How to develop situational-awareness like a trained special operations warrior


So you want to have situational awareness do you?

Well, you are in luck because we are going to do a deep dive into what it takes to master situational awareness.

A things you might want to know more about are:

  • Having an exit strategy at any place you go to
  • Know what to do if a dog attacked you and your family
  • Always have a plan for any situation
  • Never let your guard down
  • Be prepared for extreme circumstances

What is Awareness?

The definition that I looked up said:

  1. Having knowledge or discernment of something
  2. Attentive and well informed
  3. Vigilant, Watchful

I love the first explanation. The word discernment is all encompassing, it is almost like having a foreshadowing of events to come. This is what we want to achieve.

It is almost like a sixth sense.

There are a lot of books and creative people out there pushing that you can have situational awareness, by keeping tabs on who’s following you, or constantly checking your rearview mirrors, or taking a different pathway to work every day.

I believe that these things are all good, but not necessarily intuitive or all encompassing, it doesn’t really breakdown the science of situational awareness.

Situational awareness is about being in harmony with what is going on around you.


Enter the OODA Loop

OODA = Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

To truly understand this OODA loop, let us take a look at a scenario. One that all of us could face on a given day.

“You and your family are walking in the park, or on a scenic trail when all of a sudden a man comes out and tells you to give him your money. It doesn’t appear he has a weapon but he is slightly bigger than you.”



Ok, so here is a guy, he’s bigger, doesn’t appear to have a weapon but he could. Do I have a weapon, can I take him. Do I know how to fight? Does he know how to fight? I need to protect my family, I can put distance in between them and him. I have a knife in my pocket.

He is about 10 feet from me, he has a slight hitch in his gait, looks like a knee injury. Should I attack, give him my money, or try to run. Is anyone else around?

This is where all of these things are running through your mind. You are assessing the situation. You always want to place yourself in a prime place to observe everything around you.


Has anything like this happened before? Do I have the training and the competence to take this man down? How can I mess with this guy, what is he thinking about me. He is frantic and looks distressed, nervous.

This is where you are using your past experiences, culture, genetics to analyze the situation. You are looking for human behavior and plans of action.


You decide that based on the man’s frantic activity and nervousness, and the appearance of no weapon that you are going to give the man your wallet.


You give him the wallet and he runs away.

Obviously, this scenario could have played out differently, maybe the guy would have had a gun, or tried to wrestle with you. He could have even just tried to stab you or shoot you.

When I was in college, two of my classmates were walking behind the school one night and a guy approached them and told them to give him their money. They gave him the money and he stabbed them anyway.

They should not have been in that area at night, and they knew it, but they walked there anyway. They had no fighting experience or weapon on their person.

There were lots of observations that were not made.

How to Develop the Observation Portion:

I was on a hike with my dad shortly after thanksgiving, as we were hiking several things came into my mind.

  • What would I do if I was attacked by a wild animal?
    • Could I fight it on my own
    • Is there anything that I could use as a weapon
  • What would I do if something was to happen to my dad?
    • Would I be able to carry him out?
    • Did I have a medical Kit

These may or may not be common questions that people ask themselves. I ask these to myself all the time, I am constantly trying to live in an aware state.

Maybe for you it’s not being on a hike, maybe it’s sitting in a restaurant downtown, or walking in the park. It could possibly even be in your cubicle at work or in a movie theatre.

The reality is that anything could happen at any moment in any of those places. Although it may be impossible to prepare for every single situation or even make it out alive. Chance certainly favors the prepared mind and body.


If you are in a restaurant or bar:

Always choose a place where you can observe everything, preferably with your back against the wall.

Once seated, have an exit plan, run through the situation in your head.

  • Where is the bathroom?
  • Where is the nearest exit?
  • How many people are in the area?
  • What is the general mood of the people?
  • Does anyone seem uneasy?

If you are outside:

Always carry a weapon, like a knife or a concealed carry if you have it. Don't just carry these weapons though. You need to know how to use them. Also, don't limit yourself to only knowing how to use one weapon because you may find that you on't be able to use them.

  • Know where you are in location to the nearest safe place
  • Be aware of who is around
  • Where can you hide if you need to?
  • Are there weapons that you can use if you need them?
  • How would you escape?
  • Never leave yourself in the open for too long


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Always be mindful, that is keep your awareness level in the yellow region. 

What does that mean "yellow"

There are essentially 4 colors of awareness based on Jeff Coopers analysis:

  • White
    • Relaxed and Unaware of what is going on around you. Most of the time we drop our guard when we are in places that we think are safe. Like our homes, or at work.
  • Yellow
    • You remain relaxed but are still aware of what and who is around you, despite where you are at. This does not equate with paranoia, just alert, in a controlled manner.
  • Orange
    • In condition orange, you have identified something of interest that may or may not prove to be a threat. Until you determine the true nature of whatever has piqued your interest, your “radar” is narrowed to concentrate on the possible threat and will remain so focused until you are satisfied no threat exists.
  • Red
    • If the focus of your attention in condition orange does something you find threatening, you will shift to condition red. This does not mean kill mode, instead, condition red simply changes the focus of your attention from a potential threat to a potential target.


There has to be a sense that something could happen at anytime. You can't be oblivious to this.

We have seen this happen time and time again.

  • The guy in the movie theater who opens up on everyone
  • The crazy college kid who starts shooting everyone
  • The high school kid in the black trench-coat
  • The guy in the bar who gets in your face

We can't be paranoid though, we just have to be living in "Active Awareness" no matter where we are at.

Miyamoto Musashi says in "The book of Five Rings"

You win in battles with the timing in the Void born of the timing of cunning by knowing the enemies’ timing, and this using a timing which the enemy does not expect.
— Miyamoto Musashi

Take a Lesson From Jason Bourne

This might be slightly extreme, and I think that Jason Bourne is probably operating on level orange or red most of the time.

What I love here though, is that he is very aware of what is going on inside this restaurant. He knows that some of the people have things about them that make them dangerous, and based on his knowledge of people he knows where to find a weapon.

I don't really think that it;s anything superhuman, it just takes a heightened sense of awareness, that we as men can live in if it is practiced. 

What you can do to be prepared for anything

You can't fight if you don't know how.

You can't use a weapon correctly if you have never used one.

You can't have strength endurance and skill if your body is sluggish and slow, or if you have gained serious amounts of weight.

By the time you are able to move even a little bit, you're attacker will overtake you.

Train your body

It's pretty simple, get in the gym and workout. 

Not workouts where you hang out on the elliptical or walk around the track reading a kindle book. (These are never a good idea)

All exercise should be done with the goal of improving and building on your previous workout. The goal is to get better. To improve.


A strong body creates a strong mind

An example of a good workout is:


Dynamic Stretching - Activate the muscles that you intend on working.


Do one of these on a rotating basis:

  • Squat
  • Dead-lift
  • Push-Press
  • Bench Press

Go For Reps:

Depending on the Lift choose one of these:

  • Lunges, Squats, Thrusters, Turkish Get ups
  • SDHP, Power Cleans, Pull-ups
  • Hang Cleans, overhead press, Incline bench press
  • Push-ups, Dips, DB Rows


  • Sprint 400m (3 times)
  • 5 rounds of (10 pull-ups, 20 push-ups, 30 air squats)
  • Sprint 1 mile
  • 100m sprints (10 times)
  • Row 1000m as fast as you can

Practice Awareness:

Every-time you go somewhere, note these 5 things:

Remember this acronym: PEAKE

  • People
    • Note an approximate amount of people
  • Exits
    • Locate the Exits
  • Activity
    • Take note of any strange activity that might be going on. Observe activity very quickly.
  • Knowledge
    • Observe what quirks people might have, what car they are driving, anything that gives you more information.
  • Escape
    • Know exactly where you are going to go if things get ugly quickly.

Learn how to fight

Take up a martial art, or a shooting class.


Learn several skills. Do not learn just one and think that you are good. You should be able to fight using multiple weapons.

"Two is one, and one is none."

I recently started using the punching bag and getting back into using Taekwondo and some boxing skills that I learned.

I found a great place to get training videos on YouTube. It is a place called FightTips.

Definitely worth checking out, and helped me come up with a training program.

SOG Specialty Knives & Tools

That is a lot of information to take in, but it is all useful and can be practiced everyday.

Let me know how you practice awareness or if it is more intuitive to you.

Thanks for reading.