The easiest way to get out of an ambush or win a fight is not to get in it. Don’t just pay attention to your surroundings, understand the significance of what you’re seeing — because sometimes, what looks scary, isn’t. Sometimes what looks innocuous, is not. Truth is, none of us are gonna be hyper vigilant at all times — build good habits to mitigate that. Mad Duo
Contextual Relevance- Staying Ahead of the Gun
Language Lessons: Contextual Relevance.
Relates To: Situational Awareness, Information Processing.
Category: Situational Awareness and Perception
Applications of Use: Approximately 80% of the victims of violent crime recall having had a “this is not right” moment before the assault
Definition: Delivering the right information at the right time. (“Right” as related to; how will this effect my intentions? “Time” as related to time, space, & distance.)
Why it matters: As the popular saying goes; “You will not rise to the occasion, you will fall back to your level of training.” Awareness is a tangible skill which must be a priority in your training. There are a handful of credible teachers who can outfit you with this skill/system — seek them out, and perform your own research.
Into the Weeds:
Your perception is your reality. When reality strikes will you be ready? Reality is out there; he’s a criminal on the prowl. Reality is searching for his next opportunity. He takes many forms in our society and comes in all colors, heights, makes and models. He is just as likely to come from a white collar or low income, broken or unbroken home. He’s a criminal and only knows fast money. He lives for the now and when your reality doesn’t see reality coming then your “nows” will cross and you will be forced to go to gun.
Keeping people from meeting unanticipated friction on patrol, the beat, the streets, or in the board room is my goal. Will we experience friction? Yes! How you deal with it determines your resulting performance. It all begins with perception; perception leads to understanding, and lends to projection, all of which are filters for what is now institutionally called SA (Situational Awareness), but might also be called the “everyman’s Common Operating Picture COP)”. By using what we know and what we are sensing we can project an anticipated outcome. Your body is geared up for this process so let’s explore how we may be able to optimize it in order to keep our families (and our communities) safe.
Part of perception is understanding what belongs, and what doesn’t, and sometimes intuiting what does belong even though it seems like it shouldn’t. This sounds counter intuitive, or like an intimidating way to describe cognitive and perceptual variables, but it’s actually very simple. Understanding the concepts of contextual relevance, confirmation bias, and perceptual fill will significantly help you “weaponize the senses”; this is as true in everyday life as it is in combat. (More on the latter two terms later.)
You must both gather and process information.
Many of you have flipped through a magazine and seen the U.S. Navy SEAL promo ad below. It says, “Pictured from left to right…”, “Do you have what it takes?”.
Depicted is a swamp photo where the servicemen are hiding without detection. Like me you probably thought, what a crock of BS, as you painfully try to make out some semblance of a frog man? As you succumb to this clever U.S. Navy marketing gimmick you begin thinking of excuses as to why you couldn’t see them.
Has anyone ever made out a SEAL in this photo? Are they standing directly behind trees? What kind of camo are they wearing? How close are they? They’re probably underwater…right?
The challenge that we face in this photo is not unlike the challenges we face in our everyday lives.
What we are experiencing is a deliberate defeat of our senses through a lack of contextual relevance. We all have a mental model of what we believe a swamp should look like. This mental model is developed by experience, knowledge, and possibly training. Perhaps it’s from watching movies, or traveling, or hanging out with Alec Holland. As we visually scan a scene, or the immediate environment, we must, quite simpley, be able to separate that which belongs from that which does not — which at times is harder than it might seem.
If we only have mental models of whatever belongs in a given scene or situation, then we are setting our senses up for defeat. If we limit our sensory input to just vision, which is what the vast majority of Americans do, we are severely limiting our intuitive capabilities. This is significantly exacerbated by the self-imposed handicaps we put on ourselves (a creature that relies mostly on vision, but frequently occludes that vision with cell phones or other close-in distractions, is not a terribly perceptive creature at all).
Does the swamp not contain many other clues of human presence? If we were to really have a chance to locate those SEALs, we’d need the entire pictures. Think insects ceasing to (or resuming) their chirp or buzz, bird alarms, the scent of disturbed surfaces (as you might get from plants or detritus), and so on.
This real time information, combined with our existing mental models, produces situational understanding.
Here’s how it may apply to your life: You stop at the grocery store to pick up a six pack on the way home. As you pull into the parking lot, your mental models are already at work. You scan your surroundings: sixteen year old kid pushing shopping karts, check. Hot cougar loading up the back of a mini-van, check. Open Carry drop leg holstered mullet-head reading Auto Trader out front, double check. You’ve seen him or someone like him here before.
You park the war wagon, search and assess 360 in a natural motion as a matter of course, and at 7 ‘O the clock you see an approaching male. His head down and he’s moving parallel to the building. Much more quickly than you expected he’s by your door, unintelligibly ranting off information that is far less important than what your eyes have been gathering. His nonverbal messages are all wrong — you have appropriately assessed by comparing past experiences with this experience. Based on past and current accurate perception of your reality, you can now make the appropriate decision to act.
Your initial goal of getting a sixer at this grocery store has now changed to getting a sixer elsewhere.
Instead of unlocking and opening the door, potentially getting into a verbal and possible physical altercation with this dude, you drive away. The friction was mitigated. Did we have to alter our initial goal? Yes, but prudence dictates (as do the responsibilities of an armed citizen) that we take the high road and avoid conflict if possible.
Your senses are your alarm system. Your gun is your last resort. Seek to apply what you know and what you’re experiencing into the proper context. Through training we can maximize our perception, which increases our situational understanding, thereby optimizing our performance.
Question to the Crowd: Question for the crowd- You are vigilant, frosty, snapped on, aware. A human sponge, the warrior monk of your community…right? Do not be a sponge, be proactive in your awareness, casting and projecting your senses. The coyote can only be a coyote, you must be the wolf. Do you do currently do anything to keep your awareness skills up to par? If so, what?
Note – like or dislike the guy in this video as you will, what he says here makes a lot of sense. Give it a watch – Mad Duo
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About the author: Freddy is a warrior philosopher who has been involved in tracking nearly his entire life. A member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe of the desert Southwest and a former Marine Scout Sniper, he’s the author of Index Tracking: Essential Guide to Trailing Man and Beast, and the guy who developed the green laser tracking concept now called GLINT (Green Laser Index Night Tracking) and the Battlefield Tactical Acuity Course/BTAC. His knowledge is based on a foundation of real-world deployments and formal Combat Tracking instructor experience with U.S. and allied militaries, federal, state, and municipal law enforcement entities. He’s using a different approach to reaching sensory awareness and visual tracking, harnessing his Native American and Marine Corps culture to fuse field craft and technology and deliver holistic, scientific based lessons steeped in the North American tracker lineage — and believe us, there is a helluva lineage.
Freddy, who sometimes smiles, most recently performed as Footwear & Tire Impression Collection & Examination Expert for the U.S. Army Weapons Intelligence Course 2015, a lead instructor for the U.S. Army Combat Tracker Course at Ft. Huachuca, AZ 2008-2010, and as the 2nd MARDIV School of Infantry East/Combat Hunter Course, Combat Tracking SME 2013-2014. Formerly an infantry squad leader, his last military billet was as Staff NCOIC, 1st Marine MTU (where he was awarded a Gold Star for his Navy Achievement Medal in lieu of second device for innovative training techniques. His unique course offerings include “Weaponize the Senses”, Green Laser Index Night Tracking (GLINT), Index Tracking, Grayside Hunter, and the Battlefield Tactical Acuity Course (BTAC).