1.4 Awareness

We also like to call this situational awareness and whenever it comes to self-defense, I point out the importance of situational awareness.

Again and again you hear people say that in situations where you are surprised by an attacker, you couldn’t defend anyway and what good is everything you learn for self-defense?

I must clearly contradict such statements!

But let’s take a closer look at what is actually meant by situational awareness?

We live in a fast-paced world and time is valuable, so a lot has to happen quickly, we have no time to waste and are always in a hurry, drive the kids to school, rush to work, on the way home stop for a fast shopping, prepare food, drive the kids to training, off to the gym and rush home again. This can all be quite hectic and stressful in the long run. We often have no time at all to perceive our surroundings in a truly conscious way, instead we race through life from one obligation to another.

Many of us stare at the screens of our smart-phones, in the car, on the tram, on the street, everywhere actually, even at home and just as many escape the daily grind by putting on our headphones and sink in their little imaginary world. But this modern lifestyle brings with it other dangers, we no longer see or hear what is happening around us. The point here is therefore that our natural senses, normally available to us, are being obstructed or blocked out. So how does that work now with perception and how can you learn that?

We all know film heroes like James Bond, Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt, all high-profile secret agents who are always superior to their opponents, especially through an extremely fast and precise comprehension. Such a super agent runs into a room and scans in seconds how many people are there, who is standing where, whether he belongs there or not, who looks suspicious and in what order will he eliminate his opponents alone with the help of existing items in the room, etc.

All this is, of course, exaggerated in Hollywood fashion and yet it is based on actual skills which, for example, police officers and security service personnel must have in real life and whose day-to-day work it is to identify and prevent dangers in good time.

This example is, of course, only for illustration, I just wanted to make it clear that such a thing is quite learn-able and is also really practiced, by ordinary people, not by super agents. I am also aware that this kind of sensory sharpening does not belong to the everyday repertoire of, for example, a housewife, or perhaps it does? How about mothers who always keep an eye on their child, no matter what they are doing and don’t they recognize supposed “dangers” in time before something worse happens? I’m sure some mum agrees with me now. So you can already see where I am taking this, if something is important to us and we therefore turn our attention to it, we can quite actively perceive things that are happening around us and identify in a timely manner things that pose a possible danger to ourselves or others. So that is what we mean, when we are talking about situational awareness.

It is about the ability to actively perceive your surroundings, instead of letting your gaze slide only on your smart-phone when you walk to the car or shut out the environment when you put the headphones on on your way home. You don’t have to learn anything special here in order to increase your safety through better perception, we have already got all this as a complete package from Mother Nature. For example, if you want along somewhere alone in the evening and then this uneasy feeling comes up in you, you suddenly feel unsafe and worried for no obvious reason, many people know that, don’t you? Our subconscious is slowly activating the alarm and asking if we really need to be walking down there now? Then we often simply switch off this alarm and tell ourselves we are silly, what is supposed to happen …

Let’s put one more on this situation now, we decided to go ahead and suddenly three young men come around the corner, talking loudly, all three wearing hooded sweatshirts and we don’t see their faces, it’s like I said already dark and when they notice you they become a little slower and now also talk more quietly to each other.

Normally, alarm bells should already ring so loudly that the noise in the head is hard to bear. You get nervous, start breathing faster, your brain starts playing through different scenarios, the knees get soft, all sure signs that our brain has long recognized the potential danger adrenaline is being pumped into the body preparing us for a response, but what are we doing? Well, who’s honest with themselves now? I am convinced that most of you would still continue to walk, try to rationalize in your heads that you it is just your wild imagination. And in fact, in that moment we’ve maybe just imagined everything, maybe that’s just three nice guys from the neighborhood who, when we get closer to them, friendly greet, maybe … Maybe not!

Of course, this is not about spreading paranoia and running through the world in fear in the future, or even locking yourself up at home to feel safe. No, that’s not the point of practice and, as in most things in life, it’s about the right measure. As the name suggests, situational awareness is about situational thinking. There are situations in our everyday life that we perform with a certain routine, we go to in places that we know well, we are in contact with people we are familiar with and we feel safe in this known environment. And there is nothing wrong with that, you don’t always have to play the super agent and meet every person in everyday life with mistrust and fear. |however, if I am in an everyday situation and something is unusual, our perception reacts automatically and alerts us to it, we just have to listen! We see and notice many things, especially if something is unusual, a car with foreign registration plates that is parked in the neighborhood for the second day in another place, a stranger who has never been here, sitting at the playground on the bench and watching the children play, someone who you notice due to unusual behavior or anything else that appears strange, or maybe you have noticed the same person you saw before, these are all signs that you should raise your awareness and readiness one level higher. Of course, all that could be just pure coincidences and our caution was unfounded, or not!

A completely different situation is for example, when one consciously enters an environment in which we should to behave in a cautious way from the outset. What are these situations? For example, if I make my way home alone from the bus stop in the evening and always feel a little unsettled anyway, or any other situation in which I can imagine myself that there is a certain increased risk, be it that I am currently taking money from the ATM or I have to walk to the car in the underground car park and it’s a little gloomy and deserted there. There are countless examples from real life, and I can’t list them nearly all here. You have to adjust your perception of the situation and increase caution accordingly when you feel unsafe, go to places that are unknown to us, or are approached by people who are suspicious to us in any way. I would suggest here as a golden rule to look at such situations from the perspective of parents who let their 16-year-old daughter go out alone for the first time. You should perhaps also apply to yourself what you would give your child as good advice.

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