Perhaps the most important aspect of self defence is awareness and risk assessment. It should be the starting point of any conversation about how to keep yourself safe.
All the fancy martial arts techniques in the world will not help you if you don’t notice that the big dude with the knuckle duster is getting increasingly upset with you and increasingly close to you.
By the same token we want to be risk aware without being paranoid. You can drastically reduce your likelihood of being the victim of assault by locking yourself in your room 24/7. The only problem is you’ll be living a terrible life.
When talking about self defence we often use a colour coding system to asses the threat and our level of awareness based on context.
Condition White – is my most relaxed and comfortable condition. At home with people I trust where I feel most safe. Here I don’t have to have the radar out (unless you live with someone that trains BJJ in which case rear naked choke attempts are always on the table)
Condition Green – out and about. More aware, scanning the environment to notice anything that pings my radar as unusual. That couple arguing, that person that looks a bit disorientated or muttering to themselves, the group in the corner that seem to be watching everyone. Just noticing and being aware (hard to do if your face is in your phone!)
Condition Yellow – something has really captured my attention. That person is approaching me, asking for directions but coming in from the side and I can’t see their other hand. Someone is upset about a traffic incident. Now radar goes on high alert, we’re managing space to keep them at a safe distance. Making sure my hands are free. Being aware of anyone else in the immediate vicinity.
Condition Red – an altercation seems imminent. I’m preparing to react or if necessary initiate. My fence is up and I’m employing verbal de-escalation techniques. It’s go time.
This system helps to a) make sure you’re noticing your environment so you know which condition you are in and b) ensure it is appropriate for the context.
You don’t want to stay in an oblivious Condition White state when danger is imminent. Similarly you don’t want to be walking around in Condition Red 24/7. It’s exhausting, you’ll get adrenal fatigue and people will think you’re odd as you walk around with your fence up all day.
I’ve been thinking about how this applies to what is happening around the world with COVID-19. Where you are in the world will determine what condition you are in. Clearly Italy, US, UK etc are Condition Red. No one in the world should be at Condition White.
Here in New Zealand as of today (19 March) we’re in Condition Yellow. We passed through White to Green when we heard about the virus and we passed through Green to Yellow when we started to get confirmed cases.
But we’re not at Condition Red. We still have no confirmed cases of community transmission. The government has all but shut the borders and travel has slowed to a trickle. Tracking contacts of those who have tested positive and mandatory self isolation seems to be doing a good job of keeping things contained, at least for now.
This is why our schools are still open, we are not in enforced quarantine or some of the other more extreme measures you are seeing around the world. Because so much of the media we consume is from Condition Red countries it is easy for people to feel like we should be pushing the panic button (as witnessed by panic buying). Panic never works – at any threat level. What works is having a plan and executing it when it’s time to execute it.
So I feel it’s important to recognise where we are.
We need to be realistic.
In other words respond to what’s real rather than what we hope or what we fear. We can’t afford to be complacent – washing hands, self isolating when returning from travel, all the other precautions you’ve heard about.
At the same time we can recognise we’re not at Condition Red so the toilet paper in the cupboard will probably do just fine.
Here at GC while we’re in Condition Yellow we are continuing to operate. We are monitoring the situation very closely and have plans to modify how we train as needed. My hope is that containment will continue to be effective and eventually we’ll de-escalate to Condition Green. However should we enter Condition Red it’ll be go time and we’ll react very quickly.
Until either of those things happens look after yourself. Protect both your physical health and your mental health. Be aware and vigilant while at the same time connecting with people any way you can and in the words of Douglas Adams – Don’t Panic.