Posts Tagged ‘The Stages of Self Defense’

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.



The Stages of Self-Defense

Posted: December 21, 2017 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles
Tags: , ,

When people think of Krav Maga or even self-defense, they often do not understand the complex nature and progression of violent situations.  In the post on use of force the graph gives a basic idea of how complex a situation can get from a second to second decision making perspective. Almost all violent attacks are because of a failure to be aware and avoid the situation. However, it is also possible that a situation, due to circumstances was unavoidable which means how we approach it will be fundamentally different.

There are two primary reasons that you were unable to foresee or avoid conflict.

  1. You were not paying attention and your awareness level was probably at white. (See post on Awareness Colour code)
  2. They had been planning it and their tactics and approach were simply better.

In addition, this model is still subject to the model of action is faster than re-action.

Run away.jpgWhile you may see variations of this model below we offer a simplified version of the basic 4 stages for progressing in a self-defense situation. Ideally, you can use step one, as you win 100% of fights you are not, but remember at any point you may be in any one of the stages which means you must respond appropriately and in progressive order.

Avoidance (A)

If you do not put yourself in a situation where conflict is required then you will not have conflict in the first place. Avoidance can mean many things. It could mean you identify a threat and run away, or ensuring that you are not in a situation requiring conflict. Perhaps it means not walking in that dark alley at night alone. This seems like common sense but many people make poor decisions that naturally put them in a situation more conducive to conflict. Perhaps it means not going to a party with the person that doesn’t like you and that you know will result in conflict if you go. Maybe you are simply sitting at a coffee shop and you notice a person acting strangely so you decide to leave, or you simply make yourself aware of them so if they do something you are prepared. In the avoidance stage, the threat is not aware of you as a target. Of course, we recognize that avoidance is not always possible and as such we move down the progression scale.

Diffusion (D)

At this point in a conflict, the threat has actively identified you. This is the stage to which many first world countries like to advocate. This is essentially the diplomacy stage. In Canada, 9 times out of 10 you can talk your way out of a potentially dangerous situation. (In some countries, however, if a threat has identified you, you will have no choice but to run or skip to step 3 and/or 4). Or, at the very least you should talk as a distraction to find your exit and run. If you can talk your way out of a conflict do so, but remain defensive. In this situation, you MUST be in semi-passive stance or something equivalent. Your hands MUST be up and ready to act should the threat decide to attack. If they attack first you will be jumping right to Re-Active Self Defense. However, if attempting your diffusion you assess through observation that they are becoming more and more aggressive, then we recommend that you strike first as move down the progression scale to a pre-emptive attack strategy.

Pre-Emptive Self Defense (Pre-Emptive Action (PE))

Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. This is a common saying that could not be truer. Because of the concepts of action vs. reaction, it is always more beneficial to act first as this means you will be one step ahead of the threat. We cannot tell you when or how to act first as it is completely up to you to assess when it is required, but we can tell you that when you strike you must strike hard, fast and with retzev. You must attack with a goal which is to stop the threat and at any point you feel the threat is no longer there, you must assess and either detain the individual or run to safety.

Reactive Self Defense (Re-Active Action (RE))

If you are reacting to defend yourself it means something has gone wrong. It means you failed to use step 1-3 and have grossly misread the entire situation, or it could mean that the tactics the threat are using are simply better than yours. Either way you are reacting to defend yourself and stop the threat from doing you harm. This is where the explosive aggressive aspects of Krav Maga come in. It is not good enough to simply block, you must block and attack using retzev to escape or stop the attacker from wishing to continue.

*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.