Complete awareness education
01. Environmental Awareness
5 min read
Becoming an Undesirable Target
An undesirable target is one who does not meet the criteria of appearing weak, vulnerable, distracted, or isolated. Therefore, not attractive to a predator.
To become an undesirable target, one must appear confident, be aware of your immediate environment, and alert to the spontaneous manifestation of an unfolding situation and be prepared to act.
How do you do that? It is common to be told to look like you know where you’re going, looking “confident” and to “walk with a purpose”; that if you appear confident, even tough, that no one will mess with you.
But what if you do not feel confident? Being told to walk with confidence and being taught to be confident are two distinct things.
While confidence can’t be taught in this medium, we can provide you with a few helpful tips and exercises you can do every time you leave your home that will change your body language from that of a potential victim to that of someone with keen awareness and a strong sense of their present environment. Now let’s demystify some of these common suggestions often taught in generic self-defense courses:
(1) Though walking with a purpose, as if you have a specific destination (which we do unless on a stroll) and a certain amount of time to get to said destination, can give you some level of appearing confident. Still, to a seasoned predator, there is a chance you as if you’re in a hurry, becoming even less likely to see them coming since you’re so preoccupied with your destination.
(2) Quick, neutral eye contact with others, in addition to a purposeful stride, will also assist you in looking confident; however, do not mistake confidence for aggressiveness. A common misconception, one that is often taught in many self-defense courses, are that you should walk with a “Don’t Mess with Me” scowl and attitude, even to the point of being aggressively rude if addressed in any manner.
While this could work, it certainly doesn’t lend itself to a healthy lifestyle or frame of mind. Alienating others is not how one should carry themselves in society. If you project a negative attitude to the wrong person, they may see it as a challenge. Predators can see right through a false wall of intimidation on an intuitive level, thus escalating the chances of being targeted by someone with antisocial tendencies. Confidence can be attained, but not through faking it or appearing outright impolite and rude to every person you pass in the street.
LISTEN: We all live our lives with an average level of sound around us. Whether the buzz of traffic in a city setting, the wind and noise of blowing sand in the desert, or the sounds of nature in a country or forest-like environment, there is a reasonable and recognizable decibel of sound wherever we are.
Give it a Name Game VIDEO
Wherever you may be, when we hear a sound that is above that average level of noise, like a honking car, someone yelling, or a dog barking, acknowledge the sound. Identify it by name in your head. You can even say it out loud if you want but recognize the sound for what it is.
By virtue of doing this, you are keeping yourself in a heightened state of awareness and alertness. You automatically shift your body language, by proxy, to that of a predatorial state due to the very act of simply listening for outstanding sounds, making you visually less desirable target.
Regardless of where or when (unless utterly alone, or asleep,) countless things are going on in your peripherals. It would be impossible to pay attention to everything, especially when also playing the Listening Game. But if anything, or anyone you happen to catch in your peripherals moving towards you, then simply glance to identify whatever it is.
By doing this, your glance could lead to nothing of note, and your day will go on as it was. However, there is a chance you will catch something you’d much prefer to find at 50 yards then 50 inches. If it turns out to be nothing of note, the glance won’t last longer than a fraction of a second.
By playing these two specific games alone, you will, by proxy, have the body language of someone who appears to be confident, homing in on your goals and avoiding distractions to raise your level of awareness.
02. Behavioral Awareness
3 min read
Having a keen understanding of human behavior can assist you in catching red flags, warning signs, and signal your intuition to alert you when something, or someone, is off. When anyone is talking to you, don’t merely listen to the words that are coming out of their mouths, as they are secondary.
Instead, watch the body language: the position of their arms and hands, facial expressions, and micro facial expressions along with the tone of their voice.
Generally, over 90% of communication is comprised of 60% body language, 30% facial expressions and tone of voice, with only 10% dedicated to the words in which we use to communicate.
Be sure to look for changes in personality, lifestyle, and treatment towards you or other individuals. These are all telltale signs of an individual’s character or the potential to either harm themselves or others.
The distinct way someone treats you and treats others can speak volumes. You’ve heard the saying “Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like animals” or “Never trust someone who isn’t nice to the waiter”. It turns out there is a lot of truth to those statements.
Someone who chooses with whom be kind while treating many people without care is someone to watch out for. These are signs of someone who is manipulating for personal gain or their personal agenda.
Charm is a common manipulation tactic used by individuals to control others.
Charming individuals often get people to drop their guard and trust them through charisma. This charming personality some choose to exhibit by no means is always sinister, but charm is not the same thing as being genuinely friendly and kind. As flattering and attractive as this charm can no doubt be, do be careful not to fall for disingenuous words or feel special due to this charming behavior.
What you should be doing is asking, “What do they want?” because chances are, they do indeed want something from you.
For the most part, these wants won’t be baleful but quite benign, such as in business meetings, service situations, parties, and get-togethers. It is a natural social tactic used to attract others to us, as we’re all guilty of it to one degree or another; however, it is always pertinent to stay aware and be wary of the intention behind every charming comment.
03. Body Language
2 min read
Body language is illuminating and can easily hold the telltale signs of intention. Broken down, body language compromises 60% of communication.
Therefore, the recognition of precontact indicators in a conflict can help prevent or intercept a violent attack. Familiarizing oneself self with origin points, trajectory, energy, and emotional provocation of the most common worldwide physical attacks a human being can make on another while fueled by such powerful emotions as hate, rage, jealousy, fear, insecurity, misogyny, vengeance become paramount.
The idea is to move early, not fast as not every human being who wants to learn self-defense are physically fit or able to develop athletic speed. Therefore, increasing perception time and decreasing reaction time becomes critical, and the ability to decipher human body language in all potential situations along with their facial expressions is ideal.
These skills transcend violence prevention and apply to everyday life, in common situations from the ability to pick up on a loved one’s carefully oppressed internal turmoil, to how the week is going to go by the way your boss said ‘good morning’to you in the elevator.
04. Adrenal Stress Response Awareness
8 min read
When you find yourself in a conflict, you go through what is referred to as the ‘adrenal stress condition phase’. As human beings, when the famous ‘fight, flight or freeze’ syndrome kicks in due to the perception of threat, via humility, violence, death, the body involuntarily releases stress hormones, this causes the adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline.
During this adrenal stress phase, three of our systems are maxed out: vision, cognitive processing, and fine or intricate motor skill performance.
Therefore, the loss of near vision, disrupted depth perception, 70% reduction in peripheral vision, inhibition of higher brain functions, deterioration of immediate threat recognition, adverse response selection and ability of communication of complex thoughts, along with loss of fine and intricate motor skills are results of the adrenal stress condition.
When facing violence or a life-threatening situation, several perceptual distortions will occur. We touched on a few of these above, but here they are in greater detail, according to Police Psychologist Alexis Artwohl, Ph.D.
Diminished auditory perception: Sounds seemed muffled or non-existent.
Tunnel Vision: 70% of your peripheral vision vanished, and you went into critical focus on the intended or perceived threat.
Automatic Pilot: Your body responded automatically to the threat without conscious thought or processing.
Heightened visual clarity: You could see things or details that you usually would never catch. Time moved in slow motion.
Dissociation: A sense of detachment or surreal-ness to the event. Intrusive distracting thoughts: Thoughts not related to the event happening pop into your mind, such as later plans and thoughts of a loved one.
Fast motion time: Things moved more rapidly than average; the whole thing happened so quickly.
Intensified sounds: You could hear certain things exceptionally clear or loud.
Temporary paralysis–freezing from fear. Otherwise known as ‘the deer in headlights’ phenomenon.
It’s essential when considering these to consciously interrupt these events from occurring by first being aware of them. Acknowledge them and realize that they are happening while simultaneously working against them by performing the opposite.
Reading and understanding the perceptual distortions will provide you a foundation but ideally this needs to be trained in a proper, safe, and controlled environment via scenario replication training with seasoned professionals to guide.
Once you begin to regain cognitive control, you are less likely to be affected by the adrenal stress conditioning. The more you know about a subject, the less you are likely to freeze, as the mind when faced with a problem begins to search the memory banks for a solution. If you had never experienced this problem before either through visualization (training) or real-life, exploring the possibilities of a solution, then your mind won’t find the necessary “file” containing the answer.
Science, hundreds of thousands of testimonials, along with personal experience, indicate that only gross motor skills are performed optimally during high-stress conditions where one is fighting to survive.
When involved in a stress-related or critical incident, the posttraumatic effects can and will include some or all the following. According to Ray Shelton, Ph.D., EMT, Emergency Stress Management:
Physically: Fatigue – Nausea – Muscular aches – Chest pains – Difficulty breathing– Rapid heart rate – Headaches – Visual distortions – Vomiting – Grinding of teeth – Weakness – Dizziness – Profuse sweating – Chills – Fainting – Diarrhea or constipation – Heartburn
Cognitively: Blaming – Confusion – Attention deficit disorder – Poor decision making – Heightened or lowered alertness – Lack of concentration – Memory loss– Hyperactivity – Difficulty identifying familiar people or objects – Increased or decreased awareness of surroundings – Poor problem solving and abstract thinking – Loss of time, place or person orientation – Disturbed thinking – Nightmares – Intrusive images Emotionally: Anxiety – Guilt – Grief – Denial –Severe panic attacks (rare) – Emotional shock – Fear – Uncertainty – Loss of emotional control – Depression – Inappropriate emotional response –Apprehension – Feeling overwhelmed – Intense anger – Irritability – Agitation
Behaviorally: Change in activity – Change in speech patterns – Withdrawal –Emotional outbursts – Suspiciousness – Change in usual communication – Loss or increase of appetite – Alcohol consumption – Inability to rest or relax – Antisocial behaviors and acts – Nonspecific bodily complaints – Hyper alertness to environment – Startle reflex intensified – Pacing – Erratic movement – Change in sexual functions – Insomnia
Spiritually: Anger at God – Feeling distant from God – Withdrawal from religion –Uncharacteristic religious involvement – Sudden turn towards God – Familiar practices seem empty (prayer, scripture, hymns) – Religious rituals seem empty (worship, prayer, communion) – Belief that God is powerless – Loss of meaning or purpose – Sense of isolation – Questioning of your fundamental beliefs – Anger at clergy – Belief that God is not in control, doesn’t care or that you failed God.
In trying to cope with PTSD, there are generally four resources for getting help in gaining control. Personal Resources, Professional Resources, Family Resources, and Peer Resources. From one’s own as well as professional experience, the first and most important step is seeking good, professional therapy. Not all therapists are created equal and there is nothing wrong with trying out as many as necessary until you find the right one for you. It can be a long road, but one that can be extremely fruitful.
How you deal with a situation is more important to look at than the event itself. Generally, there are five stages of personal growth after a critical incident.
1) Denial. “I can’t believe this is happening to me.” “I can’t believe he’s dead.” Etc.
2) Depression. Sorrow, sadness, withdrawal from friends, social gatherings, work,etc.
3) Anger. Rage, frustration generally aimed at the world or God, sometimes on oneself, for example: “Why didn’t I just___instead?”.
4) Negotiation. Where one begins to negotiate or bargain with God. “Please God, if you help me out of this, I’ll never (lie, cheat, steal, gamble, smoke, etc.) again.
5) Acceptance. In the final stage, rarely will one achieve total acceptance and peace. However, if one does, this is where they can look at the event and finally embrace the reality of it, ridding themselves of all ill will.
As hard as this may be in a time of crisis, it is essential to try and be optimistic. Remind yourself that setbacks are temporary and recall any previous or past adversities you survived through. Keep in mind that you have survived your toughest day. You are still here.
Take it one step at a time; there’s a saying that goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first few steps.” Take it day by day, moment to moment.
Act. Do something, anything. Go to the gym and workout. Pick up a book and read for an hour a day or see a movie. Therapists and counselors can offer many healthy coping mechanisms and outlets based on the individual and their trauma.
Manage your inner dialogue. Dan Millman wrote, “The conventions of language reveals the ways in which we see the world.” How you speak or talk to yourself will impact how you feel.
During PTSD, it’s crucial as hard as it may be not to be alone. To surround yourself with loved ones who understand what you have been through and who are there to support you and keep your mind off things for some time in a healthy distraction. Try and remain within your regular daily routine, as it will keep your mind occupied. To be clear, keeping your account filled does not mean you should ignore things or bottle up and repress negative feelings. We must talk about things, but we also want to work towards not being consumed by it. Life indeed does go on, and while chances are, we will never be the same, we can still find solace, peace, and healing in our day to day lives. You will eventually find life is more comfortable to navigate.
05. More on Awareness
16 min read
Based on and inspired by author Jeff Cooper’s book Fireworks in which he devised a color code to enable the police officer to assume a state of mind appropriate to the various stages of readiness he may need, Richard Dimitri designed a color-coded risk evaluation guide to help heighten civilian awareness back in 1993. It is as follows:
COLOR CODED RISK EVALUATION GUIDE
Code Green: In a safe, enclosed area with friends or family.
Code Yellow: Out of home with a friend(s), familiar environment, daytime.
Code Red: Out Alone, unknown area, enclosed space, evening or night.
Believing that everyone must always be aware of their environment and implement safety strategies, our color-coded risk evaluation guide indicates what levels of awareness and which physical and psychological strategies one must apply in general situations.
None of this is set in stone; the best guide is always your intuition and gut feelings. There are a few ground rules in effective physical and psychological self-protection. If you yell, you must also run. If enclosed and your attacker has intent, screaming and trying to intimidate the aggressor will only challenge them to attack.
In this case, the de-escalation strategies come into play to lower the attacker’s guard and raise their ego, making it easier to ‘stun and run’ when necessary.
Code Green is applicable in a safe and secure environment when you’re comfortable and feeling carefree. In a safe, enclosed area with friends or family i.e., home providing, of course, you don’t live in an abusive environment.
Provided that you have implemented the necessary safety precautions and relationships with friends and family, this is an environment you can generally relax in. Safety precautions at home include but are not limited to, the following:
• Have functioning lights in all entrances. Check the bulbs frequently.
• Have sensor lights installed in front and back of your house.
• Use a timer to turn on the radio and lights when you are not home.
• Have good locks on all doors and windows. Install reputable locks and use good deadbolts. If possible, install a home alarm system.
• When moving into a house or apartment, always change or re-key the locks.
Otherwise, the previous resident and anyone they supplied keys to will have unrestricted access to your new home.
• Do not use your full name on your mailbox or in the phone directory or on your answering machine.
• Do not leave a schedule of your time away from home on your answering machine.
• If you live alone, do not let strangers know. Invent a roommate or a big dog.
• Know which of your neighbors you can trust in an emergency.
• Check who is at the door before opening it, and do not open the door to an unexpected visitor or stranger without having them properly identify themselves first.
• Don’t hide extra keys in easily accessible places, I.e., under the welcome mat or above the doorframe, criminals will find them.
• Ask for photo identification of all unsolicited repair persons, etc. If you are still suspicious, call to verify employment.
• Never give personal information to telephone solicitors, age, how many people living with you, full name, address, etc.
• Consider creating a “safe room” with a separate telephone line or cellular phone, a weapon of choice (preferably one you are trained to use), and sturdy locks. If someone breaks in, you can retreat there (with children, if any) and immediately call for help.
• Do not let strangers into your home to use the phone. Offer to make the call for them.
• Plant “defensive” shrubs around your house, especially beneath windows. Bushes that feature thorns or stiff, spiky leaves are not adequate hiding places for criminals, nor does it tempt anyone to crawl through to get to your window. Make sure they do not obstruct your view of your exterior.
• Consider keeping a separate line or cellular phone as a security device. Taking one phone off the hook renders other units on that line inoperable. Using a separate line or cellular phone in your bedroom is a proper precaution.
• For dog lovers: Consider having a larger, well-trained dog. It can be the most effective way to secure your home and can save lives. Criminals will often bypass homes with large dogs present completely.
Code Yellow: On the Street
• If walking alone, avoid groups or gangs of young men loitering or hanging out.
• Avoid secluded shortcuts at night such as parks, alleyways, or deserted parts of town. If you must take one, text someone letting them know where you are in case an emergency arises. Tell them you will get in contact once you are out of harm’s way.
• If you suspect that someone is following you, on foot or in a car, don’t go home. This will lead them directly to your doorstep.
In Philadelphia, a young man was returning home late at night from his shift at a busy restaurant. He lived halfway down a small side street. As he was leaving an Uber he had taken, he didn’t keep his surroundings in mind, blindly fumbling with keys and concentrating on his phone. A young man saw him, and moved in, holding him up at gunpoint at his own front door. He robbed him and forced him to open the door of his apartment, waking up his roommates in the process. The criminal proceeded to parade the roommates together and robbed all of them blind while they waited helplessly in their own living room.
This cautionary tale should help you determine if you are being followed. Turn around, face the intended individual and bluntly ask them: “Are you following me?” If they are, this will generally shine a light on them and attract unwanted attention; they will often merely run away. If they don’t, and answer “Yes, I am.” and continue heading towards you with intent, go to a trusted neighbor, open store or to a public place to call the police or a friend or family member, or directly to a police station.
Another option that takes longer than addressing them, is changing your direction, cross the street, go around a block twice and if they follow you, then you’ll know, and you can act. Perhaps if the young Philadelphia man had been more aware, dodging his pursuer, he could have escaped the eye of the young man.
However, we prefer the more direct previous option.
• Play awareness games. You must be in control as a difficult target. If you are lost or looking for your destination, hide it as best possible. Set targets in front of you (tree, building, etc.) and move from target destination to target destination. This will give you “purpose,” and potential predators will not recognize that you are lost.
• Do not use ATM’s outside at night or in unfamiliar surroundings. Use ATM’s only in broad daylight and in safer parts of town.
• When on the street, walk facing oncoming traffic. It will be harder for someone to pull you into a car and abduct you.
• Tell someone where you’ll be and what time you’re supposed to return, especially if you will be with someone you don’t know very well. Keep tabs with them throughout the time you’re away.
• Try to not overload yourself with packages and bags. If you must have your hands full, visualize how you would respond if approached and get your hands free. Could your baggage be used against you, for you, as a tool or improvised weapon?
• If you wear a purse with a shoulder strap, be prepared to let it go if snatched. It is better to wear it over one shoulder rather than have it across your chest. Otherwise, you may be hurt if a mugger knocks you down and drags you while fleeing with your purse, especially if in a motored vehicle.
• If someone asks you for directions and if you choose to reply, remain at least two arm lengths away and keep your eyes on them the whole time. Maintain a sniper mode fighting stance by adopting a protective and offensive yet congruous to the situation posture.
• Similarly, if someone asks you for the time, remain at least two arm lengths away and estimate or show them your watch arm or, better yet, guestimate the time. Never go into critical focus and look down at your watch to give the time.
This goes especially for pulling out your phone for the time. Flashing valuables is never a good idea.
• Clogs, high heels, tight skirts, and drooping pants are hard to run and fight with. Capes, scarves, ties, and long necklaces are easy to grab. Modify your fashion style or wear comfortable clothing when walking alone (change into dress-up clothes later). If you must wear that style of clothing, think of how you would fight in your dress-up clothes. For example, kicking off your high heels or hiking your skirt up around your hips before starting to run, knee someone, or kick. Change from high heels to flats when leaving work.
• Avoid being on the street alone if you are upset or under the influence of drugs or alcohol or have someone go with you. This puts you at an extreme disadvantage automatically.
• When dropping someone off at their home, make sure they are safely inside before driving away. Have them do the same for you. In a car, make sure your vehicle is well maintained, always get your tires checked and keep your gas tank above the halfway mark. Make sure you fill up during broad daylight in a good area of town. Stay alert, particularly when coming up to stop signs or red lights.
Remember two major protective driving measures:
1. Let no one stop your car unless they are law enforcement.
2. Do not exit your vehicle unless you have stopped in a public, well-lit area.
• Approach your vehicle with your keys already in your hand. Fumbling with keys is extremely dangerous, and can alert predators.
• Look around your vehicle for any suspicious activity. If you see someone loitering around your vehicle, walk past until they leave. Is there a van parked next to either side of your car? Pay attention to vans or vehicles with large side doors and open trunks.
• Check the inside and around your car before entering to ensure that no one is hiding there. Be sure to look in the back seat.
• Check your surroundings before getting out of your car. If something or someone strikes you as out of place or threatening, drive away.
• Don’t pick up hitchhikers.
• Keep doors locked, and windows rolled up so that a hand can’t reach in.
• If taking a long trip or heading somewhere for the first time, plan your route and check a map before you start. If it is a night trip, make sure you pack a flashlight, and the batteries are new. In the case of weather turn over, warm clothing is always a good idea. Pack adequate water in case you become lost or stranded.
• Park in well-lit, heavily traveled areas if possible.
• Don’t leave valuables in plain sight inside your car. Place them in the trunk or under the seats. In cities, people will often break into cars if they see something as simple as a gym bag lying on a seat.
• Give only the ignition key to a parking attendant. Use a two-piece keyring with your car keys separate from your other important keys. Give parking valets or mechanics your car keys only. Supplying your entire set of keys creates an opportunity for duplicates to be made.
• If you see an accident or stranded motorist, report it from the nearest telephone or use your cell phone instead of stopping.
• Carry in your car the following items: flashlight, flares, the necessary equipment to fix a flat tire, maps, comfortable, warm clothing, first aid kit, empty gas can, white cloth to tie to the antenna to signal distress and a cellular phone.
• Learn basic auto maintenance, i.e., fixing a flat tire, etc.
• If possible, vary your routine and drive different routes every day.
• At night, leave your office or building in the company of others, as there is always safety in numbers. Try not to leave alone after dark. If possible, have someone from your building security escort you, or call for police assistance.
• Be suspicious of anyone approaching your vehicle, whether passing out leaflets, cleaning your car windows, or asking for donations.
Code Red: If you’re out of your home in the evening or late night, alone or with one friend or family member or spouse, you should consider yourself in code red.
This includes the first few months of dating a new acquaintance. Text friends or family and alert them to where you will be if you’re heading to an unfamiliar location. Your awareness should be vigilant. Scan rooms you enter or areas you go to for exits, safe people, improvised weapons, and the general make-up of the crowd.
You must implement all your safety strategies and stay close to safe areas. Body language and stride must be aware and alert to immediate surroundings making you as difficult a target as possible. If you are not in an enclosed space and are approached, politely indicate for them to stop and state their business. This includes being followed. Be prepared to scream and run once you have determined that you are indeed being followed. If you are in an enclosed space, i.e., elevator, bathroom stall, and are approached by an individual with intent, you must implement the verbal de-escalation strategies to establish what kind of individual you are dealing with. Watch everything and be prepared for anything.
This is not an environment you want to stay in for long. It should be a transient place, one that you have no other choice to be in the now. Make yourself a hard target but be prepared. When you cannot run, it is dangerous to confront an attacker head-on.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the color-coded risk evaluation guide, make the awareness games a part of your daily routines, you will be implementing your awareness skills at the appropriate moments when they are needed. Your trustworthy messenger is intuition.
Learn more about other courses you may be interested in