In my last blog it may have appeared that I was targeting mobile phone users. I wasn’t really. It was just an example of how distracted our society is today, an illustration of a distraction that most of us can relate to in one way, shape or form. It was the beginning of a subject, Situational Awareness, that I have, for a long time, sensed needed to take place. Due to the growing distractions in our lives our selves are at a risk of injury that hasn’t been seen before – other than at times of war. It’s no coincidence that it was our great military, during these times of war, who began the study of situational awareness, with the likes of Mr. Oswald Boelke’s observations. He understood that to gain the advantage in combat that the military intelligence must gain “an awareness of the enemy before the enemy gained a similar awareness, and devised methods for accomplishing this.”
This type of situational awareness was one where the aware individual or group has gained the insight before their opponent, and is one that we all can benefit from exercising in our lives as a form of self defense.
Mr. Boelke’s observations and research into situational awareness opened the door for nearly a century of research that has paved the way for advancements in workplace safety methodologies and strategies. One such lesson that can be extrapolated from that research is the principle: In order for a person or group to maintain an adequate awareness of system status (i.e., the development of events and relationships we are surrounded or are engaged with) they need to be able to track the development of events as they gradually unfold. If the fighting system is too complex to use, as we discussed in my last blog, the person or group is overwhelmed and their ability to defend self is at a disadvantage. This can happen when a martial art system you’re learning is taught in a way that is too complex to be practically understood and mastered.
I don’t want to go back over the issues of overwhelming, unoptimized systems. I want to discuss another issue: The psychological distancing of self from the environments around us and relationships we’re involved.
When we fail to change the systems we use in our lives we are failing to defend ourselves from the hazards those unoptimized systems pose. For some, it is easier to put a blindfold on and act like those risks and hazards don’t exist – “It’ll never happen to me,” or “I tried to learn self defense as a child but couldn’t get it”, or “I’m too old for that now” . . . In the meantime, they gamble on their safety.
Laziness and complacency are two other culprits. They tell us things like: “That’s just too much work,” or “That’s not a priority right now,” or “I can’t be overcome,” or “There’s nothing I can’t defeat.” While it’s nice to be self-confident, it’s best to be confident in what you’ve earned than what you assume. Let that sink in a minute.
Whatever it is that distances us from the environments we are surrounded and the relationships we are involved, the distancing of self from those things blindfold us to the obstacles, threats and predators around us, handicapping our ability to use any training – good or bad, complex or simple.
Consider some of the research findings out there on situational awareness and let’s see if everyone find a way to apply these to their self defense:
In David Kaber and Mica Endsley’s research paper, entitled Out-of-the-Loop Performance Problems and the Use of Intermediate Levels of Automation for Improved Control System Functioning and Safety, they point out several very important things that lead to psychological distancing and increased risk to self, especially when happening simultaneously:
- When there are multiple goals to be pursued by a person simultaneously;
- When there are multiple tasks having different relevance to goals competing for the person’s attention; and,
- The person’s performance under time stress and negative consequences are associated with poor performance.
I use an example of someone at home struggling with paying bills. They are standing, pacing around the table, struggling with the pressure of due dates, fatigue and finances, when they realize they have other obligations. They need to take their son or daughter to school, for example. They rush out of the home, screaming demands to children, who may or may not be close enough to hear them, blind to anything but the struggle that took place at the table. In other words, their body left the bills on the table and the table, itself, but their mind is lost in that struggle at the cost of what’s happening as they exit the home, engage the car and leave to take their kids to school. You can imagine a list of risks and hazards this person is putting themselves and their family in such a state.
If we can learn to recognize such situations – even better, recognize the events leading up to such situations – we can avoid the condition of self that increases the risk of harm to our-self (i.e., we will be engaged in self defense). Does your training do that?
In later issues on this subject we will explore some things to look for to help you further your ability to become more situationally aware.
Empower yourself to life!™
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If you have a question or subject you’d like to see me address on my blog page, or if you have an interest in learning self-defense in or around Tallahassee, Florida, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.