Thursday, October 22, 2015

Practicing Situation Awareness With Drills

I talk a lot about situational awareness (SA). I was in Walmart the other day with my wife. (Why? I don’t know…) Anyway we split up and I went to look at their ammo selection and she went to the sewing area. I finished quick, they never have what I want, and so I went to find my wife. She had moved across from the sewing area to electronics and was looking at some DVD’s. I walked up to her from the side and touched her arm. She jumped out of her skin! I didn’t even sneak up but I guess her focus was all on the movies she was looking at. I said to her “Great situational awareness babe.” A guy further down the row who was watching just smiled.
Paying attention and being aware of your surroundings is extremely important to self-defense. Practicing situational awareness requires discipline and a conscious effort. Pay attention to your surroundings and gut feelings to events even while you are busy and distracted. When you are distracted even obvious eminent danger or hostility can go unnoticed. Individuals need to learn to be observant even while doing other things.
Here are a few drills that you can do to improve your situational awareness skills.
Use Reflective Surfaces. When you are walking in an area where there are windows along the side (e.g. walking downtown, etc..) practice glancing at these reflective surfaces to see what’s going on behind you and areas which you cannot see while walking forward.
Identify all the exits when you enter a building.
Use Your Peripheral Vision. We all have peripheral vision, but what we see there is often ignored while we ‘tunnel vision’ what’s directly in front of us. When you are out in public it is especially important to ‘see’ with your peripheral vision. Practice looking ahead (as you normally would) but while doing so – mentally notice what’s in your peripheral. You can do this even while talking with someone. Monitoring a wider field of vision will enable you to see (or be more aware) of anything which may be out of the ordinary.
Count the number of people in a restaurant, subway or train car.
Note which cars take the same turns behind you in traffic.
Take a look at the people around you and attempt to figure out their stories. Imagine what they do for a living, their mood, what they are focused on and what it appears they are preparing to do, based merely on observation.
Next time you’re in a parking lot, look for – and count – the number of cars with people sitting in them, whether you’re walking to the storefront, or coming back to your car, or even driving through.
Visualize. No matter where you are, it’s good practice to visualize a threat or emergency, and figure out what you would do – right then. The more scenarios you practice, the more mentally prepared you will be for the ‘real deal’.
I have a friend I used to work with many years ago who was a Marine Sniper.
Since most of a sniper's time is spent on reconnaissance missions observing the enemy, his observational skills have to be flawless. USMC Scout Sniper School has developed some unique "games" to hone student snipers' ability to look at things critically.
One training exercise is called Kims game:
They would put different objects on the table: a bullet, a paper clip, a bottle top, a pen, a piece of paper with something written on it -- 10 to 20 items. You'd gather around and they'd give you, say, a minute to look at everything. Then you'd have to go back to your table and describe what you saw. You weren't allowed to say "paper clip" or "bullet," you'd have to say, like, "silver, metal wire, bent in two oval shapes." They want the Intel guys making the decision about what you actually saw.
The game is played repeatedly throughout the two-month course. As time goes by, students are given more objects to look at and less time to look at them. To add to the challenge, the time between seeing the objects and reporting what they saw gets longer as the course goes on. By the end, they may see 25 objects in the morning, train all day, and then at night be asked to write down descriptions of all the things they saw.
I play Kims game with my family all the time. This is something you can use as practice.
Next time that you get into an elevator with others, pay attention to what happens. Everyone mostly re-shuffles themselves to be furthest away from each-other or to ‘balance out’ the invisible circles between everyone so they are somewhat evenly distributed. It’s a natural thing.
Here’s the thing – what if you were the only one in the elevator when another person steps in and proceeds to ‘invade’ your personal space while standing awkwardly close to you? Even though this person is doing nothing wrong, it would ‘feel’ weird and uncomfortable to you. Your natural reaction will probably be to move further away to a more comfortable distance – whatever that is for you.
This is true anywhere. Whether you’re walking along or simply standing somewhere. If someone gets ‘too close’ and comes into your invisible circle, it suddenly gets uncomfortable.
When this happens (someone invading your personal space), there are a few additional things you might consider getting into the habit of doing.
Observe if that person is projecting aggressive body language. Do they seem ‘normal’?
Is the person talking (to you, someone else, or them-self) in any verbally aggressive tone?
Look at the person’s hands. Is there a weapon (hidden or otherwise)?
‘Sizing up’ the person can be accomplished nearly instantly. Quick observation while listening to your own ‘Spidey-senses’ may provide enough warning regarding a potential issue or threat – enabling you to take preemptive action, be it moving further away or preparing for an incident.
Situational awareness is not usually something that is natural, but it needs to be learned and practiced. As you do so, your SA will improve and become part of you.
Semper Paratus
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