“Bang is the…beginning of an ambush. Bang is what we want to prevent. Being left of bang means that a person has observed one of the…warning signs…Being on the other end of the timeline is referred to as being right of bang … military operators and law enforcement personnel … learn skills and techniques that rely on someone else taking the initiative…waiting for the enemy or criminal to act first. Unfortunately, whoever strikes first possesses a powerful tactical advantage.”
Left of Bang
“Most people…don’t allow their intuition to guide them…when something isn’t normal, watch out.”
Left of Bang
I’m interested in survival and keeping myself and my loved ones safe.
While I don’t take it as far as others — I don’t have a bunker with months worth of food and water — I wouldn’t mind having a close friend who maintained one – hopefully they would let me and my wife in if the Zombie apocalypse went down!
In the news and in history books, there are riots, terrorist incidents, and wars and I think, how could I avoid that? Did you see The Impossible, the film about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hitting a Thailand resort? I think, what would have been the best way to avoid that? To survive that?
I’m what you might call a low-level survivalist.
While I don’t have a compound in the woods, I read books and articles. I watch movies about wilderness survival (like The Edge and The Grey) or the Zombie apocalypse (like Dawn of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead). And then I think, what would I do?
I also read books about military strategy and psychology.
My studies have led me to this conclusion — a large percentage of people who encounter danger in the modern developed world stumble into this danger through carelessness and a lack of paying attention to their environment. Most importantly, they don’t listen to their instincts.
This was the big message I took away from a classic book on this subject, The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. De Becker is a security expert who detailed in his book many case studies of violent crimes (rape, assault, etc). The common thread in these stories was that the victims knew something was up, yet ignored their instincts. They had various body sensations and premonitions but didn’t trust themselves and didn’t want to do something even slightly socially awkward to avoid the danger they sensed. Rather than be rude, they pushed down the feelings and placed themselves in danger.
In Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life, the book describes the Combat Hunter program, developed to create training which would put enable Marines to be more “tactically cunning on the battlefield,” allow them to develop “increased situational awareness,” and ultimately to become more “predators than prey” in environments like Afghanistan and Iraq.
The program described in Left of Bang discovered the same thing De Becker described. They set a goal to try to teach Marines how to listen to the wisdom of their instincts. Much of the program was built upon what they call the “9 Principles of Human Nature.” Understanding these 9 principles help the soldiers to understand the baseline of human behavior.
“A baseline is what is normal for an environment, type of situation, or individual.”
Left of Bang
If we are trying to avoid getting caught in an ambush or being blown up by an IED, we need to be on the lookout. We need to be on alert. But for what? Its a little sad, but the Marine researchers concluded that people are generally predictably clueless.
- Humans are creatures of habit (99% predictable).
- Humans are lazy.
- Humans are lousy liars (non-verbal indicators will leak out” – “a liar must create a story and monitor the fabrication…monitor the interviewers reaction…continuous effort…short term memory”).
- Humans will run, fight, or freeze.
- Humans telegraph their intentions – “tells.”
- Humans are predictable.
- Humans are not good at multi-tasking – “His actions will be jerky, and his speech will seem choppy, broken, or slower than normal.”
- Humans are generally clueless – “humans in general lack situational awareness.”
- Humans can’t do many different things.
In order to detect danger before it happens, we must be on the alert for behaviors that are not the usual clueless and unconscious human behavior. We learn to look for clued in and conscious behaviors in odd contexts.
I previously reviewed and recommended Col. Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense. In Cooper’s parlance, Condition Yellow is this state of heightened awareness, in which we must go on alert because the situation seems potentially dangerous. While some people have already developed such instincts because they had “relatable” experience (such as growing up in hostile urban environments like certain parts of Oakland!), the U.S. Marines note that “most Marines do not have sufficiently significant life experience” to develop an intuition for this sort of danger.
This is what I’ve often maintained about the violent nature of Wing Chun. Most of us haven’t have the sort of life experiences which would enable us to instantly deliver the sort of violence our system is training into us without additional psychological work.
How do we develop and maintain a functional state of yellow alert? How do we develop the “offensive mindset of the hunter instead of the defensive mindset of the prey?”
Basically, the Combat Hunter program teaches the Marines to develop in their minds “a bias for action.” They are taught to recognize when they are in a potentially dangerous situation and be ready for something to go down. People are often sabotaged by the own sense that they are being too paranoid or overly suspicious. People talk themselves down – “it’s nothing.”
In order to be “prepared,” we must be conscious of what the baselines are and what constitute “anomalies” and if we detect anomalies, shift ourselves into a higher state of readiness, without this self-sabotaging “relax and don’t be crazy” impulse. We need to take our instincts seriously, every time.
Luckily, if we are in Yellow Alert (on the lookout) most of the time, people are not very good at subterfuge, so there are signs and “pre-indicators.”
People are bad liars and poor multi-taskers, so when they are trying to set up an ambush (in a military setting or even in a mugging setting), they leak “indicators.”
The Marines have determined that “people cannot pretend to do one thing while thinking something else without weird deformities of behavior.”
People who are intent on setting a trap will act too fast or too slow. Their movements will be jerky, aimless, jittery, bouncy. They will lean away or cross their arms. Their eyes will be restless. They will blink, swallow nervously, and shiver. They will wear sunglasses inside or in the dark. They’ll rub their necks and arms. They will breathe awkwardly (consciously). They will make sudden changes of angle and direction. People will do “pacifying behaviors” such as pat their hidden weapon to make sure its still there
If you are alert, these actions will jump out from the baseline and warn you to move from Condition Yellow to Condition Orange. In Condition Orange, you have a target to watch or avoid. You are primed, prepared to act, suddenly and violently, if necessary. The safety is off and you are actively “checking your six.”
Of course, all of this sounds exhausting!
For many years now, when I go out into a parking lot at night, I am a little on the alert. Parking lots are prime locations for assaults (on the border between populated and unpopulated areas). When I go around blind corners, I think, what if someone was around that corner waiting? I keep my ears peeled, just a little bit. If I see people at night in a slightly sketchy environment, I check them out. I keep track of them, casually. But if they seem to be acting in some odd manner outside the “baseline,” I go on alert. I assess my escape routes, if only as practice. If I am with my wife, I consider for a moment how I would handle an assault. How could I deal with the situation and allow her time to escape?
I decided a long time ago to cultivate this awareness, which is really a mild state of paranoia. Am I crazy? Its not debilitating. I don’t feel anxious, just alert. Once in a blue moon, when I’m in certain neighborhoods and get the weird feeling about certain people, I’ll casually cross the street and keep an eye on them.
“If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck.”
One last interesting video. This shows actor Seth Green getting mugged in a parking lot. The one guy comes directly at him at a very fast clip while the other guy comes up behind (classic predator behavior, like a wolf pack). Avoidable? It all happens pretty fast!
But note – these things really happen. Sometimes, its not just your imagination.