What we have here is a situation!

English: Gunsite Ranch, 1977. Jeff Cooper is t...

English: Gunsite Ranch, 1977. Jeff Cooper is third from the left of the photograph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The original colour code was invented by Colonel Jeff Cooper, a combat pistol instructor, the code he developed is used by many USA military and police organizations, to differentiate different levels of awareness. His colour codes help recognise and avoid potential threats. I tried Col. Cooper’s code and while it is undoubtedly an excellent system for the USA and the it’s plethora of armed citizens, in my opinion at least the code was too complicated for a Brit looking for a simple system on which to pin his response to a potentially dangerous system. I offer a simplified version here while by no means attempting to claim it as anything other than a modification of Col. Cooper’s original paradigm which acknowledges the slightly less hostile conditions faced by a citizen of the UK compared to their USA compatriots. Here drive by shooting are rarer, gang colours far less of any issue and it is entirely possible to walk for several miles across a major British city without being mugged or otherwise harmed.

I have based this modification on traffic light system; Green, Amber and Red


  • You are in a reasonably safe environment, ideally indoors or with friends in a safe or reasonably safe environment. This could be a pub or a bar where it is known that there is no trouble and where incidents are unlikely.
  • This doesn’t mean that you are completely unaware, this is not a good mental state to be in at any point.

Even in your own home you should be sufficiently aware so that unusual sounds or event treated with suspicion. Some improvised self-defence aids dotted about the house may seem over the top but could be a literal life saver. The “it could never happen to me” mindset is fine until the day that it does.

Col. Cooper’s definition is perfect here. You are cautious.

  • You should spend most of the time in this state.
  • You are aware of such environmental danger spots as secluded doorways, entries, and alleys. Aware of people, vehicles, areas of shadow behind large objects, area of blackness perhaps because of lighting.

Remember this is not about behaving like a Ninja in some 1980s martial art flick, but simply being aware of areas and environments that pose threats. Slow down a fraction and give yourself time to assess the situation. I sometimes stop and check my pockets for some supposed lost item, I have perfected that absent minded half turn that people sometimes find themselves in when searching their own pockets and using that I can check almost 360 degrees around me.


  • A threat situation or target is identified.
  • Someone may be giving oral indicators such as direct threats or using suspicious language.
  • Look out for exaggerated movements and one person rapidly becoming the focus of attention of several others. This can often indicate a threat.

I’ll post links to some useful videos on threatening behaviour here

Defence posture

  • Focus on the potential attacker.
  • Check to see if there is an avenue of escape, potential weapons available, and if others around you are friend or foe.

Fight or flight. Flee, defend, or attack.

You have evaluated the situation, and if there is a threat, you prepare to fight or run. Never stand or fight if there is a possibility of fleeing.

Final thought courtesy of Col. Cooper If use of physical self-defence techniques is necessary, use the level of force appropriate to the threat. Don’t treat someone who pushes you because he is rude like someone who is trying to stab you with a knife.


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