Not all self defence involves busting someone in the chops, in fact the best self defence involves being well away from anywhere you will need physical techniques. With that in mind, let's look at 10 ways you can improve your awareness of the environment around you.
1. Listen around corners:
Don't let anyone surprise you, ever. Practice catching movement out of the corner of your eye, and listen for footsteps around the next corner. See if you can eliminate that little "startle" moment when you almost bump into someone while looking the other way.
2. Watch yourself:
Detach a little piece of your awareness and stick it somewhere just over your left shoulder. Now make sure that monitor watches you no matter what you're doing. If you're in class or in the bar or even in bed, watch what you're doing. Don't pass judgement or second guess yourself, just watch and pay attention to what you do and why you do it.
3. Swimming upstream:
Any time you're on a crowded sidewalk head for the densest part and then twist and turn to avoid hitting anyone as you move like a salmon up the river avoiding the rocks and sliding through the rapids.
4. People are so predictable:
If you pay close attention to what someone is doing, or how they're walking, you should soon be able to tell where they're about to go. Will they turn that corner ahead or go straight through? This is an excellent game to play when you're driving, look at the drivers and see if they're going to change lanes or stick. It's even more challenging if you try to predict lane changes by looking at only the car itself and how it's moving relative to the lane markers and the cars around it.
5. How stupid can you be:
Read the newspaper every day and look for items where someone has been attacked or involved in an accident. Now, without passing judgement on the victims, think "how stupid can you be" and figure out how the situation could have been avoided with a little foresight. Make sure you use that foresight yourself.
6. Personal space:
Experiment with personal space, see how close you can get to the people around you before they start getting nervous and back up. Find out where your space is, when do you feel uneasy if someone gets too close? Does the distance change with your mood? The situation? Do people of different cultures have a different space? How does this space relate to things like the length of your arm?
7. Memory games:
Make up games to sharpen your memory and observational skills. Look around a room once, then close your eyes and identify the position of a single item, walk to it without opening your eyes. Look at four cars and then repeat the license plate of the third to yourself. Now, even more difficult, close your eyes and go through a kata, see if you can convert all the muscle memory to image memory. Then do it with some non-routine physical activity that you have just completed, like a sparring match, go through it moment by moment and reconstruct it. Can you write it down?
8. Rock hopping:
Next time you're somewhere with some rugged terrain, get off the beaten path and see what you can do on rocks, mud, ice, or through the bush. You'll need to pay close attention to your footing as well as where you're going to avoid sprained ankles or branches in the face.
9. The walls will fall:
Consider the old chestnut about always sitting with your back to the wall. Now extend that paranoia to everything you do, and consider even that the wall might fall on you. Don't go overboard or you'll never get out of the house in the morning, keep it a game.
10. The worst case scenerio:
Finally, take all the observation, paranoia and attention to detail you've accumulated and make a habit of working out beforehand what you would do if... Put yourself in a world that is infinitely more dangerous than where we are and make sure that you escape from each and every situation. In other words, spend some time in your own action movie!
Good luck, you'll need it.