One of the primary lessons anyone attending a quality self-defense class will learn is that it’s always best to avoid a violent encounter whenever possible. By avoiding a fight, you completely remove the possibility that you or someone you care about will be injured or killed. Avoiding a fight also removes the risk inherent in dealing with the legal system after a use of force event. Avoiding trouble is always the preferred course of action, but avoidance requires one of the most important skills someone interested in personal protection can develop: situational awareness.
What is situational awareness?
In a general sense, situational awareness is simply knowing what’s going on in your environment. There’s a layer of complexity that gets added, however, if the goal is to protect yourself from criminal activity. You can be very aware of what’s going on around you, but if you don’t know exactly what it is you’re looking for you might not recognize the common warning signs that precede many criminal assaults until it’s too late. Even if you do know what to look for, there’s another problem: It’s impossible for anyone to pay attention to everything going on around them all the time. So, in addition to knowing to look for, you need to know when to be looking for it.
The most important places to have a high level of situational awareness
“Transitional spaces” are fixed locations that people must pass through after they leave one environment but before they enter another. As a concept, transitional spaces also can be the mental break between one activity and another.
One of the more common transitional spaces that people commonly deal with is parking lots. A parking lot serves as a separation between the act of driving your vehicle and the activity associated with the location that you’ve traveled to. Many times, people in parking lots are focused on other things instead of their immediate surroundings. This means that it’s incredibly common to see very distracted people here. Why does this matter? Criminals know there’s a high likelihood that parking lots will contain distracted people moving along a predictable path. This knowledge allows criminals to target and select their victims more effectively.
So, what should you do? It’s a good idea to make sure that before you ever step foot into a transitional space, you’ve eliminated as many distractions as possible. For instance, walking through a parking lot while answering texts increases your chances of missing one of the warning signs that precedes a criminal assault. It also makes it more likely that an opportunistic criminal will target you in the first place.