Many firearms trainers of note would all agree that the best gunfight is the one you can avoid. How do you do that? In most cases, your awareness of what is happening around you will play a key role in this. The people in the area, what are they doing? Does it make sense?
Once you have made that decision to carry a gun for defense; the easier habit in your behavior that you can develop is your awareness. Even if you have decided not to carry a gun, being aware of what is going on around you will benefit your ability to keep yourself out of a situation you don’t want to be in.
Jeff Cooper was an author, columnist, professor and a combat veteran in World War 2 and the Korean Conflict. He founded the Gunsite Academy; with the purpose of spreading modern pistol fighting techniques.
Cooper is credited with the “Color Code of Awareness.” A color is assigned to the mental awareness people are in throughout their life experiences. This is a simple way to evaluate where you are in your mental awareness depending on the circumstances you are in. The principle, the more stress you are under, your performance both mentally and physically will suffer.
The Five Conditions of Awareness
White – Words commonly used to describe this condition are: unaware, not alert, unsuspecting, unmindful, spacing. You don’t know what is going on around you. It is the lowest level of awareness. Condition white can be akin to “daydreaming” or “preoccupation.” In this condition, you are unprepared for anything. For example, think of that person you see walking down the street who has their ear plugs in and their eyes totally focused on the screen of the iPhone they are holding. They are in their bubble and have no idea what is going on around them.
When can you be in this state of awareness? In your home with your layers of security established. Most common, will be when you are asleep. When you leave home, condition white should be left at home.
Yellow – This condition is considered as a general state of alertness without a particular focus. You are not under threat and do not expect to be. However, you know that the possibility of a threat to you could happen. Your head is up and your eyes are open. You are aware of the people and objects around you. You are scanning constantly and evaluating those people and objects around you that could be a threat.
When should you be in this state of awareness? When you leave home. Before you leave your home, take off condition white and put on condition yellow. Anything or anyone in near you that is unusual, out of place, or out of context, should be viewed as potential threat, until you have had a chance to evaluate them or it. A person who looks out of place, or a person engaged in an activity that has no obvious legitimate purpose, should be sized up.
Orange – Is a heightened state of awareness on a particular potential threat. The difference between yellow and orange is the focus on the potential threat. Their actions have drawn your attention to them and you have to evaluate whether they are a threat. While focusing on the person, you should still maintain a general awareness of others around you. The threat could have an accomplice/s. You should have a plan, or be forming a plan if the concerns prove true.
Red – You are ready to defend yourself. You have identified the threat, but you may be not be physically defending yourself. You are MENTALLY PREPARED for the fight. The threat may retreat or flee even before you have to physically defend yourself. The cognitive process of raising your awareness from Yellow, to Orange, to Red, then de-escalating right back down the awareness conditions as the situation is resolved, occurs without any actual physical activity on your part. The key is that you were mentally prepared for a conflict, and thus could physically act if the situation demanded.
Black – You are in a blind state of panic. You freeze in fear and have no plan to counter the threat. This is not where you want to be. You have been caught by surprise and your awareness level may have been white before this threat. In this condition you will not be able to think clearly, your fine and gross motor skills will be compromised. The importance of planning, training before a potential threat can alleviate this condition from happening.
There is a lot you can do to help yourself succeed in the event of an attack or threat. The first step is checking your condition. What is your condition?
If you are in a fair fight, your tactics suck!”– Jeff Cooper