Situational awareness is a useful skill and it requires paying careful attention to your surroundings. Since we were Bond movie fans as kids my brother often used to tell me to “Pay attention 007” and I even use it on my kids now too.
In the Bond movies Q (the Quartermaster) famously says to James Bond “Now pay attention 007” and then in one exchange says “I’ve always tried to teach you two things: First, never let them see you bleed;” Bond responds: “And second?” and Q says: “Always have an escape plan”.
It’s remarkable how scenes and lines from movies spring to mind in various situations. I happened to be parking my car on the way to the dojang and my Kuk Sool Won Master walked across the tarmac and picked up a nail and said to me “Why don’t other motorists notice these things? I often have to pick them up.” He then proceeded to scan the area for anything else potentially dangerous and found some other nasties too. It was a small moment but a lesson nonetheless. Especially as I didn’t notice it when I parked my car.
Must be a martial arts awareness thing I said – just like Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity. I had recently read a mixed martial arts thread discussing How to Develop the Situational Awareness of Jason Bourne and that’s probably why it came to mind then. I am usually so involved in my lists that I don’t pay attention to much else happening around me unless I have my camera in hand.
My camera increases my mindfulness since it focuses my attention. When I walk or even drive somewhere I often remember the locations of a particular flower or tree in bloom. It seems to me that martial arts training does the same. Intention gives focus which in turn makes one more mindful.
There is a Korean term called “Jung Shin” that means focusing your mind and heart 100% on the moment. It’s not always easy to do. When we are involved in sword play or practicing techniques there are a number of bodies in motion simultaneously and sometimes in an attempt to get out of the way I inadvertently move into the path of another student.
The busyness of life and our emphasis on the next task does not usually allow this attention to permeate our days.
I would love to be able to do what Jason Bourne did. To be so aware that as you move your mind automatically registers the detail. Perhaps technological advances will allow us to have the scanning abilities of the Terminator at some point so we can speed read and analyse our surroundings. I know that it can be learnt to a certain extent because when I have my camera I scan for interesting details all the time. It’s also clear that when you are a martial arts expert like Master Saidi then situational awareness is part of the package.
The more attention you pay the better your situational awareness will be. It seems as with most other types of learning, the more you practice, the better you become.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.
My fifth Kuk Sool Won lesson and my anxiety levels still peak before class. Punctuality is something our instructors and I take seriously so I am always at the dojang at least 10min before the lesson begins.
My eyes are drawn to the brown belts in training. Eyes focused, mind clear, hands fast and stance low – that’s what Master Saidi calls their attention to. Such control and flexibility is wonderful to observe.
White belts unite
Time for my class to begin and I find my spot on the mat. Beside me a tiny and completely adorable toddler takes his place to begin his second class. We are separated in age by about forty years but in the dojang we are the same. White belts – the lowest rank.
I meet another mature white belt student who has just returned from an extended overseas trip. She is delightful and just as anxious as I am because her long absence requires her to refresh some of the skills she has already been taught.
We plough through techniques and forms together. It’s great fun and we have a sense of accomplishment completing the introductory stances and moves in unison.
A lesson about beginning
One of my favourite stories as a child was Alice in Wonderland and her conversation with the Mock Turtle about lessons came to mind:
‘And how many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.
‘Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘nine the next, and so on.’
‘What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Alice.
‘That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: ‘because they lessen from day to day.’
I am glad that these kind of lessons don’t apply in Kuk Sool Won class. I need all the teaching and practice I can get!
I am mindful of my self-talk. Don’t think because you’re brave enough to start that it’s going to be easy. Don’t think that overcoming your lizard brain means that there will not be further obstacles or naysayers or moments of self doubt.
This might not work but I’m doing it anyway. “We don’t have to be great to start but we have to start to be great.” to quote Zig Ziglar. We all have something awesome inside of us to share but if we don’t start then nobody will ever know. You need to begin to unleash the awesome!
The next goal
We stop our practice to observe the brown belts. Even with their advanced skills the Master still corrects certain postures and hand positions. They are still learning too. In martial arts there is no finish line – only the route to the next goal.
I find this comforting. As much as we learn there is always more to know. Master Saidi tells us there will be tournament practice and that he expects the white belts to go to tournament too. This is a bit of a surprise as it’s less than 2 months away! A new learning goal is set.
We get to bow out at the end of class and we stand on the tape in rank order – white belts last of course. My spirits have buoyed. Even the longest journeys begin with a single step.
Have you taken your step?
It was a chilly evening but I didn’t need anything to keep warm. Nervous energy consumed me as I drove through the evening traffic.
The dojang (training hall) loomed large before me. The previous class was still in session. I tried not to focus on what the students were doing as I knew it would only escalate my anxiety.
My lizard brain wanted to retreat. What was I thinking? A 40-something year old with a very unsuccessful track record in anything sports related, starting a martial arts class where the average student was likely to be at least 30 years younger!
A sense of trepidation gripped me but I knew I was going to have to do this one scared! Feel the fear and do it anyway!
Our instructor, Master Seyd M. A. Saidi, has practiced martial arts for over 35 years and has developed numerous teaching methods and techniques designed to aid students of all ages become accomplished martial artists.
“What size uniform do you think? 3 or 4?” asked Master Saidi. “Is there a size short and round?” I responded. I was handed the size 4 and went off to change.
There was no turning back now.
Standing in the changing area donning my dobok (uniform) felt strangely exciting. I saw my reflection in the large wall mirrors – you’re all kinds of crazy I thought!
The rest of the hour past in a blur of stretches, kicks, breathing exercises, punches and sword play. I felt rather self-conscious – the only white belt in a sea of browns and blacks! I couldn’t keep up with all of it and lost my balance a few times.Other than that though – it was exhilarating and I felt like I was connecting with my inner Cynthia Rothrock.
Respect and etiquette was palpable. Controlled discipline permeated each exchange which thankfully meant I was not taken down by the more advanced students. A fellow student even handed me a training sword so I didn’t have to fetch one myself. It was a kind gesture.
After the class the trainers were very encouraging. It was kind of them not to mock my lack of flexibility or dexterity.
Although I still felt the weight of my inexperience, I knew that I was embarking on another journey of self discovery. Guess I would keep being terrified but I would also keep trying.
We only regret the paths left unexplored.
When was the last time you tried something for the first time?
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Won Association.