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What is Situational Awareness Anyway?

What is Situational Awareness Anyway?

Growing up, I thought it was so cool when people could “read” people and know what they were thinking or what they were going to do, before they did it. I believed it was all Hollywood special effects or a skill only super-secret CIA spies had. I didn’t know it was a skill all women are born with.

Have you heard,

“You need to be more aware of your surroundings!”

Which made you look at the person and say,

“Aware of what?”

“What am I looking for?”

“If I DO see something, what should I do?”

“And then what?”

“And then what?!?”

Throughout my life, I’ve had to take responsibility for my personal safety without consciously thinking about it. When I get asked what started my fascination with situational awareness, (basically asking if I’ve had something  tragic happen to me), there isn’t one specific event. I’ve had lots of little situations where I knew something wasn’t right. Situations I’ve looked at differently because I’m a woman.

From an early age, girls are told all the things NOT to do, in order to avoid being a victim to the scary boogeyman, who will jump out of the bushes and hurt you. Stranger danger! But here’s what’s wrong with that message…

We tend to have this preconceived notion that an attacker will be a stranger and will dress a certain way. Ted Bundy was considered charming and attractive. He didn’t LOOK like a cold-hearted killer.

What I’ve realized is being situationally aware is simply looking at life skills you already have, in a different way.

Women have unbelievable intuition skills. We notice when a loved one is “off”. We feel the vibe or energy of a place. We have amazing instincts that help us take care of others. We’re traditionally raised to be kind, gentle, caring, and nurturing. We know EXACTLY what our kids need, even before they can talk.

We joke that the term “momma bear” is a sweet way of saying we would rip someone’s head off if they harmed our children or someone we cared about. Why is it so hard to use those skills to keep ourselves safe?

Because there are very few instructors out there who look like us, who have looked at life the same way as us, helping us see those skills in that way.

A great example I use is running outside. If I want to go for a run, I need to think about the time of day and if it’s a public or private route. I tell someone the route I plan to take, I think about what safety tools to carry, and I how I’m going to carry them. If I’m attacked, I need to consider how fast help can arrive. We can do everything to stay safe and still have some creeper try and mess with us.

My husband on the other hand, only has to decide if he wants to go for a run.

Have you taken a self-defense class? Was it with a male instructor? I’m not saying anything against male instructors! I’ve talked to lots of men in the self-defense industry who truly want to help women. But when they teach self-defense, they don’t have the life experiences women have and it can come across like man-splaining. They don’t realize the nuances we think about that have never crossed their mind.

Women are attacked every day. Not only by the boogeyman jumping out of the bushes, but by those we love and trust.

If we bring the conversation out in to the open, it brings light to things that really happen and the way they happen. We need to talk about the behaviors of PEOPLE in general, not just strangers.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the stranger at the park or the creepy uncle, the red-flag behaviors are the same.

Have you read about a woman being attacked and mentally walked through what you would do if you were in the same situation? This isn’t victim blaming and saying, “she should have done this” or “she should have done that”. This is asking yourself, if that situation happened to me, what would I do?

Try practicing right now. What would you do if someone snuck up behind you and put you in a choke hold?

It’s uncomfortable to think about. Your heart might start beating faster, your palms might get sweaty, and you might hold your breath. I want you to do it anyway. Visualize kicking his shins, stomping on the top of his feet, elbowing his sides, biting his arm, scratching his face, poking his eyes, and anything else you could do to fight back.

Wouldn’t you rather go through all of that visualization in a safe environment, than freeze up in an actual attack?

Your body can’t go where your mind hasn’t. In a situation, every second counts. If you’ve mentally gone through a scenario, you will be able to respond quicker if it actually happens.

We all have fears. We feel it when we become first-time moms, in our careers, or in running our own businesses.

What if we changed the perspective on fear? If fear gets you to take action to improve your life, it’s a good thing. If fear of not being able to defend yourself gets to you be more aware of your surroundings, that’s a good thing. If fear of someone breaking into your home gets you to add motion lights to the exterior of your home, that’s a good thing.

I don’t want you to ever stop living the life you want to live, or go the places you want to go, because you don’t have confidence in your personal safety skills.

Learn how to keep yourself and your loved ones safer. Take a self-defense class, figure out what self-defense tool you feel comfortable carrying and actually carry it. If you don’t want to take an in-person class, find something online.  If you have a question, you can email me any time.

Take the first step.

The Diamond Arrow Group exists to help women gain the confidence to move forward and live life on their own terms. I want all women to live their life, exactly the way they want to.

“Fear is your ally. She’s the caring messenger and supportive friend-and she’s always got your back.”

Marie Forleo

What Does That Even Mean?!?

What Does That Even Mean?!?

Do you ever get caught up in the hype of NYE resolutions? I’m going to work out! I’m going to eat healthier! I’m going to climb Mt. Everest! When I hear people say those things, I wonder-what does that even mean?

In the case of mountain climbing-WHY?! It’s cold up there!

Let’s take the “I’m going to work out” goal. Does that mean getting a gym membership and going on a regular basis? Once you get to the gym, do you want to do cardio? Does that mean running, cycling, rowing? Does it mean lifting weights? Does it mean hiring a personal trainer to guide you in those workouts?

Saying you’re going to work out is a broad statement and means something different to everyone.

Maybe you’re someone who thinks NYE resolutions are overrated so I’ll use a different example. Getting directions.

My husband and I decided it was time to update our boys’ playroom. They need desks to work at and shelves to show off their lego creations. I found everything I needed at IKEA online, and chose the click-and-collect option for pickup. I’m not familiar with this particular store and I’d never used the order pickup system before. When I finalized my order, it gave me the following directions.

The closest parking is on the upper deck of parking garage on south side. Enter through the Returns & Exchanges entrance and turn to your left. Continue to the Order Pick up desk and ask for your order by the order number.”

What does that even mean? Is there a big sign on the outside of the building telling me which entrance I should go in? Is there a loading dock? Do I leave my truck parked near the doors while we walk in to get our items? Will anyone be able to help me lift the boxes in the truck?

So often, the people writing directions have details in their heads they assume everyone knows, and they forget to share them.

That’s exactly what I think of when someone says, “you need to be more situationally aware”.

Great!

What the hell does that mean?!?

Be more aware of what? What am I looking for? How should I act when I’m out in public? How should I act when I’m out with friends? How should I act when I’m with my kids by myself?  Trying to keep your eyes on small children WHILE being aware of your surroundings is a constant balancing act.

Look at the kids, look around, look at the kids, look around…now, what was I doing again? Oh yea, trying to find the next item on my grocery list.

Crap! Where did the kids go?!?

Simply telling women to be more situationally aware is too vague.

That’s where The Diamond Arrow Group steps in. We teach you how your intuition works. How it communicates with you, so you know what to listen for. We teach you the behaviors to watch for, so you know when someone is testing your boundaries.  We talk about using ALL your senses to inform you of your surroundings. We teach simple daily habits to practice, so you are present in your daily life.

Do you prefer to learn by taking online classes?

We have an entire video training series you can take from the comfort of your own home.

Do you prefer taking classes in person?

Our first public class of 2020 is open for registration.

Do you prefer from a presentation on the subject?

We offer hour-long sessions that work great for lunch and learn meetings or networking groups.

Do you prefer one-on-one coaching?

We offer private lessons where we come to you.

We learn about you and start where you are today. We take your natural strengths in to account, and work with you to build self-confidence in your personal safety abilities. We truly believe everyone can learn to be more situationally aware than they were yesterday.

I’m excited to announce something new for 2020. Emergency Action Plan facilitation for private business and public facilities.

Most companies have a large, three-ring binder with what to do in case of a fire, tornado, or flood. When was the last time it was updated? Does it include active shooter incidents or bomb threats? Do all employees know the procedure for accountability in the event of an evacuation? The last thing anyone wants to worry about is where is everyone and are they safe. Yes-there are many templates and tons of information to download from the internet. But what HR Manager has the time to figure out what applies to their specific company?

That where we come in. We will sit down with a business, review the current emergency plan or help create a new one from scratch, and offer suggestions on training or lead trainings for all employees. We provide clear guidance and assistance so companies feel confident in their plan.

The mission of The Diamond Arrow Group is to help people, especially women, gain confidence to live life on their own terms.

How can we help you?

 

“Vagueness leads to assumptions, where no one knows what’s going on.

Being specific opens the door to clarity, which leads to success.”

-Kelly Sayre

Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever

The whole reason I started The Diamond Arrow Group was because I wanted to learn to AVOID a physical confrontation with an attacker. I consider myself to be athletic, but I never wanted to “test” my strength against someone (statistically more than likely to be a male), who may or may not be in an altered state (whether drugs or an adrenaline rush). When I searched for resources or trainings on situational awareness, the majority of what I found was specific to military and law enforcement individuals. I found very little information that talked about learning those skills for everyday life.

With my ties to those worlds, I decided I would become a bridge and translate the information from the tactical world to the everyday person, specifically women.

In The Beginning

It was intimidating at first! How do I take skills that can mean the difference between life or death for soldiers and first responders, and deliver them in a way that makes sense to everyday Jane? Becoming situationally aware can still be the difference between life or death for the average person, but I didn’t want women walking around in fear, waiting for a threat to jump out of the bushes. That’s no way to live. As women, we’re told over and over again that the coolest stuff happens outside our comfort zones, and in the next breath, we’re told not to go out alone after dark. We’re told not to travel solo to see the world. We’re told all these things we SHOULDN’T do in order to stay safe.

It can make it seem like we should just stay home.

And then we read about home invasions.

Is it any surprise women get frustrated by all the mixed messages?

Yea…That’s Not Helpful

I once received a newsletter telling me (and I’ll paraphrase) “The things women can stop doing immediately to be safe”. This well-intended- but way off the mark- list of tips included:

-Never mix alcohol and strangers

-Don’t go through a drive-thru late at night

-Keep unknown people in front of you

I had to read through the list a couple of times because I thought I must have missed the “April Fools” joke somewhere. I shared my response to the newsletter in an Instagram post so rather than re-type my comments, feel free to check it out here. The point is, telling me “don’t do this, don’t do that” isn’t helping me learn to be self-reliant. It gives me zero opportunity to learn how to be safer going about my daily life.

In my book, that’s a FAIL.

Finding My Tribe

In the last two years, I’ve been able to connect with some amazing people in the self-defense world.  A handful of those people included a group of women who had many years of martial arts in their backgrounds. They joined forces because they want to change the way self-defense is taught to women. They welcomed me into their conversation and answered my many questions. When the topic of training opportunities came up, it was a unanimous, “Go to VioDy!”. I had never heard of the training and in my quick google search, I realized there was an upcoming class in my home state. It was the chance to fully immerse myself in the physical and psychological world of self-defense and save a ton of money on travel expenses. Plus-two of the women were going to be there, so I had a safety net. I wouldn’t be all alone with a bunch of strangers. I was in!

What Did I Get Myself Into?!?

As the training dates got closer, I admit, I felt like puking from the nerves. I’d taken one physical self-defense class before, and it was with other newbies. My only true experience fighting someone was wrestling with my brother growing up. I would be walking into a room full of men and women who had years of martial arts experience and taught other people self-defense. I felt way out of my league. I figured they would realize I knew nothing, have pity on me, and let me sit on the sidelines and watch.

Yea…that’s not what happened.

It Got Real, Real Quick

Violence Dynamics isn’t a small-time commitment. It’s four days. It starts promptly at 9am (the group workout starts at 7:15 if you want extra punishment) and goes until 6pm. I would say 80% of the time we were on our feet, going through one-step drills. The instructors tell you to partner with someone in class (they make you change partners after each drill, so you ended up “fighting” with everyone in class) and you VERY SLOWLY physically fight. You might throw the first punch to your partners chin, and they respond by using your momentum to spin you around and put you in a headlock. Maybe you send an elbow back into their ribs, maybe they push you off balance and knock you to the ground. Maybe you kick at their knees to knock them down too. All these movements are done at such a slow speed, it looks comical, but it serves its purpose. You learn what it feels like to make physical contact without actually hurting each other.

Keep in mind, I had very minimal experience in the physical aspect of self-defense. I looked ridiculous on the first day. I ended up in quite a few “well shit, how do I get out of this now?!?” predicaments.

Learn By Doing

But you know what? Not once was I told I was doing it wrong. The instructors made suggestions on different moves to try but stressed the importance of doing what felt natural and getting better at that. Our class was unique in that 2/3rds of the students were “OG’s” (people who attended a VioDy previously). Every partner I fought with wanted to help me and answered my many questions. To be clear- the OG’s did not go easy on the FNG’s (rookies), and I’m glad they didn’t. I was there to test my limits and learn my weak points.

An attacker is not going to “go easy” on you.

I had some bruises, rug burn on my elbows, and my muscles were sore for days afterwards. But I gained confidence in my ability to fight back against an attacker much bigger and stronger than me.

It Wasn’t ALL Physical

The other 20% of training involved class lectures. The instructors covered topics like context of violence, conflict communications, force articulation, and aftermath of violence (this was especially interesting to me as I had never heard anyone talk about the aftereffects of experiencing violence). It was hard for me to just sit and absorb it all because I wanted to turn it in to a class discussion. Each instructor had a lecture topic and the way they explained the psychological side of violence was eye-opening. I’ve read a lot of books on the topic but hearing someone give their own real-world experiences makes a big difference. If you haven’t read Rory Miller’s Conflict Communications book yet, make sure to add it to your reading list.

Real World Scenarios

On the final day, we took a field trip to the Mall of America and learned about physical, mental and emotional boundaries, and what they look like. One exercise involved pairing up with a fellow teammate and playing a certain relationship. My partner and I decided to be mother & daughter. We needed to see if we could accurately project the relationship so strangers would assume that’s what we were. Another exercise involved getting “highly sensitive” information from one instructor to another by using a code and not letting the information get intercepted. It was a lot of fun!

After personally logging over 18,000 steps, the day ended by having dinner together.

The Wrap Party

Even after four days with these people, I wanted one more day to hang out. On the first day, you stood up, said your name, your code name if you were an OG, and talked about your self-defense background. We didn’t share what we did for a living, where we were from, or how old we were; we were simply people wanting to learn how to keep ourselves and loved ones safe.

For those four days, we were all focused on a singular goal, to go from strength to strength. Wherever you started from, they wanted you to get better.

Mission Accomplished

I could go on and on about my different experiences in the training (First time fighting in a car! First time fighting in a stairwell! First time fighting in the ladies restroom!). I’m happy to report I “punched” my graduation certificate and my official OG codename is Starbuck (not the coffee shop;-p).

In Conclusion

The training is awesome, and I highly recommend it to ANYONE. We had more women in the class then men. I met people from California, Nevada, and Alaska. A mom, her daughter and two sons attended, and they were all OG’s (not their first VioDy). All ages, all backgrounds, and all abilities. Everyone was welcome.

Next year is the 10th anniversary of VioDy and they have some epic things planned. They’re even calling it “Mega Prime”. I’ll share the registration link when it goes public with my email list. So, if you were forwarded this newsletter, make sure to get on my email list yourself!

“Develop the habit of doing unpleasant things quickly and without hesitation. If you are going to jump in the cold water, jump in the cold water. If you need to get up, get your ass out of bed. Do the dishes that need doing. Finish the hard jobs at work while everyone else is coming up with excuses to get out of them.”

-Rory Miller

Men Just Don’t Understand

Men Just Don’t Understand

They Have the Knowledge

Over the last two years, I’ve had numerous conversations with male experts in the fields of personal safety, self-defense, and protection. Every one of them has a vast wealth of knowledge on the subjects and want to help women learn how to improve their personal safety skills.

And each one of them ends the conversation with, “but I’m not a woman so I admit I can never completely understand the unique viewpoint of a woman.”

They want to help women and teach them the skills and give them the tools to be safer in their daily lives, but they know it sounds different coming from a man.

It’s not a myth, it’s a fact.

Research Says

Maybe you’ve read this article from Huffington Post regarding the things women do and think about before simply going for a run.

Maybe you’ve seen this Facebook post that went viral last year with over 560K shares talking about the things men and women do to prevent a sexual assault.

I’m not saying ALL men are oblivious to the things women think about before walking out their door every day. In fact, there are a lot of men who “get it” and want to help. However, they know they can be intimidating to women and cause triggered emotions, so they sit in silent frustration not knowing how to reach all women. Especially the women who really want the training and don’t know where to start.

What Are You Waiting For?

So, where does that leave you? Hopefully not just sticking your head in the sand and pretending “it will never happen to me.” If you’ve ever uttered the words, “but I live in a safe neighborhood” or “I don’t go to places where stuff like that happens” or “my husband/boyfriend/significant other knows all that stuff, so I don’t need to”.

Please take a moment to ask yourself, what would you do IF something happened to you.

You’ve probably heard it before, victims of crimes didn’t start their day thinking it would happen to them. No one plans to be attacked or victimized. So, what are you doing to prepare in case something happens?

You Can Do This!

You can start with taking the first step. Ask yourself the following questions (don’t speed read them either!). After reading a question, close your eyes and mentally picture the scenario in your head and how you would react. 

What would you do…?

…if someone broke into your home while you were there?

…if you heard gunshots while you were grocery shopping?  

…if you realized you were being followed?

…if a guy is getting in your personal space and won’t leave you alone?

Your Life Matters

You have value. You have worth. Your safety is paramount and if you have kids, you want to protect them as well. Take the initiative to invest in improving your personal safety skills. Look for class offerings in your area and get signed up. 

The Diamond Arrow Group offers in-person classes on Situational Awareness. If you don’t live in our area, you can purchase the Situational Awareness and Intuition online training so you can learn tips & tricks from the comfort of your own home. Research and find self-defense classes near you that you can take. If you want guidance on where to go for those classes, send me an email. I’m happy to help.

I will refer you to people who can help you and won’t make you feel silly or stupid for asking the questions on your mind.

 “I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”

 -Susan B. Anthony

 

Daily Habits

Daily Habits

Some of the favorite things I teach in my classes are daily habits to build your awareness. You have the ability to be more aware of your surroundings already and it doesn’t require any money, anyone else helping you or any fancy training. Because all you have to do is start practicing.

The A-Game

This is a game you can play in your head, with your friends and even with kids! At an event-say a meeting or going to the park-try and see how many of the following questions you can answer.

  • What is the general mood of the place?
  • What is one thing that sticks out to you?
  • What is the normal activity you would expect to see here?
  • What would cause someone or something to stand out?

At first, you might feel like you are constantly scanning and staring at people, but eventually it will become second nature.

Our friend Andy, over at The Secure Dad podcast, shared a game he plays with his kids when they go out to eat. He calls his game, “Count the doors”. Andy asks them to count the doors in the restaurant. This helps keep them busy, works on their counting skills, and subconsciously helps them realize there are multiple options for getting out of the restaurant.

Master Memorization

A great skillset to build with the A-game is mastering your memorization. After you’ve left an event or place, see how many details you or others can recall.

  • How many people were there?
  • If you interacted with anyone, what was their mood?
  • How did they respond to you?

You can play this game immediately after you’ve left somewhere or at the end of the day. Whenever you have a moment. As you build this skill, you will find it easier and easier to recall details from events that happened not only earlier in the day, but even earlier in the week or month!

One Thing

You’ve probably heard that eyewitness accounts are not always reliable. Two people can be looking at the same thing and come away with very different impressions and memories. That’s why I recommend picking ONE THING to remember about people. What is the first thing you notice about someone when you meet them?

  • Their haircut or style
  • A tattoo
  • A piece of jewelry such as earrings, a bracelet or a watch

Practice noticing that ONE thing with everyone you meet. Even if you’ve known someone your whole life, what is the first thing that stands out to you?

Now-don’t try to do all these exercises at once! You may end up feeling overwhelmed or look like a suspicious person yourself because you’re staring at everyone. Pick one habit to work on every day and soon you won’t even realize you’re consciously practicing it.

The best part? You’ll start being more present in your daily life and your personal relationships will benefit.

 

 “Forget perfect on the first try. In the face of frustration, your best tool is a few deep breaths, and remembering that you can do anything once you’ve practiced two hundred times.”

― Miriam Peskowitz, The Daring Book for Girls