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Rules of 3

by Kevin Estela April 07, 2021

Rules of 3

In the survival community, most people have heard of the rule of 3. That is, on average, a human being can live approximately 3 minutes without oxygenated blood running through their body, about 3 hours exposed to the elements, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. You’ve probably heard other additional “3s” that are added to this list including the body’s ability to survive approximately 3 degrees off of the 98.6 degree homeostasis and perhaps even 3 seconds to make a decision. Keep in mind, these are all averages and you may be to the left or to the right of these numbers. Well, I’m here to let you know there are additional rules of 3 you should know that come up frequently in survival courses. These are easy to remember and you should add them to your understanding of readiness.

Force, Timing, and Space
Most people know my background is in wilderness survival training. Some are surprised to find out I’ve been heavily involved in martial arts and combatives for well over a decade. My Sayoc Kali instructors have been an incredible influence in my life and have given me an understanding of conflict analysis that is applicable in many domains. In a conflict, there only 3 broad variables that determine a victor. Those are force, timing, and space. If one side of a conflict controls only one, they will likely lose. If that side controls 2 or all three, victory is almost guaranteed. Think of how this plays out with the concept of the blitz in football, sucker punch in the street, or cheat sheet in a classroom. Understanding what gives you an edge in terms of additional force, improved timing, and better control of space will help you understand conflict.
Desire, Opportunity, and Ability
Continuing with the topic of street defense are the three elements you must track when dealing with a physical threat. Desire, opportunity, and ability or “D.O.A.” are ways to break down the potential for harm. If a person has a desire to hurt you and opportunity to hurt you but not ability (think about a criminal behind bars), well, you are probably safe. If a person has opportunity and ability to hurt you but no desire, they may as well be your best friend who is armed and willing to protect you. If a person has a desire to hurt you as well as ability but no opportunity, perhaps they are kept well out of range or beyond the reach of their tools. Only when all three of these are present will you be in true jeopardy.
Heat, Oxygen, Fuel
Another common rule of three is the fire triangle. For a fire to exist, it must have heat, oxygen, and fuel. You can look at any fire and determine how it is performing based on these three requirements. A smokey fire likely lacks the amount of heat necessary to properly burn the materials present. A fire that is failing to light may be choked out because the fuel is too densely packed and there isn’t enough air getting in. You may even notice when you blow on a fire, the flame tends to dance with a sort of excitement as it feeds. Only when all three of these components are present will you have a fire that burns properly.

Length, Strength, and Flexibility
Perhaps the second hardest discipline to learn in the great outdoors is the art of cordage. Cordage is so incredibly valuable and that is why I make it a point to carry some daily in my EDC. If I run out of man-made cordage, I fall back on the rule of three relating to natural fibers. For good cordage made from the land, you need length, strength, and flexibility. There are plenty of fibers that have length and strength but not flexibility. Look at most hardwood saplings. As is, they have long fibers (grain) under the outer bark that is both long and strong but relatively speaking, it is not flexible like a cloth. Some grasses are long and flexible but they are weak in breaking strength. For good natural cordage, you need all three attributes as are found in milkweed, dogbane, and spruce roots. 

Awareness, Preparedness, and Willingness

Easily the most important rule of three in my repertoire is the Sayoc Readiness Formula. Sayoc Kali is a martial art that readies practitioners to deal with threats around them. It is easily the most incredible life-changing training I’ve done. In Sayoc, we promote readiness achieved through awareness, preparedness, and willingness. Awareness is known as situational awareness, your wherewithal, or your level of consciousness. Preparedness is composed of physical and mental training and material possessions such as your EDC. Willingness comes down to what you would do IF. There are people who are aware and prepared but not willing. Think of anyone who has ever frozen instead of acting in the capacity of the job they are trained to do. There are those who are prepared and willing but not aware. Anyone who is a blackbelt in the gym but a drunk in the bar falls into this category. How can you honestly say you are “ready” if you fail a sobriety test? There are also those who are aware and willing but not prepared. The heroes of flight 93 changed that by uparming with beverage carts, pots of hot coffee, and teammates around them not willing to let their plane be used like the others. Everyday you should work to be more ready than the next. 

All of these rules of three give me the survival-tinted sunglasses to see the world through. I don’t have a math/science brain but I like these formulas. I understand how they work and how I can apply them. If there is a good formula, it can be transferred and reproducible. The same goes for these rules of three. I have been in the jungles of Costa Rica where I couldn’t tell you the name of the vine I used as cordage but I assessed it by testing its length, strength, and flexibility. It is easy to remember groups of 3. 9-1-1 is a group of 3 numbers. Stop-drop-roll is a group of 3 actions. Red, yellow, green are 3 stop light colors. Think of ways to categorize what you need in life into 3 subcategories and you’ll find how beneficial this number can be. 






Kevin Estela
Kevin Estela

Author

Kevin Estela is a Survival Instructor at Estela Wilderness Education. Kevin is a frequent contributing writer for publications such as RECOIL, Athlon Outdoors, and Beckett Media. He is a Sayoc Kali Associate Instructor Level 5, as well as a BJJ Purple Belt.



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