Over the next few weeks I will be breaking down in much detail each of the individual attitudes described in my previous article Latitude of Attitude.
I start with a brief reminder of Attitudes and their purpose in the Functional Edge System.
Attitude is a total alignment of your entire physical, psychological, and emotional being to a specific purpose.
There are three Pre-engagement Attitudes, three Engagement Attitudes, and three Resolution Attitudes. These attitudes are the holistic driving mechanism for all the strategies and tactics in the Functional Edge System.
On The Alert
The first attitude I will address is the Alert Attitude. Being alert is described as being watchful and prompt to meet danger or emergency.
It is important here, and when training any attitudes, to find the balance. Being prepared to respond to danger is not the same as expecting danger at every turn. It does not serve our students to develop paranoia. In fact being overly cautious may result in paying too much attention to illusory fear while ignoring real danger.
Preparation is getting ready for an occasion, test, or duty. An attack is certainly a test and I surely believe we have a duty to be able to protect ourselves. The fact that we are practicing self- protection is step one in preparation. Should we be attacked we have weapons and tactics we can deploy.
To be prepared we also need to be reasonably fit. Although you don’t need to be an Olympic or professional athlete, you need to be prepared for a physical exertion, whether it is combat or evasion and escape.
We all are capable of protecting ourselves but being fit will improve our chances considerably. In a future article I will address fitness for combat, but the martial arts community needs to stop telling people that “with only two pounds of pressure a small person can defeat any attacker”. This is fantasy. Although violence will not be a commonplace event in any one individual’s lifetime, when it does occur, it is chaotic, ugly, and physical.
Fighting requires physical exertion. Escaping requires physical exertion. Being in shape will allow us to fight longer or to continue our evasion longer. Fitness is a requirement for preparation.
Being fit carries over to our posture and breathing , which you will see, helps us better engage the attitude of being alert.
Another form of preparation is collecting intelligence. We can collect intelligence in advance or concurrently. Gathering information in advance is useful when travelling. Finding out ahead of time where the trouble spots are, local customs, recent incidents etc. can help us completely avoid danger altogether. However, regardless of how much information you gather ahead of time, the best intelligence is the kind you gather as you are going through your day.
Being in the Alert Attitude means that we are gathering and processing information from our environment and evaluating people, places, things and incidents around us as to what they represent. Are the people you see known to you? Is a complete stranger addressing you with too familiar atone? What kind of interactions are you seeing around you?
Actively collecting this information is crucial to the Alert Attitude.
To differentiate this action of actively searching your surroundings from an act of paranoia you can look to nature. Human beings are designed as predators. If you watch a tiger or lion on the move do you see nervousness or tension? No. A predator is relaxed in his awareness.
Keeping your head and gaze up and an erect spine will help you move with grace. Using your eyes to scan the environment in front of you and lightly swiveling your head as you walk, drive or even sit down will help your awareness recognize any danger that might be headed your way in time for your body/mind system to sound the alarm.
Whether we find danger cognitively or subconsciously, the alarm our body/mind system uses is fear.
Much has been said by experts about managing fear but fear is an emotion. We cannot control or manage it just like we cannot control or manage feelings of anger or joy. The only thing we can manage or control is how we interpret and respond to the emotion and our ensuing actions in relation to the feeling.
Fear happens to be a release of chemicals into our organism. Sometimes the release is a gradual trickle and sometimes it is a sudden dump. These chemicals are released in response to a perceived danger and prepare us for exertion.
When in the Alert Attitude if we receive the Fear Alarm cognitively, that is we identify a specific danger, our next task is to move to the Preventive Attitude (more on the preventive attitude and it’s connection to fear on a future article); but what can we do when the fear signal came subconsciously?
The two major things we can do when we receive the chemicals of the fear signal are breathing and movement. First, consciously make yourself take deeper slower breaths. Then continue to scan with your eyes and your head. If you happen to be sitting, maybe shifting your position or angle on the chair, or standing up and walking might be the answer. Moving and scanning will help you identify the source of the danger signal, breathing will help you relax, see more, and move better. This synergy is the key in the Alert Attitude.
When training our students we have the responsibility of helping them be safe and without causing unnecessary paranoia. Make sure that they know that there is only a small likelihood of them ever being the victim of and actual predatory assault. That likelihood can also be reduced by using an Alert Attitude. This is the attitude used when we find ourselves in unfamiliar or seemingly dangerous places. This is also the first attitude we must adapt if we are in the Relaxed Attitude and suddenly our intuition signals danger.
As you see, in the Functional Edge System, just understanding the Alertness Attitude covers a broad range of subjects from physical fitness, awareness and detection, movement and posture, understanding fear, and how to best use our responses and interpretation of that emotion. It also provides the self-protection Coach several tools to enhance the survivability of their students.