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Why do we need Situational Awareness training?

Why do we need Situational Awareness training?

By Imogen Thomas

**This piece contains references to content that some readers may find upsetting or triggering**

A lot of people who end up training situational awareness come from one of either of these backgrounds. Either you took up self-defence because you were police or military based or maybe martial arts, and then got to use the skills as part of the job, and sometimes personally. Or you got there because it’s what you’ve been doing much of your life. It’s how you’ve survived. Either way there’s a good chance you have hypervigilance. It’s a friendly name for a kind of useful paranoia. Me? Well I was never a cadet or a scout.

The first real time I used one of the oldest tactics in the self-defence book, that being distraction, I had just hit thirteen.

I was that shy kid that got bullied, never had a boyfriend, was totally invisible in class. I had also already been sexually assaulted by the offspring of various friends of the family. So when that middle aged male friend of my father’s grabbed me on a deserted snow filled lane, demanding that I came and gave “Old Eziah a kiss” as he bundled me into the hedges, there was of course the part of me that totally froze, utterly incapable of any movement. That lasted for how long? Still can’t tell. And this has been the subject of numerous attempts in the counselling chair. In fact, I totally suppressed this for years. But what does come back is that something, some part of me managed to say “My mother’s coming with the dog”.

Of course he dropped me. It’s what happened next that causes me the most anger.

The same thing that told me to lie about my mother, told me to walk at a normal pace up the road. This would convince him that I was not shocked, was not affronted, thought nothing of it and perhaps even liked it. Because if I ran, the thing inside me said, he would know I knew it was wrong, and he would run after me and probably do me harm to silence me.

Now, the last thing may not be true. But to know at thirteen that you will potentially be harmed to keep a secret by a person within a circle of trust, that requires a dynamic risk decision made on the bare elements presented.

So I’ll tell you what self-defence isn’t about. It’s not about big men throwing arm locks on each other. It’s not about punching people, well, not all the time.

And it’s certainly not about victim shaming through lack of experience or behaviours that have been instilled to undermine a person’s sense of their own self. It’s about those tiny little decisions every day because you permit yourself to go with instinct, and trust yourself to not be an unseeing witness to your own life. You engage and take back your own control in hundreds of subtle ways.

You probably already do some of what this training does. My question is, how well do you consciously know what you’re doing? Now how would you like to do it better?


Situational Awareness and Conflict Management – FREE workshop

When: Wednesday 11th April 2018

What time: 6-8pm

Where: Quaker Friends Meeting House, Champion Square, Bristol BS2 9DB

More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/165464107599555/

As part of International Anti-Street Harassment Week The Bristol Street Harassment Project are running a pilot interactive trainer facilitated workshop on identifying and managing situations where conflict may arise.

This workshop will discuss and provide a range of options for a variety of circumstances you may encounter when you experience street harassment, or other harassment, or if you are a bystander.


This is a pilot workshop and depending on interest we may offer more in the future as well as workshops for different groups.

The workshop will cover:
– how to identify threat and make dynamic risk decisions
– how to retain control in situations that are chaotic or overwhelming
– how to promote assertiveness without aggression
– communication and de-escalation techniques
– understanding and using body language such as non violent postures to promote calm.
– understanding stress reactions such a fight, flight and freeze
– using instincts appropriately
– the use of force in British Law.

If you have any questions about the workshop or would like to book a place please contact charlotte@bristolwomensvoice.org.uk 


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