In the previous three posts I discussed some important issues concerning situational awareness and its importance. The first article discussed the importance of developing situational awareness as a key to the prevention of violence. The second article discussed why some people don’t listen to their gut instinct, with some entertaining and amazing stories to show both terrible awareness and excellent, literally life-saving awareness. The third article gave you some tips to help you know what danger might look like so you can identify it in time.
Now that you know why it's important and what you need to look for, I am going to give you some simple and effective tools that can help you develop and improve your situational awareness.
A little, but important, explanation first. The reason I refer to these as games is not to downplay their importance, but rather to emphasise the fact that this kind of training doesn't have to be scary, hard or cumbersome. It can be a lot of fun, and can challenge you in fun and interesting ways.
Here we go!
Before I get stuck into it, a few points to discuss:
- There are many tips that are given readily by martial artists or self-defence instructors that are impractical or unrealistic to implement. My favourite one IS ‘don’t run with your headphones in’. It annoys me so much that I wrote an entire piece on it and you can read it here.
While these tips may be valid, they don’t teach us what to look for. In other words, even if you don’t run with your headphones in, it makes no difference if you don’t know what sounds indicate danger that you need to be aware of. You can learn how to do this here.
- It takes practice! Like any skill, developing situational awareness takes time and repetition. The more you do this, the better you get at it.
- All of the tips I am about suggest have a few things in common:
a. They are free – You don’t need to go to a class to practice these.
b. They are simple – They only require some practice and focus, and can be used by everyone. They can be easily taught to kids and turned into fun games.
c. They are practical – They do not cause major inconvenience or require you to make huge changes to your daily life.
d. They are effective – these are proven methods taught by self defence experts (at least the good ones) around the world, and for good reason.
When you consider these, what reason do you have not to try this?
- The 10 Second Rule: this is great little tool from Master Mannie de Matos is great for giving yourself time to analyse your environment. This is how it works: When you park your car, especially if it’s when you come home from work, stop the engine and, with the door locked, spend 10 seconds looking around. Are there ay signs that anything has been moved? Are things in the same place that you left them, and in the same condition? If you are not at home, look for some of the signs of things mentioned in this article.
This gives you time to, and gets you in the habit of, analyse the environment you are about to walk into from the safety of your locked car.
- The ‘Give it a Name’ Game: this is one of my favourites from Richard Dimitri. When you are out and about name things as they engage your hearing. In other words, when you hear noise that is different to what we might consider 'normal' or 'day-to-day' sounds, acknowledge it and name it. Hear a car horn from behind you? Give it a name. It doesn’t have to be a fancy name; any old name will do. For example, ‘car horn from behind’ is a good name. What you are doing is teaching yourself to register and recognise what is going around you, and identify things that are out of the norm.
Do this also with movement in your direction. If a dog is running towards you in the park, give it a name (the movement, not the dog). Not only will this help you improve situational awareness, but it will be come second nature after a little while. It will also allow you to be more engaged and focused when you go about your day-to-day life, which will not only put potential predators on notice - here's a person who knows what's going on - but also help you engage more fully with the world!
Note: This is a great one to play with kids, and one I like to do in our kids classes. They learn to pay attention, takes them off their devices, and can be a great way to spend quality time making up funny names for things as you go for a walk.
- Total recall: this is something I used to do a lot when I started working in security, and it helped me improve recollection of details of things that happened. It is one you can tack on to the 'give it a name' game. I would try and take in as much detail as possibl about the first thing I name. For example, if the first thing I name is 'car horn to the left', I'd try and remember the colour, make and model of the car. I'd write it down or put it into my phone, i.e. White Toyota Kruger. At the end of the day, I'd see if I remembered it correctly. As I got better, I'd add more and more detail. I'd try and remember the regitration number, or details about the driver. If that gets easy, I'd do it about the first two things I named. This improved my ability to recall and notice specific details about events or people.
Note: You need to be careful that in your enthusiasm to remeber details, you don’t neglect actual dangers! The idea is not to become obsessed, but to look around and see what is happening around you.
This is another one that’s great to play with kids.
This is also something that can help you after the fact. Should you be involved in an incident, your ability to recall details about what happened and the people involved can increase the chances of the authorities finding perpetrators quickly. This will help stop others from being victims!
- Safety Journal: Another simple and effective one. If you see something that raises your suspicions, or your gut tells you something is wrong, etc., write it down when you get home, and include the time and date. This is soemthing that professional security and law enforcement personnel do as part of their job, and for good reason. This will do a few things. Firstly, it will help you put things into words and process what was it that actually bothered you. This will, in turn, make you better at detecting these things next time. This puts together all of the skills from the previous games: If something gave you a bad feeling, you should have named it at the time. Your ability to recall details about it should have improved as well. Finally, putting pen to paper helps with getting what can be unpleasant or worrying thoughts out of your head. Much like a normal journal, and in conjunction with other tools, it can be a way to release some of the stress that can arise when dealing with unpleasant situations.
- Have a Plan: this is a tough one, but important. Think about some of the common dangers and risks that you and your family might face in your daily life. These will be different from person to person. Make some contingency plans for emergencies relating to those risks, and discus them with relevant people. This is easy to do and incredibly important, yet most people don’t bother. I suspect this is because it falls under the heading of those conversations nobody wants to have. I has been proven that this will significantly improve you ability to respond correctly in a crisis. Make sure to also review these periodically or when your circumstances change.
So there you have it – some simple, easy and effective tools to help you improve situational awareness.
When we put the last few blogs together, this should help with:
1. Here I discussed Why is it importan to have situational awarenss and be responsible for your own safety?
2. Here I discussed the important of trusting your gut feeling and intuition for better situational awarenss
3. Here I discussed some of the things you need to look for in order to identify danger
4. Putting all of these together, I gave you ome tools to improve your awareness
When you put these together, you will be able to trust your intuition, know what danger look like and be able to effectively practice your ability to recognise danger quicker.
Better start practising!
For more tips and great self defence training in Perth, come down to visit us at CAIA!
Stay safe, stay tuned.
Latest from Ron Amram
- Why Are You Here? Thoughts on Challenging Times and the Self Defence Mindset
- The Many Faces of the Dojo, Pt. 5 (or 'Titular Tantrums')
- The Many Faces of the Dojo, Pt. 4 (or 'The Coach Conundrum')
- The Situational Awareness Trap: Do You Know What to Look For?
- Under Pressure: Thoughts on Resistance, Contact and Pressure Testing