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Col. Jeff Cooper’s Four Color Code

Back in the mid-1970s Col. Jeff Cooper introduced the world to the concept of the “Four Color Code” for awareness-of-mind of the potential dangers around you. Many people (including the government) have taken his ideas far beyond the simple Code that Cooper envisioned. While some of the current teaching is fine as it is, the original ideas behind the Code are still quite good and applicable today for all those who are interested in getting through the day safe and sound.

Some people have likened following the Code as “living in a state of paranoia.” This is poor thinking, and is no different than accusing someone who believes in “defensive driving“ as being paranoid. We all understand that it is our responsibility to watch out for the other guy on the road and be prepared to take necessary action. Cooper’s Code does nothing really different from that but applies the same principles in our daily lives.

The codes start at White, and run through Yellow, Orange, and Red at the end. They reflect a mindset, an awareness that the person has in his immediate surroundings. The basic idea is that you ramp up through the color codes as the potential danger in the situation develops. Your awareness of your possible need to take action increases as you ramp up. There is no set action that is required, no mandatory response from an individual as he moves through the steps. One can skip one or more steps if the situation requires.

White is basically your oblivious, non-aware status. You are walking down the street immersed in your own thoughts, without regard to those around you. You have a seat on the bus and have no idea who is there with you or what is happening in your immediate area. This is not a good mindset in public and pretty much everyone who sees you in White knows you are in White. Being in White is why so many victims of crime say, “I never saw it coming.”

Being in Yellow is a relaxed, alert view. Those around you know that you are alert and aware. In comparison to defensive driving it is similar to being aware of all the traffic around you and knowing the areas where potential problems may happen. It is much harder to be surprised by events that develop. You never start the day thinking that this is the day you are going to be in a wreck but because you know it could happen you are prepared enough to engage in the traffic instead of driving blindly and hoping you get to your destination safely. Code Yellow is a normal, low-resource use of your mind.

Orange means that something has caught your attention and you alert on it. You are now focused on it and are making plans “in case.” Some of your actions may be automatic, such as stepping on the brake to slow your car down when you notice someone edging into the traffic up in front of you. In a self-defense situation you are ramping up your mindset to preparation for taking action such as pulling out your stun gun or pepper spray. An example of maintaining an Orange-type awareness for hours would be driving to Chicago during rush hour. It may not be your favorite activity but after spending the long time in Orange you can quickly shake it off. Many people can go weeks and even months without ever being in a self-defense situation that requires Code Orange.

Code Red does not mean that you have to take action, but it puts you in the mindset that if immediate action is required you are ready and primed for it. You are prepared mentally to do what is necessary to defend yourself and those you are responsible for. You are past the point of wondering what to do or if the situation is serious. Code Red may last ten seconds or ten minutes. Circumstances vary with individuals and situations.

Each individual reacts to the Color Codes differently. Some will be in Orange while others are still comfortable in Yellow in identical situations. Someone may reach Red far quicker than another. There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to make the Color Codes work for you as long as you stick to the basics of the program. The only real consensus is that spending time in White is perhaps not the best way to go about your daily business in public, or even at home if need be.

I invite you to look around at my other blogs. I am sure you’ll find something of interest. And stop by my Store for the best and finest in non-lethal self-defense supplies.

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