A rant about rants

In the past week, friends have pointed me to several rants in the blogosphere about ‘deficiencies’ among gunowners. “They’re not physically fit enough,” “their technique sucks,” “there should be some training requirement before they can carry a gun,” etc. (I had a little they’re, their, there wordplay fun with that. :) ) I’m no different; my Serious Mistakes articles and audios are my own rants about gunowner deficiencies.

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The problem with rants is that they immediately turn off the target audience. No one likes to be told they’re a buffoon or inept. Serious Mistakes has been the second poorest selling information product I’ve ever created. So, ranting is just an exercise in futility. This post will be no different; “ranters gonna rant.” But if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, so I’m going to offer an alternate viewpoint.

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My colleague William Aprill periodically says that I tend to create ‘actionable’ material. That is indeed what I try to generate, material and programs that people can actually do step by step. Indoor Range Practice Sessions and the Pistol Practice Program are examples of that. Even Serious Mistakes has some ideas in it about how to not shoot your finger off or forget your pistol in a public restroom.

For those in the blogosphere who feel like tearing off on a rant, here’s a possible structure for your rant.

  1. Here’s the problem. (No more than two paragraphs).
  2. This is a possible solution. (One paragraph)
  3. The first step to implementing the solution is….
  4. Further steps in the solution are….
  5. It’s going to take XXX amount of time and XXX amount of resources to make the solution work long term.
  6. A journey of 1,000 miles (or 1,000 Days) begins with one step (or one practice session.) –Lao Tsu

While you’re crafting your rant, also keep in mind the limitations your audience has that you might not. If someone’s been overweight all their life, they’re unlikely to drop a bunch of weight just because there’s a rant about them needing to. (More their, they’re, there wordplay fun.) Keep your solution within the realm of reachable reality. (Some alliteration wordplay.)

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It’s common to talk about constructive criticism but its implementation is often forgotten. Where our own perceptions are concerned, we’re likely to forget we were beginners or uninformed or not up to snuff at one time, too. (Did it again.) Think that there are ways that you can help your target audience achieve their goals instead of just telling them they’re one of the Three Stooges (there, their, they’re and alliteration wordplay fun all in the same sentence.)

three-stooges-wallpapers

Thanks for reading this. I doubt it will do any good but I had fun writing it. As General of the Armies John J. Pershing said “An officer is responsible for his own morale.” Wordplay and philosophy are two things I don’t get to indulge in very much at the keyboard.

pershing

And no, I didn’t have a drink for breakfast. I’m saving that for lunch.

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Following through

weakly

Although this sign was at a church, it’s applicable to many aspects of our lives. Interestingly, I saw it while thinking about the 1,000 Days while driving a surveillance detection route I don’t usually take. Synchronicity, as Jung would say.

Working the 1,000 Days has brought a clarity to me about the value of following through on what we start. One of the things that I have noticed is that training classes frequently don’t include a followup program for students to follow. Insights Training Center and Mid-South Institute of Self Defense Shooting are the only two I can recall that gave me a takeaway. I include the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Defensive Pistol I course of fire as a followup for people who take my short classes.

I want to make sure that the students who come to our Violent Criminal Actors and You course have a followup program also. Since it’s not a physical skills class, I have to approach the followup program in a different way.

This is how I’m going to do it: the next 10 people who sign up for the class will get a personal one hour telephone consultation with me about how to develop their individual program. Since everyone’s situation is different, each consultation will be personalized. I ordinarily charge $125/hour with a two hour minimum for training and consultation, so I think this is an offer that has value.

Those who have signed up already will also receive the one hour consultation. I want to get the consultations finished within a month after the class, so that will probably be as many people as I can accommodate. This will be an interesting way to me to followup on what the students gain from the class and how they plan to implement their education.

James Yeager‘s philosophy that training is just a down payment has always appealed to me. So, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and help our students follow-through.

1000 Days of Practice (Part IV)

What have I gained from the second run of 1,000 Days?

Purely on a mechanical level, lots of reps. The average number of repetitions I did each day was somewhere between 30 and 40. Some of the regimens I have used frequently in the final year are:

  • My 12 shot drill; two hands, primary hand only, support hand only – 36 reps
  • The LAPD Bonus Course – 40 reps
  • A two target adaptation of the Federal Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course (pre-9/11) – 30 reps
  • An Enhanced Standard version of the State of Illinois Police Qualification Course – 30 reps
  • Defensive Pistol I of the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program (through Sharpshooter) – 80 reps
  • Tactical Performance Center dots – two hands, primary hand only, support hand only – 75 reps
  • The Georgia Security Guard Qualification Course – 48 reps

Let’s say the average is 40, which might not seem like a lot on an individual daily basis. However, by the end, I will have seen the sights and pressed the trigger smoothly 40,000 times. Dryfire provides feedback on the quality of those movements in a way that livefire cannot, simply because of recoil. Even if I didn’t already know how to the see the sights and press the trigger smoothly, 40,000 deliberate repetitions of them with quality feedback would go a long way to learning them. Not to mention the difference in cost between firing 40,000 dryfire repetitions ($0) and 40,000 rounds livefire (~$10,000 for the ammunition alone).

Since I religiously check the status of my pistol each day before dryfiring, I will also have completed 1,000 repetitions of correctly determining the load status of my firearm. My procedure for doing that has become completely automatic. I notice it when I go to the range or a gun shop and someone hands me a pistol; I don’t even think about checking it, I just do in a sequence.

On another level, I learned to plan ahead, develop a list of options, and then decide which option to implement in the moment. All of the above regimens have some training aid readily available in my dryfire practice area. For example the TPC dot target and 12 shot drill are two of the targets I have hidden behind a novelty sign in my practice area. The LAPD Bonus Course, Ill-Annoy Police Qual, and FAM TPC are recordings on my phone and in my computer. Defensive Pistol I is a sheet I have on a clipboard in the area.

For each regimen, I developed the material ahead of time. Then I set it up so I had immediate access to the target, the recording/sheet, or both. This is John Boyd’s true legacy to us about tactics, drawn from the Aerial Attack Study, not some nearly incomprehensible diagram and touchy-feely misinterpretation about outwitting our enemies in the moment.

By having an already developed group of options, we can pick from them and execute immediately even when we are tired, stressed, or simply don’t know what else to do. Getting into the habit of thinking ahead of time, developing options, and then simply picking from the list when needed has been a powerful learning experience for me.

Having a list of options doesn’t preclude me from adapting and improvising for the situation. I don’t have a set regimen for practicing with my flashlight. Instead I pick one of my regimens and do it with a flashlight.

Philosophically, making the commitment to follow a daily process of repetition and desire for excellence has been the most valuable part of the 1,000 Days. Periodically, people ask questions like “Are you really planning to do this for 1,000 Days straight? Although I generally respond with a simple ‘Yes,’ there’s a lot more to it than that. Aristotle said:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

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That applies in many areas of life. While I was developing some sales tools for real estate agents and other salespeople, a friend commented that her firm already had a training program and tools for their people. She said that many of the salespeople didn’t use them though and were always looking for something new or ‘cool’ or simply improvised on their sales calls. Doing so tended to produce mediocre results because they were always improvising.

Improvisation is overrated.

–William Aprill

The really successful salespeople followed the company program and used established tools. As a result, they closed a lot more sales using a limited set of tools and techniques. They had practiced extensively (every sales call is a practice) and could use a small set of tools and techniques to a high standard of excellence.

Bruce Lee is reported to have said:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

Colonel Boyd provided us with an example of how right Lee was. Boyd’s reputation as ’Forty Second Boyd’  [Coram, p 88] was gained through his ability to perform one single aerial maneuver with the F-100 fighter better than anyone else in the world. During his years as an instructor at the USAF Fighter Weapons School, he was never bested and only was only flown to a ‘dead heat’ once. He had pushed and tested the F-100 to its absolute limit on one aerial braking maneuver over and over again until he could slow the aircraft several hundred miles per hour in a matter of a few seconds. His opponent, unable to replicate or defeat the maneuver, would then unintentionally fly past him. Boyd would then regain his speed and get on the opponent’s tail, radioing the kill signal “Guns! Guns! Guns!”

There’s a lesson for us from ‘Forty Second Boyd.’ The real estate phrase ‘location, location, location’ can also be paraphrased as ‘repetition, repetition, repetition’ when we need to prepare ourselves for action and achievement.

Part I

Part II

Part III

 

Indoor Range Flashlight Practice Session

Someone who purchased Indoor Range Practice Sessions noticed a discrepancy in Session 11 (shooting with a flashlight).

I’ve updated the downloadable eBook for future purchases, but I want existing customers to have the update also. Accordingly, I created a downloadable file with Session 11 only.

As most of my readers know, using a flashlight to avoid tragedies is one of my hot buttons. It’s important enough information that I am going to make the updated Session 11 only available as a free download to all my blog followers, as well as previous purchasers.

The link to the updated Session 11 is here: Session 11 – Shooting with a flashlight

1000 Days of Practice (Part III)

Many people find it difficult to dryfire every day because they don’t have access to a firearm. Airline pilots and business people whose job require frequent air travel have a hard time of it. There are different ways of dealing with it.

The first would be to practice every day you do have access to your firearm and start counting. Doing that means you wouldn’t have a consecutive progression of the 1,000 Days but you would still get in 1,000 Days, it would just take longer.

Another approach would be to broaden the focus of your practice, as I mentioned in Part I. That’s one reason I entitled this series 1,000 Days of Practice.

Other skills appropriate to personal protection could be included as part of your mission statement for the 1,000 Days. This wouldn’t be 1,000 Days of Dryfire but it could be 1,000 Days of Personal Protection practice. Many of the most important Personal Protection Skills are soft skills that don’t require equipment to practice. Some that come to mind are:

  • situational awareness
  • the decision-making process
  • incident analysis
  • wargaming and decision exercises
  • proxemics, and
  • human communication and interaction

The memory aid I use for personal protection is RADAR.

  • Ready – being prepared, mentally and physically
    • knowledge,
    • skills,
    • tools
  • Aware – eyes on the horizon, ears not plugged up
    • Where am I?,
    • Who is around me?,
    • What are they doing?,
    • What is going on?,
    • Points Of Likely Concealment
    • What is wrong in my right world?
  • Decide – based on your decision criteria
    • options,
    • priorities, and
    • the situation
  • Act – do what you need to do
  • Ready Again – be ready for your plan to need adjustment or the police to arrive.

Dryfire is one component of the Ready stage but it’s certainly not the only one. Understanding the criminal mindset and their methods of operation is also key. How about spending a few minutes periodically reviewing criminal victimizations that occurred to others and wargaming how to either avoid or deal with the situation? I have taken this so far as to go on a field trip to the location of a particularly bad incident and actually observe the lay of the land.

Moe’s Package store robbery 

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There are games that smart cops used to play to tune up their situational awareness. How common they are anymore, I don’t know. For instance, when in a waiting area, look around the room, then close your eyes and try to describe everyone in the room; clothes, height, weight, etc. That would be Aware practice.

Or, let’s say you encountered something that caused your to Alert and then realized it wasn’t a problem. You could mentally wargame what you thought the original problem and your solution. Take it all the way through to Ready Again, including your interaction with the authorities afterward.

There are many different ways to approach the 1,000 Days and tailor the focus to your personal needs and circumstances.

I’ll be going through a more in-depth explanation of RADAR, including some decision exercises, in the Violent Criminals and You class that William Aprill and I are teaching next month. William will be giving his extensive presentation on the criminal mindset and how differently criminals think.

1000 Days of Practice (Part II)

An implied task, the first time of the 1,000 days, was simply devising a way of getting through it. To avoid boredom and make the process efficient, I recorded cassette tapes of several different regimens. The regimens were all based on my needs at the time, which mostly consisted of improving my competitive performance in IDPA and other shooting sports. I limited them to 10 minutes duration so I had compact practice blocks. When I wanted more practice, I could do more than one in a day, sometimes consecutively and sometimes one in the morning and one in the evening.

Having a specific structure for my practice also helped avoid ‘grabasstic gunclicking,’ which as a friend said, is what dryfire often devolves to. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had inadvertently incorporated one of fundamentals of tactical decision-making; have a plan ahead of time. My decision-making research of the past few years made the value of having several practice regimens available quite obvious to me. John Boyd’s Aerial Attack Study was instrumental in providing me with this moment of clarity.

My regimens of the second 1,000 Days are considerably different than those of the first. Several of the regimens are based on higher level police qualification courses, such as the Federal Air Marshal Tactical Pistol Course (pre 9/11) and the LAPD Bonus Course. While most police qualification courses are easily cleaned by a competent marksman, a few are much more demanding and I prefer that.

In other cases, I took police quals that had a good basic structure but mediocre standards and enhanced them. My favorite is the State of Illinois Police Qualification Couse. For the armed private citizen, the distances and round allocations are good but the standards are so low that some of my friends in Ill‑Annoy can literally pass it with their eyes closed. The enhancements I made were to make the target smaller, cut the times in half, and do parts of it Primary Hand Only and Support Hand Only.

Being a fan of the NRA Markmanship Qualification Program, I developed dryfire versions of both Defensive Pistol I and Defensive Pistol II. The time limits set for these courses are quite generous but they have an accuracy standard of 100 percent. Since we’re accountable for every round we fire, I like the idea of a strong accuracy standard, in general.

DPI table

In a defensive encounter, every bullet you fire that doesn’t hit its intended target is headed straight for a bus full of nuns and orphans being followed by a limousine of personal injury lawyers on a conference call with the District Attorney.

There are also some improvisations I like to make. My research into Serious Mistakes and Negative Outcomes made me a believer in the absolute necessity of verbalizing and being able to use a flashlight in conjunctions with a handgun. I usually dryfire something like Defensive Pistol I using a flashlight at least once a week.

cheek technique

One of the concepts I retained from my first 1,000 Days was making a good hit with the first shot. There’s too much emphasis placed on shooting fast in the community and not enough on making sure the first shot counts. Based on the incidents in my databases, I came to the conclusion that making a solid first hit above the diaphragm is the way to gain the initiative in an armed encounter.

Then I told myself, ‘Hey, I need to slow down and aim better.’

What if your situation or job precludes you from having access to a firearm every day? Some thoughts about that in Part III.

 

 

1000 Days of Practice (Part I)

As many of you know, I’m currently working on my second set of doing 1,000 consecutive days of dryfire practice. The first set was done during 2000-2002. This second set started on March 3, 2014 and the 1,000 days will be finished on November 27, 2016, during the week after Thanksgiving.

The original inspiration came from a friend who was working on his Yoga instructor certification. His final requirement to complete his certification was to do 1,000 days straight of meditation. This represented true dedication to excellence in my mind. Being a strong believer in the value of dryfire, I decided to make the same commitment to dryfire and immediately started my own 1,000 Days program. Just as with his meditations, it doesn’t have to be any particular drill or set of drills. Rather, it’s the commitment to do dryfire each and every day, without fail, for 1000 straight days. If I missed a day, I had to start again at the beginning.

Reflecting back on both times I’ve done the 1,000 Days, I have to say they were different experiences and I achieved different things from them. This isn’t surprising, given that they started 14 years apart and a lot went on between them.

The first time was largely a mechanical regimen devoted to further development of my skill level at seeing the sights quickly and pressing the trigger smoothly. Those two skills are fundamental to being more than a mediocre shooter. Unfortunately, shooters who insist on doing only livefire practice rarely learn them well. Recoil masks too many flaws in technique, especially when performance measurement, the third key fundamental, is omitted. Dryfire provides a superior method for learning those key fundamentals.

There is no doubt in my mind that doing the 1,000 Days was instrumental in the successes I had in my competitive shooting career at that time. It was also one of the things that led to my becoming the Chief Instructor of the elite Rogers Shooting School because dryfire is an integral part of the School’s program.

trophy wall

The second run of 1,000 Days had a broader conceptual focus than the first. In between the two runs, I had individually read and created two databases of Armed Citizen and Officer Involved Incidents. Combined, they total over 7,000 incidents. This gave the second run a different perspective on the skills, tactics, and techniques that contributed to success or failure in the context of personal protection.

In addition, I did extensive research about:

  • the decision-making process
  • instructional design
  • performance measurement
  • incident analysis
  • wargaming and decision exercises
  • proxemics, and
  • human communication and interaction

These all contributed to my perception of what and how to practice, both dryfire and livefire. Some of the skills I practiced the first time remained important while others became either less significant or even irrelevant.

As I approach the end of the second 1,000 Days, several questions that hadn’t occurred to me the first time arose.

What is the focus of the next 1,000 Days?

Is 1,000 Days necessary?

Am I limited to only one focal point?

Does my focus have even have to relate to personal protection?

In answer to the last two questions, I resolved to get back on a daily blood pressure monitoring scheme, which I’ve neglected for a while. Since I don’t care much for apps and found the array of paper based products unsatisfactory, I developed my own blood pressure diary. It’s a printable design that’s more compact and organized than the other products available and gives me a better basis for discussions with my cardiologist. For those who are interested, it’s available here.

Standard version pic

diary on nightstand

More in Part II.

Safe Gunhandling Rules

There are several sets of rules regarding safe gunhandling. All the sets of rules emphasize the concerns of their originators. However, many similar things are said but stated in different ways.

Which set of rules you choose to use is less important than picking a set and following it scrupulously. Firearms are instruments of ultimate personal responsibility and can be very unforgiving of even a moment of carelessness. Gunhandling is just as important as marksmanship, but many people are careless about the way they handle firearms, which can result in death or serious injury.

The National Rifle Association’s set. Link

The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s set. Link

Glock has its own set. Link

Like most competitors in the Action Shooting Sports, I use The Four Rules originally developed by Jeff Cooper. Lists of more than three or four items are difficult to memorize, so I still prefer them. There are minor variations but they all follow the same pattern.

  1. All guns are always loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.
  4. Identify your target, and what is behind it.

When talking about gun safety, we need to be careful about taking our subject matter knowledge for granted, especially nuance. Each of the Four Rules has a given amount of unstated subject matter knowledge inherent in them. I have had this discussion before and I continue to maintain the following: telling people with little experience four sentences and expecting 100 percent positive results is ridiculous.

The Four Rules are a memory aid like OCOKA, not a teaching paradigm. Glibly reciting them and expecting people to understand the depth involved in them is like showing someone a flashcard about algebraic formulas and then expecting the person to understand Mass-energy equivalency. The written explanation I provide my students about the Four Rules is three pages long with multiple (2-7) subsections explaining the nuances of each Rule. In the case of Rule #2, there are seven subsections.

“Never point your gun at something you’re not prepared to destroy,” to someone who doesn’t know much about firearms, can be easily interpreted as “Don’t horseplay around with your gun and act like a toothless buffoon by pointing it at your wife or dog.” There are multiple nuances that are not immediately apparent in a one sentence reading. For instance, here is one subsection of my handout:

“c. In many cases, you will have to choose between pointing the gun at an inanimate object, such as the floor or gun cabinet, or pointing the gun at a person; always choose the inanimate object, never point the gun at a person.”

I speak for no one else but there’s nothing in a gun shop I am prepared to destroy when I handle a gun. However, the choice between shooting a gun cabinet and shooting the person behind the counter is fairly easy to make.

Granted a few people are exceptionally stupid. For instance, the guy who disabled his hand by negligently shooting it and then did it a second time because he insisted the only way he could manipulate the slide was by pushing it against his disabled palm. He posted pictures of the second incident on GlockTalk years ago and almost seemed proud of them. People like that are untrainable.

I think most people would be much more competent if we in the industry didn’t take so much for granted. People who have never operated a handheld device more complicated or dangerous than a coffee maker need an explanation first and the memory aid second to reinforce the explanation.

When explaining the Four Rules, I always include the statement:

In addition to the Four Rules, always store firearms so that they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.

The attached explanation is NOT all inclusive of the implications of the Four Rules. However, it is a starting point to allow shooters to think about the proper way to handle guns safely. Feel free to distribute the PDF to anyone.

FourRules expansion

Contingency plans

Watching the end of The Bridge Over the River Kwai last night, something occurred to me. There should have been a contingency plan that if the British Major Warden fired the two inch mortar, it was the signal to blow the bridge early. Granted, that would have removed much of the Hollywood drama but it’s food for thought, nonetheless.

Situations and operations don’t always go according to plan, which is why it’s good to have contingency plans. Going to guns is actually a contingency plan. When we display or fire our weapons, it means that our plan to follow our other priorities has failed. In my particular case, those other priorities are Avoid (barriers are a component of Avoid) and Escape.

Even if we find it necessary to use force to resolve an issue, we need to have contingency plans, both technical and tactical. Malfunction clearance drills and reloading are just technical contingency plans for dealing with stoppages (unintentional interruptions in the cycle of operations). Displaying the weapon may not intimidate the villain into leaving. Given the appropriate MAY and/or SHOULD, the tactical contingency plan in that case is to actually employ the weapon, whatever it may be.

And sometimes weapons don’t have the desired effect. The Seattle couple who tried using wasp spray to repel a home invader  found it to be ineffective. Then the husband went to an impromptu contingency, hand to gland combat, what the FBI calls ‘personal weapons.’ When that failed, the wife was forced into a second impromptu contingency, getting a large kitchen knife and hacking the invader to death. Sidenote to anti-‘Assault Rifle’ folks, note in the table that knives are used for more homicides than all long guns put together. The important thing was that the couple didn’t give up; sometimes you invent contingencies on the fly, as they did.

Contingency plans don’t have to be elaborate.

As long as all they’re doing is robbing the [convenience store], I am going to act like a CPA from Akron and be a good witness. But if they start searching people, making people get down on the floor, or forcing people into a back room, my wife knows to get away from me because I am going to start shooting.

Evan Marshall, on off-duty incident planning

Note in the above contingency plan, family members are aware of the plan, as well. Your family and associates should know what you plan to do also or the situation could become even more complicated. If the Major had fired the mortar at the two colonels without telling the Lieutenant what the plan was, the Lieutenant might have misinterpreted that as covering fire and still waited for the train.

mortar shell explodes

A contingency plan stated by a very savvy friend of mine is one that everyone should keep in mind. I’ve mentioned it before but it bears repeating.

When they get the duct tape out, it’s time to make your move, ready or not. Nothing good comes of being tied up with duct tape.

Contingency planning is an inherent part of wargaming and developing our personal guidelines for using force as part of our Personal Protection plan. What do I, or we, do if the planned Course of Action doesn’t go according to plan?

holden with knife

Practicing Awareness – Part III

How do you do ‘situational awareness?’ You can’t ‘do’ a noun.

Craig Douglas

First of all, let’s distinguish between training and practice. My definition of training is something you do under the guidance and supervision of someone else. Practice is something you do on your own to maintain or hone skills you have or are developing.

Although Jeff Cooper’s Color Codes (White, Yellow, Orange, and Red) are the most popular way to describe states of awareness, I prefer to use the NRA format. As a sidenote, Cooper did not include Black as part of his system and actually objected to its inclusion.

The NRA format is described in the Personal Protection In The Home course and book.  Military and police personnel tend to use insider jargon to describe things. Jargon is both a shorthand and, linguistically, also a way of excluding outsiders from the group. Shorthand can be useful in some circumstances but to a trainer exclusion is not, so I prefer the NRA terms.

  • Unaware             (Doi, doi, doi, doi, doi, doi, doi; as we used to say in Chicago)
  • Aware                   (I know who and what is around me and what is going on)
  • Alert                      (Something has caught my attention and makes me uneasy)
  • Alarm                    (Something is definitely wrong in my right world)

Wearing earphones and listening to music automatically put us into the Unaware state. Constant talking on the phone does the same thing, as does concentrating on watching your dog take a dump. If you want to be Aware, you have to be mentally present where you are, not in a musical venue or someone else’s location. Sorry, there’s no way around that.

Tom Givens of Rangemaster mentions two things he thinks are relevant to situational awareness.

1. Who is around me?

2. What are they doing?

To those, I would add three more:

3. Where am I?

4. What is going on? (Not necessarily at this moment)

5. Points Of Likely Concealment (a component of Positioning to be discussed later)

When walking or running, we have an excellent opportunity to practice our situational awareness and positioning. It’s also a good habit for your safety.

You know how they say running is good for your health? In my neighborhood, it can save your life.

–old Chicago joke

To start the practice regimen, the default position for your eyes is on the horizon. It’s true that when walking or running we have to look down periodically to watch out for dog turds and other hazards on the ground. However, most people walk around like they’re continually playing the game “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” Having the eyes down makes it very difficult to see anything outside of the Near Phase of Social Space, in terms of proxemics. The boundary between the Near and Far phases (~7 feet) of Social Space is where untrained people will tend to make their final Force decision (Critical Distance). Being fixed on that point makes it impossible to do any information gathering prior to having to react. It’s a failure to follow Items 1 and 2 and a self setup for disaster. There is a discussion of proxemics and its implications in an earlier blog post Situational Awareness and Positioning (part III).

To get into the information gathering mode, something I do when out is to read every sign or anything that has words on it. I do this whether I’m walking or driving because it keeps my head up. As Tom says, most drivers stopped at a traffic signal tend to watch the signal with rapt fascination as if they expected it to start to sing and dance. Reading everything around you keeps your head moving and your mental focus outward.

There are many apartment complexes and residential subdivisions along my walk route. There are also numerous small cross streets with street signs. I make it a habit to read each of these signs every time I pass them, even though I’ve read them hundreds of times before. This accomplishes two things. First, it puts me in an outwardly directed mental state. Second, it makes sure I know exactly where I am at all times; Item 3 on the list. If I had to call 911, being able to say “I’m at the entrance to the Wyndham Hills apartment complex on Nesbitt Ferry Road” or “I’m at the intersection of Peachtree Road and Sequoia Trace” gives any responders a good idea of where I’m at. I also read the address number of every mailbox I pass. This gives a precise location if I’m not near a complex, cross street, or subdivision. Don’t depend on the GPS locator of your phone to give your exact location; it may not.

As I approach and pass the complexes and subdivisions, I look as far as I can past the entrance. What I’m looking for is outgoing traffic and any changes or construction. This is mostly just mental exercise for Item 4 but has helped me avoid being run over by distracted soccer mom drivers on several occasions. Heavy construction equipment near the entrance can also be a Point Of Likely Concealment, Item 5, for criminals, especially at night.

Graffiti is another thing to look for. The appearance of graffiti where it didn’t exist before can be an indicator of a new gang presence. The presence of beer cans is another detail worthy of note. The detritus of cans tossed out the windows of drunken drivers’ cars is not that much of a concern, unless you’re in their path. However, a quantity of cans noticed in a single location over a period of time is. That could be an indicator of nighttime party spot that is best avoided.

Another thing I look for is Small Dead Animals (SDAs) and Large Dead Animals (LDAs), as we called them when I was in the City Planning program at Georgia Tech. Once again, this is mostly mental exercise. However, as the deer presence in my area has increased, I’ve had occasion to call Public Works several times to report dead deer that were hit by cars.

Checking out the drivers in cars waiting to turn when you approach an intersection is mandatory. Any doofus who has their turn signal on and is talking on the phone or texting is a potential assassin. I never make the assumption they’re going to see me and not run me down when I get in the crosswalk. That’s not to say the ones who don’t have their turn signal on won’t try to kill you, either.

Of course, we want to scrupulously follow Item 1 and be aware of other persons around us.

  • Walkers and joggers
  • People in their yards
  • Workers
  • Low-lifes

Engaging the normal people is something I always try to do. Just saying ‘Good Morning’ helps engender a small sense of community. Be aware that it’s also a good way to seem like you’re part of the neighborhood, even if you’re not. This technique is used extensively in surveillance work and criminals use it too. It’s also fun to wave at people you don’t know and have them wave back. They go home thinking “Maybe that person knows me but I can’t remember who he is.” This is also another technique for establishing a false neighborhood identity. Workers can be fun because they’re often working in obscure locations and require active work on my part to locate and identify them.

I don’t mind walking past low-lifes but it’s important to be mentally prepared to deal with them and fail the interview. Someone once said that I give my students permission to be rude; that’s totally true. There’s a difference between rude and mean, though. In my vernacular, being rude relates to enforcing my boundaries. Being mean is encroaching on someone else’s boundaries. That can set you up for trouble. If you don’t like the look of them, though, there’s nothing wrong with crossing the street or changing direction to avoid them. Don’t hesitate to turn on your heel and go back the way you came if that seems appropriate.

Earlier posts about Situational Awareness

As the real Dr. House mentioned at the Hebrew Hogger last weekend, it’s better to have an option to avoid a situation than to have a tool to get out of a situation.