Combat>Mental aspects>Awareness

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Some people cannot see a tree because the forest to too dense. You must learn to pick important facts from a world of superfluous information. When dealing with others, be they salespersons, con artists, telemarketers, or even supposed friends, you must be aware and learn to pick out the truth from a flood of images and words.

Simple answers

Sometimes the answer to a question is simple but it it is obfuscated by your thinking process. Here are some questions, which, although they seem complicated, have simple answers if you look beyond the obvious:
  1. Where can anybody but you sit?
  2. Why would a maid prefer to wash a mirror than a window of the same size, assuming they are both easily accessible?
  3. How can you throw a ball so that it will reverse direction and return to you without bouncing against or touching any solid object?
  4. Your bed and the light switch are 15 feet apart. Without using any object or mechanical devices, such as a pole or remote switch, how can you turn off the light and get into bed before the room is dark?
  5. Ned's cabin is 25 degrees below zero. He only has one match left. He has a candle, an oil lamp, and a fireplace with kindling, each ready to be lit. Which should he light first?
  6. What common mechanical transports in New York City carry three times as many passengers daily as all the city's subways, trains, buses, cars, and taxis combined?
  7. Why didn't William Taft run for a third term as President?
  8. What is cowhide chiefly used for?
  9. Can you rearrange these letters into one long word: doornonegwl.
  10. If Betty Ross were living today, what would she be most noted for?
Answers located at the bottom of the article.

They don’t look like a threat

Many rapists, muggers, and murderers do not look any different from other persons on the street. Ted Bundy, the serial murderer, is a good example. He was able to murder unchecked for years because he was a bright, good-looking young man that no one would suspect of doing anything bad. 

However, many perpetrators may be recognized by their behavior. If you know what to look for, you may recognize a problem before it occurs and avoid it or be aware of it as it unfolds and stay one step ahead of a criminal.

Many violent encounters could be avoided if people were always fully aware of their surroundings such as lots of people or a few people, lighting, confined areas, wrong neighborhood, etc. Proper awareness allows you to see a problem developing and gives you the opportunity to avoid it. The chances of falling victim to a surprise attack may be greatly reduced if you are always aware and prepared to defend yourself.

Criminals do not just attack the first person they see; they deliberately or unconsciously evaluate people as potential targets. While doing so, they project their intentions by watching, following, and even "testing" potential targets. They want to achieve a successful, problem-free crime. If they think you are not a threat to them, then they choose you. If you understand this process, you will be more likely to spot predatory intent before an assault is initiated.

People communicate their intent in three ways:
  • Words. Little intent is communicated through the actual words. 
  • Voice. More intent is communicated through the manner of speaking.’
  • Body language. The most intent is communicated through body language.
Therefore, you learn more about a person’s intent by being aware of his or her movements and actions.

What is awareness?

Awareness is being able to “read” people and situations and assess their intent. In self-defense parlance, it is the ability to anticipate the probability of violence before it happens.
Awareness is not about being fearful or paranoid. It is a relaxed state of alertness that you may use normally in your everyday life. You need always not be in a heightened state of awareness, your level of awareness should just be appropriate to the current circumstances. Awareness means knowing what to pay attention to, paying attention to safety-related details, and matching the degree of your awareness to your circumstances.

Listen to your “gut.” When something in your brain is telling you something is wrong, be wary, and increase your awareness.


The brain recognizes things by comparing them to a mental map of experience. Psychologists call these maps "schemas." They consist of accumulated knowledge, experiences, and beliefs that are activated when we recognize patterns associated with them. Just as a doctor may diagnose unseen injuries comparing the patient's symptoms with a mental map of possible diseases, we may learn to diagnose a potential confrontation by comparing our surroundings with mental maps of similar circumstances that led to trouble.

To use our self-defense schemas, we must evaluate them properly. This is hampered by our tendency to resist or ignore anything that challenges our preconceptions. To enhance our schemas, we must keep an open mind and stay curious about life. To improve your schemas, you should check for the following:
  • Accurate schemas. Schemas must contain accurate information. You may ensure this by learning about violent and predatory situations, how they happen, where and when they happen, who perpetrate them, how the perpetrators operate, etc. This involves learning to recognize predatory patterns and developing skills and strategies to deal with them.

    Experience is built by using what we have learned. When awareness and prevention strategies are constantly used, they become habits that soon become unconscious and automatic. Physical and scenario-based training drills help build self-defense habits. Beliefs affect your perceptions and behavior, so beliefs should be real and functional not based upon fantasy. Realistically evaluate your beliefs about your ability to defend yourself and change them if necessary until they accurately reflect your skills.
  • Missing schemas. When you lack knowledge or experience in an area, you also lack a schema about that area. Missing self-defense schemas result in naivety about safety, which may result in people being oblivious to signs of danger. Someone with a missing schema is more likely to panic, freeze, or react ineffectively when confronted by a self-defense situation.
  • Assumed schemas. An assumed schema occurs when a schema is present, but it is associated with an experience that is flawed, inaccurate, or erroneous. Assumed self-defense schemas are more prevalent than you might think. Even trained martial artists often hold an unrealistic perception of what constitutes a "real fight." They falsely equate a violent fight with sparring or being good at sparring techniques with the ability to defend themselves. Sometimes untrained people successfully defend themselves from assault better than those with formal training because they do not have flawed schemas. They have limited, but realistic, schemas so they rely more on their basic instincts. 


Attention is the process of consciously attending to thought, activity, or event. We may know what to pay attention to, but it is difficult to pay attention consistently. Our senses are bombarded with far more information than we could ever hope to process, so most of what is happening around us is "filtered out," and only a small portion of it reaches our conscious mind and is stored in our short-term memory.

The mind is selective about what it pays attention to. The schemas we have stored in our long-term memory determine largely what we notice. They help us unconsciously filter out information deemed irrelevant or unimportant. Therefore, we must have accurate self-defense schemas, or the wrong information may be filtered out and ignored.

Distraction and preoccupation
Being distracted or preoccupied may usurp the limited capacity of the conscious mind to the point we are unaware of our surroundings. Distraction occurs when our mental focus is preoccupied with some external stimulus, such as searching for car keys in a purse. Preoccupation occurs when our mental focus dwells on some internal stimuli, such as worrying or daydreaming.

Distraction and preoccupation are inevitable. However, if they occur when you should be attending to your surroundings, you may be unaware of the danger. You must be aware of times when a higher level of vigilance is necessary and minimize distraction and preoccupation during those times.

Imagine that your attention is a beam of light. Whatever you point the beam at, you notice, while the surrounding area is not noticed. We must learn to beam our attention at details relevant to our safety.

Interest and importance

We are aware of things that are related to whatever mental activity is current. If you are looking for restaurants, you will notice signs for them and not signs for gas stations. If we interested in self-defense safety and it has importance in our lives, we will be more aware of our surroundings as related to self-defense. We must realize that “it could happen to us” and take full responsibility for our safety. 

Awareness is a deterrent

A predator's primary targets are people who are unaware of their surroundings and lax about personal safety. When you are aware, it is noticed by predators and they tend to move on to the less observant. Many times, you are not selected as a victim merely because of your awareness, even when you are not aware of it.

Answers to questions
1. Your lap.
2. A mirror usually only has one side.
3. Throw the ball straight up.
4. Go to bed during daylight.
5. The match.
6. Elevators.
7. He was never elected to a second term.
8. For holding cows together.
9. One long word.
10. Her age.

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