Situational Awareness and COVID 19, Part 2: Red Alert! Cooper's Colour Codes and Managing Stress

The Late, great, Col. Jeff Cooper developed a system of situational awareness which is known as Cooper’s Colour Codes.

The system is a very effective way of classifying how situationally-aware we are. It is also very useful in understanding how the adrenaline and our ability to focus are allocated in response to us being in different codes.

It is a very effective tool used often in self-defence to describe situational awareness, as well as when to switch from one code to another.

But on a societal level, the current COVID 19 pandemic is a fascinating analysis of how people are responding to crisis, and also explains clearly how our ability to make effective decisions is impaired at certain levels, especially if prolonged. Hopefully this article should provide you with some tips and tricks to help you sort through the flow of information and ration your focus and energy to those things that are both important and urgent.

Here we go.


Situational Awareness and COVID 19, Part 1: Self Defence, Preemptive Striking and Social Responsibility

This past Thursday, Noah and I made the tough decision to close down CAIA for 2 weeks due to the COVID 19 pandemic, with us monitoring the situation to see how long we may have to stay closed for if the situation continues to escalate. This is not an easy decision for us. It will affect our income, sure. It will affect our members, definitely. If things really go south in a hurry, it may very well be the end of this amazing dojo, which has been the second home to both of us, as well as to all of our coaches, members and community.

So, not an easy decision to say the least. 

But we firmly believe that it is the right one. We believe in practising what we teach in our self defence and martial arts classes, and we believe that martial arts are a way of life. And that means that for us, right now, closing is not only the right option, it is the only option.



3 Things That ONLY Martial Artists Know... And How You Can Know Them Too

Martial artists learn lots of very cool things. Power, balance, speed, conditioning, confronting pain and fear, respect, discipline, dedication, determination... The list goes on.

My first foray into the martial arts was around the age of 5 or 6. I spent the next 20 years training on and off in a variety of style. At age 25 I found Sensei Noah Greenstone and have been training daily since.
The martial arts taught me a lot of amazing lessons. The skills I learned saved my life on more than one or two occasions, and not just in the physical sense.

You may notice that the long list of amazing things I listed above does not include ‘self defence skills’, because, well learning martial arts and learning self defence are two very different things and I have written about this plenty (you can read about this here).
But there are other things us martial artists know that mere mortals do not. Wanna know what they are?


Assumption is the Mother of All Failures... and Can Get You Killed.

Assumption, as the old saying goes, is the mother of all failures.

Quite often when we look at things that don’t line up with our world view or beliefs, the first port of call should be to review our own assumptions… ‘should’ being the operative word in that sentence. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen always. Or even often.

One of my mentors, Master Mannie de Matos, always talks of the ABC of security – Assume nothing, Believe no one, Check everything.

Words to live by!

It doesn’t mean that you should live in a state of paranoia, but that you should always look at things with a critical mind.

Let’s apply of this to some assumptions we see in the self-defence world fairly often…

Let me start with a hypothetical situation:

A mugger is putting a knife to your throat demanding your wallet. What do you do?


The Missing Ingredient in Self Defence

What do you think is the most important element of self-defence classes?

Giving the student real self defence skills, in all their facets, is the obvious answer, but is it the first one and the only one?
Usually the argument will then go to discussion about technique, or scenarios, or the level of contact or how long it takes to get a black belt. These are all valid discussions, but often miss one important point.
Read more to find out what that point is!
Giving the student what they are after – self-defence skills – is indeed the most important outcome, without a shadow of a doubt. Where many people disagree is what those are, so let’s discuss this briefly:

  • Your technique doesn’t matter: Ok, that’s not quite true. There’s stuff that works and stuff that doesn’t, at least for the most part. But the discussion that most martial artists get stuck on – which technique is best for what – is often totally irrelevant if other more important elements of conflict are not addressed… and those are the ones listed below.
  • Pre-conflict – avoidance, de-escalation and communication, boundary setting, target hardening, situational awareness. Don’t teach it? Then it’s not self-defence.
  • Post- conflict – recovery, first aid, trauma management, litigation (both criminal and civil), retaliation, etc. Don’t teach it? Then it’s not self-defence
  • Scenario training – is a crucial piece for realistic self defence training. It must be included on a fairly regular basis if you are to be prepared for a ‘complete’ attack, as Professor Mike Belzer would say. In other word, this is a way to tie the ‘pre’ and ‘post’ together with the ‘during’.
  • Conditioning – being fit, strong and healthy is a great way to make sure that you are better prepared to handle an attack. Obviously, this is relative and changes from person to person. But at the end of the day, if your ultimate goal for self-defence is to live a long, happy life then looking after your health should be a part of that strategy. If your self-defence classes are not helping people get fitter and stronger, and are nothing but light, technical workouts they are probably not helping much.
  • Adrenaline management – a by-product of most of what is discussed above, but needs to be understood, discussed and trained.
  • Survival mindset – fighting spirit and a mindset of survival, without which none of the other stuff matters.

The next step is to understand how people learn. We need to understand how people learn physical skills and the processes they will go through. I’ll leave this discussion for another time. But there’s still a key ingredient that’s missing.
All of it – literally ALL of it – doesn’t matter in the slightest if the student doesn’t want to come to class.
I’ve attended workshops by very competent Krav Maga and self defence practitioners where the instructor acted as the proverbial ‘drill sergeant’ from the word go. They used extremely foul and aggressive language from the get-go. Their reasoning was that real attackers will use this kind of language and so students have to get used to it. I’ve seen exactly the same thing happen with instructors who use very hard contact from day one.
The vast majority of these kinds of instructors, from what I’ve seen, end up with a small group of dedicated, yet often unhinged, students. The majority of people don’t stick around.
If the goal is to help as many people as possible, then this method is counterproductive. In all likelihood those who will stick around are those who are already tough, already strong, etc. These are the ones less likely to be selected as a victim.
The flip side to that, and more importantly, is that this puts off the people who need the training the most. For example, people who have experienced trauma, the elderly, kids and teens and other more vulnerable sections of society are much less likely to stick around.

So, what does one have to do to make sure that they stick around?
Simple! It must be FUN.

Yes, you read it correctly. Fun. If you want to make people safe, you have to make your classes fun.
Let’s unpack that a little bit.
The dictionary definition is something that is amusing, entertaining or enjoyable.
That’s fairly accurate in terms of what a self defence class should be, with enjoyable being the key ingredient there.

If students enjoy the class, they’ll come again. If they enjoy the next class and the one after that, they’ll continue coming. 
If they keep coming, they’ll get better. If they get better, they’ll be better equipped to deal with a situation if and when it occurs.

Yes, there are time limits and we want to give people skill as quickly as possible. And yes, there obviously has to be a serious tone to the classes. But expecting people to pay money to do something they don’t enjoy is unrealistic. Would you go a restaurant where you hate the food and the service is crap just because the food is healthy? Of course not. You’ll go get your burger where you know the food is tasty and the service is good. Same logic applies here.

Let’s summarise and review:

  • If our end goal is to make sure that people are safer as a result of our training, they have to actually be there to train.
  • For them to want to be there to train, the training has to be fun – engaging, enjoyable, encouraging, empowering and interesting.
  • The populations that need the training the most are also the ones that are less likely to stick around for training that isn’t enjoyable.
  • Fun doesn’t mean easy.
  • There needs to be a balance between fun, challenging and serious.
  • I hope you have fun in your next class!

    Stay safe, stay tuned. Osu/Oss


Should I take my child to Martial Arts?

Martial Arts can be an incredible force in the life of a young person. It can provide focus, structure, culture, problem solving capabilities and solid strategies to deal with bullying and other various challenges that life will throw at them. But it's not for everyone, and for some kids it's important to consider the type of training they may need before throwing them into a martial arts programme.

Will Martial Arts help my child's behaviour problem?