Awareness makes up 90% of self-defense, the remaining 10% being physical techniques.
With awareness, you can identify and avoid potentially dangerous situations. Without it, you become an easy target for a criminal or raider.
Colonel Jeff Cooper, a combat pistol instructor, developed the Color Code system, used by most military and police organizations, to differentiate different levels of awareness.
These color codes help recognize, evaluate, and avoid potential threats. They are used to measure rising threat and make most situations avoidable.
Cooper Color Codes
The following are the colors in ascending order of awareness of danger: white, yellow, orange, and red.
- You feel secure, whether or not you are actually safe.
- Awareness is switched off.
- You are unaware of your environment, its inhabitants, and their rituals of attack.
- All attackers look for victims in this state.
- You are cautious. You should spend most of the time in this state.
- Awareness is switched on.
- State of threat awareness and relaxed alertness.
- You have a 360-degree peripheral awareness of such environmental danger spots as secluded doorways, entries, and alleys, as well as such psychological triggers as adrenal dump and attacker ruses. Be aware of people, vehicles, behind large objects, dark areas, etc.
- You are in danger. You are aware of a potential threat.
- State of threat evaluation.
- Specific alert. A possible target has been identified. A particular situation that has drawn your attention and could present a major problem. Someone may be giving oral indicators such as direct threats or using suspicious language. Focus on the potential attacker.
- Check to see if there is an avenue of escape, potential weapons available, and if others around you are friend or foe.
- Decision is made to take action.
- You are in conflict.
- State of threat avoidance.
- Fight or flight. Flee, defend, or attack. You have evaluated the situation, and if there is a threat, you prepare to fight or run.
- Never stand or fight if there is a possibility of fleeing.
- Carry out decision to act made in Code Orange. You don’t have to think; no indecision on the course of action; you are prepared.
- If use of physical self-defense techniques is necessary, use the level of force appropriate to the threat. E.g., don’t treat someone who pushes you because he is rude like someone who is trying to stab you with a knife.
How to Use the Color Codes of Awareness
The color codes of awareness are a continuum of your awareness and readiness to defend. The objective is to constantly flow from one color to the next above or below, depending on the situation.
Never be in white. Spend most your time in yellow, even in places where you feel safe, such as at home.
Constantly be aware and alert, and shift from yellow and orange often as you notice potential threats and dangers. While walking down the street, practice imaginary shifts between the 2 colors. Practice thinking of ways to respond to potential attackers.
When in orange, notice what you can do to flee, defend, or attack if it becomes necessary, and make the decision to take a specific action if the situation escalates to red.
What would you do if that person walking behind you picks up the pace and makes a move toward you? What would you do if someone jumped out of the alley just ahead of you? What would you do if someone walking in front of you suddenly cuts your path and raises his hands toward you?
The Color Codes in Practice
Here’s one example of how the Color Codes of awareness could be used. A woman is walking to her car, carrying grocery bags. Being aware and alert in Code Yellow, she sees two suspicious men near her car.
She switches from Yellow to Orange. She decides on her self-defense options. They walk toward her and reach for her. She switches to Red, and executes her decisions: she throws the bags at them and runs back into the store.
Another example. You are walking and someone diagonally across the street stares at you for no apparent reason, with an angry expression. He doesn’t avert his gaze. You shift to Orange and decide to run the opposite direction and yell for help.
He starts moving quickly toward you, crossing the street without regard to traffic. You immediately shift to Red, and without thinking or deciding, run the opposite direction at the fastest speed you can, and either lose him or run into a police officer or security guard that can help you.