Wing Chun, Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, Boxing, Karate, Judo…it doesn’t matter what you do. There is the one thing that will determine a martial artist’s ultimate demise. If proper respect and attention is not devoting to maintaining this one thing properly, it can demolish any training no matter the level. This may come as a surprise to many, but this is not an external attack. Rather, it’s a defeat that occurs within oneself. It’s what we call your level of martial arts awareness.
Awareness is the first key to any situation where conflict can arise. Whether in a sports arena, on your way to your car, or in a busy subway, an attacker can defeat the greatest practitioner of any art if they are not aware of their surroundings. As a martial artist, learning to be aware of all of your surroundings is key. Also, learning to have awareness of specific attacks from an opponent is also crucial in overcoming a situation. By neglecting to develop your awareness you leave yourself open to anything, anyone, at anytime. But there are two kinds of awareness alluded to, lets call them single awareness and broad awareness.
Single awareness here, refers to having altercation with an individual in something like a sports arena. This would be in the realm of sparring or cage fighting, facing off with one person at a time. The crucial awareness here involves focusing more watching the fighter’s movements as a whole. If you put too much focus on his eyes, for example, you will not see his kicks or knees. If you place too much focus on his legs and take downs, you may not see his strikes. Therefore, by having a balanced focus, you gain awareness of the big picture. Practically speaking, the ideal location to watch is the chin or chest, giving you that balance to catch everything. Fighting with blinders on is the fastest way to get knocked out.
Moving to Broader Martial Arts Awareness
Moving onto broad awareness and why it is so important outside of the cage or ring. When crossing the road, we are all taught to stop, look, and listen for oncoming traffic. Why should your personal safety from the threat of a mugger or robber be any different? The Navy Seals utilize a checklist to make sure that they are operating with full awareness in any situation. Their checklist is as follows:
- Attempt to guess what individuals are doing or thinking.
- Watch for odd behavior.
- Determine where you would go for cover from explosions or gun fire.
- Find the closest two exits.
- Determine whether or not someone is following you or taking an unusual interest in you.
These tips become very hard to accomplish if you focus in on any one specific thing. That includes looking at your phone, the ground, or even your friend. Learning to take in your entire surroundings while picking up specific details is a hard skill to acquire. But without it, the danger of threat grows exponentially.
Sifu Och trains his student’s against worst case scenarios: Head-locks, chokes from behind, bear-hugs, etc. But, to avoid these scenarios altogether is much more advantageous than having to deal with them. You cannot utilize the checklist mentioned above if you’re not actively choosing to be attentive to your surroundings. Be aware of your surroundings, and be alert and ready. In short, practice and hone your martial arts awareness.