The Nuts And Bolts Of Awareness – Part 1
What if violent criminals looked different?
If they did, and you knew what gave them away, would that reduce the chance of becoming their victim?
You bet it would! Unfortunately rapists, muggers and other violent criminals seldom look any different than “normal people.”
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 potentially bad day. 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 can’t help but to project their intentions by watching, following and even “testing” you. Their body language may show signs of nervousness, intoxication, looking around for witnesses, perhaps indicators of accomplices or a concealed weapon. If you know the relevant cues to watch for, you can spot predatory intent before an assault is initiated.
What is Self-Defense Awareness?
Self-Defense 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 disciplining yourself to pay attention to what is happening around you.
Awareness is not about being fearful or paranoid. On the contrary, it should be re-assuring and build confidence. Awareness a relaxed state of alertness that can be strengthened and improved with practice.
You don’t have to go through life hectically scanning every shadow and corner for the boogey man. Your level of awareness should be appropriate to the circumstances you are in.
Some circumstances call for a greater degree of vigilance than others. Obviously, you would want to be more aware when walking alone to your car at night than out with friends in broad daylight.
Three Part Definition Of Awareness
There are three primary aspects of awareness:
1. Knowing what to look for
2. Paying attention to what is happening around you, and
3. Matching the degree of vigilance to your circumstances
What is Successful Self-Defense?
The importance of awareness has a lot to do with how you define success in self-defense. That definition determines the strategies you implement to achieve it.
Many people confuse the ability to defend themselves with their ability to fight. Fighting skill is important but only one piece of the puzzle.
If your image of successful self-defense is fighting off an assailant, your solution will be directed at learning physical techniques. You’d be missing the point.
Success in self-defense is not “winning” the fight but avoiding or defusing it. The ultimate success in self-defense is when nothing happens!
If that’s not possible, consider this general rule of thumb:
- 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, then fight.
If you do have to fight your way out of a bad situation, it should be as a last resort, not your first.
The Response Time Line
The sooner you recognize a potential threat, the more options you have to respond to it.
Imagine a time line spanning between the time a predator first forms the intent to commit a violent crime and the moment he begins to carry it out.
The time it takes you to detect, recognize and respond, determines your options and 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 on 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 it occurs.
Let’s say you plan to drive from your home to your friend’s house in another city. At the beginning of your journey, you have a variety of options available to you on how you are going to go get there. You can choose from a variety of routes and make provisions for unexpected car trouble, delays and detours. You have options.
The closer you get to your intended destination, the more limited you are with your options and the flexibility of your travel plans. On the threshold of arriving you only have one option… pull up and stop or don’t.
Self-defense is like that. The sooner you detect and recognize a situation unfolding, the more options you have to respond to it. The longer those cues go undetected, the more limited you are about what you can do to influence the situation in your favour. If your first recognition of an assault is the physical attack, then you’re dangerously limited to reacting.
In the next post of this series, I will tak about the impact of the “mental maps” you have about self-defense and how to evaluate them to determine if they are helping or hurting your chances of staying safe.
In the meantime, if you have any thoughts, questions or opinions please feel free to comment.
About Randy LaHaie
I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.