Awareness Training

Roy Harris AwarenessSeveral years ago, I had some interesting dialogue with several people on one of my forums. This dialogue was about “Awareness Training.” Below are some excerpts of this dialogue.



Question: Mr. Harris, I’m hoping that you could help me out with some advice. I know you have a lot of experience beyond Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a lot of it is in the realm of self-protection, awareness, etc, so I am coming to you with this.

My son is now 14 months old. At some point in the future (at an appropriate age) I am going to want to begin teaching him principles of awareness, how to prevent abductions, what to do if an abduction occurs, what/who/where is ‘safe’ and what is not, etc. I want to do this tactfully and without making him afraid, but at the same time, as he gets older I would like to teach him how to be aware of his surroundings and keep himself safe.

I was wondering if you could pass along any advice, tips, resources, etc. that you may have, and if you would be willing to share any information that I could pass along to him? I really appreciate any help that you can give me.

My response: Awareness is a great attribute to develop. It is the father of three children: Timing, Distancing and Sensitivity. Awareness, timing, distancing and sensitivity are the “mature” attributes to develop, unlike the “immature” counterparts of speed, power, explosiveness and endurance.

Developing awareness will put a person years ahead of others who are stuck in the speed, power, explosiveness and endurance mindset! It is THE key to true martial training. It has been THE key element that has helped me become who I am as an instructor and a practitioner!

Here is the main key to awareness that is overlooked by most:

Give yourself an education in the obvious!

What exactly does that mean? Well, start by answering simple questions about yourself that you have probably never considered before. Here are a few questions to get your started:

1. When you scratch your head, which fingers do you use? Your index? Middle finger? Ring finger? Baby finger? A combination of two or three fingers? Or, do you even use your fingers? I ask because some people use their hand or wrist.

2. When you scratch your head, do you use a back and forth type of motion, or do you use an up and down motion? Or, do you use a circular motion?

3. When you scratch your head, do you scratch until the itch is gone, or until your head feels good?

4. When you scratch your head, do you stare at a specific reference point, or do you move your eyes around?

5. When you scratch your head, do you think about the scratching, or do you do it by feel? And, if someone is talking to you, do you continue LISTENING to them, or do you tone it down a notch and HEAR them – while you focus on the scratching? (NOTE: There IS a difference between listening to a person and hearing what they have to say. I have argued this point with several of my female friends who seemed to think that listening and hearing were one in the same.)

6. When you finish scratching your head, do you put your hand back where it was, or do you look at your hand/fingers? Or, do you smell your hand/fingers?

While this series of questions was simple and straight to the point, I doubt most of you reading this post have ever asked yourself these questions.

Why is it important to pay attention to such detail? Because by getting into the habit of paying attention to the smallest of details, you begin the process of becoming more aware of your world – and your habits within the world. If you can get in the habit of doing this with yourself, you can do this with others. And, if you do it with others, you can learn SO MUCH about them by watching their behaviors.

Remember, most things begins in the mind. Thoughts that are dwelled upon usually turn into emotions. Emotions can sometimes (or many times) turn into actions. Actions, over a period of time, will turn into habits. Habits, over a period of time, will turn into behaviors. A habitual series of behaviors becomes a lifestyle, and a lifestyle tells others who you really are!

By watching the behaviors of others, you can learn a lot about others (and yourself). By watching a person’s movements, over time, you can tell a lot about what’s on their mind and heart. By watching a person’s eye movements, listening to their speech patterns, as well as how they treat others, you can learn SO MUCH about what’s going on inside their mind and heart.

While there is certainly a lot of wiggle room for interpretation on many of these things, the bottom line is this:

Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to deceive those who have made it a habit of paying attention to the minutiae of your movement patterns (eyes, shoulders, hands, knees, etc…) and behavior!

Several years ago, I was hired by “a company” to participate in a series of “interesting” endeavors. I was asked to observe and report the patterns and behaviors of a certain group of people. However, before I was given this job, I was asked to demonstrate my abilities. They put a person in front of me, had me talk with them for five minutes, and then make an assessment of that person. At the end of my encounter, I gave the person who would eventually become my boss an open and honest evaluation of the person who had sat in front of me. They asked me how I knew such information. I told him, “I wouldn’t say I KNEW the information. Rather, I just reported what I saw.” He hired me on the spot!

So, I’ve told you all of this to encourage you to begin with the basics of developing awareness. Start with the simple things that you do each and every day of your life. Next, begin to apply what you have observed with close friends or family members. Over the course of three to five years, you will have accumulated enough information to more fully understand awareness.

With regard to teaching awareness to your kid, start with the basics:

1. Remain “alert” whenever you are away from home.
2. Never assume anything.
3. Distance is one of your most important tools.
4. When someone or a circumstance, makes you feel uncomfortable, leave immediately.
5. Pay special attention to people who watch you or others.
6. Always try to use the “buddy system.”

I hope I have given you some food for thought. I will answer any “basic” questions you have about awareness.

Now, I have written about awareness for years. It is just now that people are waking up to this important area of training. However, it is not a training method for the beginner or the undisciplined. It takes time and concerted effort to develop it into an extremely high level.

So, I am sharing this post with all of you to “inspire” some of you to begin the journey

Good awareness training to you,

Roy Harris

P.S. If you have comments about this article, please feel free to email me here!

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