would be to startle the preoccupied woman loading her car with groceries and tending to her kids, or shock the teenager listening intently to music with eyes closed.
So, what color code are you in today?
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Photo: Kent Nguyen