Own Your Ground: SA, proxemics and personal security

| February 2, 2014
Categories: Learnin'

Own your ground. Stay safe, remain dangerous! Be polite and respectful to those you meet but have a plan to kill or evade every one of them. Today will be the last day of our week-long emphasis on How not to be a sheep. We took a break yesterday so we could double-down today. There’s apparently a big sports event occurring and a lot of you will be distracted – don’t let a big game detract from your SA. Don’t let the fact that it’s a Sunday deter you from spending 5 minutes talking to your family or friends about Situational Awareness and threat mitigation. This first article is by guest writer Freddy Osuna. He’s going to help explain how you can be prepared and perceptive without being paranoid.  Mad Duo.

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Own Your Ground

by Freddy Osuna

One righteous dude, a precision one line spittingest Marines that I have ever had the pleasure of serving under was 1st Sgt Joe Morales. He used to tell us, “Look Hard Marines!” right before stepping outside the wire. These 3 words carried huge implications, and I have seen why, both in uniform and as a citizen.

If you can get accustomed to the idea that you are always being watched by a potential threat than you will understand why looking hard is so important. Looking hard is more than just wearing a tough guy scowl on your face, protruding your imaginary lats and wearing a Batman utility belt – with or without batarang (sorry Hondo!). What Joe wanted his Marines to do was to present a hard target. When he was telling us that, Marines and Soldiers were being hunted by a highly evasive enemy who could move freely amongst the local population. They would strike and disappear back into obscurity with little effort. Joe’s Marines didn’t have this problem because we looked hard.

Looking hard means expecting a fight. It means projecting a presence of dominance in all actions. It means being aware of your surroundings. It means presenting a hard target. It means owning your ground.

The predators that exist in our society will be deterred in the same manner, because they operate much the same way as our enemy did. They are highly evasive and move freely amongst the local population; they strike; and disappear back into obscurity with little effort. They are dependent upon easy prey in the same way that a lion targets a slow gazelle. This is not a state of mind that you should switch on and off, but rather a way of life. It is an an image that you must adopt, an image that says don’t fuck with me, and I won’t fuck with you!

One place that I tend to be most vigilant is at all convenience stores. Out of all the places that I have seen confrontations occur, this is #1 on my list, and according to Lt. Steven Geisenger (a 24 year Law Enforcement veteran), I am dead on. Steven explained that in his experience the top 3 anchor points of violent crime are convenience stores, hotel parking lots and 24 hour retail parking lots (in that order).  Steve, who is also an inactive Marine and Law Enforcement Instructor for the USMC, shared some specific advice for our readership.

“In any crowd, never look like an easy target and be aware of your surroundings. If you notice you are being watched, look that person in the eyes, and take notice of that person’s description. If you display confidence, you are very likely to be left alone.”

Looking hard will certainly not deter all threats. Looking hard is merely the first step of many ranging from physical presence; verbal commands; soft hands; hard hands; supplementary non-lethal weapons; deadly force. Looking hard is a passive deterrent. It is an implicit message through non-verbal communication that I expect people to observe and obey. This is your first buffer to the people around you. When you are noticed by predators they will make a decision to observe, contact, or leave you alone.  Whatever their decision, you must be ready to react to the non-verbal messages that they are sending you; remember they may not realize they are doing so. In animals we observe the unwritten law of proxemics. Proxemics is the interpretations of spatial relationships in order to determine the dynamics of human interactions. It’s about territory and our ability to recognize those who violate the laws of interpersonal distance set by society.

These are the distances I want you to recognize and establish for yourself.  Flight distance (run boundary), critical distance (attack boundary), personal distance (distance separating strangers), social distance (public communication distance).

Massad Ayoob’s 21 feet rule is an example of proxemics and a decision based on the violation of it. (Note: don’t take this conversation sideways by turning it into whether that 21′ should be 25′ or 28′ or whatever – stay on task.) Let’s put this theory to work by way of tactical decision gaming it. You pull up to a gas station, you notice 2 male individuals loitering near a pay phone with their attention outboard towards the patrons not each other or the payphone. As you pull up, stop, and get out you notice their feet are now pointing in your direction, meaning they are interested in what you are doing. On your way to the pump you look at them directly over your left shoulder, one looks away and one continues looking. You nod and continue your business at the pump. The vehicle is between you and the subjects. The one with a staring problem approaches. You watch his hands. They are in his pockets. You establish eye contact at 15 feet.

At 10 feet you issue a verbal challenge, “What’s up, can I help you with something?”.He says, “Sorry to bother ya but, could ya spare some change for the payphone?”

You oblige with 75 cents and he continues about his business. This guy did nothing wrong and his behavior was acceptable within the host’s personal distance (your personal distance – you are the host). What would you do if this dude came within 3 feet and started flailing his arms and yelling at you? At the pay phone (social distance)h e has complete freedom to act as he wishes because I (you) have the distance to react. Since I have no “claim” to that ground I cannot expect certain behavior. The manner which he approaches the vehicle (critical distance/flight distance) drives my determination that he I not a threat because he established eye contact, as appose to looking left and right like a coyote coming from a blind spot. He stopped short of your personal space and presented his question. These distances are not static, but a moving bubble constantly expanding and contracting with the human and geographic terrain around you.

Chances are you already have expectations of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior within certain proximity to yourself and your loved ones. My advice is to visualize different scenarios that may occur when you are out and about. “Wargame” how you will deal with them so that when the time comes to make a critical decision you are prepared to own your ground.

If you’re interested, the following is Edward T. Hall’s Personal Reaction Bubble  from 1966. Take it under advisement.

Intimate distance for embracing, touching or whispering

Close phase – less than 6 inches (15 cm)

Far phase – 6 to 18 inches (15 to 46 cm)

Personal distance for interactions among good friends or family members

Close phase – 1.5 to 2.5 feet (46 to 76 cm)

Far phase – 2.5 to 4 feet (76 to 120 cm)

Social distance for interactions among acquaintances

Close phase – 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 m)

Far phase – 7 to 12 feet (2.1 to 3.7 m)

Public distance used for public speaking

Close phase – 12 to 25 feet (3.7 to 7.6 m)

Far phase – 25 feet (7.6 m) or more.

Don not worry about a fight but be prepared for one. Be aware of your surroundings and project a presence of dominance. Present a hard target. Stay safe, remain dangerous! Be polite and respectful to those you meet but have a plan to kill or evade every one of them. Own your ground. The Mad Duo

 Freddy Osuna

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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).

If you’re interested you should check them out on the web or Facebook.


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