Unit 1 Awareness practice

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should:

  • have raised your situational awareness
  • know how to avoid dangerous encounters
  • know how to identify potential conflicts
  • know when your should run, hide or fight
  • be able to assess the strength of your attitude, skills and plan


Living in Japan is wonderful. Street crime is rare. Unprovoked attacks are extremely rare. Growing up in this safe environment is a dream for children in many other countries. The downside is that because Japan is so safe, Japanese youngsters are unprepared and unknowingly may put themselves in dangerous situations when travelling abroad. Travelling abroad and getting to know the people and cultures in different countries is an amazing experience not to be missed. But, it is necessary to put your personal safety first. This short course aims at arming you with the skills to avoid danger by recognising dangerous situations in time.

Activity 1 Real experiences

Decide which of these situations describe real events.

  1. Thailand: Hiroshi went to a bar and met a beautiful girl. "We shared a taxi together. I don't know what happened, but when I woke up I was in hospital and had no money".
  2. The Philippines: Norifumi was on holiday in Manila. He went out to enjoy the nightlife and drank quite a bit. He was not drunk, but he wasn't sober. The road was dark and there were many locals hanging outside. He arrived back at his hotel safely.
  3. India: Kaori loved Indian culture and went to a conference in Dehli. She enjoyed the conference greatly. After the conference had finished, she was returning to her hotel on foot. She got knocked down by a car when she was trying to cross a busy road. She spent months in hospital and even longer having treatment for her injuries.
  4. France: Akiko spoke English excellently and wanted to visit Paris. She went there alone and planned to explore the city. She had difficulty understanding French, though. One evening a man approached her while she was walking. He said something. She was afraid and ran away. She did not know what he wanted, but did not want to take a risk.

In fact, all of these are true stories that Japanese students of mine have told me. Some stories had happy endings and some did not. The aim of this course is to make sure that your travel abroad ends happily!

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Activity 2 Attitude, skills and plan

Read this explanation of the concepts attitude, skills and plan.

Attitude, skills and plan is a mantra advocated by John Correia, the founder of Active Self Protection. His focus is mainly on firearms training, but his advice applies to all types of defense.

Attitude is about choosing not to be a victim. This is not a theoretical mind experiment. This is a choice that will affect your actions. To avoid becoming a victim is the perfect self defense.

Skills refers to the behaviours that you can learn. The first level and most important level of skills relates to awareness. If you see a bad guy coming, you can escape. If you do not see him until he is next to you, it is too late to run. Awareness gives you the time to make good choices. At a more advanced level, skills can refer to physical self defense techniques and training. This hands-on level is not the focus of this course, but should you want to take your defense training further, you should check out the options near you.

Plan. It is not possible to plan an encounter in detail, but you should have a broad set of plans or principles that you will follow. Depending on your country, one such plan could be "avoid walking alone at night". You plan should take account of your attitude, skill set and the local context.

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Activity 3 Rules of stupid

Read the following advice.

Where possible, do not go to places that are high risk. The high risk areas differ by country, but some common ones include: bars and night clubs, streets with drug users and drug dealers, and streets with gangs hanging around.

You should also avoid the high risk times. These are the times when more crime happens. Invariably, this is late at night and early in the morning when most people are asleep. These times are more dangerous because there are fewer good people, and fewer witnesses around. Additionally, in many countries when youths get drunk, street attacks increase.

Lastly, sometimes bad things happen because of the behaviour of someone with you. Choose your friends wisely.

This advice can be summed up as the three rules of stupid.

  • Don't go to stupid places.
  • Don't go at stupid times.
  • Don't go with stupid people.

Nothing good is going to happen at 2:00 am. If you are walking along the road at that time in the morning, the chance for you to meet someone really interesting and develop a lifelong friendship is negligle, but the chance to become a victim is high. Where possible, avoid being outside at stupid times.

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Activity 4 Awareness on streets

When enjoying the atmosphere, the sights and scenery abroad, it is necessary to evaluate risks. Some places are safer than others. An a dark area with no pedestrians is riskier than a well-lit area with people. Some types of criminal target tourists because they tend to carry money and valuables, and are less aware than locals. Roads that are wide are safer than roads that are narrow. Roads that have shops and restaurants are safer than those with none. Roads that are lined with derelict houses, litter and grafitti should be avoided. These are places that attract gangs.

Watch this video to increase your situational awareness.

Activity 5 Awareness of environment

It is easy to become a victim when you are focussed on a particular item, such as your mobile phone, some interesting building in a tourist area, or even selecting food on a menu or in a supermarket.

Watch this video to see just how easily a young thief distracts his victim, and steals her purse (50 sec).

Watch this video to see how easily a phone can be stolen with a dimple distraction technique (52 sec).

Watch this video of a tourist in London livestreaming her walk. She gets a great video but for the wrong reason (1 min 57 sec).

Activity 6 Awareness of presence of people


Behind cars/bushes/trees; in cars/alleys/doorways

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Activity 7 Awareness of type of people

Being surrounded by people who are likely to protect you is good, but being surrounded by people likely to victimize you is not! Once you are aware of the presence of someone, you need to evaluate them. Here we need to make split second judgements. This, in part, will be made based on stereotypes. If you see someone who looks like a member of a street gang and someone else wearing a suit who looks like a businessman, we guess that the street gang member is more likely to pose a threat. However, it could be that the gang member might actually protect you from an attack from the well-dressed person.

Clothes might give us clues about the identify and affilations that someone wants to display. Ideally, we want to know whether someone is carrying a weapon. In some countries carrying knifes and/or guns is commmonplace. If you can recognise that someone who looks like a risk and is carrying a weapon, then you know you should get away from that person. Although a gun is a long range weapon, most people cannot shot well and the chance from them to hit you once you are 10 meters away is slim. It should take most people around 2 seconds to run 10 meters.

Watch this video to learn more about how to recognise when people are carrying weapons concealed under their clothing. (TO DO - replace with PowerPoint)

Watch this video interview of some Chicago South side gang members. See how quickly a gun comes out. Did you know the gun was there? If not, rewatch until you notice him checking it before drawing. You will also notice that they throw gang signs. They are also extremely vigilant, constantly checking if anyone is coming into their territory.

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Activity 8 Awareness of behaviours


Thieves and robbbers usually check whether anyone is watching before committing crimes.

Thieves then sieze the opportunity to steal when the victim is distracted. At times, they cause the distraction. Techniques such as bumping into people, dropping items or making loud noises may be used.

Robbers sieze their opportunity by not revealling their true purpose until they are already next to you. Before attackers begin a physical attack, they display similar patterns. A common techique is furtive looks, then avoidng direct eye contact followed by a surprise attack. When ego is involved, male attackers in particular frequently close the distance and stick their chin out.

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Activity 9 Summary writing

Write the following.

  1. What is your attitude?
  2. What are your skills?
  3. What is your plan?


Make sure you:

  1. avoid going to stupid places, at stupid times with stupid people.
  2. blend in and act like the locals.
  3. value your life more than your things.

"Awareness buys you time. Time buys you choices." John Correia, Active Self Protection

Copyright John Blake, 2020