Kyoshi's Technique of the Week

March 29th, 2015

From Kyoshi David Baker, Chief Administrator,
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA
Under the Direction of Hanshi Robert Scaglione

Be Aware of Your Entire 360°

This principle is from the Green Book (Building Warrior Spirit). I suggest you read the section on Gan, especially “Warrior Perception” on page 17,
and the section starting with the first paragraph of page 26, until the end of the Gan chapter.

Be aware of what’s around you, to respond to a circumstance or attack that endangers you or a loved one. Study the Green Book for the Gan precept and the perception necessary for a warrior. Our training, especially kata, develops that remote sensing of all that is around us—“Awareness training”.

Carry this training over into your life, so that it protects you and your loved ones as you go about your daily activities. And once you incorporate it into your daily life, guard especially that you don’t become complacent, especially when in a familiar setting. This is because we tend to relax our defenses when at home or at work or on our commute. “Complacency training.” Which erodes the “Awareness training” we’re trying to accomplish.

Study the strategies and techniques from the Gan chapter to keep you vigilant.

Use your visual perception to scan your environment.

Military pilots speak of their “6 o’clock position” (as in “Watch your 6”)—what’s directly behind them—because that is where they’re most vulnerable in the sky. But their vulnerability actually extends in each direction of all three dimensions. Left and right, up and down, forward and back. This holds true for us too, only conceding that falling objects are rare and below us holds risk primarily for uneven or wet pavement, curbs, stray objects, etc. But normally, not by attacks from above or below.

The normal human binocular visual field is approximately 200º, so a normally sighted person can see everything in front of them, plus a little to each side (approximately 10º), while maintaining the eyes forward. However, we can increase that, to see what is next to us and even slightly behind, by rotating our eyes—while still remaining fairly covert and facing straight ahead. (And in an urban setting you can double your effective angle of sight behind by using reflective surfaces such as store windows.)

Yet, we must be aware of our entire 360°. And if we are to accomplish this visually, we must rotate our head—becoming overt in our scanning.

However, someone who looks sideways or behind may draw undue attention as being anxious or scared, and therefore be perceived as prey, i.e. a “target”.

The ideal, then, might be to be wary without being obvious. Casually scanning. And if predators notice that we’re aware (but not scared), they’ll probably choose an easier, less attentive victim anyway.

But the worst is to be so “cool” (or afraid) that you refuse to show your wariness altogether. You don’t scan at all. Afraid that looking around appears afraid. That willful blindness is an open invitation to a predator.

And there may be times when you must drop all guise and look directly behind if your instinct suggests there is something that requires immediate attention. Use the skills you’ve trained to prevent being the victim of an attack. (#knockout game) After all, your instincts are barking at you, in this instance, for a reason. Their arousal is one of your best defenses. Learn to read your instincts, trust them, and develop them further.

When walking the dog late at night I’ll keep an approaching, suspicious person in sight, and then surreptitiously turn my head as he passes next to me on the sidewalk until I’m convinced that he won’t double back on me. After all, if he sees me looking back at him, then he’s looking back too. Revealing all three of us as mutually wary. (Did you forget to count the dog?)

Also, take cues from the reactions of others. If you’re engaged in conversation with someone in front of you and a sound behind you diverts their gaze, that could be a warning. Or a ruse.

But to be aware of our entire environment, we must develop all our senses, especially to fill in the visual void due to the fact that we don’t have eyes in the back of our head.

Listen to your environment and discriminate between near and far sounds, heavy and light, fast and slow, urgent and normal. Discern meaning from what you hear.

Other senses
Smell? Touch? How else can you fill in the sensory void behind you? Know too that some common things we wear, such as hoodies, headphones, etc. are blinders of our senses, making us more vulnerable.

“Sixth sense”
Sometimes, something unknown will make the “hair on the back of your neck stand up”. That might be important. Danger might be nigh. Again, learn to trust your instincts—they’re often dead-on.

And act quickly and decisively. Hanshi writes about an incident in New Jersey on page 29 of the Green Book where ten or more teenagers surrounded a man. He was struck from behind, in the back of the head, with a blunt object.

The lesson here is to be aware at all times, and do everything you can to prevent from being surrounded if you sense an imminent threat from a group. In that case, try not to be surrounded. Don’t let them close the circle behind you.

Rather, put a wall to your back, as in Nihanchi kata. Or punch the ringleader in the nose and run while the others stare in shock. (The lesson of the story on page 62 of the Green Book, where the homeowner shot the first intruder, instantly immobilizing the entire gang.) Or find the weak point of the circle and burst through it. Or shout for help. But do something before the circle closes.

But to do that, first you must be aware of what’s around you, and especially behind. You need to be aware of your entire 360°.

From Kyoshi David Baker, Chief Administrator,
Ueshiro Shorin-Ryu Karate USA