Tag Archives: awareness

Practicing Awareness: An Interview

I’m very pleased to have been interviewed about Practicing Awareness in this month’s Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network Journal.


It was an interesting interview that touched on a number of subjects, some old and some new. The interview builds on the series of posts I’ve written about the topic of awareness and positioning.

Bringing worthwhile content like this to its members is yet another reason I’m a member and fan of the Network.

Situational Awareness in Social Settings

Hey Professor, I’m doing a security gig at [a large function] for an event involving [a number of people]. [Some dignitaries] will probably be there. The night before they want me to give a quick security briefing on awareness and what to do if Big Sarge needs to handle the threat. U got any bullet points or words of wisdom I could share that they will remember?

–A retired Army buddy of mine who now works high end security details

Use the same skills as in any social setting (looking for contacts) with an additional focus. Does someone or something seem out of place? “What’s wrong in my right world?” Have some faith in your intuition.

Practice surveillance detection, especially when leaving. Remember that ordinary crime occurs around events, as well. Identify safe areas along your route in advance. Ask for security assistance if you’re uncomfortable with the situation. Have some faith in your intuition.

Watch for targeting indicators; paralleling, hard focus, forces surrounding, etc.

Stay aware of exit locations. If you will be in a fixed position for a while, e.g., seated at dinner, identify the nearest exit to you, just as on an airliner. Note exits near restrooms immediately upon entering the venue. We tend to be distracted when we need to visit the restroom so it’s best to identify these in advance. Consider non-traditional exits, such as through kitchens or maintenance areas, if necessary.

Beware of the possibility of secondary devices; clear the area completely if there’s an incident. Go back to your hotel or residence immediately, don’t hang around the venue.

Discard unattended drinks. Once it’s been out of your control, get a new one.

If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t ignore it, explore it. Alert others, preferably security, about issues. Have some faith in your intuition.

Increase and decrease awareness as the situation requires. E.g., increase awareness when going to or leaving the venue since there will be less security presence outside. Don’t try to be on ‘red alert’ all the time. It’s neither possible nor mentally healthy.

Ditch high heels if you have to move quickly.

Fleeing is preferable to hiding under a table if an incident involving small arms occurs. Gunshot wounds from a distance tend to be survivable. Close range executions are usually fatal. Determine a nearby point that offers cover or concealment and move quickly to it. Assess the situation and then repeat the process to escape.

Note locations of fire extinguishers. They are useful in case someone is on fire following a bomb and also as an improvised weapon. If you are on fire, drop and roll to put it out before running.

Sidenote on using improvised weapons:
There is no need to challenge or warn an active killer! That is only for TV and the movies.
Get behind him [her], focus your attention on the back of the head and,
without warning, smash it as hard as you can with the fire extinguisher
or whatever you have. Continue to nail them until they stop moving.
Then run away to safety.

If there is an incident, accept being separated from your party. Leaving the area and finding shelter should be your primary emphasis, not looking for others, unless they are small children.

Look for things or people that you may enjoy, as well. The object of terrorism is to change our society for the worse. Don’t let it do that to us.

Here is a PDF of these comments for anyone who would like to use them. Situational Awareness in Social Settings handout

Friday Fundamentals – Boundaries

Up until now, Friday Fundamentals has focused on mechanical issues. This issue is going to focus on mental processes. An incident that was in the news recently drives the discussion.

“It scared me absolutely to death,” said Sherry McLain. She was loading groceries into her car this past Saturday in the crowded Walmart parking lot on Old Fort Parkway in Murfreesboro.

That’s when a strange man approached, surprising her, and she pulled her revolver. “I have never been so afraid of anything in my whole life I don’t think,”

Woman Arrested After She Said She Pulled Gun In Self-Defense

There are a number of problems here that led to her arrest.

  • Her level of fear was irrational. Witnesses and surveillance cameras confirmed that the man simply spoke to her from 10 feet away.
  • Being startled and being legitimately rationally afraid are two entirely different things.
  • She doesn’t understand the difference between setting boundaries and enforcing boundaries.
  • Because she doesn’t understand the difference, she didn’t comprehend that when we are defending ourselves, there’s a hierarchy involved. First, we set the boundary and then we enforce it, not vice versa.
  • As a result, she now has another issue; the criminal justice system. She was arrested for aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. Based on the current information, I doubt that will go well for her.

Let’s make something clear at the outset, when you pull a gun on someone, you’re threatening to kill them. It doesn’t matter whether you say a word or not, you’re threatening to kill them. Some people apparently don’t understand that and the gravitas it carries. You better have a good reason for doing so. Irrational fear is not a good reason. Simply being startled is not a good reason.

The question of how this might have been avoided brings us to the issues of controlling fear, setting boundaries, and enforcing boundaries.

Controlling fear is a complex topic that is not often discussed in the training community. If anything, the community tends to promote fear, “I was in fear for my life” having become almost a mantra. The woman in the incident invoked it but the police were unimpressed. The difference between reasonable fear and irrational fear is frequently left out of that discussion. It’s somewhat pathetic that there’s better literature in the competitive swimming community about how to control fear than there is in the self-defense community. Learning to control fear is a process beyond the scope of a single blog post. It behooves those who carry deadly weapons to do some research on the topic.

The next issue is boundary setting and boundary enforcement. This is a process more easily trained than controlling fear. Boundary setting and enforcement are simply elements of a process. All we need to do is understand the process and practice it.

It’s important to understand that we set boundaries with communication and barriers, not with tools. The communication can be either verbal or non-verbal. The most obvious form of barriers are the homes we live in, assuming the doors and windows are closed and locked. If a criminal fails to respect the boundaries we set, then we use tools, in this case weapons, to enforce the boundaries. We don’t use tools at the outset to set our boundaries.

One of the biggest issues we have as a society is that we have forgotten or gotten out of the habit of saying NO! That can be done either verbally or non-verbally. Training to say NO! should be a primary lesson in every class on personal protection and people should practice it on a regular basis. Simply raising an outstretched hand and shaking the head can accomplish a lot. Keep in mind that a great deal of communication is non-verbal; we can use that fact to our advantage.

A proper sequence that would have kept this woman out of trouble might be as follows:

Recognize that being startled is not the same as being afraid. She was startled because she was task fixated on loading her groceries in the car, i.e., she had not one bit of situational awareness. Most people are like that. In this sort of a situation, looking around before you get to the car, as you arrive at it, and then after loading each bag goes a long way toward avoiding being startled. Positioning the car for safety helps too. In the sense of color or awareness codes, she was in White or Unaware.

If she had been in Yellow or Aware and seen him approach, there’s nothing wrong with being proactive and raising the hand in the ‘stop’ gesture. That’s the first step in setting a boundary. Her mental state at that point could be described as Orange or Alert.

And yes, at this point, we could invoke the boogeyman of ‘The 21 foot rule’ that Dennis Tueller himself says has become terribly misconstrued.  But the circumstances where a criminal runs up to someone in a WalMart parking lot and slashes their throat are far less common than ‘incrementing,’ which is a standard way for criminals to operate. Whether those throat slashings are in fact, reality or figbars of overactive imaginations remains to be seen.

If the person continued to advance, a default verbal response of ‘Stop, don’t come any closer’ clearly sets the boundary. Any decent person would stop at that point. If the person doesn’t stop, it’s an indicator that something nefarious is developing. The mental state shifts to Red or Alarm. Once the intent of the other party becomes more clear, then we can make a decision about which tool we want to employ to enforce the boundary. We can also determine what barriers we might employ in the process. That, too, is a discussion for another time. The boundary setting and enforcement decision process is what’s important in this particular case.

Another thing to consider is that any time we get a gun out for defensive purposes; be that from a holster, purse, nightstand, safe, or whatever, there’s a possibility it’s going to be fired, either intentionally or unintentionally. The more scared we are, the higher that possibility. Therein lays one of my chief objections to brandishing, which is what the lady did; the possibility it will culminate in a Negligent Discharge.

Since thinking about the ‘worst case’ is something many people like to do, let’s examine the possibility of a Negligent Discharge in this situation. Say the woman had an ND as she pointed her revolver at the man or the other people present. It’s probably a good thing for all of the parties involved that she had a revolver and not a striker fired autoloader. If her irrational fear had caused her to have an ND, what would be her eventual statement in court? Something to the effect of “He asked me for a light, I was scared so I drew my pistol, I had an Accidental Discharge, which resulted in a death. It was an accident.” Most likely, she’d go up the river for Manslaughter. Fortunately, that particular Negative Outcome didn’t happen. What did happen was the Negative Outcome of ‘Police Involvement,’ to wit, getting arrested.

If this lady had understood the awareness and boundary processes and then used them properly, she probably would have gone home instead of getting arrested. That’s something for all of us to consider.

Situational Awareness and Positioning (part V)

In every encounter, there is an element of chance.

–John Hall, former head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit

In previous parts of this series (I-IV), the concept discussed was physical awareness and positioning in relation to an adversary or situation. A recent incident captured on video relates to a different but similar concept: emotional awareness and positioning.

In the incident, a veteran observed a bum aka ‘homeless person’ wearing a mixed service uniform while panhandling. He was justifiably incensed, as would be most veterans. “I was angry. I was frustrated. I was sad” he said. I don’t blame him. However, what resulted from his feelings was neither smart nor legally justifiable.

The veteran aggressively challenged the bum from a distance, then closed with him, pursued him across several lanes of traffic, and continued to pursue him on the other side of the boulevard. As the incident unfolds, the bum tries to disengage, is verbally apologetic, and changes direction several times attempting to escape. The entire time the veteran is loudly shouting, verbally forces the bum to remove part of his clothing, and then blocks the bum’s escape path. The incident went on for several minutes.

While I sympathize with the veteran’s frustration, the simple fact of the matter is that he let his emotions get away from him. A couple of relevant declarations made at this year’s Rangemaster Tactical Conference come to mind.

  • John Hearne, in his presentation Performance Under Fire, made the statement “You’ve got to keep your emotions under control.”
  • My colleague Nick Hughes mentioned to me in conversation a question he poses in his book, How To Be Your Own Bodyguard. “Are you doing this because you have to or because you want to?” He then related a personal anecdote where a person had to remind him of his own question.

When the veteran/bum video was posted on Facebook, I had two responses.

  1. Good way to get stabbed.
  2. Regardless of what I was doing, if someone acted toward me the way the veteran did toward the bum, I would have painted him orange in a New York second. And the police would have then told me to have a nice day. It was aggressive challenging behavior that anyone would be justified in feeling threatened by (although not sufficiently to employ lethal force, which is why I advocate always carrying pepper spray).

If we go looking for trouble, we had better be prepared to find it. Make no mistake: verbally challenging someone, shouting at them, chasing them, forcing them to remove their clothing, and then blocking their escape route is looking for trouble. Such a situation always has branching possibilities (if, then, else) that people don’t generally consider before jumping over the edge of the cliff.

  • If the bum had pulled out a knife, then what would have been an appropriate, or even possible, response at that point? I make the assumption that all itinerants I encounter are armed with some kind of weapon.
  • What if the bum had run out in front of a car and been struck and killed?
  • What if a car had hit the vet while he was chasing the bum across the street?
  • What if they had gotten into a physical conflict and ended up rolling around in traffic?

There are other possibilities also, but those are good examples of possible Negative Outcomes well within the realm of possibility. In any of those cases, the situation would have gone downhill for the vet like an avalanche.

So, let’s go back to Nick’s question: was the vet doing this because he had to or because he wanted to? That answer is quite clear, he wanted to. He felt the need to defend the honor of his service and the service of his fellow veterans.

Unfortunately, it’s very hard to provide a legal, or even moral, justification for using force to defend honor. Even if no legal repercussions arise, moral ones can. If the bum had run into traffic and been struck and killed, how do you think the veteran would have felt for the rest of his life, even if no charges were filed against him?

John Farnam’s saying “Avoid stupid people, stupid places, and stupid things” is definitely apropos in this situation. All three of those elements were broken. Jeff Cooper alluded many years ago to the fact that the more ‘rules’ we break simultaneously, the more possibility we will incur a problem. When we lose control of our emotions, that’s when we start unconsciously breaking rules, whether they are legal rules or just rules of good judgment and conduct.

With every decision we make, we are setting ourselves up either for success or failure. Keeping a check on our emotions helps set ourselves up for success. Letting our emotions get out of control is good way to set ourselves up for failure.

success failure

Not thinking things through

A completely irrelevant post on Facebook (a new flamethrower) brought something to mind that I hadn’t thought about in a couple of decades. It relates to the concept of defining the mission, desired outcome, and possible consequences. Those are things integral, yet unstated, to the Orient phase of the OODA process and fundamental to achieving success.

Most discussions about OODA get caught up in the speed aspect, which is actually a tertiary part of the process. It’s not just a simple speed-based looping cycle, as is often depicted.

OODA loop NO

Years ago, I had a friend who didn’t care for guns but kept a flare pistol for home defense. She mentioned this to me in conversation. Her logic was that she didn’t want to kill someone. My response was “So you don’t want to kill someone but you’re okay with launching something into him that burns at several thousand degrees and might burn your house down?” She said she hadn’t thought about it that way. It certainly would have been possible for her to Act quickly but would it have been a good decision? I don’t think so.

It’s easy to get caught up in a linear process from the starting point without looking far enough down the path to a likely result and consequence. One component of Awareness is to keep your head up and look far down the road, just as you should when driving, rather than being fixated on the bumper in front of you.

It’s important to note that what is considered the most successful recent example of Boyd’s thinking was the planning of the First Gulf War. It took months and involved several different iterations of the strategic plan. In Boyd’s original hand drawn diagram of the OODA process, he actually had three different loops; one depicting planning, one depicting execution, and a third showing an overlay of the previous two. The third version is the popularized full diagram but it obscures the importance of the analysis/synthesis part of the process. There are many inputs necessary, including consequences, before an effective decision can be made. That planning is what makes rapid, effective Action possible.

Keeping in mind the desired outcome has to always be part of our decision-making. ‘Outcome Based Decision-Making’ should be an integral part of our thought process. As they said in DEA:

Focus on the object, not on the obstacle.

Situational Awareness and Positioning (part IV)

There are so many times in a day when you have to let people into your space. I think we have to accept it. My tolerance changes radically when I’m in transitional areas like parking lots etc.


It’s important to take context into account when speaking about SAP. There’s been some commentary about my post that I must not live in a big city or ever take the subway. Since I grew up in Chicargo and live in Atlanta, that’s not true. I ride public transportation quite often, even when I don’t have to.

The comment about transitional areas is on point. Rarely are we concerned about being robbed or beaten up in line at Starbucks. The video of the dude getting mugged in NOLA recently is more our concern and representative of the positioning I’m getting at.

NOLA robbery 2 crop

While public places, e.g., the coffee shop in Lakewood WA, and crowds are not totally risk free, I think my colleague William Aprill would say our risk profile for violent crime is lower there than in transitional areas or when we are alone. The criminal incidents that I personally have had to deal with all fell in those two categories. Either positioning or awareness, along with will, allowed me to control those situations. Controlling the situations allowed them to conclude without anyone getting shot or stabbed, which is my desired outcome.

In fact, one of my encounters took place at a MARTA train station in Atlanta at 9 a.m. I was alone and midway through the station on my way to work, so both criteria (alone and in transition) were met. It was what I call an “opportunistic meeting engagement.” Three individuals coming from another direction apparently liked the fact I was on crutches and in a boot from a recent surgery. It was the first time in my life I experienced Clint Smith’s saying “Predators look at you like you’re food.” But I saw their look, change of demeanor, and change of direction from the full width of the upper platform while they were still about 15 yards away. That immediately put me into Condition Orange and I initiated my reaction. Because I had seen them so far away, I had time to react on my terms, rather than theirs. There was no escape for me since I could barely hobble on my crutches. So I faced them, put my hand in my overcoat pocket on my snub revolver and said to myself “Guys, this isn’t going to turn out the way you think it is.” I don’t believe I said it out loud and no words were exchanged between us. At the moment I thought it though, the Marine Corps Drill Team could not have done a better Right Flank, March than those guys did, in unison. Clearly, this was not their first rodeo.

What happened was that they targeted me in an obvious fashion. When a sketchy character, or three of them, changes direction and begins to close with you, it’s an indicator that an incident is developing. As a police officer friend says “Nothing good is coming of that.” However, I failed to act in the way I was supposed to. In John Farnam’s vernacular, I ‘failed the interview.’ Most criminal predations on the street begin with an evaluation by the predator as to whether it has the potential for being a successful victimization, as opposed to turning into a fight. Economic predators are not generally interested in a fight. They know all too well that there is an element of chance in every violent encounter. That is not to say they won’t fight, but rather given the choice between a victimization and a fight, they will pick the victimization.

So our object is to see them early enough and understand what is happening such that we can set ourselves up to fail the interview. The criminal then moves on to find another victim. I would prefer that they pick an undercover police officer and then get dealt with.

However, what happens afterward is not my problem. I am not a police officer; my weapons and tactics are for protecting me and mine, not society at large. That’s the way our legal system is structured; I understand it and abide by it.

Situational Awareness and Positioning (part II) The Tueller Principle

place yourself in the best tactical position.


In 1983, Dennis Tueller wrote a groundbreaking article entitled How Close is Too Close?  As a result, the terms the “Tueller Drill” and the “21 Foot Rule” have become well known. The Tueller Drill is even incorporated into the NRA Personal Protection In The Home Course.

However, in a 2008 interview, Dennis notes that he doesn’t use those terms, instead referring to it as the Tueller Principle. His original article relates the concept of a ”Danger Zone” and the need to “place yourself in the best tactical position.” The revolutionary, for the time, concept he came up with was to measure Distance/Time Relationships of Armed Encounters. By doing so, he brought about a much greater understanding of the concept that distance is your friend.

The article also emphasized using cover and placing obstacles between yourself and an attacker. The context used in the article is what I think of as ‘reactive positioning.’ I.e., you see something that puts you in an alert status and then initiate movement to place an obstacle between you and the attacker. By thinking ahead, we can achieve ‘proactive positioning,’ where the attacker is already at a disadvantage when the encounter begins.

Granted, proactive positioning is not always possible. As a friend of mine put it:

I’m always amused by the ‘I’m never in condition White and never let anyone get within 6 feet of me!’ types. I guess they never wait in line at fast food joints or grocery stores, go to malls or other crowded places, etc.

What we want to do is to minimize our exposure to situations where we have no advantage. This is especially true when our situational awareness is likely to be lowered. Our mental processing power is finite; we need to be aware of the inverse correlation between situational awareness and positioning. When SA is likely to go down, proactive positioning needs to go up.

How does this tie into the LVMPD murders in Cici’s? Since I had never been in a Cici’s, I visited one near my home and took a picture from the back of the room. If the location in Las Vegas is anything like it, it is a positioning nightmare. Like most fast food places, it has a distinctly linear orientation. Sorry folks, but a linear orientation is the most efficient use of space and most real estate is therefore designed that way. The concept of ‘moving off the line of attack’ by ‘buttonhooking,’ maneuvering to an oblique flank, or sidestepping is not viable in a place like that. It’s a ‘square range’ concept, for the most part. Forward or backward, those are your options in most interior spaces and a lot of urban spaces, in general. There also was no option with regard to ‘sitting with your back to the wall.’ The only wall seat available backed up to the restrooms. Anyone wanting to nail you only need go to the restroom door, turn around, and within two steps would have the oblique back of your head for a target.

Moreover, because it was a buffet, people were constantly moving along every aisle in the store. Try maintaining your situational awareness for 20 minutes when someone is going by you every 15 seconds while you’re trying to stuff you piehole. Good luck with that. I counted over 20 people who approached me from three different directions in the first five minutes I sat down. The radar system on an F-35 would have a hard time keeping track of that. I’m not that good and no one else is either.

And then periodically I had to go to the pizza bar and make observations about what was there, what was the staff in the process of bringing out, and then decide what did I want to put on my plate. All the while, people are milling around me doing the exact same thing I was. My situational awareness was non-existent and I was specifically there to test it as an exercise.

One the biggest tragedies of incidents like the Lakewood murders is not critically analyzing the event, its prelude, and its aftermath. Statements like “In reviewing this incident there was not any one thing that we found could have been done that would have prevented the murders” are all too common. Brian McKenna did an analysis of the Lakewood incident that is definitely worth reading. The video reenactment is stark and provides a good visual depiction of how situational awareness can only go so far to make up for being in a position of disadvantage. That incident took place in Lakewood, Washington on November 29, 2009 and echoed in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 8, 2014.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll discuss the military concepts of Terrain Analysis and Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace and how they relate to positioning.

Situational Awareness and Positioning (part I)

“Son, always park the car so the rear end is facing the sun. Then you won’t have to sit on a hotseat when you get back in.”

That was one of my father’s dictums to me, while spending the summers in Phoenix with him. It was my earliest instruction about the value of positioning. The dictionary gives several relevant definitions for the noun form of the word position:
•    a place occupied or to be occupied; site: a fortified position.
•    the proper, appropriate, or usual place.
•    situation or condition, especially with relation to favorable or unfavorable circumstances.

Now that emotions and internet commentary have quieted down about the recent Las Vegas murders of two police officers and a private citizen with a concealed weapon, it’s useful to discuss the relationship between ‘situational awareness’ and positioning. The two concepts are interrelated and complementary but not identical. Unfortunately, the concept of ‘situational awareness’ receives much more attention. This is probably due to the popularization of ‘The color codes’ by Jeff Cooper.

Unfortunately, situational awareness will not make up for poor positioning. If a person, group, or unit occupies an indefensible position, no amount of situational awareness will overcome that weakness, other than to become aware that the enemy is about to or has overwhelmed them. Military history is replete with examples of untenable positions, Ðiên Biên Phú being one of the most famous.

The relationship between positioning and situational awareness for the individual or small group involves time and distance. Proper positioning allows us to use situational awareness to react to a threat in time. Improper positioning makes situational awareness useless because there is no time to formulate and execute a defense or counter to the attack. Is it useful to be aware that my partner has just been shot in the head and a gun is pointed at my throat across the width of a table? Not really.

Our best option for avoiding or prevailing in any threat situation is to avoid becoming decisively engaged. Joint Publication 1-02, The DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, defines decisive engagement as follows:

In land and naval warfare, an engagement in which a unit is considered fully committed and cannot maneuver or extricate itself. In the absence of outside assistance, the action must be fought to a conclusion and either won or lost with the forces at hand.

Note that maneuver is an integral part of the definition. Maneuver takes time; if we don’t position ourselves adequately, there won’t be time. The problem the Metro police officers faced was that when the attack occurred, their position was such that they were decisively engaged.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll discuss some principles and examine their implications in the Las Vegas incident.

Practicing Awareness – Part II

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

A few of the things I noticed yesterday morning on my walk:

1999, which has only had a For Sale sign up for about two weeks, no longer has the sign up and their vehicles are gone. There are several bags of trash out a day early, along with packing material, so they most likely have already sold it. One of the packing items left out with the trash was four unused mirror boxes. These will make good target backers for my next outdoor class, so I policed them up on my way home. That bit of information had a practical use.

They had trimmed back some of the foliage around the house and I noticed that there is a backyard pool. I had never seen that before. Checking backyards is good practice for rapid recognition because unlike the front area of the house, I only get a short glimpse and have to process the visual information quickly.

1977 had both of the SUVs gone, which is unusual. There was a young man walking out to the Mercedes, which is the third car usually parked there. He was slim, dark hair, wearing dark pants, a white shirt, and a skinny black tie. I’ve never seen him before, so that was interesting. On my way back, the Mercedes was gone and a gray Maza had just parked. Another young man got out and walked into the house. He was stockier than the other, dark hair, and wearing a gray sweatshirt.

There are a few houses in the neighborhood that I think of as ‘unusual.’ Nothing wrong with them but their patterns are out of the ordinary. One of them had a different car in the driveway today. All the vehicles that are usually parked there are brightly colored but this one was gray.

Atlanta Gas Light is building a gas transfer station at the end of the street. I like to keep track of what they’re doing. They don’t work on it every day. Whenever there aren’t workers, there is one vehicle sitting somewhere in the work area. I assume it’s an off duty police officer hired as site security. There are several different places they park, so I like to notice where they are and what kind of car they’re driving. When it’s dark, that can be a challenging exercise because they’re away from the street lights.

One of the houses has acquired a dog. It’s big and barked at me from the backyard on my first leg. It wasn’t barking on the way back so I assumed they had brought it in. However, I spied it along the back fence, interested in something on the other side of the property. Catching sight of it was one of those glimpses that I had to be prepared to see.

A man I hadn’t seen before was walking his dog. I always look to see if a dog is on a leash, which it was. He was about my height, curly hair, wearing slides, and when he spoke to the dog, did not sound like a native speaker of English.

I’ve been bitten by dogs before and don’t care to have that happen again. Whenever a dog on the street or in a front yard is acting aggressively, I get my pepper spray in hand. If an unsecured dog charges me, it’s going to get sprayed, unless it’s a rat dog. So awareness is not only an observational exercise, it is also tied to my DEFCON.

There are several houses near the other end of the loop that have numerous children’s toys and playsets in the front yard. One of the houses has a plastic ‘children playing’ figure intended for putting in the street to slow traffic down. I always look to see where they’ve stashed it because they put it in various places. The kids have some kind of foam dart launcher, so I look in the street for the darts that they sometimes miss.

Something I really like about my neighborhood is the flowering of the trees and bushes that starts in the Spring. Several species have already come and gone but others are just starting. I’m sure it’s Hell for the allergy sufferers but I really enjoy the view and look for which plants are flowering this time of year. In a week or two, it will be a riot of color for a couple of weeks. That will be really nice.

0403140814 0403140820

There were many more things I noticed, but I think you get the idea. This is a fun exercise for me and helps keep me in the habit of keeping my eyes moving and being in the moment.

Practicing Awareness

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Awareness – noun – Dictionary.com

“The state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness.”

One of the topics often stressed in the self-defense community is having ‘situational awareness.’ As my friend Craig Douglas says: “You can’t DO a noun.” Therein lies the core of the problem; we don’t teach people how to do it, so talking about it is mostly lip service.

When you want to learn to do something, you have to practice it. Once again, the dictionary defines practice as something done repeatedly or habitually. So if we want to learn to be aware, we need to work at it repeatedly. There are a number of ways that I practice my awareness and I do them every day, sometimes repeatedly.

In terms of awareness, one of my friends describes it as “what is wrong in my right world?” That’s one way of looking at it. A variant of that is “what is different or out of place?” That can be from the perspective of either what was before or what should be.

When I wake up, one of the first things I do is look out my front window. Is there anything different outside my home? Are there different cars there? Does the neighbor across the street have the porch light on, as it usually is? Is there anything different in my driveway or front yard? If not, then on with the day. If so, does it bear further investigation or do I just file that bit of information away? The essence of what I’m doing is checking for surveillance or an ambush. Having dealt with stalkers and possible attackers, both for clients and personally, I consider that very important in my daily routine.

I take a brisk walk around the neighborhood on a four day on, one day off schedule. The route I follow is the same so I can track my time to various checkpoints I’ve established. I don’t wear headphones, although occasionally I will have my phone playing John 00 Fleming Global Trance Grooves at a low level.

As I’m walking, I check out the houses, cars, and yards. I know them fairly well because I’ve been doing this regimen for almost two years. Which houses have been put up for sale and which have been taken off the market are obvious things that I look for. And there a lot of other things that I try to notice, such as cars, people, animals, etc.

Next post, I will list some of the things I observed and cataloged on today’s walk.