The Awareness Phenomenon

In my May blog I spoke about the mind and how it can be your greatest weapon. This leads on nicely to what I want to talk about this time round – awareness. Although it seems like a natural progression, as it is heavily linked to the mind, it is quite a difficult subject to cover. The reason for this is that it isn’t really something that can be taught and the level of awareness I am talking about isn’t something you are born with. With this, it is still an important topic to highlight a superb benefit gained from martial arts training.

In general awareness is the ability to perceive, feel and be conscious of things around us, whether it is simply an object or an event. Everyone has it to some degree but what martial arts training does is to heighten these senses. It doesn’t happen after the first lesson or even the first year but through consistent training over the years a student of martial arts will become more aware of certain situations.

There are really two types of awareness that you will gain throughout martial arts training. These are the awareness you demonstrate leading up to an event and the second is the awareness you have during the fight or self defence situation. During the event, if the 2 people involved have the same skill set and training, it will most likely be the one that has the greatest level awareness that will come out on top. This person will notice openings quicker, see the opponents body position, judge their balance and foot positioning and they will also be more aware of objects around them and even uneven ground that could be a hazard. This amongst other things all point to having a higher level of awareness but can also be described as experience and therefore in someway taught. For example sparring practice in the gym will identify what movement serves well and a good instructor will also be able to help you identify openings to exploit during this practice. Once drills are practiced often enough they become second nature. So with this view I am going to speak more about the first type and the awareness you develop before an event. As a self defence skill this is potentially more important than the techniques and the fight itself – with avoidance of confrontation being the overall goal.

This is the awareness that is difficult to explain as ‘it just develops’. Think of it as a sixth sense. Knowing or feeling that something is going to happen before the event. Some of this is all in the preparation and the measures an individual takes. For example, when I go into a pub, club, restaurant etc I always try to position myself so I am facing the entrance. When I enter the building, the room and surroundings are scanned and any potential dangers are highlighted in my head and then I put myself in a position where I can still see any potential dangers and also new variables entering the environment. This all happens subconsciously and within an instant. When I have spoken about this before, it has often been confused with paranoia. This is very different as paranoia would distract from the social attachment. This level of awareness is just good preparation. Think of martial arts as being in the personal security business and this offers extra protection not just for the individual but the people they are with.

I recently attended an outing with a group of friends and fellow martial artists. We were all at different levels of experience in various martial arts ranging from little to advanced, but it was very interesting to see the awareness demonstrated within the group. We ended up in a club which, lets say wasn’t the classiest of places and I did my usual thing and laughed to myself when I saw a couple of my friends do the same thing. There were other influencing factors in this i.e. alcohol but three of us don’t drink, all black belt and were all displaying the same characteristics. And when there was the sign of some trouble around us the group were oblivious but the three of us were like meerkats on guard.

Not one of us can remember the time we became like it but all agreed that it was all down to the consistency of training over the years, yes some of it is experience and situational training but with so many variables within the surroundings it is impossible to rely on experience alone.

This heightened awareness is one of many benefits you gain from martial arts training. It is important to understand though that this whole process happens in an instant and therefore doesn’t distract from any fun or social interactions. It is purely a sound knowledge of everything around you that often offers a huge advantage and many times you are able to predict things before they actually happen.

Matt Fawcett
4th Dan Black Belt