More Than Just Self Defense

Mama Liberty's picture

The students in my basic pistol classes are usually too overwhelmed with new information to ask many questions, but I often get good ones from the intermediate and conceal carry students. This last week I got an exceptional one, and it caused me to consider rewriting a part of my book.

We had been going over situational awareness, and she asked if I had any suggestions, beyond the exercises in the book, to help practice for that. We discussed some, and then went on with how that could contribute a lot to other areas of our lives, giving us both the motive and opportunity to actually practice it all the time.

The implications for self defense are important, obviously, so that we may be aware of danger as early as possible and can avoid it or respond otherwise as appropriate. We agreed that it was very important to teach this to children early, since they are even more vulnerable.

So, in what other ways would the constant practice of situational awareness benefit us and those around us?

We can become much better, safer drivers. Now this might seem contradictory a little, since distraction is a major cause of accidents and we are proposing to be aware of a great deal more than we might otherwise be, but if we integrate that awareness into other safe driving habits, consciously weeding out the irrelevant things that are so often distractions, it only seems logical that we become a better driver. We train ourselves to observe what we see around us, the actions of other vehicles and pedestrians, and assess them for potential problems. We also would be thinking of simple plans to avoid problems. The key is to be aware and prepared, rather than surprised when danger strikes.

By the same token, we become much safer pedestrians.

We can become better shoppers. I had not thought about this before, but it seems clear. If we are practicing being aware of our surroundings, why would that not extend to examining, assessing and evaluating the things we propose to purchase? Did you ever get home with a rotten potato in the bottom of the bag? Did you determine to lift the bag and LOOK for one next time? Cracked eggs? Out of date milk? Dented cans? A tear in a shirt, or a missing hook on a boot after you got the items home? I've done them all at one time or another, but I've done that far less often since I began to practice awareness... and I wasn't even thinking about it that way. It was just a part of the whole process.

Might we not become far better friends and neighbors? Before I began to carry a gun, I could not have told you much about the normal happenings in my neighborhood to save my life. I literally was not paying attention. After several years, and consciously practicing the drills, I can actually look out my windows and spot a car, truck or person that doesn't "belong" because I've invested the time and effort to know who and what does belong. That doesn't mean the stranger is up to no good, obviously, but they are worth a second or even a third glance. If I see a stranger hanging around, with no evident purpose, I'll watch even more closely. And my neighbors commonly do the same now since I suggested it to them years ago. I live alone, and one neighbor has called me many times when strangers drive up here, just to be sure I'm OK.

Now, some people might not appreciate that part, and in a crowded neighborhood it would be impractical, but it works out well here. Another neighbor called once this summer to let me know my sneaky horses had gotten out on the other side of my property. I would not have known about it until I went out to feed otherwise, and they might have gotten into real trouble by then. So the exercise of awareness can help to build safer and more friendly neighborhoods.

Obviously, you don't want to become a nosy parker, and interventions like the phone calls would be reserved for serious situations or questions, but the very practice of observing and assessing is what is most important for your own development and safety.

We came up with a good list, I think, but I would be very glad to get your feedback so I can add as many practical suggestions as possible to my teaching material. How would you go about expanding your own practice of situational awareness, and how do you think it would it affect your family, neighborhood and safety? What might be a downside or problem with those listed here?

[The book, "I Am NOT A Victim" is still available free to anyone who sends me an email and asks for it. Please let me know where you saw the offer. I am sending it only in pdf format now, so if you can't open a pdf document for some reason, or would just rather have something else, let me know that too.]

Good ideas

I don’t have any specifics in answer to your initial question (in what other ways would the practice of situational awareness benefit ourselves and others?) yet, but I do have a related observation. For all three of us, our karate training has improved both our interpersonal awareness and our self-awareness. What’s most interesting to me about that is that it happened even with Snolf Mk. II, who’d been training in ballet for about three years prior to taking up karate. Of course, age and maturation are confounding variables there; but from what I observed of her ballet classes and rehearsals, body awareness was not given the emphasis it is in our training. (Again, age may be a factor there—but it never is too early to encourage that once a child has begun walking.)

Part of my awareness that’s been altered by the training is an awareness of what I might be projecting to others around me—and especially how that might differ from what I want to project. Contrary to what one may think, knowing my background, I don’t want to project a “tough broad” image as a default, because that can be taken as a threat.

When we walked to and from our classes, that provided the snolfs with lots of opportunities to apprise situations and think of ways to handle possibly dangerous encounters. (Downtown isn’t unsafe by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a college town with the attendant downsides of that; and we seem to have a sizable homeless population.) I’ve noticed that the kids’ thoughts on defending themselves have shifted in positive ways: away from unrealistic scenarios and toward first trying to avoid getting into a confrontational situation. Also, having witnessed many instances of adults too focused on a cellphone or music/whatever being fed straight into the ears and doing stupid things, they never use their electronics while walking. I didn’t even need to point that out.

For me, a downside that I’m careful to caution them against is becoming overly paranoid. While news reports tend to feed our innate preference for focusing on the negative around us, in reality most individuals are decent people. Just as each individual deserves to be judged on his own merit or lack thereof, each situation needs to be judged as a unique interaction.


Uh... so maybe that was an answer after all.

Yes indeed

Through my own experience, and talking with hundreds of other people and students, I came to the conclusion that "paranoia" is usually the product of poor self image, poor understanding of oneself and others, and poor training/preparation. Paranoia is usually unreasoned fear, resulting often in irrational response to anything and everything. What a horrible way to live!

Those who walk tall, confident of themselves and with a realistic understanding of their weak and strong points... with the basic attitude of non-aggression - do not project any aura of threat (to rational people anyway), but at the same time represent a strong deterrant to the aggressor. Yes, most people are not aggressive, but all it takes is one to really wreck your day... or your life. If irrational people feel threatened by my confidence, I just have to say that's not my problem. I have no obligation to be controlled - or leave myself helpless - because of their feelings or irrational fears.

And yes indeed, one of the most important parts of situational awareness is avoidance of danger, confrontation, and things like running into lamp posts or stepping out into traffic while texting. I've actually seen someone DO that right here in my town. I was simply dumbfounded. So glad the snolfs understand that, and especially on their own! You are most certainly giving them the right example and signals, believe it or not. :)

While I very much agree that each person and situation must be evaluated on its own merit... we can't always KNOW that merit, since we can't read the minds of strangers we encounter. And we shouldn't have to. As for me, I will trust only with serious verification, and that gets more important as I get older and more physically vulnerable. I want to be as much of a "tough broad" as any old, overweight marshmallow grandma can expect to be. :) The openly carried firearm does help. :)