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Thread: The Myth of Situational Awareness?

  1. #1
    Regular Member Badger Johnson's Avatar
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    The Myth of Situational Awareness?

    One of the things that makes me laugh when watching shows like 'Personal Defense TV' and other pretty good shows on firearms is this.

    They show the drill where the guy shoots his target, then goes to low ready and looks to left and right, and/or pivots a little and looks behind and then holsters his firearm is that I keep thinking that under a high stress situation the same person will do that move and look to left and right and the holster his/her handgun, EVEN THOUGH, when they looked there was a threat or another person coming at them.

    Why? They only trained to look, and then holster their handgun and (I muse) that might be (holy cow!) what they do in a real SD situation they just do the "Looking" and then put their gun away and their brain, being flooded with neurochemicals and tunnel vision won't let them break that pattern.

    Anyway, I think when you do more 'advanced' firearm training you should ALSO include a few instances where there IS someone running at the trainee (who is shooting snap caps or simmunition) and they have to do an actual reaction so that little 'look left and right' doesn't become a 'box' they end up stuck inside.

    I think that situational awareness by its very definition will fail you WHEN YOU NEED IT MOST. So try and think it through well before that is a need.

    ----
    Now on to a more substantive comment. My partner said she wanted to know what she should do if coming out of a store some guy ran up and grabbed her before she got to her car - should she resist, should she go limp and seem to comply and then when he wasn't paying attention, access her firearm.

    We talked about this and realized a couple things.
    1. I think it's a myth that seasoned predators will run up and grab you and then also (at some point) not be paying attention. A seasoned predator will get control and then either subdue the victim, knock them unconscious, have a buddy system, or something where the CONTROL keeps INCREASING as the encounter proceeds.
    2. NEVER get in the car. No matter what you have to do, even risking getting shot or stabbed once, don't get in the car. Once in he can knock you out or do whatever shielded from view, etc.

    Finally, I said 'the problem is you got yourself into a situation where your options were becoming very limited. You had to get to the car, get keys out, have firearm accessible and then open the car and (bad place 1, here) turn your back at some point and then (bad place 2, here) go sit in the car and you're now pinned by the wheel. WHAT YOU SHOULD have done (I said) was go get a store employee or someone else to walk you to your car and not waited until your 100s of options were now reduced to two or three.

    My point, I guess, is that if you are at the point where you need your SA to help you, you have already lost the tactical battle at several points where you could have de-escalated, defused, gone the other way or gotten help. Listen to your fear, be rude, ask for help and do it often and early.

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    Situational Awareness is a myth? The point of training to identify potential threats around you is just that....not to 'look' around you for the purpose of fulfilling an exercise. When we were taught to look both ways before crossing the street as children......you didn't just go through the motions, as you infer, you actually paid attention.

    Pay attention. Trust your instincts. Learn to recognize threats and potential threats. Train. Other than that, life goes on.

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    I think the biggest myth is that you can practice SA for every situation. I am not against practice at all but every time we read about some incident we all sit at our keyboards and monday morning quarterback every thing that the person did wrong. The truth is that every situation is different and we really don't know how we will react when it happens. The one thing that I find in most of these 20/20 hindsight discussions is that most of them do not include the idea that the target is possibly shooting back and standing still. Accuracy normally decreases when the paper target is a real human with real bullets in a real gun and firing at you. Situational Awareness is wonderful and we all should perform it a little better but full SA takes 100% of our attention if done properly so that doesn't leave anything for doing something else.

    I think the OP made some good points and raised some great questions that neither nor anyone else has the full and complete answers for every case.

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    Regular Member ncwabbit's Avatar
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    i have actually pulled my firearm

    on an alleged bad guy who put me into what i throught was a life threatening position, so he was put on the ground awaiting for the police (which overall worked out quite strangely which is a long story in and of itself) but the gist of my hindsight rehash of the situation was even w/all my training, i seem to have forgotten to take the safety off. i mean really!!!

    fortunately, i didn't need to use the firearm and the bad guy calmed down after laying on the ground in the rain for twenty minutes - while awaiting for the police to arrive.

    bottom line, i thank the op for bringing up some valid points to add to the checklist to practice and do in any situation...

    wabbit

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    I agree, for the most part- except that SA is vital. But usually for the events leading UP TO the engagement, for most folks.
    But yes, immediately after as well...but in reality folks are usually so ramped on adrenaline afterwards, that they dont always follow-through.
    Every situation is/will be different though, so to lock oneself into one particular method/kata, etc..maybe not always "right", but..

    As to quarter-backing of other's incidents. If done objectively enough, (with what little info is usually available)- can be a good thing to a point. We need to look at/study the incidents of others- and draw the lessons from them (good and bad), and hopefully take a little something away from it that might stick with us in some way, when we need it.

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    Regular Member Ricky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ncwabbit View Post
    on an alleged bad guy who put me into what i throught was a life threatening position, so he was put on the ground awaiting for the police (which overall worked out quite strangely which is a long story in and of itself) but the gist of my hindsight rehash of the situation was even w/all my training, i seem to have forgotten to take the safety off. i mean really!!!

    fortunately, i didn't need to use the firearm and the bad guy calmed down after laying on the ground in the rain for twenty minutes - while awaiting for the police to arrive.

    bottom line, i thank the op for bringing up some valid points to add to the checklist to practice and do in any situation...

    wabbit
    I was always a 1911 style man from back in the early 80's since the Marines. But as you stated I have been doing drills of drawing and firing from holster and have on more than one occasion forgot to flip my safety down. I now for my daily carry pistol carry a Springfield XDM 40 cal 16+1. It has only a grip safety which at first I was skeptical about. But after my experience with not taking off the safety in practice the thought of a grip safety makes good sense. You post makes good sense to me...

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    Regular Member paramedic70002's Avatar
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    The op makes a great point. The old mantra of "what you do in training, you do for real" is a constant truth. Trainers SHOULD have threats to be IDed after you shoot, or at least have you verbalize it. Verbalization can enhance your retained skills.

    As for forgetting to take the safety off, every time I remove my firearm from the holster I click off the safety and then pause a moment, usually while I am opening the quick access safe. This trains me to click off the safety when it matters, and secondly to not do it as a rote skill since I have to perform a separate action before re-engaging it.
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    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Badger Johnson View Post
    ....My partner said she wanted to know what she should do if coming out of a store some guy ran up and grabbed her before she got to her car - should she resist, should she go limp and seem to comply and then when he wasn't paying attention, access her firearm.

    We talked about this and realized a couple things.
    1. I think it's a myth that seasoned predators will run up and grab you and then also (at some point) not be paying attention. A seasoned predator will get control and then either subdue the victim, knock them unconscious, have a buddy system, or something where the CONTROL keeps INCREASING as the encounter proceeds.

    Not to discount what you are saying, but a "seasoned predator" will take whatever advantage they can find, be it lurking right next to the doorway or hiding out three doors down and bum-rushing you to the ground or into a wall. You are correct about them seizing and keeping control.

    2. NEVER get in the car. No matter what you have to do, even risking getting shot or stabbed once, don't get in the car. Once in he can knock you out or do whatever shielded from view, etc.

    Too bad the cops don't say this instead of talking about rape whistles or yelling "Fire!" or throwing your purse one direction and running the other direction.

    Finally, I said 'the problem is you got yourself into a situation where your options were becoming very limited. You had to get to the car, get keys out, have firearm accessible and then open the car and (bad place 1, here) turn your back at some point and then (bad place 2, here) go sit in the car and you're now pinned by the wheel. WHAT YOU SHOULD have done (I said) was go get a store employee or someone else to walk you to your car and not waited until your 100s of options were now reduced to two or three.

    Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Even pausing just before the door to check the general area for stuff that makes you feel uncomfortable can be a good way of avoiding trouble. Teaching women to never carry a purse, to only carry as much as they can deal with in one hand, and to have their keys ready before they exit a store into te parking area is about as likely to happen as getting most guys to do the same (except for the purse, although I have seen murses and briefcases/tactical carry-alls becoming more common). And whichever sex you may be, it becomes even more difficult when dealing with events like grocery shopping.

    The suggestion of getting someone from the store to walk you to the car has always intrigued me. Most places are so tight on help nowadays that cutting one loose to escort their best customer (let alone some stranger) can be a real problem. Also, now you have put two victims out in the parking lot, and one of them is relying on the presence of the other - who has no training in protecting themself let alone another - to keep bad people away.


    My point, I guess, is that if you are at the point where you need your SA to help you, you have already lost the tactical battle at several points where you could have de-escalated, defused, gone the other way or gotten help. Listen to your fear, be rude, ask for help and do it often and early.

    $.02

    I understand what you mean by "if you are at the point where you need your SA to help you, you have already lost the tactical battle" but would point out that using situational awareness to keep you from making as many mistakes as one possibly could is in fact a decent form of defense through prevention. I may have a grocery cart full of goodies, but I'm going to keep my head on a swivel and take my time getting all those bags packid in the car, as opposed to sticking my head in the trunk while everything else gets ignored. Same for my armload of goodies from whatever oter kind of place I'm leaving to get to my vehicle - and I'm going to be willing to drop them all and run the other way rather than get beat/cut/killed over "stuff". (Oh, I'll be pissed at losing all my "stuff" and essentially throwing away the money I just spent, but I'll be alive to be pissed.)

    stay safe.
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    Regular Member Redbaron007's Avatar
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    To the first part of the OP thread. SA is a constant process. My general take on these SD videos and such, is they are there to help you think in the situation, not neccessarily give you the exact reaction, but to make you think; because, in a very stressful, fluid confrontation, thinking doesn't ocurr easily...so one has to react or not, depending on the circumstances. Is it tough, yep, look at what LEO have to go through just to keep their head on straight, some can-some can't.

    To the second part. Once again SA doesn't start once you start out of the store; it begins when you pull into the parking lot, noticing the cars, the traffic etc coming in and out of the store. The more SA is practiced, the more comfortable you feel noticing things/people. Does one ever reach a perfect state in SA; nope. But after putting it in place, it is easier than it was at first, easier the second year than the first, easier the fifth year than the forth.

    As to your friend's what if situation; the first thing she possibly could do is draw attention to herself, by whatever means. Dive into the specifics of it; how far away from the store is she, day/night, lots of traffic or is she the only one, is she wearing a dress or pants, any hands free, etc to get a better picture; it's a visual thing. There are a lot of variables when a 'what if' situation comes up. The thing about 'what ifs' is to play each one out, one at a time, don't change a variable midstream; play the initial one out, then decide to change a variable and play it out.

    As to your last statement;
    My point, I guess, is that if you are at the point where you need your SA to help you, you have already lost the tactical battle at several points where you could have de-escalated, defused, gone the other way or gotten help. Listen to your fear, be rude, ask for help and do it often and early.
    I agree with you. Name:  thumbsup.gif
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    Campaign Veteran since9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Badger Johnson View Post
    Anyway, I think when you do more 'advanced' firearm training you should ALSO include a few instances where there IS someone running at the trainee (who is shooting snap caps or simmunition) and they have to do an actual reaction so that little 'look left and right' doesn't become a 'box' they end up stuck inside.
    Precisely!

    I think that situational awareness by its very definition will fail you WHEN YOU NEED IT MOST.
    By definition, if it fails, then it's not situational awareness, but a lack thereof.

    My partner said she wanted to know what she should do if coming out of a store some guy ran up and grabbed her before she got to her car...
    Toss the purse in one direction, closer to the perp, while screaming bloody murder and running in a difference direction more away from the perp.

    If the perp is after your girl, instead of her purse, she needs to resist by any and all means necessary, including block and shoot tactics.

    The basic skills necessary for effective self-defense are not difficult to learn, yet are effective against all but the most accomplished fighters. Your goal isn't to overpower or outfight the perp. It's to discourage the perp, make him reconsider, and think "this is WAY too much trouble!" Going limp, being compliant will only embolden him to carry through with his plan, which almost never ends well for an abducted victim.
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    Regular Member Badger Johnson's Avatar
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    Uh some great replies. Thanks. Note the title was a "question", as in 'is SA a myth?', or Premise: "Is SA a myth?". Not an edict.

    Here's a better analogy. A boxer trains to fight, but which punch KOs him? The one he doesn't see. I'm just saying that SA as a concept is NOT simple.

    If I'm SA 99.999% of the time, is that enough, or do I need that .001% extra? How do you be SA? Is there a magic formula?

    In Vietnam, guys with hella skills would go in country green and get killed in the first 10 minutes. Old timers would say 'well he was a greenie'. They were unprepared for a 10 year old kid to walk up to them and shoot them or drop a grenade and run.

    So SA fails when it is stressed at several points (like an engineer analyzing a bridge). Know what these stress points are, take corrective action, use redundancy, work with a partner, realize where SA is not enough, train like you fight, use (often stupidly simple) alternatives, like getting a manager to walk you to your car instead of taking two guns, mace, tac light, and your head on a swivel. If she had done this she would not have needed any SA (to speak of).

    Here are some concepts:
    o Don't let yourself be driven into a killbox;
    o Avoid high chaos situations, learn to recognize them and their genesis;
    o Listen to your fear;
    o Pick an option when you have 100s of options (like the start of a conflict like road rage, or have manager walk you to car (boys and girls alike!)) don't wait until you have two options;
    o Stupid people, places, things - avoid them;
    o You might be tough, macho, armed, aware...it's not enough. Use your brain.
    ...and so on. We know these things, I'm trying to vocalize them.
    Last edited by Badger Johnson; 12-30-2011 at 04:48 AM.
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    Regular Member Marco's Avatar
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