Black Belt

FIT TO FIGHT

The primary factor in self-protection and self-defense is situationa­l awareness.

- BY MARK HATMAKER

The primary factor in self-protection and self-defense is situationa­l awareness, the author says, and with that in mind, he outlines three historical methods for becoming a more alert martial artist.

Keeping in mind that crime is more often than not a product of opportunit­y, if we take steps to reduce that opportunit­y to as close to nil as we can manage, we’ve gone a long way toward rendering our physical tactical training unnecessar­y. (That would be a good thing.)

Yes, having defensive tactical skills in our back pocket is a great ace to carry throughout the day, but all the more useful for saving our lives or the lives of loved ones is having a honed awareness, a ready alertness to what’s occurring around us every single day. There’s a problem, though.

MAINTAININ­G SUCH

awareness is a tough job because most of our day-to-day existence is safe and mundane (also a good thing), and it’s this very safety that allows us to backslide in the awareness department. Without daily dangerstre­ssors, we easily can fall into default comfort mode.

Clearly, we need to take action to return awareness and alertness to the fore. A useful practice for accomplish­ing this is to gamify our awareness. That entails using specific drills on a revolving basis to keep our mind on our daily routine while also making a bit of a game out of things that could save our skin.

I use a series of gamified awareness drills culled from historical warrior traditions that were developed across the globe. Where appropriat­e, I update the drills to fit our 21st-century environmen­t. Described below are three of the many drills you can use to accomplish this goal.

THE FIRST awareness exercise for warriors comes from a Comanche tradition called Puewatsi Nemito, meaning “The Wild Walker” or “Walk of the Wild.”

SETUP: Today, you are on the menu. No matter where you are — in an urban setting, a natural setting or somewhere in between — live as if you’re a hunted man, a targeted woman, a person on someone’s kill list. Know who or what is behind you at all times. Look into the faces of the people around you — is one of them your hunter? Look at the hands of those around you — is there a method of your demise in one of their hands?

Keep to the edges of trails or sidewalks because only confident or foolhardy animals cross open ground. Treat all security cameras as tools to locate you and avert your face when passing by or beneath them. Treat birds as possible drones.

In short, live with your eyes wide open, your mind alert. Live as if you’re being stalked.

At the end of the exercise, ask yourself what you learned from this bit of role-playing. It should be that warriors must be aware. Aware of what? Everything. And warriors must be awake. All details are of interest because any detail may be important. You don’t know what detail will change your life. You don’t know what detail will save your life.

HERE’S ANOTHER

drill adapted from Puewatsi Nemito. It’s an inverse of the Hukhiap’u Puniti, or “Shadow Watcher,” drill. SETUP: Today, look for reflection­s. Find all the reflective surfaces that you can and see what those reflection­s hold. Look for the trees in the windows of your home. See the glint of the semi in the window of a passing car. Locate the rippled reflection of the sky or yourself in a puddle of water. Watch what’s happening around you in the restaurant using your beverage glass. Note the distorted you in the eyes of the person you’re speaking with.

The only reflection you shouldn’t pay attention to is the one you see in a mirror. Otherwise, find any and all reflection­s and note how many surfaces provide mirror images.

I repeat: Warriors must be aware. Aware of what? Everything. And warriors must be awake. All details are of interest because any detail may be important. You don’t know what detail will change your life. You don’t know what detail will save your life.

THE THIRD

drill is adapted from a practice found in the Northeast Indian warrior traditions and the Viking tradition. Before we begin, consider these historical messages:

“If you are wise, be wise. Keep what goods the gods gave you. Don’t ignore five good senses seeking an unknown sixth. — The Viking Havamal

“Don’t get caught looking for leaves in the trees in autumn. Those leaves are on the ground.” — Comanche teaching “Look.” “At what?” “Everything, then you’ll never have to ask.” — Medicine man speaking to a young warrior

SETUP: Take three, find five. Select a 15-minute period in your day. Take three steps, then stop and note — verbally, if possible — five things in your environmen­t that you can physically sense. They can be objects you see, sounds you hear, scents you smell, flavors you taste, even the breeze you feel. Take three more steps and repeat the drill but don’t duplicate any of the things already on your list. Continue until the period is up.

If you take the time to honestly commit to this drill, you’ll find there’s far more to sense than you normally take in. We gloss over and glide through so much of life that what we miss can be astounding.

I repeat the exchange: “Look.” “At what?” “Everything, then you’ll never have to ask.” For more informatio­n about Mark Hatmaker, visit extremesel­fprotectio­n.com.

All details are of interest because any detail may be important.

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