Training in the martial arts is a great way to improve your personal safety and increase knowledge in self defense. But if you aren’t aware of your surroundings, no degree of training is going to help you. Having situational awareness is a choice; one you have to make early on if you want your training to have any real world practicality. So how do we make this choice?
Understanding the problem
The two major obstacles preventing people from having good situational awareness are naivety and laziness. In general, people want to believe in the good of others and often believe that rape or theft is something that happens to other people, but not me. Having this mindset lulls people into a false sense of security which will often last until something does happen, or the person makes a personal decision to make sure that it never does. The laziness factor is hugely prevalent and goes hand in hand with naivety.
If I believe that nothing bad will happen, then why should I take steps to ensure that it won’t? It is difficult and emotionally draining to be constantly aware of your surroundings, but entirely necessary if you want to be an effective martial artist. The key is to get to the point where practicing situational awareness is habit, eliminating the need to go that extra mile.
Practical Ways to Increase Situational Awareness
Now that we understand the problem, it’s time to fight it:
- NEVER text and walk. This is especially important when transitioning between locations, such as your place of work and your car. Wait until you are in a locked car to address anything on your phone. There have been numerous incidents of muggers targeting people on their phones, simply because they aren’t paying attention. Phone calls are also not advised, however, if you must – make sure to keep your eyes up, still monitoring your surroundings.
- Have your keys ready before you get to the car. You don’t want to be rummaging around in your bag at your car, looking for keys – especially at night. The car is a common place of attack and requires extra caution. Do the same from the car to the front door.
- Always check the area around your car before you get in. Is anyone close enough to get in your car between the time that you unlock it and the time that you are inside? Also make sure that no one has put anything on your car that may impair your driving, necessitating a stop down the road.
- Check the back seat. Take a look through the windows in the back and make sure that there is no one already in your car waiting for you. Behind the wheel of the car is not the time you want to find out that there is someone in the back dictating your next stop.
- When entering a building, look for exits. Locate the nearest exit and the quickest route. Whenever possible, position yourself facing the majority of the room and the exit, never with your back to it.
Developing situational awareness is a skill that takes both time and dedication. These suggestions are a good starting point to increasing your situational awareness, and the list will only grow once you start practicing them. Some Practices may seem over the top and near paranoia, but personal safety is not something to be taken lightly. When it comes to personal safety and the safety of those around us, we cannot expect someone else to protect us. Take matters into your own hands, be prepared, and decide to be that one person that is actually paying attention.