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Common Sense Self-Defense Lesson I: Awareness

Awareness. This is probably your greatest self -defense weapon.

I am a “people watcher”. I suppose it comes from years of working in an environment where you have to pay attention to your surroundings and the people in your immediate area. I can’t tell you how many times I have been outside of a grocery store or a department store and observed people (women AND men) exiting the building with their attention anywhere except on their surroundings. They are texting. They are on their cell phones. They are yelling at their kids. They are fumbling in their purse for something. They are checking their cart to make sure they didn’t forget the milk. They are looking and doing anything and everything except the one thing they need to be doing: looking around them.

On occasion I have taught women’s self- defense and rape prevention classes at the local high school. When my original Sensei in Shito-Ryu first began doing these classes we did an awareness exercise that I still use from time to time. I would stand just inside of the doorway that led into the gym or wherever we were conducting the class. I would be in regular clothes and stand just off to one side of the doorway. That’s all I did…just stand there. The young ladies would file in. After they were seated, I would disappear and Sensei would ask them to raise their hand if they had noticed me. The results shocked me at first. Out of probably 45 girls maybe 3 or 4 would have even noticed me standing there. Out of those 3 or 4 perhaps 1 could describe what color shirt I had on or give any details about me. I still do this exercise when doing my self- defense seminars and the results are usually about the same. Although I am used to it, it still has the habit of shocking me a bit.

When you come out of a store, ESPECIALLY this time of the years, you should pay attention to your environment. Look to your right. Turn your head to the left and scan the entire area. Look straight ahead then repeat the process again. If you see anything that doesn’t look right, don’t proceed. Go back inside. Come back in a few minutes and scan the area again. If it still doesn’t seem right go back in and find Security, a manager, an employee, a peer, and ask them to walk you to your vehicle. Don’t be shy. Don’t be embarrassed. And trust me, someone will be more than happy to walk you out.
As you approach your vehicle, make sure to look around for anything out of the ordinary. If something doesn’t look right:. Window “down” in your car and you know it wasn’t when you left? That window might not be down. It may be busted out. Interior light on and you know you didn’t have it on when you got out? Strange vehicle parked next to your car with someone in it and the engine running? A guy or two appearing to work on their car right next to yours? KEEP WALKING . Circle around and go back inside. Go TO HELP.

Remember there is no shame in exercising caution.

Being aware is not being paranoid.

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