“He who strikes first usually wins” – Ernest Emerson
There are several components or evolutions of pre-emptive self-defense. Some of which are so obvious they could be called just plain common sense. Some others are much more subtle and require an ability to read a situation and adjust or modify your role in the interaction and/or manipulate the behavior of attackers or bad guy to your advantage.
These three words precisely sum up the essential objectives of what the concept of pre-emptive self-defense is all about. These three objectives, the same objectives used to protect us from terrorist attacks, are as effective for personal self-protection as they are when used in protecting our country.
There are several steps you can take to make them work just as effectively for you.
The first things I’m going to discuss are the levels of mental preparedness as defined by Colonel Jeff Cooper, perhaps the greatest influence on modern gun fighting and the teaching of shooting skills of the 20th century. Colonel Cooper devised a way to quantify and categorize the different states of mental preparedness that you are in, from a completely relaxed, unaware state of mind to the state of engaging in lethal action.
He developed a color code; White, Yellow, Orange and Red and used it to describe the escalating states of self-preparedness.
In the Colonel’s own words:
1. White – You are unprepared and unready to take lethal action. If you are attacked in white you will probably die unless your adversary is totally inept.
2. Yellow – You bring yourself to the understanding that your life may be in danger and you may have to do something about it.
3. Orange – You have determined upon a specific adversary and are prepared to take action, which may result in his death, but you are not in a lethal mode.
4. Red – You are in a lethal mode and will shoot if circumstances warrant it.
By identifying these different conditions as differing states of readiness and becoming consciously aware of them you can assess what condition you are in at any given moment and decide if it is appropriate for any situation you may find yourself in. It also gives you the ability to make a conscious decision to step to the next rung of readiness if the situation warrants it so.
So, let’s start with the most obvious ways to protect yourself from an attack and hopefully, pre-empt an attack before it happens.
Common Sense Rules Your Safety
Don’t go to an ATM at 2:00 in the morning. Don’t flash cash in a bar, or anywhere else for that matter. Lock the doors of your house. Don’t wear expensive jewelry while you’re on vacation. Don’t stop for a couple of beers in a biker bar. If a stranger asks you what time it is, tell him to get a watch. And don’t ever, ever, wear your ipod and earphones while you’re out in public. I could go on for pages with these seemingly foolish examples, but I think you get my point.
Unfortunately I’ve seen people do all of the above and more. As it is always said, maybe common sense isn’t all that common.
The point I’m making is this; if you want to stay safe you can start by not doing stupid things.
Now, I know that sounds simplistic, but you’d be surprised at how many times people blindly walk straight into dangerous situations without even realizing it. People that do these things are definitely in condition White, the most dangerous and vulnerable of all states of awareness.
If there’s any doubt – There’s No Doubt
If you wander about in condition White how are you ever going to detect a threat to your safety?
If you are awake then you better well be in condition Yellow.
How do you detect a threat? Well first you have to assume that the predatory attack, just as in nature, predicates its success on the element of surprise. An ambush is always better than a heads up, “in plain sight” confrontation. Just ask any alligator or tiger. So, the first method of Detection is simply this; Don’t go places where the conditions are perfect for an ambush. And if you do go there, get your radar up and running. Check your surroundings check your avenues of escape, be aware of obvious ambush points and of course check your six.
Now I will ask you a question. In crowds in the general population, who are the only two people that will look you in the eye? The answer is, Cops and Bad Guys. Everyone else just goes about his or her business (in condition White). Let’s go into a little more detail about this phenomenon. Sociopaths, sociopathic criminals, and predatory criminals in particular, are all masters at picking out their potential victims. They are so good at it in fact that they are rarely, if ever, wrong in “messing with the wrong guy.”
Most criminals are so adept at a process that I call “scanning” that they can look over a crowd of people and ID and separate potential victims and non-victims in mere seconds. How is it that they are this good at it? Remember it’s what they do for a living and after a lifetime of practicing their craft they’re way better than you or I. What are they looking for? All of the obvious of course, the weak, the old, the infirm and the distracted. Most of all they are looking for the victim that they can “hit and split, with the least amount of danger to themselves, by choosing the easiest, softest, target. Remember the principle that, “a wounded predator becomes prey?” We’ll, the principle is the same here, so the bad guy is looking for surprise and opportunity, the necessary components for the perfect ambush and he doesn’t want to have to fight it out, thereby creating the chance for injury or being caught.
So, what is your role in taking yourself out of this equation?
Here is one basic principle that is vitally important and perhaps the most important component of Pre-Emptive Self Defense.
If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right.
You need to listen to your gut feel. Your gut feel is your very first line of self-defense. It never lies. It is never wrong. And it’s only reason for existence is to protect you. Unfortunately our brain gets in the way and convinces us to do something when our gut feel is telling us not to. Listen to it and always heed its warning. It will never let you down. For more on this by a man considered the World’s foremost authority on this subject, Gavin DeBecker, I highly recommend his book “The Gift of Fear.” Everyone in my family has read it.
So, if you see him before he sees you then you can simply avoid him and the opportunity. If a guy looks suspicious or “feels” suspicious it is for good reason. Remember your gut feel? There is also something else I live by; There are no coincidences, none, period. If I see someone more than once, then I’m being tailed, And if I do, I take action. Sound paranoid? Sometimes I may have been wrong, but I guess I’ll just never know. Anyway what action do I take? The first and simplest step is eye contact. No stare down, no hard look challenge, just a quick, I know you’re there pass. Definitely directly in the eyes but just long enough to say that I see you. I know you’re there.
This same tactic works just as well in a crowd that’s being scanned. The, I know you’re there look, completely removes you as a target, at least to the majority of predatory criminals. Looking them in the eyes says loudly, I’m not an obvious victim, in fact I may even be a cop. Remember the two guys who look you in the eyes? Bad guys just don’t want to take that chance.
Is this true in every case? Of course not. When dealing with human beings there are no absolutes. But it is true enough of the time to validate its use as a first line deterrent. If you are out for a walk, look around, be observant be alert. Whether you’ve detected a threat or not, never present yourself as an obvious, unwitting, target.
If you enter into a building, restaurant, bar or store, look around. You be the scanner. See those who are inside and listen to your gut. Look for all possible entrances and exits. Never turn your back toward an entrance for more than a brief moment. And if you sit down for a drink or dinner, never ever sit with your back to the entrance or doorway into the room. Always try to place yourself in the best spot to “view” the room.
There are three forms or stages that an attack may be in when detected. First is the potential attack. This is the one that we’ve covered a little already. Three thugs leaning on your car in the parking lot would fit this description pretty well.
Second would be called the imminent attack. One that hasn’t happened yet but is about it. This may be something like seeing the bad guy(s) getting into position or creating a distraction, such as the cliché but often used “Hey buddy, what time is it?” Or the more obvious, “I’m going to kick your ass!” In this second form, if you have detected this one, you have identified a threat and you better be taking active countermeasures.
This is the hardest to master and it takes a conscious effort of awareness, vigilance and discipline to be successful. But it is the safest and most successful way of ensuring your safe way out of a potentially dangerous situation. Just remember condition yellow.
The third way that an attack is detected is when it is already in progress. When it is actually happening to you. Unfortunately, if an attack is already in progress this would be “the attack you never saw coming” and it may be, the last attack you never saw coming. Don’t let it happen to you.
Next week: Deny and Destroy, Pre-Emptive Self Defense Part 2