We’re fortunate in the BKMA to be surrounded by some very experienced people in the security industry and in the forces, and of course the two often overlap. I’d like to share with you today a lesson I learned during my Close Protection training, a lesson delivered by Mark Edwards. Mark is a quiet, humble chap who won’t make a lot of noise about his achievements, but let’s say he’s got a lot of both military and security experience behind him and is extensively respected in both Bootneck and Close Protection circles as well as being a great Krav instructor. Far as I’m concerned, what Mark has to say about Security gets written in stone. He knows his shit.
The lesson is this. Build a bubble around yourself and keep it up all the time as a way of life. It becomes habit which you can then use effortlessly to protect others.
People who aren’t in the Krav or security industries listen to comments like this and their reaction is often the same: “Isn’t it really stressful going around being paranoid all the time?”
This comes up all the time so I’m going to address this point now.
Violent crime happens at rates that are small but significant. It can happen. It does happen. And if you are unaware, that is living in a state of unawareness, you are already in a class of people more likely to fall victim to crime. Victim Selection rituals are designed to find people like you. People who, when attacked, will be so surprised and unprepared that you will react with immediate and total paralysis and capitulation. Criminals don’t want fights, they want victims. Easy, predictable, safe victims.
Secondly, it isn’t stressful to be aware. Security Awareness, as it’s known to the professionals, is not a stressful state of being. It’s just awareness. It means being present and awake and aware of what is happening around you. When it’s practiced regularly it becomes natural and unthinking.
Cooper, in his now industry standard theory on Colour Codes, talks about the levels of threat awareness…
White: Code White means you are asleep. No trained professional is ever in this state, even in their own home. Code White means you have absolutely no awareness of anything occurring around you. If this sounds dangerous, it’s because it is. Think of all the near misses you see on the roads because a driver has not looked or seen a hazard or a pedestrian, texting away, has stepped in front of a car. That’s Code White.
Yellow: Code Yellow is the relaxed state of awareness we are talking about here when we mention the Security Bubble. Yellow means you are chilled out but very aware of your surroundings. When you first switch on and begin to learn security either through law enforcement or military/intelligence work, close protection work or simply as a civilian learning a reality based system such as Krav Maga, this will be an effort as you make habit all the observations. After a time, all these observations become automatic and happen as easily as breathing or blinking. You don’t have to try, the information is just there:
- Where are the exits?
- Are there any intoxicated and potentially violent people around me?
- Can I see this guy’s hands? If not, why not?
- Why is this group of three splitting up and forming around me?
- The car behind me has been present through two roundabouts and three turns. (Surveillance awareness.)
Orange: Code Orange occurs when something elevates to the level of threat. Someone is eyeballing you; the vehicle described above follows you through three sides of a square (a standard counter-surveillance maneuver); footsteps quicken behind you when walking at night; someone steps too close to you at a cashpoint.
Red: The threat becomes immediate and aggressive. There is physical contact or the immediate threat of physical contact and/or verbal aggression, typically profanity.
Black: Black isn’t on Cooper’s list, but it basically means it’s on, you’re fighting for your life.
Clearly, being in code Yellow is the best way to prevent things escalating to Red or Black. And equally clearly, if you are in White and suddenly you are in Black, you’re screwed. Your adrenal system will hit you harder than any punch and you’ll flounder in utter, hysterical paralysis while someone dances the tango on your head.
When you ask professionals about security awareness, or OPSEC, and people’s lack of it, the professionals are always amazed at how people can be so whimsical about their lack of thought. Of course it’s all about ignorance and bliss, but to a security aware person, they can see the threats everywhere and can’t understand people’s ignorance of it. That guy over there is twitching, suggesting he’s come off antipsychotic medications or is otherwise unbalanced. That guy over there walking directly towards me has his hand just behind him so I can’t see it. Or he’s repeatedly checking a pocket or back of belt. I’ve crossed the street twice and the guy behind me has done the same. There’s a guy in a bar eyeballing everyone. It’s only a matter of time before he chooses to engage someone and I don’t want it to be me. When you see all this, all this potential threat, you make different choices. It’s not stressful, it’s just awareness. But it keeps you safe and you wonder at the fact that so many live in such total oblivion. And it becomes easy to see how terribly easy it is to select a victim from amongst all these Code White people and attack them without fear of any reprisal or fight.
Once you have security awareness, you extend a bubble of habitual security protocols around yourself, your property and, by extension, your loved ones. This means, in practice, such everyday things such as:
- Parking the car front out every time.
- Checking rear seats before entering vehicle.
- Locking car doors when travelling. Even before car start or seatbelt on, doors get locked.
- Have safe places in mind to drive to in the event of hostile surveillance or action (road rage is included here).
- Don’t drive home if you think someone is following you. Go to a safe place.
- Avoiding known trouble spots. If you have to walk through them, keep head up, aware, walking briskly and with purpose. No headphones or mobile phone use.
- Keep aware of your exact location at all times so you can report it promptly to emergency services, for example mile markers which appear every 0.5 miles on British Motorways.
- Never opening car windows more than two inches, less in traffic or stationary.
- Drinking moderately when out and keeping an awareness of immediate threat, being prepared to stand up and walk to another place if there is threat or hostility.
- Avoiding obvious or known trouble spots or bad routes for foot.
These are just some of the very many things a security aware person does to keep their safety managed. This is the bubble. And the fact is, professionally, if you come to a place where you’re asked to protect another individual, or personally, when it comes time to protect your own, your habits can simply be extended to protect the other, without any work on your part. Your protection will be thorough, practiced and solid. Contrast this with someone who only thinks about this stuff when they’re working. I know who I’d want protecting me if my life were in danger.
To learn more about security awareness, consider a good Close Protection course, if you are a professional, choosing one that puts heavy emphasis on fieldwork rather than classroom time. Or, if you are a civilian wanting to protect your family or simply yourself, learn a good reality based fighting system such as Krav Maga from a reputable and experienced teacher. Ask questions, of the teacher and yourself. Watch the world. Open your eyes and start to see how it works. Ignorance isn’t really bliss; it’s putting your life in some scumbag’s hands and hoping they won’t end or seriously alter your life.
Stay safe. Happy training.
Will Bayley, Close Protection Officer and Krav Maga Instructor, Krav Maga Swindon, Krav Maga North Bristol, Bristol University Krav Society.
Tags: Personal Security, Close Protection, Awareness.
TL;DR: Put a good security bubble around yourself and when the time comes to step up and be responsible for someone else’s security you’ll be able to simply extend your bubble and be much more effective than a person who only practices security on a need-to basis.