Developing Your Combat Mindset
Being able to act effectively under stress, doesn’t mean you’re a sociopath wanting confrontation. It means that you have conditioned yourself to overcome emotional and involuntary instincts that might keep you from reacting to an attack.
There should also be no moral dilemma or question on whether countering an attack is ethical. I can think of nothing that defines ethics more than life-saving and life-protecting values in action.
The 4 Legs of a Combat Mindset
Some things, like your situational awareness, play a big part in actually preventing trouble or creating a hard target for any would-be attacker. After all, the best way to survive an attack is to avoid one.
- Technical: repeatedly practicing techniques equips you to respond with gross muscle memory under stress, when your fine motor skills are unavailable.
- Tactical: what should you do when confronted with an attacker? should you flank them? hit left and dodge right? attack the weapon first, always, before worrying about the person holding it!
- Mental: fight, flight or fright. are you gonna freeze up and cower when attacked? run? are you mentally strong enough to do what needs to be done in the situation?
- Physical: are you in good enough shape to even handle an attack? do you have what it takes to put them down?
A gun is good. A knife is good. A stick is better than nothing at all, and your hands, arms, legs and muscles are to be relied on when nothing else can be. But, without your brain, without thinking and without cognizant awareness you are little more than an animal fighting for survival in a dangerous situation. – Col. Jeff Cooper, USMC
The Cooper Color Code, originally introduced as White, Yellow, Orange and Red, had nothing to do with tactical situations or alertness levels, but rather with one’s state of mind. It’s not meant to give you an indication of how much danger is around you or apparent – it’s not a freakin Spidy Sense – but rather to help you to think through a difficult situation.
It directly relates to the degree of danger you are able to do something about. It allows you to move from one level of mindset to another to properly handle a tough situation. In short, the Color Code helps you “think” in a fight. As the level of danger increases, your willingness to take certain actions increases.
If you ever do go to Condition Red, the decision to use lethal force has already been made and your mental trigger has been tripped.
Condition White: You’re unaware of anything going on around you. Maybe you’re fatigued, distracted, or had a bit too much wine with dinner. Regardless of the excuse, you are not ready — for anything. You are unprepared and unready. If you are attacked in White you will probably die unless your attacker is totally inept.
Condition Yellow: You’re calm and relaxed, scanning your surroundings for potential threats. You know who’s in front of you, to your sides, and behind you. You don’t think anyone will make a hostile move, but you are mentally ready in case something sketchy happens. Honestly, yellow should be the “default” condition for most people in 2016.
Condition Orange: You recognize that something is sketchy and chances for violence are increasing. At this stage you see the positions of all potentially hostile individuals around you and any weapons they may be able to use, both in their hands or within their reach. You develop a plan for dealing with the potential hostiles, including identification of escape routes. You’re both mentally and physically ready.
Condition Red: You are engaged in combat. Someone is assaulting you and you are reacting to the attack and defending yourself. You are taking immediate and decisive action to stop your opponent, or evade and get help.
Condition Black: Catastrophic breakdown of mental and physical performance. Usually over 175 heartbeats per minute, increased heart rate becomes counter productive. May have stopped thinking correctly. This can happen when going from Condition White or Yellow immediately to Condition Red.
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