Importance of Awareness

Rob: Today, we are going to talk about awareness and things that you can do to heighten it [awareness]. We are going to listen to Dave while he tells us some of the most important aspects. I know for myself, it is relatively easy to be caught up in the things that you do. Whether work or just things are going on because most people have a lot going on, especially in today’s society.

You drive down the road, you look over every once in a while and it’s scary. However, you look over and you see people texting while they are driving, cross the street and all those other things. I am not just getting on the people that do texting. I mean, there are so many other things that distract us and keep us from being aware of our surroundings; and being aware of our surroundings is very important. However, there is even a more specific aspect of it and that is being aware of your safety. That is what I want to focus on today Dave. First, what tactics can you tell us to make sure that we are staying aware?
Dave: The first thing you have to understand is that there are different types of awareness. The word aware means to be conscious, knowing, and alert. That type of situation. However, what we’re talking about when we’re talking about the combative application is situational awareness.

Situational awareness is location or instance specific. It is the awareness of the moment. It is what you were talking about earlier with the people that are texting when they’re driving and all kinds of stuff. The situational awareness for that particular moment should be what is going on around your car at any particular time. Probably, the most basic lesson that we’ve all been taught about situational awareness is when we were children, we were told to look both ways before we cross the street. That’s because what we’re looking for in that particular instant is a specific danger that’s related to a situation that we are currently facing. Therefore, I think it’s important that your listeners understand that situational awareness is certainly a subsection of awareness. We’re talking about specific awareness for specific circumstances

Rob: So in other words, let’s just say that you’re in a specific situation. Maybe you’re walking down the street, what should you be doing? I mean, obviously, we can be aware. You’re looking out for several different things: you need to make sure that you don’t trip while you’re walking; you need to be looking out to make sure there’s a bunch of different things we need to be aware of. However, when it comes to our safety, what should we be looking for?

Dave: You should be looking for anything that’s out of the ordinary. Probably, the best way to think of awareness the way I try to remind myself because as we go through our daily routine, what we do in a day-in, day-out basis is mundane. Therefore, it’s easy to fall into a sense of complacency because it’s the same thing repeatedly. What I try to do to is remind myself of the level of awareness that I need to be in. I think of situational awareness as if it’s a light switch. You either switched on or you’re switched off. When you’re switched on, it’s bright, easy to see and easy to look around you. It’s much easier to know what is happening. If you’re switched off, it’s dark and dank, it’s hard to see what’s happening; it’s hard to make decisions and it’s hard to make judgments. So as I go through my daily routines and I feel myself kind of’ slipping into the mundane. I’ll visualize a light switch in my head and switch that light on. I’ll start taking notice of what’s happening in a 360-degree loop around me at least a 30-foot distance. By doing that, you take note of what is going on around you specifically, the things that other people are doing around you. It’s very possible that you could be walking down the street and the proverbial piano could be dropped on you. However, what we’re talking about here are about threats from either humans or animals. So by being aware of what other people are doing around you in that 360, 30 foot radius, you give yourself a bit of time to know what’s happening. In addition, if something’s coming in your direction that’s a potential threat, then you can act upon it.

Rob: Going back to what you’re saying, about slipping into complacency and becoming complacent. Would it be safe to say that awareness of your surroundings starts with your awareness or monitoring yourself?

Dave: Absolutely. You’ve got to be aware of where you are at. Let’s say you’re walking down the street or say you’re just driving down the road and you’re not noticing where you’re at. All of a sudden, you’re in a battle of a bad neighborhood, maybe some kind of gang turf area, or something like that. Someplace you’re not supposed to be. If you had taken note of what you were doing then you could have avoided that situation. You have to be alert of what you’re doing as well as what other people are doing around you. I realize it’s a very, very tall order but in this new millennium with the threats that our nation face. I just don’t see how you cannot be “situationally” aware.

Let me give you a little scenario that maybe a little closer to home for most people. Because awareness is something you need to have with you all the time and it doesn’t just necessarily mean combative applications. You’re sitting in your home or maybe you’re in a restaurant or something like that. You had a big meal, you’re sitting there, and then all of a sudden you feel your stomach start to churn. Maybe you’ve eaten some bad fish or the onslaught of flu is coming and you just keep yourself. You jump up and run down the hall. Then, you go into the men’s or ladies room and you go into a stall and you sit down to take care of that urgent need. Then you happen to look over the toilet paper roll and notice that the necessary piece of equipment is not there. That is something that many of us have faced and I really don’t want to’ know how people solved it but if you were “situationally” aware at that particular moment, you would have developed a contingency plan and dealt with it. Because you didn’t have the situational awareness of the moment, now you got a real problem you got to’ deal with. Can you see how situational awareness can benefit us throughout our lives and doesn’t necessarily have to be an attack? It’s just something that we should have as kind of a lifestyle commitment.

Rob: Because it makes your life a whole lot easier, that’s for sure.

Dave: Yeah, it gives you less surprises coming in your direction; coming in your life.

Rob: Dave, let me take you back one more time to what I was saying because I think this is something very important. Does a retarded person know that they’re retarded? The answer is probably “No.” In addition, does a person that’s not aware necessarily know that they’re not aware, not unless they are monitoring?

Dave: They don’t know they’re not aware until it’s too late.

Rob: Exactly. You said when I catch myself becoming complacent; when I realize that I’m letting my guard down; then you go ahead and you visualize the light switch. You throw that switch and you turn on that special, higher level of awareness. However, what about that whole process that leads to that? Is there a certain time of day or certain trigger that we may use to self-monitor or to realize, “hey, I’m not at the point or I’m not at the place that I need to be. Now I need to make sure I kick it up a notch and turn on that light bulb.”

Dave: Now you’re talking about self-awareness. It’s much like an alcoholic or a nicotine addict. The only way you can quit that addiction is to choose to do so. If a person is naïve enough that they don’t realize they’re in potential danger; they’re not going to understand the importance of maintaining situational awareness. Unfortunately, all too often, people come to realize the importance of situational awareness only after something has happened to them. A person that doesn’t understand its importance, I’m not sure that you can make him understand it’s important. You kind of’ see what I mean?

Rob: Right, but what I’m thinking of… most of the people that are listening to this show… they do care about it. They want to be… They want to do it so it’s not that they don’t care, but what can we do or set in their way or in their paths or what can they do as triggers to give them an extra reminder that “Hey, you’re not at the level you need to be”.

Dave: War-gaming. As you go through your daily routine and you’re staying switched on to your surroundings. You are game. Ok, you’re walking down Main Street. You come to an intersection. You’re getting ready to cross the street. You’re looking around. You’re not in danger but you tell yourself “What if all of a sudden a truck turned a corner and come speeding at me? What would I do?” You’re walking to the bank and everything is fine but you say, “What if I walked into this bank and it was being held up? What would I do?” By war-gaming those scenarios that are much more likely in your daily routine. It reminds you of the state of awareness you need to be in.

Now, you got to’ keep it realistic. You can’t say, “Alright, I’m on an airplane at 35,000 feet when 7 terrorists with AK-47s jumped up and take control of the plane. What will I do?”
Well, I can tell you what you’re going to’ do. You’re going to’ sit down, zip your lip, and not do anything. You’re going to’ try to keep people from noticing you. So, you got to’ kind of’ war-game these situations in your head to those things that are likely or at least possible in your lifestyle. Just by doing that kind of war gaming, you can actually increase your level of awareness and remind you where you want to’ be.
Have you ever go on a trip with your parents on a vacation and you played that game when you were a kid? The first person that saw a stop sign or a particular mailbox or the first person…

Rob: Or the license plate… or yeah.

Dave: Exactly. What you just did was played an awareness game. Because in order to be the first person to find that particular item. You had to switch on your awareness level very, very high. Well, you’re doing the same sort of game but you’re putting a more… I hate to say threatening, but a more threatening aspect to it. You’re making it relevant to your personal safety by war-gaming things that could harm you. And by doing so, you reiterate to yourself the importance of staying alert so that danger does not sneak up on you.

Rob: So it’s a big kid’s “what if” game?

Dave: Yeah, exactly. You know, we’re not really “what if.” I hate to say “if” then. I like to say “when” then. When this happens, I will do this because there’s a big difference between “if” and “when.” The concept of visualization is so important because the brain really doesn’t know the difference between something that you visualize intensely and something you actually experienced. So if you think of a potential threat when this happens, I will do this. You are much more likely to respond effectively and more quickly by thinking “when” than thinking “if.” If you kind of’ get my drift.

Rob: In other words, you’re actually visualized it when you say “when” but when you say “if” it’s something that’s just a distance, something that may happen.

Dave: If he visualizes as when this happens to me, then it’s more of a reality.

Rob: Plus, it forces you to “actually decide” what you’ll do. If you say “if,” it’s almost like it is something that may never happen. And for that reason, you don’t have to have that decision made. But if you say “when,” it’s a “this will happen in your mind” and you have to have that decision made.

Dave: Absolutely. And by doing that when-then thinking, by doing that intense visualization, you actually enhance your ability to perform in a moment’s notice because one of the biggest impediments to being able to be an active participant in your own rescue is what we call lag time. Lag time comes from being startled. There’s no way to train startle out. If there’s a large beam or something happened and you don’t expect that your hands are going to’ fly up in your head, your shoulders are going to’ hunch up, you’re going to’ bring your head down, you’re going to’ bend up the knees… We’ve all done it. And then you’re going to’ turn your head in a 3600 spin to see what exactly… Whatever that was… A loud noise, whatever the case may be. Well that startle will create a momentarily lag in time and again, you can’t train out that startle. But what you can train in by doing this when-then thinking, enhancing your level of awareness is that you can reduce that lag time to a minimum, which will give you a real jump, and your reaction response time.

Rob: Because what happens is “when” that happens, when you go into that startled mode, your mind is trying to match what’s going on to a scenario in your head. And correct me if I’m wrong, this is what it seems like it’s happening to me at least. And if you have prepped your mind and have those certain scenarios like you said. War-gamed out that when this happens, I will do this.
It’s almost like those scenarios are at the head of the line and it brings it to your memory… to your mind much quicker.
Dave: You have basically hit the nail right on the head. What you have done is you have pre-programmed a response into your psyche. And even though you may be startled, you’re probably more likely to recognize that unexpected explosion as a gunshot or maybe that unexpected explosion as a bomb and if you thinking then you’re going to act accordingly because due to your intense visualization, you’ve already been there done that.

Rob: Wow. So in these different situations, you’re walking down the street, you’re walking from your car into work, you maybe go out to eat with your family. You need to be visualizing these things and imagining what would go wrong. What would you do in that situation?
Now, let’s go back to what you started into earlier and I kind of’ dragged you off subject. But you were talking about separating different threats and evaluating different threat levels.

Dave: Not sure, I follow your question.

Rob: Okay, I’m sorry. Earlier on, you were talking about the proverbial piano that may fall on your head…

Dave: Oh, ok.

Rob: Obviously, that’s not realistic. What is realistic is maybe an animal or human attacker at that point. And you were going into evaluating the likelihood of different things happening.

Dave: Sure. Absolutely. You’ve got to visualize those things that are more likely in your environment. And again, if you live in an inner city environment, it’s not very likely that you’re going to be attacked by a wolf. I mean it could happen I guess but it’s more likely that be attacked by a wolf if you live in a rural area in which wolves are in residence. So what you want to’ to do is visualize a threat that is more likely and most of our cases, being attacked by a dog is certainly a possibility.

Rob: Right.

Dave: I’m a runner. I’ve been a runner my whole life so I have dealt with the dogs forever. And I have come to the point now where I have had dogs come at me so many times and tried to bite me that I actually recognize the pattern of their feet coming up behind me. As soon as I hear this (sound), I know it’s a dog, a dog’s coming up behind me, and dogs are very, very quiet so I just know. I turn, I face the dog, I give a verbal command that the dog lunges at me, I smack it at the side of the head, and it has happened to me numerous times. So that is something that I pre-programmed and before I did it and then when it had happened I’ve actually been able to use that pre-programmed response and what that has given me, at least when it comes to running and dealing with dogs, is peace of mind. When that comes to me, I can deal with it.

Rob: So in other words, if you’re out jogging every morning, you don’t need to be war-gaming if aliens come to abduct me. Maybe you’ve been reading too much science fiction or something. You need to be figuring out what the logical threats or what you may have been threatened with in the past. That’s a good place to start, something that’s happened to you in the past. Figure out those things that are most likely first and war-game those out.

Dave: Exactly.

Rob: Correct me if I’m wrong, once you’ve gotten those most realistic scenarios war gamed out and you’ve gotten yourself so that you’re looking for that all the time then you can move on to some of the less likely things that are still possible.

Dave: Yeah. We all live, work, shop, and basically exist in the same geographical area. We do take vacations and trips that the majority of our life is spent in locations that we are very familiar with. We live in a home, we drive a path to work, we shop at the local mall, we have favorite stores, and we kind of know what is normal in our areas. We also, if we paid any attention at all, we know what is likely as far as threats and crime. Like you said, instead of war-gaming an alien abduction, you may war-game walking into the local 7/11 into a middle of a robbery. By pre-programming responses to those things that are likely for the environment in which you live and work, you’ll be better prepared.
Now are you going to’ hit the potential situation you may walk into exactly through visualization? No. So you got to’ kind of’ visualize in general term but you can come pretty close and I’ll give you a case and point. I had a war man who worked late in a downtown area in a parking garage. This parking garage was her place to park. She did it every day. She parked there in the morning, sometimes she stayed late at night. She realized that her potential threat was going to come probably working late some night in this parking garage. So what she started doing in order to prepare for potential threat on those days she worked late she didn’t wear a skirt, high heels. She had flak, running shoes, or flat shoes that she could actually protect herself in. Finally, one day, it actually happened to her. She was walking to her car; a guy came out from two cars in the middle of the parking garage. She went low below his grasp, she drove her foot into his knee, and she said it was exactly like she imagined it and she had no hesitation whatsoever. As soon as she nailed the guy, she fled the area, called the police, everything went perfect. She told me, she says “You know, if I hadn’t pre-programmed that into my psyche, he could have taken me off guard, he could have created a startle reflex and I may not have done anything. I mean I froze.” By visualizing things that are more likely, you can actually make yourself ready as if you’d actually been through it.

Rob: And we talked about how it moves those scenarios to the front of your mind to match up more quickly and those few seconds, those milliseconds in recovering from that startle mode are so important that’s where the advantage is gained in any fight.

Dave: Exactly. You’ve got to’ understand, if we look at the patterns of encounters for law enforcement officers because until the best of my knowledge I’ve never kept the kind of gunfight stats on armed citizens. But for law enforcement officers, they’ve been doing it now for over 50 years. They have come to realize through studying these particular situations that armed confrontation are over very quickly. They’re very, very close in a couple of seconds. Either one or both of the participants are down. If it takes you three, four, five seconds to realize what’s happening to you then you’re probably not going to’ be an active participant. You’re going to’ be overwhelmed before you realize what’s happening.
Many people, they’re listening, they have heard of the OODA. The Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act responsibly the creation of Colonel John Boyd who had studied the fighter pilots during the Korean War. A lot of people have misunderstood what Colonel Boyd was doing. They all think that they got this nice cycle that they circle through. They’re going to’ observe, they’re going to’ orient what’s happening, they’re going to’ decide, and then they’re going to’ act. That maybe the case as you go through your routine. However, what Colonel Boyd made very clear that in a situation of high threat like a dogfight with jet engines travelling a hundred of miles an hour, you have to orient to the situation you’re facing, you probably won’t design that. As a matter of fact, he understood that you implicit guidance and control which was advance training. You could go from observation to action without having to actually orient and decide. Again, orientation takes in a lot of factors, it takes in your previous experience, it takes cultural or heritage type backgrounds, and all of these things. Denial of what’s happening to you. Orientation to an incident or at least to a critical incident is probably going to’ put you so far behind the power curve that you’re not going to’ be able to catch up and you’re probably going to be seriously injured if not killed.
Rob: It’s those few seconds, they are so important. You’re absolutely right. Making that decision ahead of time gives you that advantage.

Dave: Yes.

Rob: So we’ve talked about evaluating the threats, we’ve talked about realism, that sort of thing. There’s one other thing that you mentioned earlier. I don’t even know if you’ve mentioned it or if you realized it, but you talked about watching for something that’s out of place. Because sometimes you’re not going to’ be seeing a person and deciding does that person look like they’re a threat to me or they’re acting like a threat to me. Sometimes it’s not going to’ be as obvious as “Yes, that’s the situation that I envisioned.” Sometimes there’s just going to be something that’s slightly wrong. You mentioned most of the time you’re traveling in spaces or in places that you are familiar with. What is the best way or what would you say to someone would be the best way to put their mind in a position or in a set of readiness where they would spot something very quickly and easily that’s out of place?

Dave: First of all, I don’t want to’ kind of’ spook your listeners but I do believe that we all possess a sixth sense and I’m not talking about dead people or anything like that. I think we all…

Rob: That would really make this show interesting if we could work that out.

Dave: Yeah, wouldn’t it though. I believe we all have a woman’s intuition or that hair on the back of your neck or that gut feeling. We know that something is out of place and I don’t want to’ get into too detailed of an explanation because that was just not what the listeners want to’ hear. The best way to describe this is that we do live in a consistent environment like we said. We live, work, shop at the same place. It’s almost as if we exist in a certain frequency that things kind of’ go along, we know what normal is, we know how our neighborhood should be, and all of those kind of’ things. Then there’s that instance, that situation, that frequency is kind of’ out of whack. It doesn’t look right. I’ll give you an example. I went down to a convenience store late one night to pick up some ice cream for my daughters because they were watching a movie and wanted a particular flavor. I pulled up in front of the store and I looked through the big windows, I notice that there was no clerk. Now that’s not normal. I mean there was no clerk, there was nobody in the store, it didn’t seat right with me. I didn’t just go draw my gun and charged in. I actually backed-up across the parking lot and I sat and watched through the front of the store because sometimes the best response is to do nothing, to just sit and watch. Well, within a minute or two, the clerk came from the back room and walked out and ok I felt better. But that frequency was out of whack and quite often, the response to this is maybe just “do nothing. “ Just back off and watch. That I truly believe that there is a sixth sense. Do we have time and like tell another story?

Rob: No go ahead. But hang on. Just before you go and tell another story, I want to’ say you probably didn’t have in your mind a scenario if the clerk is gone then this. You weren’t looking for that clerk whether or not he was there. It was just something that happened to be out of place. Right?

Dave: Right, without a whack. It wasn’t normal for what I expected. I expected to pull up to the store, there’d be a clerk there to go in and sell me the ice cream that I wanted, and there was nobody there. That was not normal to have a store that’s open, lights are on that there’s no one in there. That is not normal. Many people will just kind of’ flop that off. How do you know you’re not walking into a robbery? Sometimes the best thing is just to step back and watch. I’ll give you an example. Another woman that I had met through a self-defense class that I once taught, she had worked late in her building and it was a downtown high-rise office. She had gone to the elevator and she pushed a button to go down. Well, she was waiting, the elevator opened and she said that on the elevator was a guy that looked like a biker. He had long kind of’ greasy hair, a beard, a t-shirt with kind of’ of a potbelly, a leather jacket, and he just looked dirty. And she said and this is a quote “Everything in my being told me, don’t get on the elevator.” But she did, you know why?

Rob: Why?

Dave: She didn’t want to’ offend him. I mean she wanted to be a nice person. She gets on the elevator and sure enough, the guy attacks her. The only thing that saved her from what was probably going to be a sexual assault is that someone else had been working in the building, had pushed the elevator button, it stopped in another floor, the doors opened, the guy fled. But here we have perfect example when she said everything in her being told her not to get on the elevator and she didn’t listen to it. What would have taken for her to just say “Oh geez, turn around like she forgot something.” You know what she said when I asked her that. She said “I had never thought of that.” Well, you know what, maybe if she had pre-planned, done some visualization, maybe she had a thought of it before it was too late.

Rob: Wow. That’s an amazing example of what happens if you don’t do what we’re talking about here with the pre-planning and all that. In closing, let’s break all this down and kind of’ give a simple outline for what we’ve talked about that people can do to increase their awareness. First of all, make sure that you’re focusing on being aware. Turning on that light switch like you mentioned. Next…

Dave: Yes. If you look in the dictionary under the word aware, it means conscious. You’re conscious of what’s going on around you. So yes, you have to be conscious that you’re being aware.

Rob: And then the next thing that you want to’ do is make sure that you’re aware but while you’re aware you should be running it when it happens. Excuse me, I’ll get this right. It’s kind of’ like the combatives versus self-defense, I’ll catch on to this stuff one time. But when this happens then I’ll do this. That you should be running that in the back of your mind all the time.

Dave: Right. When-then thinking. I mean you can war-game. Now here is a situation, you’re on a city street, crossing it, and you’re trying to avoid cars and all that. You don’t want to be when-then thinking at that moment. If you’re just going through a normal routine then yeah, you can be doing some when-then war gaming.
Rob: And then the actual awareness itself as far as watching, evaluate threats, evaluate their realism, you should be looking for things that would be realistic threats in your area, and then of course, always just be looking for what might be out of place.

Dave: Right. You need to be switched on to what’s going on around you. And if something doesn’t look right, if you get that gut feeling, listen to it. Again, it doesn’t mean you have to respond, it doesn’t mean you have to do anything. It means that maybe you just want to stand back and watch or just leave the area. If this store doesn’t look right to you, go to another store.

Rob: One of these days Dave we’re actually going to get some actual stories on here. We’ve got plenty of them, in fact, it’s almost like there’s too many of them for me to decide which ones to bring on the show. One of these days, when we have more time, we’re going to take some of these stories and we’re going to look at them and say this situation could have been prevented or downplayed or de-escalated if this person had been more aware of their surroundings and altered it, whatever the situation may be. We’ll look at some specific examples and go through this for our listeners some time also.

Dave: Sure. And in closing, let me throw something out to you about awareness that your listeners can use. Awareness is not just about the situation at hand, it’s about a lifestyle commitment, and last week we talked about being combative and willingness. I had kind of’ mathematical equation that I use to remind myself and my students of the state of mind I need to be in that I call the NESS brothers. Mathematically, it’s Awareness plus Willingness equals your ability to prevail. And of course, awareness means a lot of things. Being aware of what’s going on around you. It also means that being aware of what is normal in your community. A case of point, many others lived in neighborhoods where many of the houses are like and similar. If a house got broken into, three doors down, doesn’t make sense for you to find out how that happened so it doesn’t happen to you.

Rob: You’re right.

Dave: Yes. Awareness is also about gathering intelligence. Intelligence just isn’t for the military or the spy agencies; it’s a good thing to know. It’s a good thing to have this is intelligent information because information is power.

Rob: So if we covered willingness last week and we covered awareness this week that means everybody should know everything they need to know then right.

Dave: They have just taken the first step in a long journey. I’ve been working on this now for three decades. If I still don’t have it alright but you know, they’ve taken the right step. If they’re working on being aware, they’re working on being a willing. Then they’ve got a nice step up on the journey but it still a long road ahead.

Rob: Alright then, well thank you for joining us for this combatives edition of the Personal Armament Podcast. We’ll see you all again next week.

One thought on “Importance of Awareness

  1. I am waiting for someone to address sports, fitness and ccw. How does a cyclist conceal and use a weapon of any kind?

Leave a Reply to Kay Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *