Levels of Awareness!

Mosley Knife Combatives_0534_edited-1

Survival begins long before you step out the door of your home, office or car.  YOU must prepare yourself in order to survive.  Failure to understand the dynamics of armed confrontations may become a matter of life or death.  We must put ourselves in touch with the reality of violence.  Being shot atExchanging gunfireHearing shotsSeeing death may cause you to under-react, over-react or not act at all during a violent encounter.  You should always be aware of the dynamics of a critical incident.  Keep in mind the following:

  • How fast are things happening?
  • What is the violence level?
  • How prepared are you…MENTALLY?

The reality of an encounter exists, but being prepared can help prevent a violent encounter.  It has been said, “Things seldom happen when you’re fully prepared for them”.  Always having a plan, possessing an attitude that stresses anticipation and the use of the following tactics are the greatest tools to utilize for mastering the fundamentals of survival techniques.  If you prepare yourself mentally for an attack, you will be prepared for an “unexpected” encounter because you will expect it.  You will be able to evaluate and mentally rehearse the event, and emerge victoriously.  Winning, never losing!

In order to deal effectively with an incident, you must be switched “on” and be alert to what’s going on around you.  Law enforcement officers, military, and trained civilians are taught different “Conditions of Readiness” in a color code system that approximates different levels of awareness that a normal human being experiences.  Your response to any situation is largely determined by the “condition” you are in at the time.  You obviously do not want to live your life oblivious to the world around you and become a walking target.  On the other hand, it is not practical or appropriate to live it with your finger on the trigger of a firearm.  The following color code system is designed to help you construct the proper readiness mindset for security in your own daily world.

Condition White:  This first “condition of readiness” really has nothing to do with “readiness” at all.  Still, it is the state of mind in which most people spend their lives.  In Condition White we do not expect any trouble, nor do we look for it.  We are largely unaware of our surroundings and the events taking place there, nor do we believe anything will happen to us.  Condition White is the state of “readiness” of most victims.  It is also the state that criminals love to see you in!

Condition Yellow:  This is the condition you want to be in when you walk out the front door of your home or any otherwise unsecured location.  It is the mental equivalent of the yellow traffic light that you will see at an intersection while driving.  It dictates that you should proceed with caution, maintaining 360-degree security at all times.  You must also be tuned in to any instinctual feelings of danger.  NOTE:  Gavin De Becker’s interesting and informative book, The Gift of Fear will help you truly appreciate the importance of Condition Yellow.   Some people may consider Condition Yellow as that of a “paranoid” state.  It is not.   It is just using good sense.  You are simply in a state of relaxed, yet heightened, awareness.  Keep your head up and keep looking around.

Condition Orange:  At this level, you realize that something is definitely wrong.  There is danger.  You are in a state of alarm.  You must either move away or prepare for action.  Your main focus should be on identifying the danger, accepting it, formulating a plan of action and implementing that plan.

Condition Red:  In condition Red, action is imminent and the threat is upon you.  As soon as the threat is apparent, you make your move.  Whatever response you have planned for should be delivered with total commitment and aggression.

Remember, we must: See the threat, Accept the threat, Formulate a plan, & Execute the plan!



When you are in the middle of a fight for your life, is not the time to decide which vital areas on your adversary to strike.  This decision should be made well in advance.  A great acronym to remember four specific striking areas is B.E.A.T.  B.E.A.T is short for Brain, Eyes, Abdomen and Testicles.  These striking areas should be used to distract your adversary long enough for you to exit the threat zone.  They should not be considered blows that will incapacitate.  They might, but most likely they will create a very short time period in which your adversary is not thinking about you but is thinking about pain.  That is your window of opportunity.  RUN!

I was first introduced the B.E.A.T model in Frank Albert’s great book One-Strike Stopping Power – How to Win Street Confrontations with Speed and Skill.  This book is available at www.paladin-press.com.

BRAIN – Rock the brain and you reboot the computer.  Slapping the side of your adversary’s head will usually get their attention and cause a distraction.  If the distraction works, run.  The best self-defense technique is running away from the threat.  Remember that slapping someone is only a distraction; follow-up strikes are obviously necessary if the distraction does not work and you plan on winning this encounter.  Always have a follow-up plan.  Preprogram Murphy’s Law into the equation.  Plan for the worst and when it does not happen, cool!

EYES – If they can not see, it is very hard to find you.  We all should be able to agree that shoving your fingers into the eyes of someone that is attacking you will most likely upset them.  It will also usually cause them to drop or let go of whatever they are holding and retract their hands back towards their eyes.  Again, this is the golden moment for you to exit the threat zone.  Do not stand around admiring your handy work, RUN!

ABDOMEN – Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you?  A good straight punch or better yet, a knee delivered to the abdominal region should do the trick.  Where do you want to strike?  Well, make it simple, and hit them around the navel region.  Drive your strike through the navel; do not just strike the surface.   Here is something to think about: Melchor Menor, a former two-time Muay Thai world champion was tested on the power of his knee strike.  Menor delivered a knee strike to a monitored test dummy, and the power of his knee strike was equal to the power of a 35 mile per hour car crash.  That would certainly cause some destruction!

TESTICLES – Ok, nobody really wants to talk about this one but grabbing the soft area of the testicles and attempting to rip them off will certainly get the attention of any would-be rapist.  Obviously, this is a little more difficult if he still has his pants on.  You will have to grab through a lot of cloth.  The only problem is that the testicles are well protected by the large leg muscles and getting a direct hit is difficult.  A simple strike or flick of the fingers into or towards the groin region will cause just about any man to take a step backwards, or at least flinch. That certainly does not put him out of the fight; however, do not be discouraged. Aim low and hit hard.  If you do get a direct hit, you will have most likely hit payday.  Stun and RUN!

So, there is the B.E.A.T. model.  Train it, practice it and prepare yourself for battle.

Soft or Hard Target!


Learning how to protect yourself is an interesting process.  Your first step is to do a threat assessment.  What is your threat?  Living in a high crime area, you are possibly faced with a more serious personal threat than living in a million-dollar subdivision.  But is this really true?  Only you can answer that question.  I would suggest to you that you need to make a conscious decision today to be a hard target.  What is the difference between a Soft target and a Hard target?

A Soft target is usually unarmed and unaware.  Do you know how to use your personal weapons like your head, elbows, and knees?  Do you carry a firearm, a knife or some other type of improvised weapon and know how to use it properly?  If you do not, then you are relying on luck and you are most likely unarmed.  You are unarmed if you do not have good situational awareness.  Most victims are unarmed both mentally and physically.  Do not be a victim, be the victor!

A Soft target is accessible and predictable.  Accessibility is all about controlling your personal space and environment.  Do not put yourself in a bad situation.  If you must go some place that by normal standards could be consider dangerous, then use the pack or gang mentality.  Travel in a group.  There is strength in numbers.  Muggings occur when people are alone, not when they are with a group.  Do not be predictable.  Please change your routines or patterns.  Now you do not have to do this everyday, but you should do it.  I am not talking about adopting a state of paranoia; I am talking about healthy awareness.  Yes, I know, most criminals are looking for a target of opportunity, but some do not.  Some are looking for a pattern, an opening into our daily defenses.  Take a moment and look at yourself from a third party’s perspective.

“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” –Anaïs Nin

Use your awareness skills and see things as they are.  This is the greatest self-defense technique you already have in your arsenal: your ability to be aware!

A Hard target is armed with the capacity to perceive and accept the threat.  You must see the threat, and hopefully before it is upon you.  You must also believe that the threatening action is actually happening to you and not shut down to it.  Do not “Freeze”, take action.  Never become complacent, always maintain a heightened state of awareness and be alert to potential threats.  Practice these skills daily; present moment awareness really is the key.  What do you observe as you move through your environment?

Once a Hard target perceives and accepts the threat, a process of analysis and evaluation of the threat’s potential for harm needs to be conducted.  Obviously, this process must occur relatively quickly.  Studying pre-attack indicators and body language will go a long way in giving you the ability to size-up the situation quickly.

Lastly, a Hard target is unpredictable and takes action.  After the situation is assessed, action must be taken, which usually entails running or fighting.  My suggestion is that you Fight to Run.   Fight long enough to create space and then run like you have never run before.  This may not be possible if you are with a loved one, unless he or she has already run away (and hopefully called the police).  Do not fight just to be fighting.  Remember that situations quickly change; one minute you are the victim and the next minute you might just be the aggressor in the eyes of our court system.  Fight and Run, then contact the local authorities.

“When you are hungry, it is foolish to hunt a tiger when there are plenty of sheep to be had.”  Baader-Meinhof slogan 

Your goal today is to become a “Combat Hard Target”!  Be the Tiger!

Take all Training Serious! Live the Tactical Lifestyle!

Chris ending the Snake Drill

I have had the opportunity to serve with some the greatest law enforcement officers and professionals in the world.  It has been 31 years since I started my law enforcement career and I have had some amazing training experiences that have helped shape my life.  My story is simple, Military Police, Corrections Officer, Police Officer, Deputy Sheriff and Federal Special Agent.  I continue to grow each and every day however if there is one thing that I wish that I have known when I started three decades ago, is the philosophy of taking all training serious.

I have unfortunately, sat in many classes spaced out and saying to myself, I will never need or use this stuff.  This instructor is terrible, where did they get this person.  I cannot believe I wasted my day off to come to this training.  Every one of us has possibly had one of these thoughts.  I am going to suggest to you that once you have had this thought, it will be but a few shorts minutes, maybe days or sometimes even years later you will be in the middle of a situation and you will say to yourself, ”Damn”, I  wish that I had paid more attention in that class.  Trust me when I say this, take all training serious, you truly never know when you will need to pull a tool out of your tool box and you want to certainly know how to use it.

Brian Willis is always talking about WIN!  What’s Important Now!  This is so powerful.  Think about WIN the next time you are sitting in a training class and remember the most important thing you can do is absorb all the information the instructor is providing and figure out a way to make it stick in that brain of yours.  You never know if the next call you are on, will test you like you have never been tested before.  The simple fact that you paid attention and thought about how you could apply your new knowledge could very well save you or your partner’s life.

Let us take CPR as an example.  Shake to establish consciousness.  Ask if they are Ok.  Have someone dial 911 for assistance.  Check the airway for obstructions.  Check the pulse, give breaths and compressions.  Do you really want to be trying to figure out what to do next while you are in the middle of saving someone’s life?  I think not!

Life has a way of slapping you in the face with you least expect it.  You need to have a plan of attack to deal with this slap and move forward.  Taking your training seriously will certainly help.  Here are some additional thoughts:

Take notes.  Ask questions.  Get involved in the class and learn as much as you can.  Be an active participant and student.   This will go a long way in retention.  I also suggest that upon completion of your training, review, review and review.  Reviewing you notes helps with retention.  You should probably do this for several weeks following the training.  One other trick for retention is too immediately teach the skills you learned to someone else.  At the minimum, discuss what you learned with someone else.

If there is one piece of advice that I could give, here it is.  Follow and Live the “The Tactical Lifestyle”.  The concept of Tactical Lifestyle is borrowed from my good friend and excellent trainer, Dennis Martin.  If you do not know Dennis, please visit his website at www.cqbservices.com.  He is one of the best.  The Tactical Lifestyle focuses on a blend of Mindset, Tactics, Skills and Kit acquired during training and used every day in travel, work, home and leisure activities.

Proper mindset is critical.  It is often stated by some of the great gunfighters; that combat is 90% mental, 5% skill and 5% luck.    As far as mindset applies to the Tactical Lifestyle, there are two principles that need to be discussed.  They are Colonel Boyd’s OODA Loop and Threat Evaluation.  In my opinion, you need to immediately start your research and study of Boyd’s Loop.  The loop consists of four phases, Observation, Orientation, Decision and Action. It is a life saving principle that has unfortunately been overlooked by many.  Do not be one of the many.    As far as threat evaluation is concerned, look at realistic threats that you could face on a daily basis and have a plan to deal with these threats.  Mentally image a positive outcome for each threat and when time is available role-play the scenarios with fellow officers and find viable conclusion to each threat.

Tactics is the next part of the Tactical Lifestyle.  You should develop a set of core tactics to deal with a variety of situations.   You tactics should become a habit. Obviously the only way to do this is constant, serious practice.  I call this practicing with intent.  Too often we just go through the motion during training.  Do not fall into this trap.  When you are training, train!  We can play later and I am all for that aspect of life also.  You should also practice integrated team tactics.  Often we are tasked with working with other individuals, so it would be extremely beneficial if our tactical thinking matched.

You must practice Skills that work.  These are just a small example of skills that you should be practicing.  Defensive tactics, firearms, immediate weapon use, first aid and driving skills.  The list could and should be endless.  The main point is to practice effective skills that transfer effectively from the gym to the street.  Remember, stress is the prime consideration when talking about skills.  The skills that you are practicing must work under extremely stressful situations.  If they do not work in the controlled environment of the training hall, then they will most certainly not work on the street.

Lastly, you must know your Kit i.e. your Equipment.  Please make sure you kit is serviced and in working conditions and do not carry kit that you do not know how to use.  It is great to have the latest and greatest equipment, but it would be even better if we knew how to use it during a crisis.  My thoughts are keep it simple and it should be ready when needed.

Well, there you have it.  This is my five cents worth of information based on my experiences.  The law enforcement profession is a very noble occupation.  You will not receive many pats on the back, raises or awards.   You can however, except that during your career you will most likely be assaulted, spat on, possibly shot at and all other sorts of nasty things.  You have chosen this profession for your own reasons.  I only aks two things, first take your Training Serious because you just never know when you will need the skills you are being taught.  Secondly, live the Tactical Lifestyle.  Proper mindset, solid, proven tactics, the development of practical hard and soft skills, and the knowledge of your equipment will go a very long way to ensure not only your survival, but will give you the edge to WIN!  Thank you and Best wishes.

Are you at Risk?

If you are reading this, then you are obviously alive and are at risk.  What do I mean by risk?  American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language defines “risk” as “The possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger.”  Mall shootings, school & church violence and murder, carjacking and home invasions are becoming so commonplace that it seems that nowhere is safe.  Here are the headlines related to churchs!

February 14, 2010 – Richmond, California – Three hooded men
walk into Gethsemane Church of God in Christ and opened
fire and then fled the scene, as the singing of the choir
was replaced by frightened screams. The two victims, a 14-
year-old boy and a 19-year-old man, were hospitalized.

March 8, 2009 – Maryville, Illinois – Suspect Terry Joe
Sedlacek, 27, of Troy, walks into the First Baptist Church,
and shoots pastor Fred Winters dead, point blank. Several
church members are injured by a knife in the struggle to
capture the suspect after the attack; the suspect also had stabbed
himself, but survived, when his gun jams.

July 27, 2008 – Knoxville, Tennessee – A gunman opens fire
in a church during a youth performance, killing two people
and injuring seven.

Dec. 9, 2007 – Colorado – Three people are killed and five
wounded in two shooting rampages, one at a missionary
school in suburban Denver and one at New Life Church in Colorado
Springs. The gunman in the second incident is killed by a Church Security

Wake up!  We are all at risk.  This is not meant to scare anyone; this is simply a wake up call for everyone.  This world is a dangerous place and we must treat it as such.  Yes, many people are dying from incurable diseases, dying from natural disasters and automobile accidents.  That is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about violent physical aggression directed at our society.  I am talking about hate that is so deeply seated that innocent lives are being taken for fame.  This is a truly sad fact of life with no real end in sight.  This is not paranoia, this is a fact.  Wake up and start preparing yourself for survival.

Should you arm yourself with a firearm?  Only if you are going to train with it and decide that you are willing to take a life if necessary and are justified.  Should you learn the martial arts?  Only if you are going to train them with reality in mind and invest your time in learning battle-tested self-defense techniques.

 “Situations will arise which are not of your own choosing. 
 You must be fully prepared to meet them with confidence. 
 No matter what they may be…” Leonard Hector Grant-Taylor   – 1942

Prepare yourself today!  Decide today to embrace the “Way of the Warrior”!  Seek out a competent, certified, real world instructor and learn to defend yourself and your family.  Living with risk is a necessity of world.  Learning to minimize your risk, takes courage, practice and a will to win.   My thought is that winning is the only answer.

Develop a “winning” training plan.  Make sure that this plan includes physical fitness, mental conditioning, firearms or self-defense skills, tactics, and the proper use of equipment that you carry on a daily basis.  Make sure your family is well trained in your plan.  The truth is in the following quote by the great Carl Cestari.

 “Anyone out there “getting” this! IT AIN’T ABOUT what is or isn’t “BETTER” or more “EFFECTIVE”. ANYTHING THAT SAVES YOUR ASS IS GOOD!”

Carl Cestari

Pre-attack indictor(s)


Almost all attacks are preceded by an indicator, or several.  You must identify the pre-attack indicators as part of your situational awareness.  Here are some common ones:

Verbal Threat – Yes, if they are talking, they are not attacking; however, this is certainly a pre-attack indicator.  Telling you that they are going to beat you should certainly rise to the level of a personal threat and you should prepare yourself.

Scanning – Is the individual approaching you looking directly at you, or is he looking around to see if others are watching him?  Is he looking for witnesses, the police or an escape route?  The important question is, why is he not looking at you?

The Target Glance – Is the potential attacker preoccupied with a particular area of your body?  Is he staring or repeatedly glancing at an intended target area to strike?  Possible target areas are your eyes, throat, chin or nose.  Do not forget that some additional target areas might be your hips or upper legs.  The attacker might be preparing to take you down to the ground with a tackle.

Clenching – You should look for both clenching of the hands or the teeth.  The constriction of either of these areas indicates physical stress and the possibility of an imminent attack.

Eye Blinks – The average eye contact between friends and others are about three seconds.  One of the most common things you will hear about potential attackers is “the thousand yard stare”.  When a person looks through you versus looking at you, there is certainly a potential problem.

Fighting stance – Taking a fighting stance is an obvious precursor to a fight.  If the potential attacker places one side of his body behind the other and his hands come up, the likelihood of an attack has certainly risen!

Flanking – This is normally associated with multiple opponents.  If you are facing multiple threats and they begin moving around to gain a better position, they are probably cutting off your avenues of retreat or escape.  Do not allow yourself to be flanked.

There are many more pre-attack indicators.  I highly recommend you read and conduct your own research.  Pre-attack indicators are the key to writing an effective statement for the police especially if you have used force to defend yourself.