Ninja Situational Awareness

Grey ManSituational Awareness

“Fumio sat in the small soba shop, carefully positioning himself near the rear exit but allowing him an unobstructed view of the front of the shop. He had already noted the two men sitting at right of the shop when he entered, both whom were armed with tantos under their clothes. The tattoos indicated they were Yakuza. Fumio rarely missed an opportunity to hone his awareness and observational skills, as in his line of work it could spell the difference between life or death….”


Our ancient Ninja predecessors possessed an almost superhuman ability to observe and analyze their surroundings, giving them an “edge” over those individuals attempting to do them harm. This isn’t just some “spy” tactic but a real world skill that you can learn and improve upon, it is known as situational awareness.

Situational awareness is being aware of what is happening around you and understanding and processing that information, so that you can take actions that may be necessary in a variety of situations. What many people won’t tell you though is that situational awareness is’nt a natural occurring skill, and it is perishable, and requires practice to be maintained.

When I teach others about situational awareness I normally start off with this basic drill(I have written about this before)

Drill #1 – “What would I do if….” Ask yourself what would you do if a situation occurred when you were in a restaurant. Can you access a weapon? Are you carrying a weapon, where is the best cover and or concealment, How would I get my loved ones to safety? Etc etc, this game can go on and on and it should be a daily part of your life and training.

Ok, so you probably all remember that drill so here is the next one in the training series:

Drill #2 – “Eyes up and ahead” – Each day when you are walking, take a look around you and notice how many people will not make eye contact with you, or are caught up on their phone, texting or even listening to music. Now your part, don’t look down or away, but each person you walk by try and make eye contact with them. Be confident and sure of yourself, hold your head up and eyes ahead, be aware of who is approaching or entering your space.

So, it two drills to quickly start adding to your skill base. But…wait there is more!

Drill #3 – “Kim’s Game. I love this game, I have used it in many, many ways teaching this to boy scouts, police, military as well as martial artists for years. The game develops a person’s capacity to observe and remember details. The name is derived from Rudyard Kipling’s story, in which the hero, Kim, plays the game during his training as a spy. Basically at it’s simplest, it involves setting up a few objects on a tray covered and then quickly removing the cover, allowing the students to see them and then quickly covering them again. Now it is up to the student to remember what is was on the tray. Now that is a simple version, one I often add is to ask my students questions like “ How many cars are in the yard? What color are they? What was different on the way into the school? And I ask these a lot! Forcing students to be aware of what is around them as they never know when I am going to ask the next question. This game is utilized in military sniper training, recon work etc. It will go a long way to building your observation skills!

Drill #4 – “Wide angle vision” – This drill is a great way to help people understand we too often have tunnel vision when we are in an area we feel comfortable in. Focusing only on what is right in front of you is a sure way to get yourself killed on a battlefield. Basically this drill involves you using drill #2 but also to expand your view to take in everything that is in the 180 degree capability of your eyes.(Yes, I know not everyone can see that wide! But try!)

Drill # 5 – “Exit interview” – Now this one you will need a partner for, next time you go somewhere let’s say a restaurant, after you leave ask your partner How many people where at the server station? How many people were in the waiting area? What color was the shirt of your server? What was there name? How much was the check? Again this is another way to get you tuning in on what is going on around you each day.

Too often we are in a bubble that surrounds us and we close off what is actually going on around you. We need to break down the artificial barrier and take in with all of our senses what is going on around you. Not only will you be better prepared to face potential threats but also you may just take in more of life that is going on just outside of your awareness.

Bufu Ikkan!


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