By Vincent Lyn




Derrick Ojiambo Uganda.jpg 

Here with Sargeant Derrick Ojiambo in Kampala, Uganda.


What does it mean to be a hard target?

A hard-target is a person who, due to their actions and/or appropriate protective measures, is able to minimize existing risks and thus most likely represents an unattractive target. Originally, these two terms come from the military and relate to protected and unprotected targets.

What makes people soft targets?

Be Aware:  If you're lost in your own world, daydreaming as you walk down the street or scrolling down your phone, then you're not aware of what's going on around you, and a criminal will be more willing to take advantage. Be aware of what's going on around you, and you'll be able to react if anything does happen. It can take a criminal less than seven seconds to size you up. To decide whether you would be easy to rob, assault, kidnap, or whatever else is on his mind. Count to seven now: One.

Criminals will select their victims based on their habits, predictability and ability to control the situation. Targets that are constantly distracted by cell phones, music or are unaware of their surroundings are prime victims.

In 1981, sociologists Betty Grayson and Morris I. Stein conducted a now-famous study that cast new light on how assassins picked would-be targets. The researchers set up a video camera on a busy New York sidewalk and taped people walking by for three days, between 10 am and noon.

The tape was later shown to inmates in a large East Coast prison who were incarcerated for violent offenses (such as armed robbery, rape and murder) against people unknown to them. The inmates were instructed to rate the pedestrians on a scale of one to ten , from “a very easy rip-off” to “would avoid it, too big a situation. Too heavy.” This is the basis for the Seven-Second Rule.

Two striking facts stood out.

First, there was a consensus about who would be easy to overpower and control. Every inmate chose exactly the same person. Second, and unexpectedly, the choices were not solely based on gender, race or age, as you would expect. Older, petite females were not automatically singled out. What came as a surprise was that there were other criteria that influenced the decisions. The inmates read the pedestrians' nonverbal signals and used those to make their choices. Basic movements made by the pedestrians, such as the length of their stride, how they moved their feet, the way they shifted their body weight, and whether their arms swung while walking, came into play and were interpreted for signs of vulnerability.

Since we know what movements and actions signal unease and uncertainty, you can take steps to protect yourself by changing your behavior, including modifying your walking patterns to project yourself as someone who would be difficult to subdue and who would likely cause a scene: in other words, a hard target.

Though since this study was done in 1981 we now have a new phenomenon that I mentioned above, the advent of cell phones that have made it even easier for criminals to target unsuspecting victims. To illustrate, a martial arts student of mine mentioned a friend from college who lived in Brooklyn. While walking and listening to music with headphones on, he was attacked by a homeless person who had followed him for a block. The attacker bludgeoned him with a hammer, causing him to lose the sight in one eye.

I have been teaching martial arts for nearly 40 years and one of the most important things I've learned and teach my students is utilizing an effective approach called the OODA Process (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act). approach to decision-making that focuses on filtering available information, putting it in context and quickly making the most appropriate decision while also understanding that changes can be made as more data becomes available. It was developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd. Boyd applied the concept to the combat operations process, often at the operational level during military campaigns. It is now also often applied to understand commercial operations and learning processes. The approach explains how agility can overcome raw power in dealing with human opponents.

The OODA Process has become an important concept in litigation, business, law enforcement, management education, and military strategy. According to Boyd, decision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe–orient–decide–act. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent's decision cycle and gain the advantage.

The first step in the OODA Process is to observe. By observing and taking into account new information about our changing environment, our minds become an open system rather than a closed one, and we are able to gain the knowledge and understanding that's crucial in forming new information.

From a tactical standpoint, to effectively observe you need to have good situational awareness. You need to always be in Condition Yellow. Condition Yellow is best described as  relaxed alert . There's no specific threat situation, but you have your head up and eyes open, And you're taking in your surroundings in a relaxed, but alert manner.

  • Start keying in on where all the exits are whenever you enter a public building. If, heaven forbid, a person enters with guns blazing, you want to know where their possible entry and exit points are and you want to know where your closest exits are located.
  • Give the people around you the once over and be on the lookout for behavior that doesn't seem “normal.” Normal will depend on the situation and environment (having adequate mental models will be important in determining baseline behavior), so just because someone is acting weird doesn't necessarily mean they're a threat. Just keep them on your radar.

Boyd notes that we'll encounter two problems in the Observation phase:

  • We often observe imperfect or incomplete information.
  • We can be inundated with so much information that separating the signal from the noise becomes difficult.

Judgment is key. Without judgment, data means nothing. It is not necessarily the one with more information who will come out victorious, it is the one with better judgment, the one who is better at discerning patterns.

Orientation isn't just a state you're in; it's a process You're always orienting. Because the world around you is constantly changing, orientation is something you can never stop doing. “ABO = Always Be Orienting” should become your mantra. Make it a goal to add to your toolbox of mental models every day, and then immediately start atomizing those models and fashioning new one.

Consequently, when we decide which mental model(s) to use, we're forced to settle for ones that aren't perfect, but good enough.

When we decide, we're essentially moving forward with our best hypothesis — our best “educated guess” — about which mental model will work. To find out if our hypothesis is correct, we then have to test it, which takes us to our next step:

To show the vital importance of controlling the tempo of your OODA Process when it clashes with another's, as an example the next time your sitting in a coffee shop with a friend and in walks a gunman. “What would you do if a guy with a gun came in through the door?"

Me: “Uhhh . . . ”

“You're dead. You got stuck in the orientation step. You need to have a plan that you know is good enough to work in that situation and implement it immediately. Remember, you have to finish your Process before the bad guy finishes his .”

So what's the best mental model in that situation? According to research on past active shootings, the best response isn't to flee or hide from the gunman, but rather to immediately close the gap between  you  and him and incapacitate him. Homeland Security recommends when the shooter is relatively close to you.

Why does this work? When you immediately go after the shooter, you're messing up his plan and his orientation of the world. You're getting inside his OODA Process, you're resetting it.

Most violent gunmen think that because they have the gun, people will do what they say and will just hide. They don't expect someone to come charging after them. By closing the gap, you're resetting your adversary's Process because now they have to re-orient themselves to an unexpected change in the environment. You're making them have an 'uhhh . . .' moment. By causing the reset, you've slowed him down, even if it's just by a few seconds, which gives you more time to complete your OODA Process and win the battle.

In order for you to implement a mental model with this kind of rapidity, you have to practice it. The body can't go where the brain hasn't been. You need to practice and visualize yourself closing the gap in an active shooter situation before it actually happens if you want to be able to implement it in real life. If you don't, you'll just end up freezing.

So fast cycling of your OODA Process can allow you to get inside, or reset, your opponent's, which allows you to complete your Process first and win the fight. Speed ​​​​is relative in the OODA Process. You just have to be faster than the person you're competing against.

But simply cycling through your OODA Process as fast as you can is an incomplete picture of tempo. What often gets overlooked by folks studying the OODA Process is that when Boyd talked about rapid tempo, he often meant rapid changes in tempo  comes to winning a competition or conflict, our actions need to be surprising, ambiguous, and varying; speeding up  and  slowing down your actions quickly and irregularly can create confusion just as much and sometimes more than simply blowing through your OODA Process .If the enemy is expecting a sudden and quick attack from you, but you instead delay, you may cause your enemy to have an “uhhh . . . ” moment that can be exploited.

What's more, when you move from a boots-on-the-ground tactical level to a bigger picture strategic level, Boyd puts less emphasis on fast OODA Process and instead focuses on developing the best mental concepts possible to win the battle or war. at this “big picture” level, when a strategist is playing the long-game, that he takes into account domains like politics, culture, economics, diplomacy, and espionage. In this long game, his time interval to complete the OODA Process becomes longer . He still has to complete his strategic Process before the enemy's or competitor's, but he has a longer timeframe to do it compared to the foot soldier that's actually engaged in the heat of battle.

I acknowledge that the above may appear frightening and impractical for those with little or no training, but it's essential to begin by modifying your lifestyle, mindset, and daily habits. For everyday civilians in order to avoid being an easy target, taking forceful, dynamic steps that convey assertiveness and confidence, swinging your feet gracefully forward, walking smoothly with a swing to the arms, and keeping your chin up, spine straight and shoulders back, while staying aware of your surroundings and looking around.

I also recommended giving other members of the public a split-second glance to indicate you know they are there. When a predator knows that you have seen him, he may look for another target because the element of surprise is lost. short period of time, the challenge is to keep it up for extended periods of time, noting that when you get distracted, for example by a text on your phone, you turn into an easy target.




 Vincent Lyn

CEO & Founder of We Can Save Children

Deputy Ambassador of International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)

Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization

Economic & Social Council at United Nations (ECOSOC)

Editor-in-Chief at Wall Street News Agency

Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Expert







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