Increase your situational awareness with simple steps EVERYONE can do!

Increase your situational awareness with simple steps EVERYONE can do!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mental awareness of your surroundings and recognizing potential threats is the first and most important component of self-defense. Most animals have a keen sense of situational awareness. They have a “survivor mindset” intuitively knowing when to avoid a situation, when to run, and when to fight. With training, a person can develop a heightened intuitive sense of situational awareness, but how does the “average” person achieve a practical level of situational awareness without continual training and practice. This author offers some very simple and effective tips that everyone can do to increase their personal safety through enhanced situational awareness.

This is a vast topic, and probably the most essential element of self-defense. Most of the time being “Situationally Aware” will 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 firefighting 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. In most crimes that are committed person-to person, the criminal does not know the victim. It is all about opportunity. It has nothing to do with you personally. The criminal simply saw a target of opportunity. 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.

The omnipotent status of being “SITUATIONALLY 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 omnipotent status of being “SITUATIONALLY 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 key 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 Pokémon 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 from 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 not to 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 many jurisdictions, 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 to have to call the police after the worst has happened so they can investigate the crime.

Let’s Wrap This Up!

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.

Andrew Patterson
Andrew Patterson is a life-long Martial Artist, holding a 5th Degree Black Belt in American Kenpo Karate, 1st Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo, a U.S. Army Infantry Veteran, and is the State Representative for the International Kenpo Karate Academies in Oregon.