The Nuts And Bolts Of Awareness - Part 1
Spotting Trouble Before It Happens
What if violent criminals looked different?
If they did, and you knew what gave them away, would this
reduce the chance of becoming their victim? You bet it would.
Unfortunately rapists, muggers and predatory reprobates don't
look any different than a "normal" person. However, the good
news is that they can be recognized by their behavior. If
you know what to look for, you can recognize a problem as
it unfolds and stay one step ahead of a human predator. That
is the goal of awareness.
==== Communication is Predominantly Non-Verbal ====
People communicate their intent in three ways. Seven percent
of your ability to interpret that intent is based on words,
thirty eight percent through voice, and a whopping fifty five
percent is projected through body language. Why is this important?
A predominant aspect of self-defense involves the communication
process. Human predators don't just pounce on the first person
that comes along. There is an evaluation process that occurs
where they deliberately or unconsciously assess the "victim
potential" of a target. In doing so, they project their intentions
by watching, following and even "testing" you. If you understand
this process you will spot predatory intent before an assault
In future articles, I will explain victim selection and predatory
behavior in greater detail. For now, realize that knowing
what clues to look for will allow you to anticipate and respond
effectively to a potential confrontation.
==== What is Awareness? ====
Awareness is the ability to "read" people and situations and
anticipate the probability of violence before it happens.
It is knowing what to look for and taking the time to notice
safety-related aspects of what is happening around you.
Awareness is not about being fearful or paranoid. It is a
relaxed state of alertness that you can incorporate into your
character. It is neither desirable, nor necessary, to go about
life hectically scanning your surroundings for the boogey
man around every corner. Your level of awareness should be
appropriate to the circumstances you are in.
Some circumstances call for a greater degree of awareness
than others. Obviously, you would want to be more aware when
walking alone to your car at night than when shopping in a
crowded mall with friends.
==== What is Successful Self-Defense? ====
How you define success determines the strategies you implement
to achieve it. Many people confuse the ability to defend themselves
with the ability to fight. If your image of successful self-defense
is fighting off an assailant, your solution will be directed
at learning physical techniques. You would be missing the
Success in self-defense is not winning a fight but avoiding
it. The ultimate success in self-defense is when nothing happens!
If that's not possible, consider this philosophy: If you can't
prevent it, avoid it. If you can't avoid it, defuse it. If
you can't defuse it, escape. If you can't escape, you may
have to fight your way out of the situation. If you do have
to fight, it will be as a last resort, not a first. Does this
philosophy influence your success strategies?
==== Predatory/Defender Time Line ====
The sooner you detect and recognize a threat, the more options
you have to respond to it. Imagine a time line spanning from
the time a predator forms the intent to commit a violent crime
and the moment he initiates it upon you. The time it takes
you to detect, recognize and respond, impacts how successful
your actions are likely to be. The sooner you act, the more
flexible and deliberate you can be in avoiding, escaping or
responding to the situation.
Awareness strategies focus primarily to the "pre-incident"
phase of the encounter; to the cues and signals you can detect
and recognize that allow you to anticipate the event before
Knowing What to Look For
There are three primary aspects of awareness: knowing what
to pay attention to, paying attention to safety-related details
and matching the degree of your awareness to your circumstances.
==== Effective Self-defense Requires a Map ====
The brain's ability to recognize and understand anything is
a result of having a mental map or blueprint relevant to that
experience. Psychologists call these maps "schemas." They
consist of our accumulated knowledge, experience, beliefs
and habits and are activated when we activate or recognize
patterns associated to them.
A good mechanic can detect what's wrong with a car by the
clunks, squeaks and rattles it makes. Paramedics can diagnose
unseen injuries by the patient's symptoms. Hunters can track
an animal for miles based on broken twigs, displaced soil
and clues invisible to the untrained eye. They have the mental
maps that allow them to do this. Diagnosing a potential confrontation
requires self-defense maps. In his book, "Vital Lies, Simple
Truths," psychologist Daniel Goleman describes how schemas
work. "The (process) that organizes information and makes
sense of experience are 'schemas,' the building blocks of
cognition. Schemas embody the rules and categories that order
raw experience into coherent meaning. All knowledge and experience
is packaged in schemas. Schemas are...the intelligence that
guides information as it flows through the mind."
Schemas allow us to make sense of the world and influence
what we recognize, understand, notice and ignore. They allow
us to interpret patterns, predict outcomes and respond in
appropriate ways to what happens in our lives.
==== Evaluating Your Self-defense Schemas ====
Effectively defending yourself requires an accurate mental
map about self-defense situations. Assessing your own schemas
is difficult. We tend to resist or ignore anything that challenges
our existing perception of the way things are. Schema enhancement
is impossible without an open mind and curiosity about the
way things really work.
In order to evaluate your own mental maps, and determine where
they can be improved, consider the "Three A's."
Accurate mental maps are essential to effective self-defense.
You establish and refine them by learning about violent and
predatory situations; how they happen, where and when they
happen, who they are perpetrated by and so on. This involves
learning to recognize pre-assault patterns and developing
an inventory of skills and strategies to resolve confrontations.
We build experience by using what we have learned. By consistently
applying awareness and prevention strategies they become habits.
Soon they are unconscious and automatic. Physical and scenario-based
training drills can reduce your fears and desensitize you
to the threat and exertion of combat.
Beliefs dramatically affect your perceptions and behavior.
Do your beliefs empower or disempower your ability to protect
yourself? Are they realistic and functional or based on fantasy?
Evaluate your beliefs about your power to defend yourself
and, if they don't contribute to your skill, resilience and
ability to respond, change them.
When you lack knowledge or experience in an area your maps
about it are absent. Absent self-defense maps result in people
being naive about their safety, more likely to place themselves
in risky situations, and oblivious to signs of danger. If
someone with an absent map encounters a confrontation, they
are more likely to panic, freeze or react ineffectively. In
self-defense jargon, that's called, "Not Good!"
An assumed map occurs when a map associated to an experience
is flawed, inaccurate and erroneous. A map of Winnipeg is
useless is Chicago. A map that is wrong won't help you produce
the results you desire.
Assumed self-defense maps are more prevalent than you might
think. Even trained martial artists often hold an unrealistic
perception of what a "real fight" is like. They confuse the
chaos of violent encounters with sparring. They confuse martial
art techniques with the ability to defend themselves. That's
like equating hockey with golf!
Studying self-defense is about developing and refining accurate
mental maps of confrontation. We must build an accurate mental
database of knowledge, experience and beliefs about self-defense
situations and our power to respond effectively to them. The
purpose of these articles, my courses and seminars, and the
Protective Strategies Self-defense Resource Center is to assist
you in the development of your self-defense maps.
Note: In this discussion, I don't mean to imply that people
without extensive self-defense training are helpless or unable
to respond to threatening situations. It is indisputable that
far more "untrained" people successfully defend themselves
from assault than those with formal training. We all possess
the instinct to survive. More important than learning self-defense
skills is respecting, re-awakening, and tapping into existing
instincts that have been neglected, denied, or suppressed.
Self-defense training is not always a matter of "installing"
new maps but "dusting off" and improving the ones we already
Continued in The Nuts and Bolts
of Awareness Part #2
Randy LaHaie is the president of Protective Strategies
and has been teaching reality-based self-defense for over
30 years. He is the author of several "Toughen Up Combative
Training Guides" (www.ToughenUp.com)
Subscribe to his FREE SELF-DEFENSE NEWSLETTER at http://www.ProtectiveStrategies.com
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