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responsibility for any opinions expressed here.



The single most important element in your survival training is a cultivation 
of your awareness skills. Many people don't realize that your awareness skills 
are more important than your marksmanship skills. Well, you can't shoot 
something you don't know is there, or don't know it needs to be shot! 
Alertness and awareness are not, for most people, innate behavior traits. 
This is a learned behavior pattern, and like most skills, it is best learned 
through repetition. Make a conscious effort at first to be more aware and see
the details around you. After a few weeks of effort, it will become second nature. 

You should have been taught this as a child, but unfortunately, most children 
now are not taught this or other vital social skills. A thousand years ago, 
all children were taught at a very early age to be aware, alert, and in tune 
with their surroundings. If they were inattentive, they got eaten. A hundred 
years ago, children were taught to be aware and pay attention to their 
surroundings, or the hay baler tore their arms and legs off. In our time, if
you fail to pay attention to your environment, someone will cut your throat.
Each example is simply a different manifestation of the exact same problem.

On the street you must be aware of your environment. If you know who is around
you and what they are up to, you are in charge. If you do not know who is around
you and what they are up to, you are meat. It's that simple. When you walk into
a room, scan around and see who is in it besides you. Don't be surprised by
someone you did not see. When walking on the sidewalk, glance into store- front
glass and see who is behind you. Get your head up, open your eyes, and look around. 
Let's look at a couple of examples. Carjacking is a very common problem right 
now. In fact, in my city there are about 500 carjackings each year, and 
roughly half of the victims wind up seriously hurt. This is a perfect example of 
how passive attempts to fight crime just make it worse, by the way. By putting 
Clubs, kill switches, and car alarms in your car, it is now easier to drag you 
out of it while it is running than to steal it from your driveway as you 
sleep. Where do most carjackings occur? At intersections, as you wait for the
light to change.

When a typical doofus pulls up to a red light, he sits and stares at the light,
as if it is going to sing and dance. He then hears a tap on his window, and 
turns to look into the muzzle of a gun-- Too late to fix it, now. To avoid 
this, all he had to do was scan his surroundings instead of staring at the 
light. If you see a guy standing on the comer, looking at your car the way a
hungry man looks at a steak, start thinking. You saw him because you were in 
Condition Yellow, and you go to Orange and start thinking. What am I going to
do? "If he steps off that curb toward my car, I will accelerate around the car
in front of me and be gone." Problem solved.

Another crime that really annoys me is the practice of following people home 
and robbing them in their driveways as they exit their vehicles. This happens 
two or three times a day in my city. It cannot happen unless the victim is a 
willing accomplice. You have to go out of your way to have this happen to you. 
I say this because not one of these victims lives on a major thoroughfare. By 
definition, they live in residential neighborhoods. I don't care where you 
have been: bank, grocery store, ATM, theater; when you turn off the main drag 
into your neighborhood, look in the rearview mirror. It's not there to shave on 
the way to work, or to put on make-up, it's there specifically to see what 
kind of car is behind you. You make a turn in the neighborhood, again, look in 
the mirror. You turn onto your street, again, look in the mirror. If you have 
made three turns inside your neighborhood, and the same ragged-assed car is 
right behind you, you have a problem. It is, however, a relatively small problem 
at this point. You are still mobile and in control, and most importantly, you 
are aware of it.  If, on the other hand, you are too damned lazy to look in 
your mirror three times, pull in your driveway, open your door, and find a guy 
standing there with a gun in your face, you have a much bigger problem. Fix it 
the easy way, by being alert. Every fight you avoid, you win. 

There are some exercises to help you become more aware. As a car passes you 
in traffic, look away and quickly describe it to yourself.  What was its make, 
model, color, 2 or 4 door, license number? What was the gender, race, age of 
the driver? Of the passenger? Look back and see how much information you got 
right.  When you walk past someone in the mall, mentally describe him. Hair 
color? Glasses or facial hair? Shirt, pants, shoes? Turn around and look. How
much did you get right? 

Right now, close your eyes. Visualize your own living room. Describe every 
detail to yourself as you visualize it. Describe the paintings on the wall.
What is the title of the book lying on the floor by the couch? What color is
the coffee cup you left on the table? 

What most of us refer to as vision is actually a two-part process, which 
involves "sight" and "observation."  Sight refers to the actual physical
process of having light enter your eyes and make images on your retina, which 
are then neurally transmitted to your brain. Observation refers to the process
of sorting, prioritizing, and making sense of those images. This is where the
typical person falls short. 

Human beings are visually oriented creatures.  Our eyes have been elevated 
off the ground with our upright posture, they have been moved to the front of 
our head, for stereoscopic vision, and our visual acuity is among the best of 
all living creatures.  For a typical person, roughly 70-75% of all sensory input 
is visual.  The average person, however, only consciously processes about 10% 
of the total visual input the brain receives from the eyes.  This is pathetic.

You must learn to raise this level of consciousness, through actual specific 
effort. You need to see the gun when it is still in his pocket, not when he 
pulls it out and points it at you. You need to see him standing behind that 
column in the parking garage, not when he is in your face. Shame on you if you
get a speeding ticket! You should have seen the cop long before he could get a 
radar reading on you. If that were your girlfriend's husband behind that bush 
with a rifle instead of a cop with a radar gun, you'd be dead now!

Let me give you a recent example of how being alert allows you to avoid 
problems. My wife and I stopped at a local barbeque joint for a sandwich on
a recent Saturday afternoon. We were sitting in a corner booth by the entrance. 

Anyone who entered the place had to walk past us to approach the counter, giving
us a good view and putting us behind anyone who started a problem. (In a retail 
environment, the cash register is the center of likely events. Be away from 
it, and in position to see it). Every time the door opened to admit a patron, my 
wife and I simply glanced up from our lunch to briefly look them over. This in
no way interfered with our conversation or our lunch, but we were simply aware
of our surroundings (Condition Yellow).

The third guy to come in was a young man of about twenty. He was wearing worn
denim jeans, and clearly outlined in the right rear pocket was a small semi-
automatic pistol. He had been sitting on it in his car, and the gun's outline
was clearly printing through the material of his pants. As he passed on toward
the register, I quietly asked my wife, "Did you see the gun?"  "It looks like
a Lorcin .380," she replied. (She's verygood at this!) Go to Condition Orange.
I continue eating, but keep an eye on the young man, assessing him. As the
customer in front of him paid for her order, the young man got up on his toes
and checked the contents of the till over her shoulder. Condition Red! 

It is obvious now that he is planning a stick-up. I empty my hands and 
mentally prepare for possible violence. Before pulling a gun and announcing a 
stick-up, however, he decided to scan the store and take a head count first. As
he turned to me, his eyes got very wide and he ran out of the store, got in his 
car, and sped away, without ever doing anything remotely aggressive. What did he 
see that scared him so badly? I looked him right in the eye and smiled. He knew
that I knew, and that I was prepared to deal with him. A perfect example of 
violence that did not happen because I was alert and aware of my surroundings.

Situational awareness is often situational dominance! The scary part was that
no one else in the place, customer or staff, noticed any of this interplay. They
did not see the gun, did not notice him checking the till, and did not even
notice him hustling out of the place. Other than my wife and me, every single
person in the store was in Condition White. The predators are out there. They are
looking for the distracted and the preoccupied. If you shuffle around, with your
head down, looking at your feet, you might as well wear a sign around your neck
that says," Take me.  I am a victim."  Get your head up, open your eyes, and
move them around. Take that damned sign off and get rid of it! It is not up to
them whether you are going to be a victim--it's up to you.