Awareness, do you practice what you preach?

My Belgium brother Eric Lemaire once told me: “Self-defence, in a nutshell, boils down to three things:

Who you are,

 Where you are, and 0

What you are doing there”.

The more I thought about this, the more sense it makes. Let’s explore this statement for a minute:

Let us introduce our imaginary friend Joe Bloggs and use him as an example:

Joe Bloggs works as a Nightclub door supervisor. While technically the same person, on-the-job Joe is different than sitting-at-home-with-his-elderly-father Joe, and again different from chilling-by-a-pool-with-a-cocktail-in-hand Joe.

Why is Joe Bloggs different every time? Simple: his awareness levels vary greatly from situation to situation, and environment to environment.

A door supervisor (or Bouncer for our American friends) at a nightclub has a simple job: keep the bad guys out and let the good guys in, while taking into consideration certain variables such as dress code, previously consumed alcohol levels, among others factors, and depending on the club’s policies. But in essence, the job remains the same, with the door supervisor (doorman) “interviewing” every potential patron.

bigstock-Awareness-Level-Conceptual-Met-51868162After greeting the customer, the doorman has to make a decision: Is s/he dressed appropriately, is s/he slurring, does s/he appear drunk, does s/he appear to be carrying weapons of any kind? This is where intuition as well as solid observation skills plays a very important part, should the doorman get any bad feeling about the person, entry is denied. Period.

Now before anyone starts screaming “That’s wrong! You can’t do that!” please remember that the doorman is partially responsible for the safety and well-being of every customer in the night club, since he is the one who let people in. Alcohol, when taken in sufficient quantities, and combined with ego, insecurities, unhinged libido, and the presence of attractive members of the opposite sex, can turn honest-to-God teenagers into fucking werewolves, resulting in mayhem to the club and personal Injury to other customers. And sadly, the closest thing to a monster hunter is that same guy who let the little angels in, our friend Joe.

Doorman Joe now has to attempt to verbally de-escalate the situation, taking into consideration flared egos, alcohol-induced rage, venom-spewing girlfriends, a room full of edged weapons, the possibility of third party Interference, CCTV coverage, and an entire room full of witnesses. So, it is safe to assume that Joe needs to be “switched on”.

But our buddy Joe sitting at home with his elderly father doesn’t have such worries, his concerns are completely different: Is dad comfortable, is he feeling ok, does he need a helping hand to climb the stairs, is the house alarm set?

Also, Joe’s awareness requirements are totally different when he’s lying comfortably by the pool in the Bahamas, with a cocktail in his hand.

Are you starting to see the picture here?

A lot of Self-defence clubs and organisations use Colonel Jeff Cooper’s Colour Codes of Awareness to train and teach their students about Situational Awareness. They are as follows:

–          White: Totally unaware

–          Yellow: Switched on, scanning for threats

–          Orange: Potential situation, observe more closely

–          Red: Danger, threat imminent

–          Black: Engaging enemy

So, logically speaking, the instructors teaching those colour codes should at the very least have a good solid understanding of said training aid. The truth, however, is different: I personally met “Instructors” (I will use that definition very broadly here) who preach the same shit over and over, “self defence is all about awareness and avoidance, be the grey man, keep your head on a swivel, yada yada yada…”  but have about as much awareness as a three-wheeled shopping trolley.

I once spoke to another “self defence Instructor” about a very unusual  haircut he was sporting when he showed up in a foreign country for a training seminar, this drastic hairdo really stood out, but when asked he candidly replied “Oh, I get this done whenever I travel abroad!” So let me get this straight, we teach people to avoid drawing attention to themselves, to avoid standing out in a crowd, and then go do the complete opposite? Do as i say, not as I do?  C’mon, WTF?

Again I ask how many of us actually practise what we preach?

How many of us actually conduct awareness drills and incorporate them into our everyday lives?  Do any of us actually continuously scan our environment for presence of the abnormal or is it just something used as class fillers?

Going back to what Cooper refers to as Code White (Unaware and unprepared). You are at home, chilling. There is a documented rise in a worrisome new threat, home invasions in various incarnations. Let us examine some of its many subtypes:

–          Invade-Subdue-Burglarise: Robbers would break in the houses of their victims, usually at night, overpower its inhabitants, restrains them, interrogate them, then go hunting for valuables before leaving (Rape and murder optional)

–          Invade-Kidnap-Exploit: The Express Kidnapping Modus Operandi is used, but what differs is that one home invader takes a spouse to withdraw as much money as possible from ATMs or banks, while other criminals stay home with hostages until the task is accomplished (Rape and murder optional)

–          Invade-Murder-Leave: Kansas in the 70s to 90s witnessed a particularly brutal serial killer, Denis “Bind Torture Kill” Rader, who murdered his victims in their homes after stalking them. He often told victims that he “just wanted to rape” and used family members against each other by having one tie up the others through threats of hurting a hostage. As you can imagine, it never ended well for the victims, and they were all killed gruesomely at BTK’s leisure. Rader was caught in 2004 (almost THIRTY YEARS after the fact) because of a mistake that led investigators to him. (Burglary optional)

–          Tiger Kidnappings: In 1972, the Irish Republican Army invaded the homes of their targets, and used the threat of murder to force a member of the household to go out and perform a specific task for the organisation, ranging from theft to dropping bombs to murder. An innovative and pioneering way to escape detection by security services as profiling didn’t work in those cases. This tactic is still used to this very day by organised criminal gangs

Now, let us go back to our friend Joe Blog. Unlike many, Joe is smart, knows Violence intimately, and realises that the World has many lurking dangers. He has a good guard dog, as well as a state-of-the-art security and alarm system. He is home with his family, and they’re all sitting around the dining table, eating and messing around with their ASDs (Short for Awareness Sucking Devices meaning Smartphones, tablets, laptops, portable videogames consoles). As I have said before in a previous post (, the most common type of attack is now cybercrime. Thousands of new malware being Introduced every day and since we are connected to the digital world most of the time, we are at constant risk of being scammed or victimised. So, how does Cooper’s Color Codes circa 1950s fare nowadays as an awareness template? Not too good, huh? Personal security is crucial and so is physical as well as home security but they’re not enough to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Crime is constantly evolving, and so must we evolve with it or be left behind. I have seen so many “self defence experts” post across social media safety tips like, Do not have stickers on your car bumper with children on board, it gives away too much Information to would be attackers, only to update their status an hour later with shit like, Out for dinner in (whatever restaurant) with the whole family, I’m having blah blah blah for starters and the wife is having… come on, WFT! Are you for real?????

I can, in all honesty, put hand to heart and say with pride that, when it comes to Situational Awareness: “I practise what I preach.” Am I just paranoid?


Your  thoughts on this?

Mick O’Brien

Self Protection Ireland