The Cooper Color Code: Tightening It Up

ALTHOUGH we disagree completely with the mechanics of that which he referred to as the “New Technique of the Pistol” for serious combat shooting of the handgun at close quarters, we nevertheless am grateful for learning the “Combat Color Code” when, back in the mid-1970’s, we took his Course personally, from the late Col. Jeff Cooper. In fact it was a friend’s lending us a copy of Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense, which we regard as a masterpiece for anyone and everyone engaged in any form of self-defense training ––– with or without weapons ––– that caused us to contact Cooper in the first place. Mental conditioning For Combat had been a matter of serious study for us since the 1960’s, and when we discovered the PPD we were delighted.

Over the years we have modified how the Color Code is used for ourself and our students. Our view of all forms of armed and unarmed combat is that simple is better, and we believe that by simplifying the way the color code is utilized, we’ve simplified that particular aspect of mental conditioning for combat ––– and improved it for practical application.

Here is the Combat Color Code, invented by Jeff Cooper, and the specifics of how he taught it:

Condition WHITE: Inattentive, relaxed, paying no particular attention to anything near or around you. Unaware.
Condition YELLOW: Relaxed alert. You are paying attention wherever you go and wherever you may be to who and to what is around and near you. There is no specific cause for alarm or concern, but you remain situationally aware as you go about whatever business you may be going about. You notice as much as possible within the area where you happen to be at the time.

Condition ORANGE: Specific alert. Something/someone has attracted your attention and has caused you to consider that it/he may need to be dealt with. You remain in Condition Orange until whatever has caused you to be concerned has been explained and determined not to be a source of possible danger.

Condition RED: Alert and ready to take action! Whatever has caused you to become alarmed in Condition Orange has you convinced that yes, you may need to take serious action and ––– being guided by whatever “triggering action” you have decided must take place before you actually do neutralize the threat ––– you are ready to go! Whether armed or unarmed, if the individual(s) who has aroused your state of readiness to act decisively makes a certain triggering move or takes a certain triggering action that you have decided upon in advance, you will neutralize the threat instantly.
(Note: The “trigger” is decided by you, and will vary according to circumstances. For example, “If his hand is raised as a fist, I’m going to attack”, “If he produces a weapon I am going to shoot him”, “If these two move to block my way I am going to attack”, etc. and so on.)

That Color Code is better than excellent, and if it suits you exactly as Cooper taught it, that’s fine. But realizing how dangerous any attack can be, and understanding how simpler is always better insofar as technical or mental preparation goes, we have “tightened up” Cooper’s Color Code, so as to bring the defender “closer/sooner” to a state of readiness to drop any threat to life or limb.

Our particular belief is that Condition Orange should include being

Ready to take action! Whatever has caused you to become alarmed in Condition Orange has convinced that yes, you may need to take serious action and ––– being guided by whatever “triggering action” you have decided must take place before you actually do neutralize the threat ––– you are ready to go!

Condition Red then is ACTION! And we refer to the stages of YELLOW, OR ANGE, and RED as: Ready, set, go! Condition WHITE is, exactly as Cooper taught it, unacceptable and inappropriate to living, functioning, traveling, working, and so forth in a dangerous world. Only when you control completely the environment that you are in, know exactly who is near and around you, and understand that only those who mean you no harm can approach you, is being in Condition White justified.

We have not modified Cooper’s Color Code just to be different. With great respect for his innovation we have tried to make it even more effective for more students of self-defense, everywhere.

We note that here and there others have added something they call condition “black”, thus further complicating matters (and, we feel, just to make gullible fools believe that they have improved upon Cooper’s work). We stress again: SIMPLIFYING is what improves things in combat arts. And in the spirit of wanting to improve a great thing created by an extraordinary man, we offer our thoughts which we hope make the color code even more effective for you.

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