Left of Bang – Important Concepts in Situational Awareness

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The following content is based on the book “Left of Bang” by Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley.  This article is an introduction to their ideas, and it is highly suggested that readers invest the time to learn more by reading the full book, “Left of Bang”.

Left of Bang – What is Left of Bang?  Why is it important?

If we think of a time line, where “bang” is a central event, like a physical attack by a single assailant or terrorist incident, there is a timeline that extends left and right of the central event. This is a model of information and action as it relates to the central event.

The time to the right of bang is all reactionary.  To the right of bang, all we can do is respond to the event as best we can with the skills and tools we have at our disposal.  To the left of bang, is all of the information we could have used to either prepare, or remove ourselves from harms’ way.

If we are serious about self-defense.  If we want to prevent, prepare for, or escape from terrible events before they happen.  We want to focus on the left side of bang.  We need to focus on the signals of individuals and groups of people; which telegraph intentions or potential actions which may cause harm to ourselves, our families and our communities.

The U.S. Marine Corpse Combat Hunter/Combat Profiler Program

The entire reason the “Left of Bang” concept exists, is because we care about our men and women serving in our military in harms way.  We want them to have a significant advantage on the battlefield.  We want them to have the tools available to identify potential threats and intervene before experiencing an attack or loss of life.

In order to protect our troops, a program was developed to help them make decisions in a rapid manner.  These decision are  based on observations of anomalies in the behavior and demeanor of individuals.  These marines make decisive actions based on the anomalies which protect our soldiers and the innocent bystanders in their area of operation… the combat hunter/combat profiler is focused on staying left of bang.

Left of Bang for Everyday People

What can we, as civilians, learn from a Marine Corpse combat program?  The Left of Bang model is equally applicable to normal, non-combat people as it is to the marines.  It is a model of how to think about behavior profiling of potential threats.  If we have the mentality to observe our surroundings and notice abnormalities, we have the ability to act before bad stuff happens.

To do this… you need to develop a baseline.  You should observe your surroundings and identify the normal patterns of behavior first.  Are people laughing, smiling and talking?  Are they facing each other and making eye contact/interpersonal body language?  Do people seem genuinely invested in the experience they are in?  If you are in a grocery store, are people paying attention to their produce, or other shoppers.  Identifying what is normal, and what is abnormal is a big deal to identifying threats.

Simply said… which one of these is not like the others?

What Behavior Categories Should we Focus on?

Realize, this is just an overview… there is a great deal of information to look for.  This article is just an introduction to the whole world of behavioral profiling.  Hopefully though, this gives you some ideas to elevate your defensive mindset.

  • Kinesics – Body Language – You should focus on postures and gestures which express a person’s emotional state and possible future intentions.
  • Biometrics – Uncontrollable and automatic biological responses to stress.  Is someone sweating when they shouldn’t?  Is a person avoiding eye contact?
  • Proxemics – Interpersonal Space – peoples behavior as it relates to surrounding people – Do you see someone keeping distance from people in a more intimate environment?  Are they getting close to others when the environment is keeping larger distances?
  • Geographics – People’s relationships with their environment –Do you observe individuals who are familiar or unfamiliar with the areas they are in?
  • Iconography – Symbols  – Clothing, markings, or other imagery which communicates beliefs or affiliations – Do you see people whose dress/tattoos indicate a dangerous affiliation?
  • Atmospherics – Collective attitudes, moods, emotions or behaviors of groups of people in a given situation or place.  Does the environment see a sudden shift in behaviors?

Paying attention to these behavioral categories will help you stay left of bang.

Only the Beginning

If you are defensively minded… this is a great place to start to avoid the fight or avoid the danger before it comes to you.  It is now my personal mission to use these tools to stay Left of Bang.  If I have no other choice, I am working on those other skills that keep myself and my family alive and in one piece.



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