Mental Awareness in Self Defense

In Tae Kwon Do class, my instructor has spoken about the need to be aware of our surroundings. That includes items like where the exits are located, where hiding places may be, what kind and how many potential assailants there are in what places. Such awareness can help one to anticipate an attack so that it might either be avoided altogether or the reaction time is instantaneous, increasing the effectiveness of your defense and the likelihood of your survival.

What I learned at [Front Sight][fs] makes mental awareness into a discipline that’s both simpler and more exact. It involves a color code similar to the Department of Defense’s “Defense Conditions:” Defcon 1, Defcon 2, etc., or the Department of Homeland Security’s color-coded threat conditions.

[fs]: http://www.frontsight.comEach color represents a state of awareness, beginning with condition white. Those in condition white are oblivious, perhaps because they are asleep, or they are so absorbed in something (a movie, a book, an iPod, etc.) that they don’t know or care what threats may exist in their surroundings. Obviously, this is a dangerous condition in which to live your life. You are not prepared to defend yourself or others from any threat, because you cannot identify any threats. You are an easy target for evildoers, and nothing more.

Condition yellow describes those who are continually on the lookout for potential threats. They notice the behavior of other people, and whether it fits their activities. They notice potential hiding places, in order to anticipate possible attacks. They may alter their location or facing direction to increase their ability to observe their environment safely, with space to maneuver defensively. The awareness of condition yellow comes from a continual, almost sub-conscious scan of the surroundings. It’s not the same thing as paranoia, but rather an acute awareness. Those in condition yellow are prepared to identify anything or anyone that is suspicious, and may possibly represent a threat. This is the condition in which we should try to remain as much as possible, rather than condition white, because then we are not an easy target for evildoers. However, when we have identified a potential threat, we immediately enter condition orange.

Condition orange is when we pay close attention to a potential threat that has been identified. This is the time when you might change position, stance, or direction, either to improve your tactical position or to test whether the threat is real. In a car, you might make a series of unlikely turns or stops while watching a potential threat in your mirrors. On a sidewalk, you might pause at a storefront window where you can watch a potential assailant in the reflection, or cross the street to see if potential assailants follow. This is the time to determine whether the potential threat is a false alarm or an actual threat. Meanwhile, your awareness of the environment allows you to form possible plans of defense. When I took a motorcycle safety course, I learned the ungainly acronym SIPDE, for Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute. It’s a series of steps that can be used constantly by riders to watch for potential threats in traffic and respond quickly and appropriately to remain safe. Condition orange corresponds to the Predict and Decide steps of SIPDE, after one’s continual Scan (in condition yellow) has Identified a potential threat. If an evildoer is paying attention, he may notice that you in condition orange are not easy prey, but are already aware that something may be amiss.

If while in condition orange, you verify that the threat is real, then you immediately enter condition red. A potential threat has been verified to be real, and it is time to take defensive action. In a car, you may drive to a police station, or if at a stop light, immediately make a right turn — over the sidewalk, if necessary. If flight is not possible, you immediately assume the best tactical advantage possible for a fight. There is likely to be an apparent disparity of force between you and your assailant(s), and if that is the case, it is time to present your weapon to the ready. It is also time to shout a command or warning, such as “Stop right there!” It may sound premature, but remember that a genuine threat has been verified to exist, and the intention of your assailant(s) is to do you harm, and possibly to harm your companions or neighbors too. At this point, you must mentally draw a line in the sand, identifying the point at which you will respond with violence, because it’s reasonable to predict that attack is immediately forthcoming. When that line is crossed, you enter condition black.

Condition black is when your combat training is set in motion. In martial arts, you apply sufficient force to control the situation in as short a time as possible. That means you will probably break or crush things, making your assailant require an ambulance to leave the scene. That is the only way at this point that you can guarantee he will break off his attack. That becomes even more important if there are multiple assailants. They should be disabled as quickly as possible, one at a time. With a firearm defense, the goal is the same: to end the attack as quickly as possible. In either case, you may be using deadly force, though the goal is not to kill. A controlled pair of shots to the thoracic cavity will stop most attacks as quickly as possible, and will also make an ambulance necessary for the assailant to leave the scene. In most cases, he will still survive the encounter, and that’s just fine.

In rare cases, the controlled pair of shots will not stop the attack. Perhaps he is high on drugs or adrenaline. Perhaps he is wearing body armor under his clothing. Perhaps he is simply tough and determined. You can’t tell. He is still attacking you with deadly force, and you are reduced to one option to stop his attack: a shot into the ocular-cranial cavity. The alternative is to allow him to harm or kill you and others. In condition black, you are prepared to do whatever it takes to stop the attack.

In the comfort of our desk chairs, without an assailant trying to do us harm, it may seem more reasonable to call 911 and wait for the police. That would certainly be more gentle toward your murderous neighbor-villain, and we should love our neighbor instead of harming him. But what about your family with you? And are you not also your own neighbor? Besides that, use of deadly force to defend yourself does not automatically mean the assailant will die, but if all goes well, you and others will escape harm. The Fifth Commandment requires not only that we refrain from harming our neighbor, but also that we defend them. Calling 911 as the only answer to Condition Red is not much of a defense. The average length of a gun battle is 2.5 to 3 seconds, and an excellent 911 response time in the city is about 5 minutes. You can call 911 after you survive, so that your assailants might receive the medical care they need.

Condition black is about one thing: stopping the attack.

One thought on “Mental Awareness in Self Defense

  1. I was thinking of this levels of awareness post when I went out for my walk/jog yesterday evening. Matt had told me before I left that I ought to take my .380 along since his friend, Cam, had spotted a cougar in his driveway just that morning. Cam’s driveway is straight north through the woods a mile from the route I go.

    Yes, I was a bit nervous. I tried to stay in Condition Yellow the entire time, but I confess my mind drifted at times.

    At one time I was so focused on scanning the woods that I didn’t notice at first some small varmint in the ditch grass right next to me. Oops. This Condition Yellow business takes practice.

    I’ve enjoyed your posts and look forward to more. I must say that I am a bit jealous of your Front Site training.

    Dre-e-e-e-eam, dream, dream, dream.

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