One subscriber, Bruno, wrote the following response to being aware and where to look while out in public:
“I’ve given this particular issue a lot of thought. Until recently, I used to “look behind” when coming out of a door. That is, if I was going to turn right after coming out, I looked to the left first, to make sure I was never caught from behind…
But then I once ran into someone who was passing by, very close to the wall (and door). So, two lessons for me here: 1- Don’t walk too close to the walls. You WILL run into someone.
2- Always look first to where you’re going, then you can check your back.
Bruno got me thinking about exiting a door of a business; you see, I do this automatically, without thought … now
Martial-Arts Awareness While Exiting
I decided to observe my “automatic martial-arts awareness habits.” After all, I wasnt’ sure exactly what my eyes did, when exiting.
Here’s what I found:
I tend to rely on peripheral vision. As I exit the door, my eyes definitely scan both left and then right. WIthout moving the head, I can see almost 40 feet in either direction. With a little pivot of the head, I can see further.
Bruno’s idea of looking behind first intrigued me. So, I checked to see if I do the same. (I do, when walking out to the sidewalk, but not when exiting the building.)
After six experiments … stopping and analyzing right after I passed through a door … I found the following conclusions:
When there is no movement and nothing of interest, one glance each way with eyes only seems to suffice. In other words, I’m not obsessive with furtive, paranoid glances.
On the other hand, when I see movement on my quick scan, or identify a person in the scene, I tend to give that direction a second glance, with some ever-so-slight head movement. Because my first glance doesn’t involve head movement, any onlooker wouldn’t know that something warranted a second look. The watchword really is “subtle.”
With these scans, I feel that I’m less likely to be surprised by someone catching up to me from behind, or jumping out in front of me. I’m sure you probably also have a similar scanning routine, planned or not.
The Next Martial-Arts Step
Being aware with glances isn’t enough for me. Knowledge without action is akin to literacy without book reading. You scan for that safety advantage; so, you need to adjust based on what you see.
For me, I might choose to walk on the “other side” of my daughter. Or I could choose to pause for a second to let some “bodies” walk by. Or I might even cross to the other side of a street to avoid a crowd blocking a sidewalk.
After years, I don’t think about any of this. I just respond with generally safe actions, while being aware.
Thanks again to Bruno for his letter.
PS I wonder why I titled this page “pre-fight awareness.”