Cultivating awareness

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Cultivating awareness

Post  Alan Bec on Thu Aug 24, 2006 3:31 pm

This thread started by Lito back in December 2004 is truly informative and needs to be reopened.

Hi Everyone,
"AWARENESS" has been brought up on the board many, many times without much discussion on how to cultivate it. I, myself have alluded to awareness in the context of the Three A's of Self-Protection, which are:
1) Awareness
2) Assessment
3) Action-in the form of Avoidance, Escape, Dissuasion, or Preemptive Attack (and escape).

Without a doubt, THE most important skill to cultivate for self-protection is AWARENESS. Well, since I've never elaborated on awareness in any detail here on the board, I'd like to share one of my favorite methods of cultivating it for self-protection purposes.

One excellent method is "SILENT COMMENTARY." What this entails is while you're out and about, you silently acknowledge/internally verbalize your surroundings with as much detail as possible. This method has various applications, but limiting this to self-protection purposes, you would, for example, as you enter a house full of people, start looking/scanning and describing them and your surroundings with as much detail as possible. Here's an example (internally verbalizing to yourself), "A male white to my left, nothing in his hands (i.e. no weapons/potential weapons in his grasp. Look at his hands first before you do anything else), 5'10", 190 lbs, blond hair, blue eyes, mustache, crooked teeth, big nose, 23-25 years old, swastika tattoo on right inner forearm, wearing a black t-shirt, blue jeans, and white running shoes. No bulges in pockets, nothing in the waistband (again, assessing for weapons). A male black to my right, nothing in his hands (again, check these first and foremost), 6'2", 230 lbs, black hair, brown eyes, shaved head, 20-22 years old, wearing a red sweatshirt, black pants, and black leather boots. Folding knife clip (specific weapon) sticking out of his right front pocket, a spike ring (specific weapon) on his right index finger, a bulge in the rear waistband area (possible gun), etc, etc... tennis racquet (a potential improvised weapon) to my right resting against the wall, a butter knife (another improvised weapon) on the table directly in front of me, a half-full Corona beer bottle (another improvised weapon) on the right on top of the stereo cabinet (which can be an impediment), etc, etc... China cabinet (another impediment) behind me, bookcase (another impediment) on the right, black sofa (another impediment)in front of me, oak coffee table (another impediment) to my left, etc, etc...front entrance door behind me (a possible escape route), garage door to my right (another possible escape route), etc, etc..." The above example was just a sample illustration of how this exercise is applied.

Anyway, it is good to practice this as many times as practical throughout the day. You can do this anywhere, anyplace, anytime. This "mental exercise" can go a long way in developing a keen awareness of the people around you, the weapons (specific and/or improvised) that you can use or that can be used against you, the objects that can impede you, and the escape routes available to you.

You can apply this exercise with anything and everything surrounding you. For self-protection purposes, start off and master your silent commentary with people, weapons, impediments, and escape routes before you go on from there. First and foremost, cultivate your awareness with these four to the point where it becomes a second nature, unconsciously competent skill.

To reiterated, when you do this "silent commentary" exercise, you want to do so with as much detail as possible. So, besides including detailed descriptions of the people around you, you can include specific descriptions of anything/everything around you in the positions and directions they're in relative to you and your environment/surroundings.

Now, don't get overzealous with this exercise in the beginning because discouragement can set in and prevent you from fully developing this attribute. Give yourself some time. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Slow and steady wins the day. So, be patient and you will cultivate a functionally high level of awareness...

When you first begin doing this exercise, it may be tedious for many of you because you will have to intently focus on what you are doing it. However, after awhile, you will cultivate the ability to do this rapidly and without much concerted effort.

Anyway, I hope the above exercise helps those of you out there looking to develop good awareness skills.

With that said, I am interested in hearing other members' methods of cultivating this most-important attribute for self-protection. I wanna learn more myself too...

Take care and God Bless...

Best Regards,

[ 15. December 2004, 06:05: Message edited by: Lito ]

Posted by Dave Turton (Member # 19) on 14 December, 2004 22:47December 14, 2004 10:47 PM:

One I do is show people a photo,, or describe (in as few words as possible) a scenario.. then ask them to list as many influencing factors as they can if they had to defend themselves in that scenario.

Very EASY and quick one

You are Christmas shopping with your wife?

List as many influencing (good or bad) possibilities that will interfere or aid youif you had to defend youself

Just for fun guys .. no prizes

Posted by TonyS (Member # 1427) on 15 December, 2004 01:28December 15, 2004 01:28 AM:

Great post Lito - cheers

Just the ticket i REALLY need to work on my awareness.

Looking forward to more exercises from both of you....

Posted by drgndrew (Member # 1415) on 15 December, 2004 08:26December 15, 2004 08:26 AM:

Thanks for posting that Lito and to Dave for the add ons.

I actually do a similar thing when walking to and from town, i call it "Commentary Walking" ( from commentary driving), but it's basically the same thing. Not only does it help with my awareness development but it helps pass the time on a normally boring walk.

I also do the same with listening, by identifying sounds, there location, etc I think this kind of training could be use to train all ourr senses for awareness.

Close your eyes and identify various objects in a draw for tactile awareness, or simply take notice of the direction of the wind, the feel of ground beneath your feet.

See if you can identify the diferent smells like smoke, cooking, rubish and in wich direction they originate etc. Handy to identify fire before you can see it.

And dont forget taste, take notice of the taste of your fav drink. Try lining up a number of identical drinks one with suger added one with salt one normal etc. and try to name the additive. This can be helpfull in awareness as to drink spiking/poisoning etc

All the senses can be exercised using the "Silent Commentary" princible. I hope that makes sense , great thread

PS One other thing I would like to add is people observing,ie trying to determine what people are thinking, feeling doing by observing their body language. Try to determine the thread of a conversation, or see if you can predict what people are going to do next etc

With Honour in Bushido

[ 15. December 2004, 08:32: Message edited by: drgndrew ]

Posted by Dik (Member # 255) on 15 December, 2004 09:27December 15, 2004 09:27 AM:


Originally posted by drgndrew:
I actually do a similar thing when walking to and from town, i call it "Commentary Walking" ( from commentary driving), but it's basically the same thing.

And of course, if you lips are moving as you do this silent commentary, people think your a nutter and are less likely to mess with you

Serious though, terrific post Lito. Another one for printing out and studying.


Alan Bec

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Re: Cultivating awareness

Post  Alan Bec on Thu Aug 24, 2006 3:31 pm

Posted by Chris (Member # 342) on 15 December, 2004 10:12December 15, 2004 10:12 AM:

Great stuff!

As usual Lito nailed it.

Ya big windie!

Posted by PaulRichard (Member # 626) on 03 January, 2005 19:26January 03, 2005 07:26 PM:

I sometimes do commentary walking (not with my lips moving of course, Iím not that nuts, yet )

Basically as Iím walking down a street I imagine what I would do if, for example, a Chav walking past me were to suddenly hit me. What would be the best course of action, what strikes would I use and how would I best end it.

It can be very therapeutic.

Bruce Lee apparently used to do the same thing. That why I also collect video clips of fights and other violent encounters. It allows you to plan and theorise.

Does anyone else on here do this?

[ 03. January 2005, 19:26: Message edited by: PaulRichard ]

Posted by Dave Turton (Member # 19) on 03 January, 2005 21:23January 03, 2005 09:23 PM:


Posted by Kungfuclown (Member # 702) on 03 January, 2005 22:54January 03, 2005 10:54 PM:

I started to amass video clips of square goes, K1 anything I thought could be looked at and used.

It's quite worrying now i have loads
1-10 UFC (When it really was style v style)
Loads and loads of boxing
Gypsy scraps
and a serious amount of small clips begged borrowed and stolen from everywhere and anywhere.

In attempt to help my blissfully unaware girlfriend I taped my local high street to show her the soft targets during the day and at night. (Which did help)

Always makes me wonder if somebody was to break in and see it I would look like a right psycho.


Posted by PaulRichard (Member # 626) on 03 January, 2005 22:59January 03, 2005 10:59 PM:


Always makes me wonder if somebody was to break in and see it I would look like a right psycho.

If someone were stupid enough to break in then that's the impression you want to create.

Hopefully scaring them enough that they leave by the nearest exit.

[ 03. January 2005, 23:00: Message edited by: PaulRichard ]

Posted by drgndrew (Member # 1415) on 04 January, 2005 10:04January 04, 2005 10:04 AM:

I've got a CDRW full of various street fight and MA clips and a few extra on the Hard Drive, all from the net. I think is a great idea to "study" them. They show many of the common aspects of street fights, the rituals etc. It helps to determine when you would pre-empt, or even to determine were the victum went wrong (or right), what would have you done etc etc

Wait a sec, you mean your not meant to talk out loud when comentary walking. That explains a lot. I guess acting out SD moves from imagined attacks is probably also contributing to the odd looks. Also explains why i seem to be the only one on that side of the street.

With Honour in Bushido

[ 04. January 2005, 11:49: Message edited by: drgndrew ]

Posted by cliveg (Member # 699) on 04 January, 2005 10:45January 04, 2005 10:45 AM:

Drew, try profiling people in just a few seconds as they approach eg.
White collar worker, married, unfit, looks like he's had a bad day, very arrogant walk or
Blue collar worker, married, kids, looks like he can handle himself, but looks a nice fella, probably quite reasonable.
This is how the predator does it, you are instantly profiled for your mugging potential.

Posted by Kungfuclown (Member # 702) on 04 January, 2005 11:34January 04, 2005 11:34 AM:

Did I forget to mention - theyíre next to my singing Kung fu hamster and my girlfriends collection of cuddly Winnie the Poohs toys:


[ 04. January 2005, 13:11: Message edited by: Kungfuclown ]

Posted by PaulRichard (Member # 626) on 04 January, 2005 11:55January 04, 2005 11:55 AM:


No burglar in his right mind will go near your house now.

You've found the perfect burglar defence.

Posted by drgndrew (Member # 1415) on 04 January, 2005 11:58January 04, 2005 11:58 AM:

Thanks for the idea Clive,

I sought of do that on a basic level eg Treat/no threat switched on/switched off, but haven't really taken it that step further. I'LL give it a go.

KFC-Winnie the Pooh, now thats scary. (i don't know why, but I just hate Winnie the F*%king Pooh, no offence to your lady)

With Honour in Bushido

Posted by Kungfuclown (Member # 702) on 04 January, 2005 13:10January 04, 2005 01:10 PM:

Drew, me too

What makes a sensible, attractive and intelligent woman of 25 love someting that was designed 2 year olds?

I have one cat called Tigger and managed to rescue the other from being called Piglet. (Poor Gizmo would have been ridiculed by his friends)

Getting back to the subject in hand does anybody think there is any relavence from a RSBD point of view in watching boxing/ufc/pride/k1 ect ect videos?


Posted by Brian S (Member # 14) on 15 January, 2005 01:11January 15, 2005 01:11 AM:

I think they can demonstrate some of the attributes that are good for self protection, but are not as usefull as many people may believe.

As regards a "walking commentary", I feel tha care has to be taken not to discount a threat too soon. Someone looking all innocent and tree huggy may well be the meanest sob around.

Seems obvious, but still an easy trap to fall into.

Alan Bec

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Re: Cultivating awareness

Post  Alan Bec on Thu Aug 24, 2006 3:32 pm

Posted by Phil White (Member # 625) on 10 February, 2005 23:55February 10, 2005 11:55 PM:

We all have a singing Kung Fu hampster (don't we?).
The observation commentry is what is used in advanced police driving. It help to anticipate driving errors of other motorists and to avoid a collision that would not have been your fault, also road conditions and any potential hazards or dangers.
This is the same as Coopers colour codes or what is called "zanchin" in Japanese. Musashi talks about it in his book (written in the 16th centry).

"Everybody was Kung Fu fighting, la, la, la, la, HUH!......"

Posted by PaulRichard (Member # 626) on 11 February, 2005 00:13February 11, 2005 12:13 AM:


We all have a singing Kung Fu hampster (don't we?).

Sadly yes

Posted by Peter (Member # 246) on 11 February, 2005 08:40February 11, 2005 08:40 AM:

Me too

Posted by drgndrew (Member # 1415) on 11 February, 2005 09:12February 11, 2005 09:12 AM:

I don't , but i want one.

With Honour in Bushido

Posted by Dave Turton (Member # 19) on 11 February, 2005 10:55February 11, 2005 10:55 AM:

I did it twirled nunchaku .. but they wont twirl and it sings funny.. tried new batteries but no joy, I decided it had been knobbled by a silent ninja hampster one grief know no bounds.

Posted by richsqady123 (Member # 504) on 11 February, 2005 12:48February 11, 2005 12:48 PM:

I look at a thread about cultivating AWARENESS and theres this post by the well known REALITY expert Dave Turton about BATTERY POWERED NINJA RABBITS.........whatever next ??

Posted by Slackbladder (Member # 137) on 11 February, 2005 17:43February 11, 2005 05:43 PM:

One point I'd like to raise here...

Jeff Cooper's Colour Codes are NOT a sytem of awareness. They are TRIGGERS to link your awareness to your ACTIONS.

They were developed by Col. Cooper in answer to the appalling failure of personnel to fire on the enemy when they were clearly in the right to do so. Their awareness was A-OK as they knew exactly what was going on in their enviroment. The difficulty lay in deciding when exactly to pull the trigger.
When condition red is tripped, you kill the bad guy. The colour code is something you INTEGRATE into your training - you condition yourself to ACT when the red light goes on. You MUST be accustomed to moving through the colour code as a situation develops, otherwise it is a waste of your time knowing about it.

Posted by Alan Beckett (Member # 270) on 11 February, 2005 17:55February 11, 2005 05:55 PM:

Yes Slack, but do you have a Kung fu hampster, honestly mine was a gift.


Posted by Narcoleptic (Member # 1452) on 13 February, 2005 10:12February 13, 2005 10:12 AM:

Some thoughts awareness-training triggered by the idea of commentray driving/walking. Im not claiming to be any sort of expert, but offer this as food for thought since i think i have some different background experiences(alexander teacher, psych major, trained in kinesiology, physical theatre/contact improvisation)than most others here(wich of course mean ive got buckets to learn from y'all as well!)

The way i see it one dont want to fill ones mind with detailed verbal thinking in a crisis, because its linear and slow. Our senses pick up at least tens of millions of bits of sensory input every second, while a second of our consciousness is estimated to contain no more than some 100 bits.

This means we have to let the unconscious sub-systems do 99.9+ % of the sorting for us. And this, it seems, opens up the suggestion that one would be *more* vulnerable to mr White(from the originall post) while focusing on mr Blacks ring etc. Now i understand it that one is not ment to practice "commentary fighting", but rather that commenting in peacetime should carry over to live situations. Still, i fear that we tend to do what we train to do, and am not so sure that commenting is a good thing to train for. The people who practice the way of the commentary can, im sure, share more experiences on its effects.

My own experience from when ive reacted well in pressured situations is more of a mostly silent inner state, much more characterized by spatial/rhytmical than verbal thinking. Objects, directions, speed, volumes, trajecories. Some "things" can be symbolized by words in this space: "knife" when u see one, "down" when u tell yourself to slam someone etc. But linear verbal thinking seem to me to mostly block fast reactions in theese situations. The main drawback of this same sort of thinking seem to be that while one reacts fast, its easy to exclude vital factors from ones awareness and therefore twitch in a stupid way.

Colour-codes seem to work well in this space-think. Just let the "space" be orange/red etc and it affects everything you think/do - its a simple, global cue. To repeat "defcon 3" mentally would take up most of your consciuos resources, and probably block spontaneous reaction as well.

To sharpen awareness in a way that to me seem to have more application to the way we function under stress i sometimes play with "pinging". That is i decide on one aspect and feed it into my radar. Then i "ping" it for everyone i see or just for me in the situation, depending on what it is. I just do this for a bit and then switch, or get bored for then...

Some things ive used for this:

- Hands, weapons, escaperoutes(for the latter mentally grab or go for them). Dont forget to spot others escaperoutes too - something thats good to leave people if the temperature rises...

- What(they are doing)? Just a verb - possibly with a short qualification - that describes what the persons doing - "Talking", "waiting". Sometimes youll find yourself noting things like "stalking", "looking for vic" or "glaring". Oops.

- Attention. The target of the persons attention(when moving also to where - not always the same). Best visualized(line, arrow) rather than verbalized. Someone casually walking behind your mate, with attention on said mate may be worth noting.

A related idea is to let yourself "see" social aspects of space. This is fantasizing to organize social input(like body-lingo), not seeing auras.

- "Bubble". Try spotting how big space the person is "occupying" by imagining a semitransparent bubble around them. Big raggedy things may flare up around shifty nutcases etc. You can also play wit spotting bubbles arund groups of people - who belong together? Or lines for people who interact somehow over longer distances.

- "Tunnel or path". Wich way is "clear". Somehow not claimed by someone. This seems to apply to passing people looking for trouble. Almost like popping their bubble is a que for them to initiate
hostilities, but if you skim the outskirt they somehow dont seem to get a hold on you. Dont trust this stuff to much though - others seem drawn to such invisibility acts, so noting them and letting them know it my be better(my hunch is that "invisibility" works better for nuttcases cause they get no handle on you, whereas a mugger make you out as scared/turned off and may come for you).

- Play with your own bubble. Make it bigger/smaller. Claim more or less space. A bubble that coincides with where your fence will be(physically) put up seem a good thing to lug around. Also use the bubble to know whats behind you - again you wont grow eyes in the back of your head, but organize info, or start to unconsciuosly collect it to fill out the picture.

Or se what happens if you project(imagine) a thread pulling you from the navel(etc) to a goal through a crowd. Snap the thread and keep walking without projecting a clear path. Different? Highlight(in your minds eye) a thing you want to reach on a shelf at a store before reching for it. Do people give way? When asking someone(verbally) to leave the premise does it help to imagine his path out(that is, how will that affect your body-ingo, picked up by him)?

- "Ghost attacks". Decide on a person that will probably come into engagement range. Then decide that they will attack you(dont decide how) and that you will react effectively(dont decide how).
Then let your imagination find the rest out. Basically you want to "feel" the angle of attack, your movement of-line an roughly the line of your counter. And most importantly *when*. The moment in reality that the attack would start(and your fantasy starts). You can also be the (sucessfull) attacker in the fantasy, again with focus on when, but also thair targets(s). Its the triger-moment and the rough "feel" of the action you are after.

Carefull with this one - i think its bordering on the type of "black magic" that may backfire. You need to be in a very calm and relaxed frame of mind - *not* use it to blow of steam, cause others will pick it up(body lingo, not chakras...) - bad. Actually it may be better to just go for the time element of that one with real people and use imagines attackers/targets for the angle/target bit.

Hmmm. I think ill use this rant in the piece on social-psychology i should really be working on... Any thoughts on the subject appreciated.

Posted by Phil White (Member # 625) on 15 February, 2005 22:00February 15, 2005 10:00 PM:

do you have any articles fully explaining Coopers colour codes as you above mentioned? It sounds really interesting and I have heard of "action triggers" but not within Coopers colour code.

Posted by Slackbladder (Member # 137) on 16 February, 2005 09:14February 16, 2005 09:14 AM:

Phil, the best source of information on Cooper's Colour Code is the source of the code itself: "Principles of Personal Defense" as written by Cooper himself.

Cooper had regular columns in a few magazines and these are collected online as "Cooper Commentaries". Here are a few that directly pertain to the Colour Code:

Considering the principles of personal defense, we have long since come up with the Color Code. This has met with surprising success in debriefings throughout the world. The Color Code, as we preach it, runs white, yellow, orange, and red, and is a means of setting one's mind into the proper condition when exercising lethal violence, and is not as easy as I had thought at first. There is a problem in that some students insist upon confusing the appropriate color with the amount of danger evident in the situation. As I have long taught, you are not in any color state because of the specific amount of danger you may be in, but rather in a mental state which enables you to take a difficult psychological step.

Now, however, the government has gone into this and is handing out color codes nationwide based upon the apparent nature of a peril. It has always been difficult to teach the Gunsite Color Code, and now it is more so. We cannot say that the government's ideas about colors are wrong, but that they are different from what we have long taught here.

The problem is this: your combat mind-set is not dictated by the amount of danger to which you are exposed at the time. Your combat mind-set is properly dictated by the state of mind you think appropriate to the situation. You may be in deadly danger at all times, regardless of what the Defense Department tells you. The color code which influences you does depend upon the willingness you have to jump a psychological barrier against taking irrevocable action.


If anyone is still interested in the Color Code, I would like to point out that this psychological footpath does not refer to a state of peril, but rather to a psychological condition. There exists a strong, prominent reluctance in the minds of most people to taking lethal action against a living being. This exists in the gaming fields, but it is much more pronounced in personal confrontation. With most people there exists a strong "thou shalt not" against pressing the trigger when the sight is on the target. The Color Code overrides this, not because of danger, but rather because of readiness. I know of some very fine warriors who can be counted upon to hit what they shoot at, but only if they are emotionally prepared to shoot at it. The civilized "super ego" asks the question, "Shall I really shoot now?" And a strong, positive "Yes, shoot now" will result only if it has been prepared in advance. I do not own the term, and I cannot say that people who differ with me are wrong, but I can say that overcoming the mental block is what I hold to be a solution.

Posted by richsqady123 (Member # 504) on 16 February, 2005 09:45February 16, 2005 09:45 AM:

hey Slacky thats great stuff. I was teaching the colour codes last night, and trying to explain that issues of socialisation make it a huge step for "nice" people to hit first. I was glad to have read your yessterdays post on the matter just before the lesson, and next week I will make sure they`ve understood me properly. I will use your most recent post on this matter as a "prompt" because I think it is so well thought out and gets to the heart of the matter!


Alan Bec

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Re: Cultivating awareness

Post  Alan Bec on Thu Aug 24, 2006 3:33 pm

Posted by Slackbladder (Member # 137) on 17 February, 2005 08:01February 17, 2005 08:01 AM:

Rich, I must clarify that the colour-code material in my last post is written by Jeff Cooper himself. I had no part in writing that...though i wish I did. After reading those comments, I'm going to get a copy of PoPD and do my recommended reading, as my understanding of the colour code was less than satisfactory.

Posted by Phil White (Member # 625) on 17 February, 2005 22:49February 17, 2005 10:49 PM:

Cheers Slacky, thanks for the push as I slowly move toward 'satori'.

Posted by Spear (Member # 1752) on 08 March, 2005 18:45March 08, 2005 06:45 PM:

when i goto the pubs, i tend to make sure i'm sat somewhere with back to a wall and where i can see as much of the pub as possible, and without fail (or dodgy perverseness) sit where i can see the door to the toilets, that way i can see who's in. also keep my eye on pool table as well (mostly the lads round that corner). on top of that i can spot a burbury cap a mile off.
i havent done much of that profiling although i did find myself doing something similar in the pub on saturday just gone, 3 blokes kept looking in my and my friends general direction. a bit obvious, didnt look particularly shifty or anything, just seemed a anyways nothing ended up happening, all left after last orders etc... but i did find my self sizing him up, thinking of what i would/should do if he/they did try anything (automatically thinking of lamping the bigger one first lol) truth is if anything did happen i prolly would have lost, but it would have been messy for both parties >

think i might start doing the comentary thing, sounds like an incredebly usefull skill to develop.

ne ways thats my tupence worth.

laters all

Posted by Slackbladder (Member # 137) on 09 March, 2005 09:31March 09, 2005 09:31 AM:

More from Col. Cooper:

The Color Code refers not to a condition of peril, but rather to a condition of readiness to take life. Fortunately most people are very reluctant to take lethal action against another human being. Most people are reluctant to shoot for blood on a harmless game animal, until they become used to it. To press the trigger on a human adversary calls for a wrenching effort of will which is always difficult to achieve and sometimes apparently impossible. Thus we live our days in Condition White, which may or may not have anything to do with our danger, since quite frequently we are in deadly danger and do not realize it. Any time you cross directions out on a two-lane highway you are at the mercy of that character coming towards you in the opposite direction. Usually he is okay, but when he is under some sort of chemical influence, or is psychologically upset, he may only twitch his wheel to produce a multiple fatal accident. Most of us would prefer to live in Condition White permanently, and many do, but those who are more aware of the nature of things are often in Yellow, which is a condition in which we are aware that the world is full of hazards which are human, and some of which may be obviated by our own defensive action. When one is in Condition Yellow he is aware that today may be the day. He is not in a combat mood, nor is he aware of any specific situation which may call for action on his part. There is a vital difference between White and Yellow, and it has to do not with any specific enemy or a set of circumstances, but rather with your awareness that you individually may have to take decisive action on this very day. If you are attacked in Condition White, you will probably die, or at least need a stretcher. If you are attacked in Condition Yellow, you will probably win, assuming that you are armed, awake and aware. The difference does not lie in the deadliness of the hazard facing you, but rather in your willingness to take a very unusual action.

If in the course of events you become aware of the possible existence in your presence of a lethal adversary, you switch from Yellow to Orange. The difference lies in the specific nature of your presumed antagonist, not in his evident competence or attitude. In Yellow you say to yourself, "I may have to shoot today." I may actually have to press my trigger on a human adversary, but I don't know who or where.

When you detect the presence of a target who may be the one you will have to engage, you shift from Yellow to Orange. In Yellow your mind-set is "I may have to shoot today." In Orange it is "I may have to shoot him today." At this point your normal reluctance becomes easier to overcome. Legal and moral aspects of the conflict are lowered and have been dismissed from your mind. Your attitude is dictated by the presence of that enemy standing there. You may have to shoot him, now, today. What is needed is a trigger. The trigger is the act establishing that the situation is indeed a matter of lethal conflict. This is Condition Red, and in Red you have solved the psychological problem and have no further concerns beyond the technical. In Red you are go, and your mind is concerned only with front-sight and surprise.

Moving from the various Conditions into each other is easy to accomplish once it is understood. If you are attacked in White you will lose the fight. In Yellow you will have the advantage of initiative response over your antagonist. In Orange you are pretty safe, provided you are armed, alert and aware. In Red you win. Simple, isn't it? Clearly you cannot go any further than Red because in Red you have already made the lethal decision. Complications are unproductive.


Again I must wearily emphasize that Condition Orange is not "hot yellow." The difference between Yellow and Orange is that in Yellow the shooter has no specific target in mind, whereas in Orange he has. This makes a decisive difference in his mental ability to adjust to the fact that he may have to shoot. In Yellow the shooter says "I may have to shoot today." In Orange the shooter says to himself "I may have to shoot him right now." No matter how much danger you think you are in, no matter how near the enemy or how great his numbers, unless you have picked out a particular target at which you are prepared to shoot you are not in Orange - you are in Yellow. Sometimes I despair of getting this point across, since I frequently receive correspondence from students I thought I had educated indicating that they were not listening when I made the point on the platform.

[ 2005-03-09, 09:36 AM: Message edited by: Slackbladder ]

Posted by TonyS (Member # 1427) on 09 March, 2005 15:21March 09, 2005 03:21 PM:

Cheers SlackBladder!

Posted by peter skillen (Member # 125) on 11 March, 2005 19:04March 11, 2005 07:04 PM:

when does awareness become paranoia!
And if your always that switched on about your surroundings can you enjoy your nights out,walks in the country,the trip to the shops with the wife.....dont you ever think that sometimes you can take things to far...

Posted by JOHN SKILLEN (Member # 54) on 11 March, 2005 19:14March 11, 2005 07:14 PM:

thats what coopers codes are there for pete to control the awarenss feelings so you don't get paranoid just safer!
take care

Posted by peter skillen (Member # 125) on 12 March, 2005 16:38March 12, 2005 04:38 PM:

i would like to read them john if you have a copy..sounds intresting cheers peter

Posted by Slackbladder (Member # 137) on 12 March, 2005 18:27March 12, 2005 06:27 PM:

The best description of Coopers color codes are given in my post above.
To summarise
White: Switched off/relaxed in a safe environment.
Yellow: Steady awareness of your environment/acceptance that "today may be the day I am attacked"
Orange: Threat identified/I may have to negate (beat unconscious/kill) that person/s.
Red: Fight!/Kill!

It should be emphasisied that the code is a method of bringing your mindset up to speed as quickly as possible. You should fight with the attitude that you are prepared to kill the bad guy if that is what it takes to win. Quite whether you choose to do so is YOUR decision, but you must be prepared to go all the way if necessary, otherwise you will perish if your opponent is prepared to to further than you.

Posted by peter skillen (Member # 125) on 13 March, 2005 12:30March 13, 2005 12:30 PM:

i thought i had heard of this and i have yes have practiced these..just didnt know this is what it is called. i always do fight till the end and for protection of myself or my family i would go all the way i just try not to fight. iv'e seen enough violence to last me a life time..thanks for the tip thou

Posted by Irishmick8 (Member # 1772) on 20 March, 2005 15:02March 20, 2005 03:02 PM:


Originally posted by peter skillen:
when does awareness become paranoia!
And if your always that switched on about your surroundings can you enjoy your nights out,walks in the country,the trip to the shops with the wife.....dont you ever think that sometimes you can take things to far...

Posted by Irishmick8 (Member # 1772) on 20 March, 2005 15:03March 20, 2005 03:03 PM:

excellent, Pete, please read my husband's bio in "introductions"
Looking for help,
Mrs. I

Posted by teapot (Member # 1515) on 20 March, 2005 16:02March 20, 2005 04:02 PM:


I get asked the "when does awareness become paranoia?" a lot.

They're actually two different things. Awareness is just that, I am aware of what's going on around me unlike most people.

I used to love the saying...

"There are three groups of people in the world..

there is a small group of people who make things happen...there is another small group who watch things happen...

..and then there's this HUGE group who say "Hey, what just happened?"

Paranoia, unlike awareness, is fear. Someone suffering from it wouldn't go out at all as they'd be too afraid. And, as silly as this sounds, if they were aware, they'd be aware that they were suffering from paranoia and get help for it.

Something else that ties in here is mention of the sign at West Point that says..

A General may be forgiven for being beaten..
But he will never be forgiven for being surprised." (Paraphrasing that by the way).

Posted by Bline (Member # 1826) on 20 April, 2005 15:58April 20, 2005 03:58 PM:

Hey, new to the board, first post... Tend to call myself Bline when I'm on messenger boards, but proper given name is Aili (pronounced eye-lee).

I happen to be a rather (how do I describe it), not scared, but suspicious woman, especially when I go to pubs/clubs etc. Tend to avoid them places, guys are somewhat dodgy with a few drinks in them... Have had a few nasty experiences, which is why I tend to be super aware, bordering on being over-sensitive and paranoid (yeye, I'm working on chilling out a bit)... Come to think of it, I haven't been out clubbing since I was last groped and reacted with slapping the perp and throwing my drink at him. Luckily he wasn't up for a fight.

Any hints on how to stay aware but avoid getting self into situations I can't manage? Have browsed some of the self-defence threads and I'm just thinking that (at least in the country I come from) you can be charged with assault even if you didn't attack but rather defend yourself. How does that work?

EDIT: "We're all full of fear, to the brim. Some just hide it better than others." Just watched the clips from "Bouncer". Thought it was fitting...

Alan Bec

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Re: Cultivating awareness

Post  Alan Bec on Thu Aug 24, 2006 3:34 pm

Posted by Slackbladder (Member # 137) on 21 April, 2005 16:53April 21, 2005 04:53 PM:


Any hints on how to stay aware but avoid getting self into situations I can't manage?

This may sound trite, but I am sincere when I say it.

If your awareness is good, you will see a situation unfold. It is not enough to merely see your surroundings, you must USE the information your senses gather. Like chess, you can look at the board, but you must also predict what will happen next! It is not enough to simply know where everyone is in relation to you. Awareness means you must be aware of the behaviour of others and predict the events of the next five minutes.

Information, no matter how rich and well-detailed is USELESS without a decision following reciept. You must act on what you see.

If you see a bad situation unfolding, you leave. If you cannot leave, you must ACT to ensure your safety. You CANNOT do nothing.

Posted by Bline (Member # 1826) on 21 April, 2005 19:07April 21, 2005 07:07 PM:


If you see a bad situation unfolding, you leave. If you cannot leave, you must ACT to ensure your safety. You CANNOT do nothing. [/QB]

Thanks. Bit of food for thought there. I tend to want to "police" a situation, like take control of what's happening, might have to work on leaving instead.

In a way, it depends on the situation and on the "offending" person, like if they look like they're likely to flip out, I remove myself from the situation, but if they move in on someone who can't defend themself I find it really hard not to jump to the rescue. I've had to start learning that I have limitations though. I'm not as tough as I'd like to think I am.

A second scenario would be a guy crossing my physical boundries/moving into my personal space or making a comment on my appearance or something in that direction. That's when I really get severely angry, and that's when I stop thinking and start using 'physical correction' to get them to know that their behaviour stinks. I think I've been lucky so far, there haven't been any nutters who've crossed my path in this way. In a way I expect people to leave me alone if i leave them alone, that's not always the case. You don't argue with a drunk, you hit them so they understand that you mean what you're saying.

EDIT: Not sure if I'm moving off topic here, sorry if that's the case.

[ April 21, 2005, 07:09 PM: Message edited by: Bline ]

Posted by Nick Engelen (Member # 400) on 21 April, 2005 19:47April 21, 2005 07:47 PM:

From Marc Mac Young I learned that Awareness is actually shutting of the mental background noise. To be able to be aware of what happens around us we must stop paying attention to what's going on inside our heads.

Most of the time the subconsious picks up signals from our suroundings but we are to busy thinking about what happened at work or what we are going to do when we are home... I try not to think and focus more on beautifull buildings, attractive girls and women around me, birds, sunsets etc...

Last time I trained with Den he told me that the suconcious takes care of us.

Then if I feel not right about a situation I try to fix things by sitting somewhere else or leave completely.

Kind Regards,

Nick Engelen

Posted by Slackbladder (Member # 137) on 21 April, 2005 22:58April 21, 2005 10:58 PM:

Pure self protection is a very selfish act. Your aim is to keep yourself alive at all costs. The vast majority of us relax the rules slightly because we feel obliged to protect those near and dear to us, becoming prepared to die if necessary so that they might live.

Some, albeit a rare few, choose to extend their umbrella of protection to protect all who may need it. Although we may admire the individuals who do such a thing, it is NOT practical advice for self protection. Such decisions are to be made according to your own ethical code, not mine or anyone else's.
If you should wake up in intensive care paralysed from the neck down, you want to be certain that you'd do the same thing again if you had the chance, not thinking "Damn! I should have left that bar sooner!"
You answered your own question. If you're not prepared to die for your principles, I don't feel you should act as a third party in any confrontation.

Posted by Chris (Member # 342) on 22 April, 2005 10:12April 22, 2005 10:12 AM:

Self protection is actually the least selfish act possible.

Life is a gift from God, protecting and defending that life is an expression of love.. for yourself, God and those who care for you that you save from the pain of the loss.

I also believe that those who have the strength and skill have a duty to act on bahelf of those who are victimised (NOT those who are asshats in bar fights but real victims). That is just my view though and from a self preservation viewpoint may not be logical at times.


Posted by Bline (Member # 1826) on 22 April, 2005 12:53April 22, 2005 12:53 PM:

Slackbladder, Chris, thanks for input.

I suppose I would be prepared to die for me principles (or for someone else) in certain circumstances. Just don't want that circumstance to be caused by ignorance and stupidity.


Posted by krookedone (Member # 2224) on 14 November, 2005 07:39November 14, 2005 07:39 AM:

Self preservation is an instinct. It is THE strongest instinct. So it is neither selfish or not selfish, IMO. It is just instinctive.

The second strongest instinct is precreation of the species. An old geezer I knew at the local was a funny bastard. He told a group of us one day how you could tell that self preservation was a stronger instinct than procreation. He told it this way:

If you walk in and find someone in the sack with your girl, and you point a gun at them and say "Piss off now you prick or you're dead," they never say "Hang on a second mate, I'm just about to come."


Posted by Bill Kipp (Member # 2061) on 17 November, 2005 16:46November 17, 2005 04:46 PM:

Awareness: I have been off traveling like a nut and just got back in to see this thread. Lito, excellent writing of awareness as you always do. I would add an important addition to awareness. We typically think about external awareness such as our environment, conditions, context, etc...

This is all very important. But just as important if not more is awareness of how do we communicate? Do we give off unconscious cues that excite the predators to prey on us. What is our body language, eye contact, facial expression, and tone of voice? Used skillfully these are all very powerful SD skills, or they can get us into big trouble if done incorrectly.
Where in our body does our intuition reside, those alarm bells that occur viscerally in everyone, but in different places? Even if our brains are freaking out in the adrenal rush, awareness of the intuition can cue us to better defense if we listen to it.
What are our our conditioned inner voices that might keep us from responding properly when our intuition goes off, voices we get from our upbringing, from the media, from our friends that often get us into big trouble? Like denial"this can't be happening", or "never back down or you are a wimp" or needing a snappy comeback to be "cool" in front of our buddies that will just escalate the situation and make it worse.

Crucial is awareness of how do we respond under duress? Do we tend to go passive and become victims, or do we go aggressive and exacerbate situations like gas on a fire? What are our personal triggers or buttons someone can push to get us to lose control? (If we are not in control of ourselves, then someone else can be, and the jerks of the world are damn good at doing it!)

Just some food for thought on top of the awesome stuff already posted.
Bill Kipp

Alan Bec

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Re: Cultivating awareness

Post  Alan Bec on Thu Aug 24, 2006 3:34 pm

Posted by sunli9 (Member # 2454) on 07 March, 2006 00:54March 07, 2006 12:54 AM:

Thanks Lito for the tips. This makes me feel better. I always look at everyone when I enter the room and notice things about them and assess their behavior. I guess I must be doing this to size up the crowd possibly instinctively for my protection. I also look at the architecture of the building and the possible exits. In some respects I think women do this instinctively too in a competitive sense to size up the other women in the room to determine the alpha female although it can be applied towards men too.

Now I don't feel so paranoid.

Posted by DGC (Member # 2301) on 08 April, 2006 08:35April 08, 2006 08:35 AM:


Relatively new to this excellent forum: there have been some excellent posts put forward on this topic.

Lito explained very clearly the use of commentary skills and he made some excellent points especially that one should take it slow, and gradually get used to developing one's skills in this area.

Commentary work I have found can get very tiring on the brain, so his approach makes a lot of sense. Also he said that at first the task seems laborious but later one can gain unconscious competence - this is excellent stuff.

The person that is the "alexander teacher etc" (sorry can't recall name at moment - so much for my observation and recall skills) made an excellent point that the subconscious or unconscious mind is processing vast amounts of information all the time (I am a long time practitioner of the martial arts - 27yrs and a fully trained Clinical Hypnotherapist and NLP practioner).

That point re the unconscious mind, the deeper mind was correct. It is true to say that the human subconscious is working all the time to scan and pick up information, working with it rather than against it is a vital key to aid self protection.

Thus trusting one's sixth sense, going with that gut feeling and picking up on vibes and not over ruling them with conscious reasoning, yes checking the situation but being honest and honestly recognising autonomic feelings is essential. Of course over reacting or reacting ahead of time is also to be avoided so it is a fine line, but very often we as socialised human beings tend to dampen down or overide our gut instincts and this can prove fatal. Our ancestors used these very same feelings for survival. Females can be better at picking up on these subtle feelings and shifts in energy in the environment, but it is a skill that can be cultivated.

If the hairs on the back of your neck are standing on end and you are feeling edgy in an environment I think that is definitely an action cue and one that should not be ignored. Of course one must be sensible and reasoned in the action that one then takes. But ignoring a possible threat for not wanting to appear foolish or for not wanting to embarass oneself, is not a good game plan. Better to be an alive person feeling foolish than a brave one injured or dead. That is my opinion.

Lastly I would like to make readers aware of an article that I found on self protection which contains many good points in one format:

Once again I would like to say thanks to the people on a forum where there are some excellent articles and comments being posted.

Best regards


[ April 08, 2006, 08:50 AM: Message edited by: DGC ]

Posted by DGC (Member # 2301) on 09 April, 2006 13:01April 09, 2006 01:01 PM:

Here is another link on this subject matter - it also looks at visual and auditory cues elements of which have been discussed by forum members:

Here is a little taster from the article titled Combat Perception:

"Situational Awareness
Here's a test: the next time you are at the local mall, observe people and their interaction with their surroundings. What you will find is that people in general are oblivious to others outside of either their direct vision or their "comfort zone," which is the area in which someone may feel that you are "too close." Now while you are watching the "cattle," pay attention and you will see the "wolves." Malls are ripe pickings for those with the criminal mindset and guile, and the "cattle" are easy prey.

Why is this important? As a fighter, you should always be aware of your surroundings and be aware of possible threats. Notably, this should be a subconscious effort on your part and should never cease when awake. Or will you become another victim? An aware fighter should never be surprised when violence escalates.

This concept that is part of Combat Perception is called Situational Awareness."

The author is Michael Parriski who cross trains in powerlifting and emphasises the combat principles of his martial art.



Alan Bec

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