The world is changing. Some say for the worse and others say for the better. According to the FBI Releases of 2015 Crime Statistics, violent crimes in the nation had increased 3.9 percent in 2015, compared to that of 2014. These figures demonstrate that violence continues to exist. And with that, they remind us of how dangerous the world truly is. 

In that realization, learning how to defend ourselves and possessing the right technical skills is always important. Whether it is in martial arts or knowing how to properly handle a weapon, now more than ever, we must invest our time in fending for ourselves. However, it is imperative we first understand the importance in controlling our minds to seize the situation accordingly. As Jeff Cooper once stated, 

 “When under attack, it is necessary to evaluate the situation and to decide instantly upon a proper course of action, to be carried out immediately with all the force you can bring to bear. He who hesitates is indeed lost. Do not soliloquize. Do not delay. Be decisive.”

jeff cooper color code

Jeff Cooper: The Man Himself

John Dean Jeff Cooper was an US Marine born in May 10, 1920. He was most famous for being the creator for the modern technique of handgun shooting and bringing light to the scales of awareness. Not long after graduating from Stanford University, Cooper entered the United States Marine Corps. Thats where he went onto serve on the USS Pennsylvania during World War II.

As he climbed up the ranks, eventually retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. From then on, he went onto teach high school and college classes. Until finally he opened the American Pistol Institute (API), also known as Gunsite. It is here, people – civilians, law enforcement, and military officers – across the nation receive top training in gun shooting. He was also one of the Founding Presidents of the International Practical Shooting Confederation.

At the age of 86 in September 25, 2006, Jeff Cooper was not only influential in gun slinging world, but his teachings and overall philosophy changed the way people perceived their immediate surroundings. He encouraged that more than the technical aspects of handling a gun, what was most important was possessing the correct mindset in tackling whatever threat requires us to have the gun.

“Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.”

Jeff Cooper Gunsite
Gunsite Ranch, 1977. Jeff Cooper is third from the left of the photograph
By Ben-Han (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Be Aware: Adapting the Combat Mindset

The world is not all sunshines and rainbows. It is place where danger can come to you at any moment. Being prepared for such occurrence is what can determine whether you are a meek victim or a strong survivor. Jeff Cooper believed this wholeheartedly that a person should always be ready for anything to happen to them.

Being ready did not mean simply knowing how to fight or having a weapon on you always. For Cooper, the most important aspect of preparedness was possessing a ‘combat mindset.’ It is adapting a sort of unconscious defensive attitude toward every situation and knowing that misfortune can stumble upon anybody.

As Jeff Cooper once stated,

“if you don’t understand weapons you don’t understand fighting. If you don’t understand fighting you don’t understand war. So if you don’t understand war you don’t understand history. And if you don’t understand history you might as well live with your head in a sack.”

jeff cooper color code
Do not kill me. Selective focus of a handgun being held behind the back of a dangerous aggressive kidnapper

Jeff Cooper Color Code

Initially introduced by Jeff Cooper, this color-coded system was his way of illustrating the scales of awareness people have and should possess when living life.

Jeff Cooper Color Code
Jeff Cooper Color Code
  • White: Unaware – Those that are at this lowest level of awareness are lost in daydream, oblivious to the potential dangers around them. Literally or figuratively walking around with their heads down, those in the white category fail to have any sense of attuned awareness to the world around them. This may be rather applicable for the modern era, where their cellphones catch up a plethora of individuals.
  • Yellow: General Alertness – Those that are here do not specifically focus on one place. But they have a certain level of unconscious awareness to their surroundings. Eyes open and mind on, people in this category may not easily feel surprised or scared. Thereby difficult to suddenly harm since the world around them attune them. For the most part, when in this state, people or things that seem out of place come to your attention.
  • Orange: Heightened Alertness – Those that have reached this point specifically focus to something. There is an escalated, noticeable level of awareness for something out in your surroundings. When in this category, people tend to think more or calculate the situation accordingly. People attempt to analyze whether the seeming point of focus is a threat or not.
  • Red: Fight or Flight – Those that have reached this final level of awareness have determined there is some immediate danger ahead. And they must decide what to do next – escape or embrace the situation. People in this category tend to have their fight or flight response turned on. They must quickly make a decision before potential harm can come onto you.
jeff cooper color code
Cop shooting a criminal or terrorist with gun smoke lit by police lights

Help People Identify What State They Were In

Although this color code for the different levels of awareness has been widely popular and also government, law enforcement, other safety precaution programs follow it, it is not meant to be mistaken as an indicator to levels of threat.

In fact, Jeff Cooper’s intent for introducing the colors was to help people identify what state they were in to effectively think of how to handle the situation, more so than anything. As he once stated,

“There is a problem in that some students insist upon confusing the appropriate color with the amount of danger evident in the situation. As I have long taught, you are not in any color state because of the specific amount of danger you may be in, but rather in a mental state which enables you to take a difficult psychological step.”

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