A lot of my friends are in the military. Most are extremely skilled at hand to hand combat. Many teach self-defense courses, usually populated by more women than men.
They have all told me something very similar about self defense: the mindset is way more useful (and immediately applicable) than any “Here’s how you get out of this choke” type material is.
When I asked how to be more aware, how to pay attention better, my favorite answer has been this:
Look at the people around you on the street. Most are probably staring into a smartphone, oblivious to whoever is around them.
Others are listening to music. Few are looking around, observing their environment.
I certainly have found this to be the case. So who’s the more likely target for a predator on the prowl? The person paying attention to what’s going on, or the person paying attention to Twitter?
How to practice with a narrative
Here is how I’ve been coached to practice this.
As you walk around, narrate everything you see in your head. For instance, if I go for a walk at lunch I might narrate:
Woman with stroller.
Two teens walking.
Black car, two men in it.
Man with kid on shoulders.
The idea is that when you do this, and then you see something that doesn’t mesh with what came before, with what you would expect to be seeing, it will “clang” and you’ll have one more aid to your intuition.
I’ve been doing it a lot. I notice a lot more, if nothing else. It sounds plausible to me, and it’s certainly easier to implement than studying hand to hand combat for years in preparation for an unexpected attack, although physical, specific practice and training can absolutely make you safer in conjunction with being more aware.
So…here’s to staring at everyone around you today.