Kenny Bryant Smith
CEO, Total Force Holdings, Inc.
Self Defense is such a broad and varied topic. There are numerous methods involving armed and unarmed methods of protecting oneself. A quick Internet search for your area will most likely reveal a myriad of Concealed Carry Instructors and as many or more martial arts organizations that are marketing themselves as “Self Defense programs.” Allow me to be abundantly clear when I state that while almost any training will yield exponentially better results than having no training at all, not all training programs and, most importantly, not all trainers are created alike. Having began my martial quest in January of 1993 (I was born in September of 1987 so when I say I have been doing this almost all of my life, it is not in jest) I have seen all manner of programs ranging from really solid to remarkably ridiculous.
Self Defense starts in the mind. If one is not well versed in both situational and spatial awareness, that person is significantly behind the power curve. That is a decision you and only you can make. One must know where they are in space (spatial awareness) as well as who and what is around them (situational awareness). If a Self Defense program does not cover these two at the fundamental level, then it is (if I may be so blunt) NOT truly a self defense program at all. I consider situational and spatial awareness so critical that they are the subject of this article.
I am a firm believer that most every self defense problem I am aware of can be nullified with better situational or spatial awareness. In the world of concealed carry, one always stumbles upon that one person who only carries their weapon when they are going to that one area that everyone knows is a bad area. My first question is if it was so bad you felt the need to carry more hardware than usual, why were you going there in the first place? On that note, I have no problem with people going about their daily lives armed, I do it everyday, everywhere it is legal to do so… I have issues with knowing you are putting yourself in a situation where you are more likely to need to deploy some level of force unless going to that place in space is absolutely necessary.
If you are clumsy (like Yours Truly), then spatial awareness is that much more important. I am that one guy that usually finds his trailer hitch by introducing his shin to it and finds steps when gravity takes over after ground was SUPPOSED TO BE THERE…. But it wasn’t. This is an example of bad spatial awareness. If you are clumsy like me, knowing more of where you are in space will save you a vast number of lumps and bruises. I can submit that I am not nearly as clumsy as I used to be due to working on expanding my own personal spatial awareness.
A great many self defense cases start with the defender (you’re only a victim if you allow yourself to be one) being lost. If I may pose a hypothetical scenario…..
You are in your vehicle on a trip to visit family somewhere a couple of hours from home. It is well after dark and the weather is bad… let’s say a nasty rainstorm. Your GPS decides it doesn’t like you and starts trying to take you down roads that don’t exist… We’ve all been there. Right about now while you have no source of directions, the coolant temperature gauge in your instrument cluster decides to hit redline and the voltage indicator starts flopping…. You pop the head to a cloud of steam that wreaks of antifreeze and see your fan belt is just as broke as it can be. You have some form of motorist assistance (I myself am a member of the Allstate Motor Club and have found their service and that of the vendors they utilize for service to be spot on) so you call the number and they ask where you are…. Your answer choices are “Well, my GPS says I’m on this road but….” or “I’m about XX miles outside of XXX(town name here)XXX on XXXX Street going Northbound.” Which do you prefer? Now I know what you’re thinking….. “This fool just said I was lost in his own hypothetical situation…. How can I give an answer like the second one?” I would just about bet my last penny that your cell phone or GPS has a map feature with a scale on it…. That is part of spatial awareness… Knowing where you are in the world and finding out where you are in the world by all means available. Although I wouldn’t recommend finding your trailer hitch with your shin… any country boy, including this one, will tell you that all that does is hurt… it ties with stepping on a Lego.
Situational awareness is a kissing cousin to spatial awareness. As the name implies, it is being aware of your situation. Who all and what all is around and/or going on around you. We need to know what is happening around us. Maybe you didn’t get the memo about playing in traffic from your parents as a kid…. If you’re on or about the roadway, it’s generally a good idea to pay attention to if a car might be coming as failing to do so might hurt a little bit. This is a classic example of situational awareness.
Let’s take another hypothetical trip… This one closer to home. As a self defense trainer, I tend to jokingly refer to gas stations as a “Stop and Rob.” Why? Many criminals do just that… they stop in and rob the place. Let’s say your significant other decides they just have to have some kind of snack and the only place you can get it is the local Stop and Rob. It’s three in the morning, the weather is horrible, and yet here you are, being awesome, and going to run said errand. As you pull past the gas pumps, you see two guys you could swear you saw in the paper the other day that the local lawmen are hunting for whatever nefarious deed is popular in your area… they are pulling bandanas over their faces and you see the glint of metal in one’s hand… Had you not been paying attention, your trip to get snacks for your better half would’ve landed you smack dab in the middle of an armed robbery.
By paying attention to where you are and what all is going on around you, you become a people watcher and see some really entertaining things. If you are single (regardless of what kind of plumbing you have and what you’re attracted to), there is some SERIOUS eye candy out there and being a people watcher let’s you see them just as well as seeing those people that seem to have been following you for a good few minutes and appears to be getting closer.
There is absolutely no negatives to this unless you’re the type that is easily distracted (like myself) in which case you will notice that much more. If you are making the conscious effort to know where you are and what is surrounding you, you will miss less exits on the highway… and besides getting lost less, you can spend more time paying attention to the road and less paying attention to a GPS, and this act of focusing on driving may very well save you a significant amount of money (I’m in North Carolina and our laws show a $250 fine plus $197 in court costs if you are caught inputting or reading text off a mobile device while driving) or it could just as easily save your life. I lost a person very near and dear to me in a single vehicle accident due to texting and driving. If you think it can’t happen over your GPS, think again.
Pay attention to your surroundings… It may save your life in more ways than one.
This article is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Sarah Edith Stonesifer (11 SEPT 1990 - 29 MAR 2013). May you rest in peace. Until Valhalla….