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  • Situational Awareness Introduction
    Situational Awareness

    This is a vast topic, and probably the most essential element of self defense. Being "Situationally Aware" will, most of the time, keep you from getting into a bind in the first place. But what is "Situational Awareness?"

    "Situational awareness or situation awareness (SA) is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time, or some other variable, such as a predetermined event. It is also a field of study concerned with understanding of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic areas from aviation, air traffic control, ship navigation, power plant operations, military command and control, and emergency services such as fire fighting and policing; to more ordinary but nevertheless complex tasks such as driving an automobile or riding a bicycle." (Wikipedia; Situational Awareness Definition, first paragraph of page)

    "Who would be after ME?"

    So, in essence, Situational Awareness encompasses pretty much everything you do. But there are times when you are tired, distracted, busy, or complacent when you can be taken unaware, and that is what a potential assailant is looking for. You may say; "Who would even consider ME? Why would anyone think to rob (rape, assault, murder) ME?" Well, it is not about you, necessarily. Most crimes that are committed person-to person, the criminal does not know the victim. The criminal simply saw a target of opportunity. It is about opportunity. I has nothing to do with you, personally. In cases where the assailant knows the attacker, situational awareness is still a key component in keeping you safe from assault. And there is a large element of opportunity for the criminal involved.

    But how do you achieve the omni-potent status of being "SITUATIOANLLY AWARE."

    You need to focus on your surroundings and be effective at understanding what is a threat and what is not. It is perfectly alright to live a normal life. You do not need to go out armed to the teeth, guns drawn and wearing your black belt to show all that you are ready (and willing) to destroy all potential threats. There is quite a difference in being a paranoid and being a competent, normal individual (that is more than capable of avoiding bad situations, and God forbid, defending yourself if you get in a bad situation). But how do you achieve the omni-potent status of being "SITUATIOANLLY AWARE." The simple answer is that you already are. Refer to the definition (courtesy of Wikipedia) above. You have to be at least somewhat aware of your surroundings and what is going on to function. So the trick is to train yourself to heighten that awareness. On the "Internets" there is a wealth of information. Pretty much ANY topic you can think of, anything at all. If you plug your question into the search engine of your choosing, you will get literally hundreds of millions of results relating to said question. Situational Awareness is not any different. I simply typed "Situational Awareness" into the Google Search Bar and this was the result: About 2,970,000 results (0.71 seconds). There are training courses, schools, online free training, articles (probably not as good as this one), and on and on.

    A couple of Tips........

    Here are a few tricks that you can do to begin training yourself to automatically heighten your awareness. First thing.........PAUSE. That's it. Pause. Take a moment. Stop fiddling with your keys, texting, playing Pokemon Go,
    or whatever. Look around. Assess the situation: Is it dark, and if so, is the area you are in illuminated by street/parking lot lights? Are there people in the area? If so, are these people rightfully in the area (coming form the movie
    theater, bar, shopping mall), or are they just hanging out and looking around (maybe for a target of opportunity)? What next? You have PAUSED, you have LOOKED AROUND to identify potential threats. So, now what??
    That depends. If all seems safe, or if you can avoid potential problem areas and still get to your destination safely, then you would obviously proceed. If there is a reason to not proceed, for even the simple fact that you do not feel safe
    for any reason, get the onsite Security (if that is an option) to escort you, or call the police and explain that you are alone in a dark area and you do not feel safe going to your car. In most cases, they will send an officer to ensure that
    you get to your car, into your house, etc., safely. Do not be afraid to ask for help. It is better to ask for the escort than too have to call the police after the worst has happened so they can investigate the crime.

    Lets Wrap This Up!

    So. We PAUSED. We LOOKED AROUND to identify any potential threats, and we have DECIDED a safe course of action. That is the basics of becoming more proficient at being Situationally Aware, and thus, being better able to protect yourself. It is now up to you to refine this, and have it become second nature for you. Look into getting enrolled in a training course, or research the topic more online. Be vigilant about training. Complacency will get you in trouble.
    Share this post
      • 4
      Michael There are good habits to help keep yourself situationally aware, such as identifying the entrances/exits when you go into a building and selecting a vantage point to see all who are coming/going. When bad actors arrive, you can know before things go down and have potential escape routes.
      • 3
      Will - Black Belt Wiki Andrew

      In addition to situational "distractors" such as texting, chatting on the phone, etc., I would also add the problem of situational "foggers or numb-ers" such as alcohol.

      Black Belt Wiki
      • 2
      David Cochran I agree there is a psychological awareness that should increase over much time with proper training. In my 20's I was in law enforcement for about 4 years. I was amazed how some officers seemed to get into physical altercations much more frequent than others. Most who did I think had/have some degree of confidence issues they often tried to compensate for with their demeanor. I could usually avoid or defuse physical altercations. I never feel/felt a need to flex my ego. Just clearly explain what was going to happen and make sure they understood there were no other options. Usually that defused the situation. Rarely did it have to get physical, when it did I made it as quick and easy as they would allow. I think some of the officers actually enjoyed that part of the power trip. One of the big benefits of MA is the ability to process the physical dimension for many people. Some need to overcome their fear of altercation, some need to be humbled by it. I love MA.
      • 2
      Trevor Hill Good points. I once walked alongside my friend's wife for a couple of hundred yards without her noticing me. She had head down, hands in pockets. I pointed out she was making herself a target.
      • 2
      Joey Nicely done. Pause and use your senses and good sense.
      • 2
      Bill Emmes This is a great thread!!! So many people walk around every day with no clue of the environment they are in or what is even around them. We are easily distracted with cell phones, texting and ipods. I see young women walking or jogging with their ears plugged from an ipod or some music storage device. This is an easy target for an attacker as this person is certainly not aware of much more than what is in front of them and the words to the song they are listening to.

      I have to say this is an area that I see far too much of and discuss a lot with my peers. My male friends who think they are too big a person for someone to mess with will sit somewhere with a headset on completely disconnected with their situational awareness and do not realize how easy a target they are since they are so distracted and an attacker can very easily come up behind them and wallop them senseless!

      I am always telling my wife to look up and look around as she is more inclined to keep her eyes down as she walks. Also, using peripheral vision to see as much as you can as things outside of your frontal vision can occur. One should also be able to listen to what is going on around them and to an extent, feel it as well.

      Pause, Look & Listen are some of the best pieces of advice to gain a situational awareness of an environment that has been so well posted by everyone so far! Trust is another important tool. Trust your gut if you think something is not right and you feel uneasy in an area. Truth is, it probably is not safe!

      I try to teach my wife to look at a situation and immediately plan on how she can move quickly to escape or move away from a dangerous confrontation. Know your surroundings and be aware of the things around you should you need to act quickly. Unfortunately, people today tend to think of this as being paranoid and are too busy multi-tasking to take such advice seriously. Best advice is to slow down and simply pay attention.
      • 2
      ChuckD Nice write up :) What are your thoughts on accompanying people who may not be so situationally alert? Like my wife and kids, if you see us walking down the street you will typically see my wife with the kids with me a few steps behind (typically holding one of the kids hands). My reasoning is that i can see ahead of them and to the sides and if someone comes up behind us I'll be the 1st one they make contact with but I'm sure it doesn't look chivalrous

      I like what you say about not fiddling with your keys, be ready when you are in the parking lot. Something I also do is I will not unlock the car until I am close to so it is not completely obvious which one I'm going to and if it has auto start I'll only start it close by.

      I think if people took that topic more seriously a lot crime would take another tick down..
        • 1
        Andrew Patterson Well, I would say that trying to train the people that you are with to be more aware of their situation would be most effective, but walking as a "guard', so to speak is effective. The traditional concept of a man walking in front of the group or Family as a guard is foolish. Walking a few steps behind, I feel, would be effective in regards to being able to keep a good eye on your Family. Thanks for the reply! Hope that your day is well!
          • 2
          ChuckD I certainly agree... The challenge is when they are 5,8 and 10 :) but I keep working on them.
            • 4
            Bill Emmes l was involved in a situation a couple of years back when my wife and I were walking back to our car in an open parking lot. I saw in front of me four young men looking in all the cars and testing the door handles. I knew immediately that they were up to no good. I was just getting to the car when they were only a couple of yards away and I knew I could not open the doors in time for my wife to get in and lock the door.

            I told her to stand behind me but give me room to move should I need it. She had no clue as to why I was saying this. I saw the men position themselves 2 x 2. One went to my side as another continued head on towards me. The side person was the attacker as the head on person was a distraction while the other two would have been in a position on the other side of the car to attack my wife who had her purse hanging on her shoulder.

            As soon as I took position and had my wife slightly behind me and me looking at both attackers, the guy moving head on smiles and then changed his course and the side guy kept on moving. the other two were outside my area and were no longer a threat as I had the car in between me and them now. The confrontation ended before it began.

            The point was that my wife never saw this, never looked up and could have been an easy victim of day light robbery and a possible injury. When we got in the car, my wife was completely confused as to what just happened.

            Again, situational awareness of your environment, looking around, seeing what is there and paying attention. Since this incident, my wife has gotten better, but I still drill this into her telling her she will always be an intended victim just because she is a woman and attackers tend to single out women more than men.

            As for me standing in front of her to shield her, that is probably more of a male reaction to protect than most anything else and yet I know I need her to be at enough of a distance to allow me to move as needed. Another reason why if we are holding hands I have drilled her to know that if I am maneuvering to release our hands, it is not because I am tired of holding her hand, buy may need to use it as I am always trying to assess my environment. And also to never grab my arm in fear as this can stop me from reacting in a necessary manner.
              • 2
              Will - Black Belt Wiki Great story Bill. Are you doing any specific training or drills with your wife? Or just discussing potential problems & confrontations?

              • 0 2 votes
              • 1
              Andrew Patterson Yeah, because if you are not training with your Wife, I know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy............who knows a guy that teaches Karate. :)
              • 0 1 vote
            • 2
            Bill Emmes Hi Will,

            Any training I do with my wife is usually discussing potential problems and situations where she could be confronted with trouble. Specific training I have done with her has to do with grappling and how she might be attacked on the street or confronted with someone. Basic techniques on wrist grabs, arm grabs, or any type of attack where an attacker will grab and try to hold her in a threatening manner. Of course strikes are always put in where vulnerable points are shown and quick disabling techniques. One thing I have always told her was to never run away if she has inflicted a technique that has really put someone on the ground. Should he/she recover quickly, they will be really angry when they catch you and the injuries could be a whole worst. The purpose of the techniques taught are really meant to break or really hurt the person that is attacking her. If she gets the upper hand, then throw in another technique, kick or punch to keep them down and yell for help as loud as you can. Of late, I have giver her a yawara stick and shown her how to use it to disable an attacker. she keeps it on her key ring. the biggest problem teaching my wife is that she thinks I critique her too much. This is a typical reason why husband and wives working out together can be problematic. Maybe I am guilty of the critique...but my reason to be concerned is genuine.
      • 1
      Steven Penrod Here I am again. I would add one or two important points to Situational Awareness. So often, "we" stress being aware of our surroundings but no time or effort in Threat Analysis. This is a very necessary skill to develop. The questions you need to ask ABOUT your situation get left out of the program.

      It is even highly important when driving, other cars, pedestrians, bikes, motorcycles, animals (to name a few) each pose a specific potential threat. We need to spend some time teaching WHAT to look for and HOW to assess the potential threat. "Use of (deadly or non-deadly) Force" arguments depend on it. As an example, is it legal for me to shoot a man 20 feet away who is brandishing a short knife? Nope. He poses no immediate threat. In these arguments, women have a decided legal advantage based upon percieved size and strength. A woman's right to use force is much easier to defend.

      Let's consider adding Threat Analysis to our collective menu.
        • 1
        Bill Emmes Hello Steven,

        Solid points to remember at all times. Using our skills and knowledge outside of just the self defensive arena should be a normal practice just like all of the other practices we strive to make our personal lives better. I would offer a short story which I hopes makes sense to what you have stated.

        Tthree years ago, I applied for and received my permit for concealed and carry of a firearm. It has been many years since my military service where I carried and used a firearm. My thoughts for the use of a firearm were part personal protection at home and mostly for a hopeful competitive target shooting.

        During the time I started my application and gun training, I took some time to look outside the training and study the laws surrounding conceal and carry and what I would need to know as a gun owner so as to be as responsible as possible. One of the topics were Situational and Threat Analysis to be safe and what to do if confronted.

        I guess what really impressed me the most was the responsibility of not just owning the gun, but all the practices or awareness that go with it. Threat recognition has always been something I use due to my martial arts training, and since I would now own a hand gun, it made perfect sense to apply what I knew along with what I already practiced to the use/ownership of a hand gun.

        It doesn't take long to apply this practice to many other things I do in my life, such as driving. I do a lot of this in my professional life and trying to remain one step ahead of a possible threat which has certainly saved me from personal injury more than once!

        The argument of the use of deadly force is certainly a huge debate with many people especially if they feel their life is in serious jeopardy. For all those of us that have been in an actual fight where an opponent for whatever reason has decided to inflict injury on you, we have experienced what the mind and body does in a confrontation. Mostly in the earliest time of our training, the mind or brain seems to short circuit as our senses do not react as intended i.e. - we tend to have narrow vision, we hear things differently and for the most part, we do things and don't really remember what we did.

        So our practices attempt to teach us to remain in control of these issues that take place in a confrontation and allow us to act appropriately. The most influential for me, was to avoid trouble if you come across it. Use peripheral vision to analyze your surroundings and keep your wits about you at all times.

        Using these and many more situational awareness practices, are some of the best tools one can use in their entire daily situations so as to remain in control and not lose perspective of what can be done to access a situation before any action needs to be taken and then use our judgement to maintain control over any actions we take as a result of being in the moment.

        I have had numerous debates on this with friends, especially other gun owners. Regardless of my lawful ability to conceal and carry a handgun, I find it highly unlikely that I will ever do so. My training as I stated earlier, would hopefully allow me to recognize a dangerous situation and make every effort to avoid it, I don't go to trouble areas, so my needs to worry are seriously diminished. I work towards being as responsible a gun owner as possible. Unless our society falls into total ciaos, I don't see myself bringing a weapon out into my daily routine. Instead, I work towards honing my situational awareness skills.

        In conclusion, this path has driven me towards the continued training to allow me a better understanding of threat analysis and it has also reinforced my training to add it to my daily activities to better understand what it means to be in the moment and how to act accordingly. Especially when it comes to the use of deadly force against a threat whether thru the use of a weapon of with my martial arts training.

        The most prevalent threat I see today begins with the verbal assault people are so quick to engage in, Defusing this situation would be another example of recognizing a threat analysis that can quickly move to a negative situational encounter.


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