Since the late 1980’s and the publication of Marc MacYoung’s book, Cheap Shots, Ambushes, and Other Lessons, one of the go-to buzzwords in the self defense world has been awareness.
Be aware, stay aware, head on a swivel. It is great advice, but unfortunately, this is as far as it goes. Nobody really explains it, nobody tells you what you need to be aware of. They just throw it out there. There really is a difference between awareness and paranoia, but without being knowledgeable about it, it is very easy to slide into paranoia.
The first thing you need to establish in order to have an awareness is what is the baseline for your area, both neighbourhood and workplace.
I make this difference because every place has a different normal, and not paying attention to these differences causes a lot of people to make mistakes, and possibly overreact.
I like to start closer to home, so that is where we will start here.
What is the baseline in your residence, especially in an apartment complex or condo. Noise level, timings of the common comings and goings, delivery people, festivals in the area. You need to look at it a little further out and include your block and neighbourhood area. For instance;
- Is there a homeless population?
- If so, what is their “schedule” of travel and ingress/egress from the area?
- Are there businesses or bars/restaurants?
- If so who are the patrons and what sort of hours do they open?
All these things go into establishing the norm for the area. If you get used to this, the sounds, sights, smells and vibe of the place, anything outside of that trips your trigger as being different, therefore something you need to pay more attention to. Then do the same in your workplace and locale around your business.
The next step is to pay attention to your internal environment, what is in your head, what distracts you, what assumptions you have that masks or obscures the reality in your perception.
This establishes what I would call environmental awareness. You are confident and comfortable with the ebb and flow of your area, and any anomalies stand out. Environmental awareness is the base and core of everything else, without it, you can’t develop any other kind of awareness.
The next stage of awareness would be developing what is termed Situational awareness, and this is what most people are talking about when they tell you to be aware.
Situational awareness is when the things in your environment are disturbed to the point you notice something is amiss, and you need to pay attention to identify it, and then you get to choose the proper reaction and respond.
As you can see, environmental awareness is the foundation for all the different forms awareness takes. If you can’t spot the differences in your norm, it blinds you to what is happening, and what options are available and open to you.
Situational awareness also leads to the ability to see the different options available, what tools are around to be used, and if there are any escape routes handy. Without this kind of awareness, you are operating blind, and cannot make good decisions.
Work to develop both kinds of awareness, and your ability to get along in the world will increase.