Cooper's Colour Codes

Jeff Cooper was an American combat pistol instructor who devised a simple system of using colour codes to define the level of awareness that an individual has.  Awareness, or Threat Awareness is one of the key aspects of self-defence, or more accurately self-protection.  Without awareness, people very often sleep-walk into violent situations.  Next time you are out walking along the street, just watch how many people are walking around completely oblivious to what is happening around them.  With their earplugs on, tapping on their mobile phones, staring at their feet or just drifting along with their brains completely switched off.  It is really quite frightening!  Cooper's colour codes were devised to identify the different levels of awareness so that we can identify them and practice staying vigilant without becoming completely paranoid and seeing enemies everywhere!

Code White is the first stage of awareness, although it would be more accurate to call it a state of unawareness.  In this stage a person is completely unaware of their environment and the people around them.  Think of the nature programmes of a herd of gazelle's grazing whilst a lion is prowling, waiting, and assessing which gazelle to choose.  The gazelle is completely unaware of what is happening around them and completely focussed on eating their dinner.  If they stay in this stage, then they will be the main course of the lion's dinner!  The same is true of people when faced with predatory criminals.  Don't end up as their main course.

Code Yellow is the second stage of awareness.  This is commonly known as being switched on.  In this state, a person will perceive what is happening around them and take note of environmental danger areas such as dark secluded streets, parks and alleyways and fringe zones.  A person in this state is also consciously monitoring people from a distance and conducting preliminary threat assessments, attempting to identify potential predators.  The predators can be easy to spot once you get the hang of it.  Amongst other things, predators tend to hand around on the outside edge of a group, consciously assessing the people passing them, looking for an easy target.

Code Orange is the third stage of awareness and it is a stage of threat evaluation.  When in Code Yellow you may have identified a potential threat to you.  Someone who you found suspicious hanging around, perhaps on the edge of a dark car park near to a cash machine watching you use the cash machine.  In this stage you are assessing the threat and the entire situation.  You should be assessing the terrain or environment, looking for potential escape routes should the situation escalate.  By identifying potential threats you can prevent yourself becoming a target just by looking at them and making momentary eye contact.  Not enough eye contact to challenge their perceived authority or status, but enough to let them know that you have spotted them and know that they are there and you have identified them as a potential threat.  This is enough to convince most predatory criminals that they should wait for a softer target who they can catch unawares. Importantly, this should be done from a distance, if you get too close, it may be too late.

Code Red is the final state of awareness and it is the stage of threat avoidance.  This is where the threat has presented itself and you now have to take action.  This stage will be accompanied by adrenalin and all of the effects of that.  If you successfully identified an escape route when in Code Orange, then use it straight away.  If there is no escape route, then now you may have to use reasonable force to ensure your safety.  Once you have the opportunity, run.

Once the threat has reduced or disappeared, then drop back to Code Yellow or Code Orange.  Never drop back down to Code White.  Remember the old Samurai warrior adage "When the battle is over, tighten your helmet straps. Don't move from a position of advantage to one of defeat just because you were busy patting yourself on the back.

Remember the two key components to ensuring your safety from any attacker is 1) Time and 2) Distance.  The more time and distance you put between yourself and your attacker, the safer you will be.  Learning martial arts skills and techniques is just one component of giving yourself time and then distance between yourself and your attacker.  Don't sacrifice all of your hard work in the Dojo by being careless when you are in the real world.  You owe it to yourselves, your family and your friends to keep safe.  

The 4 D's

The Four D's are techniques used by predatory criminals in preparing victims for attack identified by Geoff Thompson (2004) in his excellent self-protection book Dead or Alive: The Choice is Yours - The Definitive Self-Protection Handbook.

Dialogue - This is often termed the interview.  Predators like easy targets and they like to stack the deck in their favour.  Any idea of a fair fight or a contest is out of the question for predatory offenders.  They want to win, and they want to dominate you by any means at their disposal.  To do this, they know that they have to get close enough to stop any possible escape and to dominate you before you are even aware of what is happening.  By engaging in dialogue with their victim, a predator knows that they can get close to you.  Then they start to spin their web around you.

Deception - After the predator has started to close the distance and engage you in dialogue, the deception begins.  Predators do not generally come up to you with their chests puffed out, shouting obscenities, with their fists tightly clenched! Predators will most often start off talking politely and in a friendly manner.  Their body language and tone of voice will all portray the message I am not a threat to you. Unfortunately, they are a threat and you need to make some key decisions to ensure your own safety.  

Distraction - Once the predator has closed the distance on you and sent the immediate signal to you that they are not dangerous, the next thing that they will do is distract you.  Have you got a light mate? Have you got the time, mate?  "Sorry sweetheart, can you tell me the way to the bus-stop?  What ever the question, it is designed for one thing and one thing distract you.  Natural behaviour dictates your response.  "Have you got a light mate? invariably leads you to look down to your pockets and pat them, even if you don't smoke and never carry a cigarette lighter.  "Have you got the time? automatically makes you lift your wrist and look down at your arm as if to tell the time, or even worse, get your mobile phone out to tell the time (this is now one of the main ploys amongst robbers in the UK with young victims.)   Whatever you do, you are not thinking about the person stood in front of you, the person who is intent on causing you serious harm.

Destruction - Destruction comes in two main parts, psychological and physical.  Straight after the distraction, suddenly and without warning (except for when you reflect on what happened and realise that there have been at least 3 major warning signals that you have missed) the attacker destroys you.  This may be in terms of a total and overwhelming change in their behaviour from friendly, polite and civil, to being threatening and intimidating or just straight to an assault. The destruction portion is entirely dependent upon the predator and what their actual goal is for this crime.  For instance, if the predator just wants your mobile phone and wallet, then they may be intent on not drawing attention to themselves. They may just scare you into complying with their demands to hand over your property before they leave the scene. If violent assault or kidnap is their goal, then they may well just jump straight into a forceful and frenzied attack, beating you to a pulp whilst you are still thinking what the time is.  Either way, you have lost. But why? How? Because you were not aware of what was happening, you did not recognise the situation for what it was and you allowed the cycle to continue. As harsh as it sounds, your ignorance led to your own destruction.

Don't let this happen for real.  If it has already happened, don't let it happen again.  Next time you might not be so lucky. The fastest reverse punch or kick in the world won't help you if you didn't even know you were in a confrontation. Remember, violent crime is not a sparring match. It is not even a fight. It is assault. The odds are stacked against you. The predator has geared everything, from the environment, the time, the place, the location, the victim, even down to what the victim is thinking (now where is the nearest bus-stop?!) and they have done this so that they have the best chance possible of being successful.

Use the principles of Threat Awareness, Threat Evaluation and Threat Avoidance to stay safe. Constant awareness is the basis of good security. Good awareness allows you to identify potential predators and avoid confrontations.  Quite often, demonstrating awareness is often enough to convince a predator that you are not a soft target. And one thing that predators love is soft-targets. What type of target will you be?  

Read Dead or Alive:  The Choice is Yours - The Definitive Self-Protection Handbook by Geoff Thompson. Geoff Thompson is one of the leading figures within the Martial Arts World and Joint Chief Instructor of the British Combat Association to which Lee Taylor Karate belongs.

Caution:  This book contains graphic references to real violence and may not be suitable for children.