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ASK THE EXPERT | EASY SITUATIONAL AWARENESS | by Orjan Pettersen

The new feature ASK THE EXPERT covers a key self defence topic you’ve asked us about.


QUESTION: ‘How do I actually do situational awareness - I don’t want to be hyper vigilant or paranoid all the time?’


Situational awareness is the primary level of defence in personal safety. In its widest sense, it’s not just about being aware of the situation you’re about to enter. It starts by anticipating potential dangers ahead of the timeline where you are actually physically present. For example, situational awareness may tell you not to go to that neighbourhood, at that particular time, down that specific street, into that disreputable venue, joining that tumultuous crowd, staying around that troublesome person. You get the picture. You can read potential trouble way ahead if you’re sufficiently aware.


There’s are certain models to help you stay alert and aware. Read about Cooper’s Code or the OODA Loop to finesse and understand it more.

If you’re looking for a very simple model to apply for situational awareness, this is it:


Look out for something that doesn’t fit the picture you expect to see at that particular time.

This is how good Krav Maga instructors teach. They don’t intensively look and study every person’s every move in a crowded training room to analyse the finest detail to identify what every individual is doing all the time. This global analysis would be sensory overload and practically impossible to do consistently.


Instead, good instructions look for something that doesn’t fit the visual picture they have in their mind of what they expect to see, knowing the visual images of the themed being trained.


They can then hone in where the picture they see differs from their expectation - and address it.


This is an easy model to convert to real life. You look for something that doesn’t fit the picture you expect to see, wherever you are.

A sudden noise in a quieter environment? A shadow appearing from your side or back? A group of people gathered without any obvious purpose? The guy hanging around on the street corner, loitering? A car driving erratically or too slow? Someone changing direction towards you? A person dressed too heavily for the warm day? The guy hiding his hands as he appears? Someone looking sweaty or nervous or agitated in your vicinity? Someone paying too much attention to you or something nearby? The intoxicated guy where others are not drinking?


The pictures of something outside the norm can be endless. The key is: you’re looking for abnormality.


Once detected, you can raise your alert level to analyse the situation more closely and take appropriate action.


This level of easy situational awareness still demands that you pay normal attention to your surroundings when you’re out and about. Don’t walk around with your hoodie up and head down. Don’t have earphones in blocking out sounds. Don’t fixate your eyes on your phone screen as you move around.

In paying a low level attention, your ready to focus on any changes to the normal picture you expect to encounter - and act. Practice it out when your out in public and see what you can detect. It’s an interesting - and educational - game.

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