What is situational awareness, and why is it important?
Situational awareness is basically the practice and habit of being aware of your surroundings.
It is important because most criminals are ambush hunters. If you are not aware of your surroundings, you are the perfect target. You will miss pre-threat indicators that would have given you an advantage over the threat when you lack a heightened awareness of your situation and circumstances.
As warriors it is our calling to be prepared; to watch for and address a threat before it is too late.
Lives could depend on it.
4 levels of awareness
What can you do to build situational awareness?
We will get to that, but first, we need to talk about the 4 levels of awareness.
When someone is at the blind level of awareness they miss everything that is happening around them. We all know people who are like this. It could be caused by their care-free personality, or their complete absorption in what they are doing, such as the person who bumps into someone because they were staring at their phone.
It is important to note that we change our level of awareness constantly. We do this based on our environment, our personality, our mental and physical state, and our perceived level of safety. This is NOT a bad thing! We need to be able to relax when it is time to do so.
The normal level of awareness is just that...
Normal people exercise some degree of awareness, but it is not fine-tuned. Most people just go about living their everyday lives until a threat is noticed. At that point, they will escalate their level of awareness.
People on the paranoid level of awareness are trying so hard to "be vigilant" that they miss life. For example, a man on a date with his fiancée needs to "be in the moment" with his fiancée, not reading the body language of the man across the room. This does not mean that he becomes oblivious to potential threats, but that he is able to focus on the important, while keeping a level of awareness in case he was to need to act.
Pride in one’s abilities (often a false sense of ability, because the truly skilled warrior does not need to take pride in his ability, his is simply confident in it), or fear are the triggers for this paranoid level of awareness. Neither are healthy or beneficial.
Now we get to the best one!
The trained level.
This is a state of awareness is trained. It is the type of situational awareness CIA and FBI agents, navy seals, Mossad, and a bunch of other top-notch operators are trained to have!
How cool is that!?
What makes this level of awareness different from the paranoid level?
I'm glad you asked!
You see, this type of awareness is different in that it is not a constant effort put out by the observer. Instead,
it is a set of habits that have been ingrained on the subconscious level!
Here is an example:
Let's say that every time you take a drink of water you purposely make a loud "ahhh" when finished. You have to do this consciously until it becomes a habit. After several months you will no longer have to consciously think about making the "ahhh" sound. It will be an ingrained habit. It no longer takes any effort on your part. It happens subconsciously.
That is how you train situational awareness. If it is done correctly, you will try to instill just one situational awareness habit at a time.
After it becomes a habit on a subconscious level, you will add another one. You can continue this practice until you reach the level of awareness that suites you best.
The four levels of awareness can be summed up and remembered in this simple way:
Blind level = no situational awareness
Normal level = subconscious awareness
Paranoid level = Hyper awareness
Trained level = subconscious habits of awareness
Now I will give you some habits and drills you can integrate into your situational awareness training. Remember this is your journey. It is important that you choose your own path in how you advance. This is true of every aspect of martial arts. Situational awareness is no exception. Simply chose a habit to build and go for it!
Building Situational awareness
Here are some ideas to get you started;
• sit with your back to a wall
• sit in a location where exits are visible
• be extra careful at gas stations and ATMs
• learn to establish a baseline (A baseline is simply what should be normal in a given place and situation)
• regularly scan for threats
• look for threats outside before entering a building
Those are just a few ideas to get you started!
If you would like to learn more about situational awareness and take some tests to see how well your situational awareness is, I have made a playlist on YouTube for you!
Check it out! The tests are really cool!