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Self-Defense Starts with Being Aware of Your Environment

Updated on November 21, 2016

Environmental awareness means safety

It would seem the one thing that separates legitimate self-defense from the legions of commercialized and fitness-oriented martial arts is that serious methods of self-defense stress environmental awareness.

Environmental awareness and its related training both are reflective of a rather simple concept commonly overlooked in the dojo of many martial arts. Specifically, this type of training weaves in your understanding of your surroundings into the any tactics associated with self-protection. Far too often, martial arts will invest 100% of their training in the physical tools and tactics associated with fighting. Most instructors have to do this because, quite honestly, this is what most students want. They have signed up for martial arts lessons so they want their training to center on fighting, conditioning and techniques. For those truly interested in learning real self-defense, understanding the role the environment plays in effectively protecting oneself is critical.

The Environment of a Conflict is not Always Beneficial.

A gym is designed to make your trainer safe and productive. Obviously, you will be afforded no such luxury in an actual self-defense situation. You will be dealing with the very unfriendly environment of concrete and you will also have a lot of obstacles to deal. You are likely well aware that many fights go to the ground. Most people assume this is exclusively due to takedowns. The truth is many people trip over curbs, bottles, and even furniture that they do not see and trip over during a scuffle.

No, the environment is not always your friend when it comes to fighting, criminal assaults, ambushes, and other forms of violence. Generally, if you increase your knowledge about the role an environment plays in self-defense, you might discover a lot of problems present in an uncontrolled environment can be dealt with.

While there is no way possible to prevent any problems with the environment you find yourself, you can increase your experience level by studying situational and environmental awareness.

Using Awareness to Navigate an Uncontrolled Environment to Your Advantage

Your environment can be a dangerous place. This is why anyone seriously interested in self-defense must be able to address problems with their environment. This starts with awareness.

Awareness must become a large part of self-defense training. Awareness of both your physical environment. And any persons within the environment will help you avoid trouble. The notion that you should be avoiding and evading trouble might also be commonly overlooked in martial arts training. In truth, martial arts that promote actively engaging an aggressor under all circumstances are really promoting the notion you should errantly place yourself in danger. This is a great way to get hurt. Instead, you should try an employ awareness of an environment to notice trouble long in advance so you can (hopefully) avoid it.

You must also be mindful of the type of environments that predators find appealing. Certain environments such as dark areas near ATM machines would be among the dream locations for muggers. Most people realize this. What they may not realize is city blocks with numerous alleyways would also be perfect locations for criminals since they are afforded with the cover needed to hide until they can ambush someone that walks by unaware of their surroundings. Being able to avoid such danger zones or, at the very least, being able to navigate through them will help keep you safe.

Homework for Martial Artists

For serious students of self-defense, it is advised to do a little homework on environmental and situational awareness. Doing so may end up keeping you safe and out of trouble. In the end, this is honestly what you really want.


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    • aikikenjitsu profile image

      Robert Mc Dowell 4 years ago from Puyallup, WA

      You're correct about that.

    • TCaro profile image

      Tony Caro 4 years ago


      Yes, it seems people do not like to hear about environmental awareness in class because they want to be active and not hear a lecture. Awareness often works better in seminars or special topic classes.

    • aikikenjitsu profile image

      Robert Mc Dowell 4 years ago from Puyallup, WA

      Right on! I now teach privately and I always include environmental awareness. Unfortunately kids don’t listen and they’re the ones that need it the most. After that are females, since they go into areas that guys use to locate their prey.