Awareness – The Foundation of Personal Defense

Part 1

All Personal Defense starts with being aware of your surroundings.  Awareness is a combination of observation, intuition, and mentally developing possible outcomes.  

A person that has developed a good sense of awareness greatly increases their ability to stay safe.  They see problems as they occur – perhaps before they even start.  
If we increase our awareness, we improve our personal safety.  This series of blog posts will discuss ways to develop and enhance our awareness.


Increase your Awareness Zone

How far away do you pay attention to others?  Or to put it in a Personal Defense perspective, if someone from 5 or 6 feet away wanted to do you harm, would you have time to respond and defend yourself?  Let’s look at some research findings to try and answer that question.

If you are paying attention to your surroundings, it takes about 1.5 seconds for you to recognize and then respond to a surprising event.  So to be able to respond, you have to see the bad guy when he is 1.5 seconds – or more – away from you.  That sounds pretty doable, don’t you think?

To know for sure that we can do this, we need to know how far can a bad guy travel in 1.5 seconds.

What would your guess be?  6 feet?  10 feet?  Perhaps 15 feet?

It turns out that a person can travel further than you realize in 1.5 seconds.  From a standing start, a reasonably athletic person can travel about 21 feet in this brief 1.5 second span of time.  How far away is that?  To put it in context, a full-size SUV is about 19 feet long.

Now it sounds impossible to do unless you are part superhero.  But before we throw up our hands and surrender, let’s take a little closer look at this concept of awareness.  You will find that you don’t need superpowers to improve your awareness.

Let’s start with where you are – how far away are you paying attention to others?  When you are among other people, perhaps at the mall or a restaurant, how far away are you noticing other people?  Probably far enough away to avoid bumping into them as you are walking along, which is a common courtesy among citizens.

But that doesn’t tell me, in concrete numbers, how far away you notice others.  What distance away do you have to see someone to keep from running into them?  If you are walking at an average pace, you are probably looking about 5 to 8 feet in front of you.  That distance tends to shrink as we slow down, and extend as we speed up.

Let’s call this area where you notice people your ‘Awareness Zone.’  Right now, your Awareness Zone extends in front of you 5 to 8 feet, and probably 20 or 30 degrees to either side of you.

For the next week, try and extend your Awareness Zone by one foot.  That is something we can do without needing superpowers.  While you are doing this, be intentional about looking a little further to each side.  This is called scanning, and it will widen your Awareness Zone significantly.

If you can extend your Awareness Zone by one foot, and widen it to 45 degrees on either side of you, then you have dramatically increased your awareness.  How much is hard to quantify, but I would say by at least 20%.  In one week, you have developed better awareness than a large majority of the population.  Congratulations!

Know with certainty that improving your awareness has also increased your personal safety.   You are now seeing potential problems earlier than you were, making it even easier to avoid them.

Awareness is similar to other basics of Personal Defense.  The concepts are not hard to learn, they improve rapidly at first, and you can continue to develop them for the rest of your life.

Keep working on extending your Awareness Zone.  Next week increase it by a foot, get consistent and comfortable with that distance, then extend it another foot.  Before long you will have doubled your Awareness Zone, improving your personal safety, increasing your confidence, and giving you more peace of mind.

I do have a confession to make.  I don’t do this perfect all the time.  But I am getting better.  I see things further away and I anticipate what someone will do much earlier than I used to.

Personal Defense is not a destination, but a journey – and awareness is a great example of this.

Share how it’s going on our forums at  It will be a huge encouragement to me – and to others on their Personal Defense journey.

Be Safe!

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