Self-defense trainers speak often of “mindset,” and how the brain is the best defensive tool we have. We all know that being aware of our surroundings helps us to identify dangers, and possibly avoid problems altogether. On the other end of the spectrum, many criminals have specifically-and successfully-targeted the clueless, the distracted and the unprepared.
But how exactly do we increase our awareness to achieve “Combat Mindset?” Reading and talking about it isn’t enough, especially since it should be thought of as a lifestyle, not just a specific skill. Ideally, the mechanisms that can keep you safe should be engaged as much of the time as possible-we’re not just talking about working out for an hour or two a day.
There are many ways to sharpen your mind’s focus on what’s going on around you. The best will help you take in your surroundings, and more important, actually register what you are seeing and evaluate it. It’s too easy for the eyes and mind to simply pass over elements in the environment, especially since we’re bombarded with more and more stimuli every day.
To get you started, here are two simple exercises that will improve your ability to analyze your surroundings:
Priority Awareness Zone
Imagine that you are the center of a 15-yard diameter circle. Look all around you-the entire 360 degrees-and evaluate each of the people within 7 or 8 yards of you. Start with those closest to you, and move out to your 8-yard radius. See anything unusual or noteworthy? Next, scan the same area, and see if you can pick out anything that could be used as a defensive tool-somewhere to hide, something that can be used as a shield or anything that can be used to strike. Finally, examine the same area and determine your best exit routes. For extra credit add the area above you, for a 540-degree awareness zone!
Head to Toe
Pick a person in your Priority Awareness Zone and describe that person in detail, paying particular attention to his or her most distinctive features-as if you might have to explain the person to the police. This helps you look more closely at people and process more information about them.
Since the first line of defense is avoiding a problem, good situational awareness is your first objective. Incorporating these exercises into a daily mental workout will get your mind used to paying a bit more attention to your surroundings, especially in that critical area of closest proximity.