In today's blog we will cover Colonel Cooper's Color Codes of Awareness. Lt. Colonel Cooper is widely regarded as one of the Nation’s top authorities on defensive pistolcraft and personal defense philosophy. Well respected for his practical instruction on firearm mechanics and marksmanship, his innovative concepts on mental conditioning have made him a legend in the self-defense community. Col. Cooper also wrote the best-selling self-defense book, Principles On Personal Defense. If you haven't read this yet, I highly suggest you go order a copy right now.
Alertness is, to some extent, an inherent personality trait, but it can nonetheless be learned and improved. Once we accept that our familiar and prosaic environment is in fact perilous, we automatically sharpen our senses.
- COL. JEFF COOPER
A CLEAR, CONCISE & METHODICAL SYSTEM TO HELP YOU SURVIVE DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS BY UNDERSTANDING, UTILIZING & ADAPTING YOUR AWARENESS LEVELS.
The Color Code Awareness System is a clear, concise and methodical system designed to help people survive dangerous encounters by understanding and adapting one’s awareness levels. Mindset and critical thinking were an important part of Col. Cooper’s teaching philosophy. When instructing he made it clear that technical skills, like shooting accuracy, trigger manipulation and speed reloading were of little value, without the right mindset.
AWARENESS COLOR CODES
No situational awareness or preparedness. The only thing that may save you is the incompetence and ineptitude of your attacker. Odds of survival aren't good.
General awareness without specific threat identification. Your prior training and mindset should have sufficiently prepared you to take defensive action.
Specific threats are suspected or have been identified. Your awareness gathers intel from your environment and prepares the mind for defensive action.
Legitimate threats are identified. Your awareness heightens and prepares the body for defensive action. The use of force is likely and probably imminent.
Contact has been made. All energy must be focused on your threat. Superior tactics, training and mindset will be important for your survival.
CONDITION WHITE DESCRIBES AN UNAWARE AND UNPREPARED STATE OF AWARENESS. FOR THE SELF-DEFENSE MINDED CITIZEN, SEEK TO MINIMIZE TIME SPENT IN CONDITION WHITE.
Condition White is characterized as being totally unaware, oblivious and unprepared to defend yourself. Situational awareness is non-existent and the only real thing that will stop an assailant from harming you, is their own incompetence or decision to choose someone else as a victim.
There are situations when you may be on high alert and very aware of a specific threat (Condition Red), yet you find yourself in Condition White as well. How is this possible?... When concentrating your awareness on a specific threat, your awareness of the peripheral environment will deteriorate. Your brain is not able to focus on two separate things at the same time. Your brain is able to task-stack or task-switch, but not able to be hyper-focused on two stimuli simultaneously.
CONDITION YELLOW DESCRIBES AN AWARE AND PREPARED STATE OF AWARENESS. ADOPT CONDITION YELLOW WHEN YOU ARE OUT IN PUBLIC OR AROUND UNFAMILIAR PEOPLE, PLACES AND SITUATIONS.
Condition Yellow is characterized as being broadly aware, alert and prepared to defend yourself, if necessary. You have general situational awareness without having identified a specific threat. This is a healthy level of awareness that allows you to be relaxed and observe the world around you. If an assailant chooses to attack, you are ready and prepared for action.
Condition Yellow is a healthy state of awareness. You’re not paranoid or oversuspicious, yet you are alert and aware of what’s going on around you. However, your situational awareness isn’t that valuable if you’re not sure what to look for (e.g. Criminal Body Language, Violence Precursors, Staged Versus Concealed Weapons). Aside from the emotionless sociopath, most violent offenders will reveal physiological cues prior to an attack. Picking up on these cues will improve your self-defense capabilities.
CONDITION ORANGE DESCRIBES A VERY AWARE AND ACTION READY STATE OF AWARENESS. MENTAL FOCUS IS DIRECTED TOWARD A SPECIFIC THREAT OR AN UNSAFE AND DEVELOPING SITUATION.
Condition Orange is characterized as being specifically aware, very alert and mentally or physically prepared for action. The information received from your situational awareness has triggered a warning to your brain. You now have reasonable belief that a threat exists. Whether or not the perceived threat is real doesn’t matter. Preventative action is required.
Condition Orange is a heightened state of awareness. Through instinct, intuition, or threatening behavior, you have clearly identified a threat to your safety and well being. At this stage it is likely that you will begin to lose focus on peripheral stimuli and hard focus on the perceived threat. Don’t lose sight of the big picture. You may be facing multiple attackers who are looking to distract you, then attack you. Identify your imaginary line in the sand. When that line is crossed, it’s go time.
CONDITION RED DESCRIBES AN HYPER-AWARE AND CONFLICT READY STATE OF AWARENESS. ENEMY ENGAGEMENT AND THE USE OF COUNTERVAILING FORCE IS IMMINENT AND EXTREMELY LIKELY.
Condition Red is characterized by the identification and realization of a legitimate, serious and imminent threat. Your instincts and suspicions were correct. There is no time for hesitation or doubt at this point. All of your energy and focus must be directed toward the most efficient and intelligent ways to defend yourself and survive the violent encounter.
Condition Red is a heightened state of awareness. As you recognize the gravity of the situation, natural physiological processes are initiated—Blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rapidly increase. Visual acuity enhances centrally and diminishes peripherally. Perception of time and short-term memory can become distorted. Hormones and neurotransmitters are released. Blood flow is prioritized to major muscle groups, heart and lungs. Fine motor dexterity declines. Stay composed and keep a clear mind. It’s now kill or be killed.
CONDITION BLACK DESCRIBES AN OVERWHELMED AND POSSIBLY PANICKED STATE OF AWARENESS. CRITICAL DECISION MAKING AND INTELLIGENT BEHAVIOR MAY BE IMPAIRED OR ILL-ADVISED.
Condition Black is characterized by the severe breakdown of cognitive functioning and physical ability. It was adopted from the U.S. Marine Corps and was not an original part of Cooper’s Color Codes. This is a significant and often overlooked part of awareness theory. How will you react, respond and survive when serious shit hits the fan?
Condition Black is a worst case scenario that is quite difficult to simulate in training. There is nothing that can prepare you for Condition Black, other than real word experience. Even with force-on-force training, the students knows in the back of their mind, that this isn’t for real. The only way to truly know how you will react and respond, is to experience it first-hand. Possessing a survival mindset and a relentless will to survive are key factors in your ability to countervail and remain alive.
the Ability TO DYNAMICALLY adapt your awareness levels to your environment could be the difference between going home, going to the hospital or going to the morgue.
One key concept of the Color Code Awareness System that you should be aware of, is the ability to rapidly and dynamically change your level of awareness, based on your immediate situation and environment. Try not to think of awareness as a fixed state. Your awareness must be fluid, dynamic and adaptable. Many activities and duties of normal daily life, require you to juggle multiple states of awareness simultaneously.
"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.”
- Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper