Exercises for Situational Awareness

If you haven’t read my posts on situational awareness and behavioral cues, please follow the links and read those for a better understanding of this post.

As an instructor, here are two drills that can be used for training situational awareness.

Drill 1:

Explain the levels of awareness and some basic signals to your students. After you teach the information, inform them that from that moment on, when they come into the class, they should be in the relaxed awareness condition (yellow). At some point you or someone else will attack them, and all the students need to respond in some way. They can help the victim, “call” 911, run away, etc. Then, debrief the exercise. It is important to mix up your attacks and not create a pattern. For example, attack at random, sometimes without weapons, sometimes with weapons, sometimes get into personal space and then back off without an attack (based on their reaction). Use different rouses, “What time is it?” or simply try to get information from them like addresses or phone numbers. The attacker needs to show Pre-Attack indicators (behavioral cues) that can be picked up on, this is the whole purpose of the drill. Let them practice observing Pre-Attack indicators and changing levels of awareness based on those observations.

This drill can be used to not only test or practice current concepts but also to introduce new concepts, such as, weapons defense, multiple attackers, different behavioral cues or trending rouses or tactics.

Drill 2:

This drill requires about ten or more students. Have all the students wear protective equipment (mouth guard, gloves, etc). Pick one or two students to go to a separate area while you brief the rest. Give 2 or 3 students weapons and/or give directions on an attack. Have all the students (attackers and non-attackers) mill around randomly, like a slow zombie. Call back in the students to be attacked and have them walk around inside of the ‘zombies.’ Ensure that the attacking students are displaying Pre-Attack indicators just prior to attack. Allow the attacker to attack when they have the best opportunity and to attack hard. Let the student being attacked work through the attack to a dominate position or escape. This will help simulate a realistic attack (hard, fast, and with Pre-Attack indicators) and allows for the defender to exercise situational awareness and fight through a hard attack. This drill can be combined with ruses and tactical trends too.

People watching is great for everyday practice. Try to figure out their story based on their actions. See if you can spot odd behavior in everyday situations. Remember, look at what’s normal and the abnormal will stand out. It should be noted that some behavior will be easier to detect than others. If you don’t know about charm tactics, then you will have a hard time identifying when someone is trying to charm you. However, a man waiting near an ATM in a shady area is much more obvious tactic.

Another good everyday exerice is KIMs Game.

These are exercises that can help in the understanding and in the practical application of some concepts taught in self-defense classes. A cautionary note, when designing an attack, ensure that proper research is done. As instructors, we should not rely on what we think attacks look like. We need to do research on recent attacks, examine those attacks and formulate a plan that is as close as possible to real attacks. Providing correct and updated information is a must.

6 thoughts on “Exercises for Situational Awareness

Add yours

  1. I like the first drill. There have been many law classes in universities that use the same style of drill to show how eyewitness reports are flawed and varied. Excellent Idea.


    1. Good point! Under a cocktail of hormones brought on by the survival stress response, our minds often remember things differently than how it actually played out. Thank you for taking time to add some commentary!


  2. Would you mind if I reblogged this over on Semi on Target? I think this is great info and would love to share it with others.


  3. Reblogged this on Semi on Target and commented:
    This Article from Staying safe by Christopher Pendas popped up in my reader the other day and I thought it was great information to share. These are great drills for instructors to use in class to help students understand situational awareness. Check out more articles like this over the the Staying Safe blog.

    Reposted with permission.


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