Book Review: Left Of Bang

This is one of those books that is on nearly every self defense instructor’s must read list. And for good reason. The book was written for Marines to detail the principles of the Combat Hunter Program. It is essentially a step by step manual on how to characterize a location, and notice patterns in the people so  you can quickly determine when something or someone is out of place. It is essentially a ‘situational awareness’ manual for combat. Being Left Of Bang simply means having the information necessary to be able to act before (left-side on a timeline) the *bang* of an attack.

Buy Left Of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life
In both personal protection and combat (so I read) we have to make decisions with less-than-perfect and incomplete information.

It is necessary to have heuristics to allow us to make good-enough decisions more rapidly. Sometimes ‘good-enough’ right now beats ‘perfect’ too late. This book details these methods for Marines. With some adaptation, we can use them when at the mall or shopping for groceries.

This book is critical for a war-fighter or police officer. If you work (or live) in the same area/neighborhood/block for an extended period of time, you can fully implement the author’s suggestions.  The authors primarily use military situations and anecdotes to relay the principles. If you personally like the military tone and that appeals to you, then you’ll have no issue translating the lessons to civilian life.

I personally wouldn’t give this book to a teenager or 20-something university student who is living alone in the city . The military stories might seem too alien and it might not hold their interest. A better book for that audience with more visceral day-to-day anecdotes would be The Gift of Fear.

The Principles

  • A summary of Cooper’s color codes, the limbic response to stimuli, avoiding ‘right of bang’ reactionary living.
  • Establishing a baseline in an area allows us to recognize anomalies, which should warrant attention.
  • Using “human universals” which are common features of culture, society, language, behavior, and mind that span all ethnography and history.
  • Kinesics – Conscious and subconscious body language. Posture, gestures, and expressions that indicate inner emotional state. None of which rely on seeing the face. The body betrays the conscious mind and facial expressions aren’t as important. Dominant vs. Submissive, uncomfortable vs. comfortable, interested vs. uninterested. Very useful for personal protection and reading people in general.
  • Biometric Cues – The uncontrollable outward expression of stress. Skin flush, pupil dilation, blinking, dry mouth, pacifying behaviors, etc.
  • Proxemics – The study of distance and movement. How certain people and places either attract or repel people. e.g. a person changing their speed or altering their course to follow you in a parking lot.
  • Geographics – How people act in certain areas. Whether they are familiar, comfortable, and how they interact with the area. For us, think malls/restaurants/amusement parks/shops. Home field advantage is a real thing and people act differently where they are comfortable.
  • Iconography – Colors, symbols, graffiti, flags, bumper stickers.
  • Atmospherics – The ‘vibe’ of an area. For instance, the feeling at the DMV is frustrated and anxious. The feeling at a carnival is joy and excitement. A sudden change in the vibe of an area, or a person or group not fitting with the vibe warrant attention.

The Take Aways

  • People often override the ‘something wasn’t right’ feeling they get before something bad happens. By understanding what you’re seeing, it allows us to trust intuition and avoid a problem.
  • Humans are universally creatures of habit, lazy, poor liars, will run/fight/freeze, telegraph their intentions, predictable, poor multitaskers. This is exploitable.
  • Everything a person does is created twice – once in the mind and once in its execution – ideas and impulses are pre-incident indicators for action
  • Look for the indicators in ‘clusters’. One gesture indicating unease might be a fluke. A cluster of 3 cues that indicate unease are worthy of attention.
  • The Submissive Cluster of kinesics gives us some ideas on how to appear submissive, possibly to de-escalate and avoid unnecessary conflict.
  • Be aware that your personal iconography gives away information about you. Gun guy stickers and shirts, etc. It is also easy to remove these indicators. Why advertise?
  • Combat Rule of Three – when you observe three anomalies against a baseline, you must make a decision. e.g. At a mall, the seemingly nervous kid, in a black trenchcoat, is fidgeting with his backpack and red faced and sweating. It’s time to leave, or whatever your plan is.

    Conclusion

    This is a good book to have in the collection. It would give a person a clear picture of the broad indicators of identifying things that are out of place. Even if you only use that information to decide to leave, the book has proved useful.

    Here is the website that the authors created to further your studies. http://www.cp-journal.com/

Mark

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