According to London Metropolitan Police statistics, there were more than 698,729 violent attacks, robbery, rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, hate crime and so on has reported in London over the last 12 months. That’s a staggering number. Unfortunately, many crimes could be prevented if the victims had a basic knowledge of situational awareness.
Last week walking through Vauxhall station I noticed a suited lady in front of me at the entrance and again on the escalator. Her handbag was wide open and I could see her purse and iphone 6 in full view. She was completely engrossed in reading her kindle and completely oblivious to her surroundings.
It got me thinking as to whether she was always this careless? On the high street whilst, shopping or when out on the town, especially after a few drinks?
We live in a busy society, and often we find ourselves walking down the street with little knowledge of what is going actually on around us. How often do you see someone completely engrossed in their mobiles, texting on whatsapp and music blasting through their headphones?
A few years ago there was a TV show called “Fight Science” which tested the awareness of an “average Joe” with a pair of glasses that tracks eye movements on a screen. While walking the course, the subject’s eyes stay focused on the ground, with occasional glances around. As a result, he failed to notice many potential threats.
situational awarenessNext the scientists on “Fight Science” performed the test on a self defense instructor. The results were very different. His eyes consistently scanned the area, pausing on each potential threat. This means that he was taking notes in his mind, which would enable to him to respond to danger more quickly, if not avoid it entirely.
The point is simple, if you notice a potential threat, do your best to avoid it. The best way to defend yourself is to keep yourself out of possible danger in the first place. You don’t need to be paranoid, just alert and aware!
Ladies, imagine you’re in a shopping centre car park. When you arrive back at your car, you notice that there is a man sitting in the van parked next to your car. He is the passenger’s side, and can easily reach you if you approach your car. Perhaps this man is simply waiting for someone to return to his van. Or he might have more sinister intentions.
You aren’t sure, but since you noticed him, it’s best to take a safe course of action. Enter your car from the opposite side, lock the doors immediately, and slide to your seat. Or you can return to the shopping centre and ask a security guard to escort you to your car.
If you had not been paying attention and missed the man in the van, you might have been in trouble, because this is a popular tactic for attackers, who will reach out and pull women into their vehicles or get into your car.

Here’s one for the guys. Imagine you are at a cash-point, you notice a guy hanging around and it makes you feel uneasy. Using your peripheral vision you can see him coming closer to you. You can’t be positive about his intentions but are you going to wait until the last minute to see if he’s going to mug you? Or would it be safer to pretend your account is empty and in an angry voice shout “That b***h cleaned out my account! She took everything!”, bang your fist on the wall for extra effect, meanwhile press cancel, grab your card and leave. Do you think he’s going to pursue someone with an “empty” bank account?

Being aware of your surroundings is an incredibly important part of self defense.

Here are a few ways you can increase your Situational Awareness:

  • Avoid talking on your mobile phone or texting while walking, especially if you are not in a crowded area.
  • Keep your head up and your eyes moving. Looking at the ground narrows your vision and makes you a more attractive target to attackers. When you walk with your head up, you look more confident, it discourages would-be-attackers.
  • You don’t have to stare at people, but if anyone looks suspicious or gives you a bad “vibe” it’s a good idea to look for strange protrusions (weapons) in their clothes or for signs that they have something in their hands.
  • Try to create distance between yourself and anyone who gives you the creeps. If you’re worried about looking paranoid, simply cross the street as if you need to go that direction anyway. Don’t let any potential attacker get close to you.
  • Use your ears! We humans tend to rely on our sight more than our other senses, but your ears can alert you to danger long before you can see it. Do you hear footsteps coming up behind you while you are unlocking your car? Turn to prevent anyone from sneaking up on you. Your other senses are a valuable asset. Use them!
No one wants to be a victim, and increasing your awareness drastically decreases your chances of being attacked. If you can spot potential danger, you can more easily avoid it. And remember, avoiding trouble is the best self defense technique there is. Of course, not all danger can be avoided, that’s where physical self defense training comes in.

In next week's article I will be continuing with this topic in the first of a three part series on how to develop awareness for self protection.

About the Author:
Daughter of a 2-9 British Army Commando and Combatives Instructor, Kelina Cowell grew up on a military base in Dortmund, Germany. Inspired by training with her father from an early age, she continued her combative journey into Krav Maga, Submission Wrestling, Filipino Martial Arts, Pencak Silat and Muay Thai. She searches for the truth in personal protection, simply keeping what can really work on the street and the discarding the “Hollywood” techniques that don’t.
Kelina Cowell is the Founder and Chief Instructor of Apolaki Combat Systems:
  • Apolaki Krav Maga – a unique blend of traditional Krav Maga, with elements of Filipino martial arts, Pencak Silat, Muay Thai and Submission Wrestling. Complete with it’s own 5 Level syllabus and gradings.
  • Apolaki Dirty Boxing – A more in-depth training into Filipino boxing, Western Boxing, Muay Thai and Pencak Silat. Complete with it’s own 5 Level syllabus and gradings.
  • Apolaki SPD: Self Protection for Dwarfs – Co-founded with her student Eugene Grant who was born with Achondroplasia (a form of short-limbed dwarfism). An adapted form of Apolaki Krav Maga suitable for dwarf body types.