Posts Tagged ‘Situational Awareness’

In 1989, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper, a former US Marine and creator of “the modern technique” of gun fighting, wrote a booked called Principles of Personal Defense and he devised a colour code to indicate the level of awareness a person has. Black was added later by the USMC after realizing what extreme stress can cause. The awareness colour code is a simplified view of a person’s stress and awareness under stressful potentially dangerous situations. It is important to know both in Krav Maga and in life at what level you are to avoid reaching code Black. A keyword often heard in Krav Maga is ” Situational Awareness” this as taught in class is usually referring to environmental awareness. Here you must ask yourself things like, are there multiple attackers? are their weapons? Do I have viable escape routes? etc… However, a big part of situational awareness is also your personal mental state and your ability to act or react appropriately. Enter, the Awareness Colour code. An easy guide to understanding your mental state at any given time.Principles of self defense.jpg

White – Unaware and Unprepared

This is you sitting relaxed on the couch after a large meal. Often students like to test an instructor, however even if a black belt is teaching but is at this level, any person could easily sucker punch even the most accomplished martial artist. This is a relaxed and unassuming state, you are not anticipating an attack and are relaxed both mentally and physically. This is a state you should be in only in safe environments.

Yellow – Relaxed Alert (A)

Most animals such as cats or dogs spend most of the time in this state. To quote his book;

“Observe your cat. It is difficult to surprise him. Why? Naturally, his superior hearing is part of the answer, but not all of it. He moves well using his senses. He is not preoccupied with irrelevancies. He’s not thinking about his job, his image or his income taxes. He’s putting first things first, principally his physical security.”

 – Jeff Cooper (2006). “Principles of Personal Defense: Revised Edition”, p.14, Paladin Press

In this stage, you are relaxed but still paying attention.  It would be harder to surprise a person at this stage but they are still not at a level of any stress, just simple awareness. It must be understood that being at Yellow, or relaxed alert, is not paranoia. If one were to mentally be at orange (below) or above on the scale on a regular basis, identifying everything as a threat whether real or imaginary then this would then be moving into paranoia. Remember, relaxed alert is just that, relaxed. Here you can stay indefinitely with out any issues other than being more prepared to perceive, Analyze, Formulate and Act (See Action Vs. Reaction: Stages of Mental Processing for more) against identified threats.

Orange – Specific Alert (A) (D) (PE)

This is when you have identified a specific area or person of concern and your attention is focused. A nefarious looking person walking towards you. A soldier on patrol assessing windows and doors. While Yellow is a stage that you can maintain indefinitely, Orange requires mental concentration. Consider working an 8 hour job. Statistically most work is done before noon as people still have the mental focus to be productive. The same goes for Orange; stay here for too long and you will begin to read the situation incorrectly.

Red – Condition Red is Fight (PE) (RA)

Either the situation was unavoidable or you misread it but you are now actively engaged in a fight or conflict. Imagine a car tachometer.  How long can it stay red lined until the engine blows. The same goes for a fight. How long can you maintain this level both mentally and physically? This is why for us, as Krav Maga practitioners, we try to limit time spent here and end it as soon as possible.

Black – Catastrophic Breakdown (Non-Functional Freeze (NFF))

You have now experienced a complete catastrophic breakdown mentally, physically or both. The longer you spend at condition Red the more likely you are to experience this. An example of this would be shell shock. However, sometimes, some people go straight from White or Yellow to Black. This would be the “freeze” reaction, which is when your nervous system is overwhelmed and instead of entering “fight or flight,” simply shuts down. You can avoid this by training properly so that your brain and body know how to react appropriately. However, it is impossible to know who will experience this. Some people are prone to it and some people are not. It is also important to have proper mental decompression if you spend too much of your time at Orange or Red. If you experience this or anything like it and have survived a violent confrontation we advise that you seek professional counselling to ensure that you do not suffer from Depression or Post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result and can get a proper debriefing both practically and emotionally.

* See The Stages of Self Defense post for more details on the below information

  • (A) – Avoidence
  • (D)- Diffusion
  • (PE) – Pre-Emptive
  • (RE) – Re-Active

**Topics under any principle category (EX. Krav Maga Principles) may be updated from time to time so always check in every few months to see if the posts have been updated.


 

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situational-awareness

While Krav Maga is by no means new, it is still new to many people, especially in North America. When I am asked, which is often, what is Krav Maga, I usually go into some long unending history of it  to the unfortunate individual who was silly enough to ask me that question. I usually say it’s complicated, but it is basically self defense that works with an Israeli twist. However, I think I can simplify it even further. It is the art of awareness.

After being asked to describe the importance of awareness in sports psychology, the first thing that came to mind was Krav Maga. As most Krav Maga practitioners should know, Imi Lichtenfeld,the man essentially responsible for creating Krav Maga famously said, when asked what Krav Maga was created for, “So one may walk in peace.” Add this to something I picked up from Nir Maman, “You win 100% of fights you are not in,” You begin to realize that the essence of Krav Maga is awareness. You may walk in peace because you know avoiding the fight is the best way to be safe and the only way to do this is by being aware.

Situational and environmental awareness is probably the most important thing you should get out of a good Krav Maga school. If you are only learning a set of moves, or just losing weight you should probably start looking for a new instructor or school. Now granted, being situationally aware may sometimes be seen as paranoia, it really is not. On the awareness colour code originally created by Jeff Cooper, being slightly aware is where most animals are at the yellow awareness level. This means you are calm, but still paying attention, while a person who is paranoid spends most of their time at the orange level which for most people would simply burn them out.

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Being aware simply means paying attention to what is going on around you. In today’s modern world, largely due to the smart phone,most people spend their time looking down at some kind of digital display and not paying attention to the world around them. This means that countless generations are losing that spatial and situational awareness that was crucial to early human survival in the wilderness. While I understand we are not in the wilderness anymore, the world once again is getting very violent. Being aware of your surroundings could literally be the difference between life or death. This means that if your Krav Maga training has made you aware of what’s going on around you then it is doing its job. I would like to think that we at Urban Tactics have put together a good program to get our students thinking. I mean I guess we are, since I regularly have students tell me that they are now paying attention to things they never used to. As teacher, educator, instructor, this makes me happy. It lets me know that my students are truly learning to be aware so that they may walk in peace. To sum it up, in the future when someone asks me what is  Krav Maga, I can now answer with ‘It is trained awareness for self defense, or simply awareness.” I realize that I will most likely end up giving another Krav Maga history lesson as it is my passion but I think it’s a good place to start.

Written By: Jonathan Fader

holding cellphones

I noticed a funny thing the other day that I have never put much thought into. I had forgotten something at the grocery store so at 11pm at night I headed back out to walk to the store.

I currently live in a relatively nice area of one of the suburbs of Vancouver, Cars lined the street and the trees grow tall hanging over the sidewalks. It was a clear mild night perfect for a late night outing. I looked up and about 200m down the sidewalk I saw a young woman. Her hands were out, and she was walking at a comfortable pace. As we got closer and closer she pulled out her smart phone and looked down at it as she walked passed me.

It dawned on me. Our technology is increasingly giving us a false sense of security. In this case, her looking down at her phone would do nothing to prevent me from attacking her if I was a bad person. Not only this, from a self defense point of view, the fact she has taken her eyes off of me for the perceived safety of the phone has actually put her in a worse situation.

If she had been looking at me and I attacked she would be able to have some kind of normal human instinctual flinch response, such as throwing her hands up to protect her face. However, now with her eyes down, focused on the screen pretending I was not there she would have no time to even do that. Technology has gotten in the way of our ability to even react with our normal instinctual reactions. This is bad.

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I thought about it even further and I am partially guilty of this myself. I know that if I am walking and I have my phone in my hand, while I am always paying attention it will drastically reduce the speed at which I can react. Why? because in the back of my head I think, this phone is my life, I run my business from it and it is expensive thus, I must protect it. I even may try to justify this fact by suggesting that the phone cannot defend itself so I must protect it.
This of course is not a good mentality, as a phone is just a thing and my life is well, mine and I would like to stay alive.

I know that with the phone in my hand I am at least initially operating as if I only have one good hand as my other will be holding on to the phone. Instead of the dropping it immediately or throwing it like I know I should it is likely that I will protect it first. Again, this is bad.

Granted, If I am in an area that I am really not comfortable in I always put it away and remain observant, but complacency can happen and I could still potentially be in a bad situations and not know it because I am still focused on my phone.

Imagine this, you are on a crowded subway or light transit system. What will you most likely see now in the 21st century?

You will see the same thing, many people looking down at their phones. If someone is attacked or being aggressive the only thing people will do is look up, see what’s going on and then look down back to their “safety”. There may be even one so bold as to film it and post it on YouTube for later viewing. Of course this is the Bystander effect at its greatest. The advantage now, compared to 50 years ago, is that there is evidence for later prosecution or arrest, but for those being attacked this is too little too late.

So I say to you, stop using your phone to avoid paying attention, it does not make the situation safer. If you see someone or something your are unsure of or do not like, pay attention. Put your phone in your pocket or purse and observe. You do not need to look at the person or thing in question, simply pay attention. Your phone will not save you in the moment but your situational awareness will.

Written By: Jonathan Fader