How to Develop Situational Awareness for Self Defense - Part 3

This is the 3rd of a 3-part post about how to develop Situational Awareness for Self Defense.  If you haven’t already read the preceding posts, you can click on this link for Awareness for Self Protection Part 1 or on this link for Awareness for Self Protection Part 2 .

In this post, I’ll be discussing a crucial component of Awareness for self protection purposes, which is the ability to pay attention to cues and danger signs relevant to your ability to detect and recognize a potential threat.

Paying Attention

Attention is the process of consciously attending to a thought, activity or event. It is one thing to know what to pay attention to – it is another thing to be able to do so on a consistent basis.
Conscious thinking and attention are functions of our short-term memory. The capacity of short-term memory is limited at any given time, to about seven “chunks” or pieces of information to the average person.
Our senses bombard us with far more information than we could ever hope to acknowledge or be aware of. The vast majority of what is happening around us is filtered out into our subconscious and only a small portion of it reaches the conscious mind.
The human brain is selective about what it pays attention to. To a great extent, the mental maps we have stored in our long-term memory largely determine what we do and don’t notice.
Mental maps (Schemas) as discussed in Awareness for Self Protection Part 2 influence, usually unconsciously, the filtering out of stimuli deemed to be unimportant to us. This further emphasizes the need to develop accurate self-defense schemas. Unless we do, the signals and cues we need to stay safe will be filtered out and ignored.

Distraction and Preoccupation

Being distracted or preoccupied can engage the limited capacity of the conscious mind and disconnect us from what’s actually going on around us.
Distraction is when our mental focus is occupied with external stimuli such as loading shopping into your car, texting on your phone or being drawn to something interesting or unusual.
Preoccupation happens when our mental focus dwells on internal stimuli such as thoughts and worries. “What should I make for dinner?…” Whoops, you just stood in a huge pile of dog sh*t. How did you not see or smell that!
Distraction and preoccupation are inevitable. Even if you wanted to, you wouldn’t be able to eliminate them for extended periods.
If you are preoccupied or distracted when you should be alert to your surroundings, you won’t detect a predator positioning himself for an assault and you won’t be able to defend yourself effectivity.
It is important to identify situations in your life when a higher level of vigilance is necessary and minimize distraction and preoccupation during those times.

Attention is like a torch

Imagine that your attention is a beam of light. Whatever you point it at is what you notice. Inevitably when you point the torch in one direction you neglect another. Attention works the same way.
Since our consciousness is limited, we must develop the ability to aim the light at details relevant to our safety. We need to pay attention to the right things at the right time.

Interest and importance

Mind maps, distraction and preoccupation are only parts of the attention puzzle. What we notice is also a result of our interests and current priorities.
“What gets through to awareness is what messages have pertinence to whatever mental activity is current. If you are looking for restaurants, you will notice signs for them and not for gas stations; if you are skimming through the newspaper, you will notice those items you care about. What gets through enters awareness, and only what is useful occupies that mental space.” Psychologist Daniel Goleman
Basically, we notice what we consider, often at an unconscious level, important or interesting at the time we notice it.
As many of you know, my dad is ex-Army 2-9 Commando. He was trained to constantly scan his environment looking for suspicious behaviour and activities. After 22 years service, it became an automatic habit, and even after retiring over 20 years ago he’s still as vigilant now. For example, he’s picky where he sits in a café or restaurant, he needs to sit with his back to the wall and with a clear view of the exits. When he’s out in public in a busy area, he is talking to you, but he is also scanning the area at the same time.
These are habits he brought me up with and I do the same. I’m always in yellow or orange alert, depending on the location. I’ve managed to recognise many potential threats before they escalated. So much so that my partner and close friends think of me as their bodyguard. Much better of course, is if they (in the words of Tony Blauer) learned to “be their own bodyguard” and not rely on others for their own safety!
You may be interested to know that many of the safety and survival strategies developed for law enforcement officers, the military and other high-risk professions are intentionally designed to adhere to the principles that I’ve written about.

Responsibility increases your awareness

Have you ever heard the “I never thought it would happen to me” from victims of crime and violence? I’ll bet you have.
At the core of the awareness issue is the need to take full responsibility for your own safety. Until you acknowledge, “it could in fact happen to you” pre-incident cues may not register as important or relevant enough to notice. They will go undetected.
Unless you acknowledge a need to be aware, you won’t be.

Situational Awareness is a deterrent to assault

A predator’s primary targets are people who are unaware of their surroundings and seemingly unconcerned about their personal safety.
Therefore, one of the most proactive things you can do to reduce the probability of being victimized is improve your awareness skills.
Once the predator realizes that you have noticed him, he’s more likely move on to a less observant prey. The fact that you are reading this and exploring the issue of self defence, in my opinion, decreases the likelihood that you will fall into the category of a “soft target.”

Points To Remember

  • Your ability to recognize a potential dangerous person and/or situation increases your chances of staying safe.
  • Awareness involves knowing what to look for and disciplining yourself to pay attention.
  • The ultimate success in self defense is when you manage to recognize and avoid an ugly situation altogether
  • The earlier you detect and recognize a potential problem, the more options you have at your disposal.
  • Detecting and recognizing danger is based on accurate mental maps.
  • Attention involves adjusting your conscious focus toward what is relevant to a particular situation.
As you learn more about the components of self defence here, you will develop a clearer, more accurate map to increase your awareness and reduce the probability of a confrontation.
Follow this link for Awareness for Self Protection Part 2
How do you think you would rate yourself on your awareness skills? Please feel free to comment with your questions, feedback or opinions.
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.

No comments:

Post a Comment