Defensive Mindset, The Color Codes

What’s in your mind today?

cooper-color-code-definitionJeff Cooper, the Dean of modern pistolcraft, developed a color code system to describe the mental state of a human being under different circumstances. Cooper firmly believed that the key ingredient to surviving a lethal confrontation was not the quality of equipment or even necessarily the level of training, but the mindset of the individual at that moment. He outlined this philosophy in his book Principles of Personal Defense. These principles apply to everyday living and survival as well as a defensive confrontation.

His color code system breaks down into four colors going from White to Yellow, Orange, and Red.

Let’s describe these colors, and the state of mind they represent.

White
In condition white, the individual is totally unaware of his immediate surroundings and is unprepared for any eventuality. This can happen when you are overly tired or preoccupied with something. Predators look for people in this mindset, and I am convinced that most people who are assaulted, raped, or even murdered were in this mindset when it happened. Try this. Go to a shopping mall, take a seat on a bench and just watch people. You will see a surprising number of people who are paying more attention to texting a message than where they are going and almost run into someone or something. Or simply people who are walking along while watching the ground at their feet and walk into something. Eventually they are going to walk into Mr. Mugger or Mr. Rapist. This is the state of mind that pilots refer to as “Fat, Dumb, and Happy” and usually occurs right before flying into the side of a mountain.

Yellow
This is the state of relaxed alertness and the state you want to learn to be in all of the time. You are aware of people and events around you, and is the normal state of a good driver. A good driver is constantly looking around, aware of the traffic around him, checks mirrors before changing lanes, ect. Being in this state will allow you to spot potential trouble before it becomes trouble. It’s looking around before you use the ATM. Checking th plate glass window while shopping to see who is behind you. It takes a bit of practice until this become natural and easy, but you need to work on it. This is NOT a state of paranoia!

Orange
Moving up the awareness scale, we move into Orange. Orange is a state of heightened awareness. Something has gotten your attention, and you are analyzing it with the intent to avoid or respond defensively. You start considering your immediate choices in regards to fight or flight in the event something happens.

Red
You are under actual attack by one or more assailants and are implementing your prior plan of fight or flight.

There have been a number a variations on this theme. The United States Marine Corps added the color Black which indicates a total breakdown of control with a corresponding loss of rational action. It’s what the Germans call “Hunde Angst” or the total unreasoning fear that an extremely frightened dog would exhibit. I don’t teach or expound on this because this is the situation you are trying to avoid.

So how does this work from a practical point of view for you? Let’s take a scenario of you in your local Stop and Rob and run the situation through each color. Remember, White is a dead end in a serious situation, while an escalation through the other colors could be slow or very fast.

White:
You are in the local convenience store to buy a carton of milk and you are next in line. You are talking on your cell phone to your daughter who has a problem. The next thing you realize, you are laying on the floor, your head is bleeding, and there is a man standing over you taking your wallet out of your pocket and pointing a gun at the cashier demanding money.

Yellow:
You are in the local convenience store to buy a carton of milk and you are next in line. You are gazing around the store while talking to your daughter on your cell phone. You notice the two young men who entered behind you and that they are standing close to you. You adjust your position so that you can see them in your peripheral vision.

Orange:
While standing in line at the local convenience store and talking to your daughter on your cell phone, you noticed the two young men that walked in right behind you. Something doesn’t seem “right”. They are nervously talking in whispers and one of them has his hand in his jacket pocket. You start considering your options (flight or fight) in case an incident happens. You are noticing the location of cover, exit doors, and are considering how you would employ any personal defense items you have.

Red:
You are in line at the local convenience store and have just ended a cell phone call to your daughter because the two young men behind you have been acting suspicious, talking in nervous, low whispers. You have made a plan of action in case something bad happens, and one of the young men pulls a gun out of his pocket and yells “Everyone freeze, this is a holdup”!
You immediately implement the plan you had decided on.

You need to learn to live in a state of Yellow on a constant basis. It takes time and practice but it may save your life.

When you stop in front of a window, look at the reflection to see who is behind you. If you need to use your cell phone on a public street, stop and place your back against a wall. When you are walking in public, keep your head erect and scan the area you are walking through. When using an ATM, look around you before using it. Learn to employ awareness techniques like this on a daily basis. Make it a game. Stay alert.

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7 thoughts on “Defensive Mindset, The Color Codes

  1. Colour coding threats has been round for ages.
    IMHO this is just another variant to a theme.

    Preppers use them a lot.
    The grey man persona uses them from GREEN in a safe haven, to ORANGE out and about, to RED in a potential threat scenario and BLACK for WW/ STHF/TEOTWAWKI.

    It’s a combination of proxemics (personal distance), local conditions, threat (from violence to CBRN-E) to situational awareness.

    Hell we even used them in civilian security together with profiling.
    Right the way down to health and safety risk assessments (spits on floor).
    You’ve probably used a threat assessment matrix on ranges as I have when setting up workshops.

    Not forgetting traffic lights:-
    Green Go
    Amber Go very fast
    Red Stop dummy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • As you say, color coding has been around for a long time in many forms. I use this one in my personal defese classes as a simplistic way to describe alertness. Yellow is where you need to be in all the time, I tell them. Relaxed alertness. Like a GOOD driver out on the highway, always looking around, estimating things around them for potential problems, adjusting distance to potential threats, etc. Many of my students seem to get it. Wehether they practice enough to employ it I do not know.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Today we went shopping and your colour code was on my mind.
        SWMBO had read your post so instantly worked out my muttering “WAY IN THE RED” as I drove past a group of male ‘imports’.

        Her next comment got me laughing though. “How many points for clouting a black”. She was of course thinking colour coding. :)

        Liked by 1 person

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