I have a Slogan, a Motto if you will for Dealing with the subject of Situational Awareness. "Awareness is looking around & Educated Awareness is knowing what to look for."
This overlaps with another motto I use for teaching Self-Defense, "Avoid the Threat before ot becomes a Danger."
Both of these mottoes could be considered principles. Among the martial arts I teach self-defense classes and, have modules on Counter-Terrorism and Understanding Criminal Violence. And these are key areas because I talk about criminal tactics and counter-tactics to defend yourself. Those mottoes, principles if you will are entirely dependant on Situational Awareness.
The problem I have with Situational Awareness is that using a military term out of context isn't tactical, its tacti-cool. Situational Awareness in the military context is "is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission. More simply, it's knowing what is going on around you."
In otherwords... Situational Awareness is educated awareness. If you aren't properly educated how can you identify, process and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to you, in regards to your mission; which is to make it home unharmed and safe?
You see... As a Self-Defense Instructor you have to do more then then use some tacti-cool term out of its Tactical Context. You have use the right term for the Right Context. That means placing training within context and that means developing training that provides for Situational Awareness.
How to Train Awareness:
In the Army the term Attention to Detailis often used to encourage training soldiers to focus on the mission details, the details of their actions and, the details of things going on around them. Things like dress, hygiene and making one's bed is just the start...
Spot Check and Sit-Rep, is another drill. Soldiers as drilled through physical exercises like front-back-goes and various other exercises. Then Soldiers are told to low crawl a certain distance and are given only 10 seconds to look at a mock scene of plastic soldiers and vehicles arranged in a scene. As time progresses this time is cut down to 5 seconds, 3 seconds and finally only a 1 second to view the scene. The scene is never the same and scene and the soldier develops an instinct for being able to look at a scene for only a second and recount details quickly.
In Ninjitsu there is a number of Games used to develop this same Sense. Ashida Kim has mentioned a game of stones of various colors concealed from the student and, exposed only for a few seconds. The student must then tell the Instructor the number, colors and shapes of the stones they saw.
Omoto Ryu used a method of zen meditation and flashing a series of pictures. Then asking the student who only saw the imahes for a second to recount the details of the image. As time progresses, the images become more complex and the detailed to remember.
This is only the first step developing situational awareness. The building of individual awareness and the ability to pay close attention to details.
In addition, to training such a blindfolded individual move through a obstacle field with strings and bells without "tripping" and alarm. Or walk into a room and examine the room for a brief period 3 to 5 seconds and walk out, then recount details about the room. This develops a sense for knowing what is happening in one's physical space.
Developing Situational Awareness:
Situational Awareness is not simply being aware of details and the space around you (environmental awareness), Situational Awareness is being able to understand the potential threats around and decern between a realistic, plausible threat and a non-threat.
For US Army, this meant simulating combat conditions or war games. A detail oriented scenario where actors portray combat and non-combat roles. Soldiers learn to recognize certain ques and actions which display a potential threat.
I don't care what kind of martial arts you practice or what self-defense system. If you aren't dealing with simulated self-defense situations you aren't training to decern social ques for a threat. And if you are not taught how to spot a physical threat, something outside the normal process of societal activity you aren't aware of your situation...
Let me give you three scenarios to highlight the concepts here.
You are existing a movie theater and see a couple (2) of young men and older teenagers gathered around your car. They are at their cars which are parked beside your car and listening to music. They all seem to be dressed in matching colors Red, Yellow and Black with the same logo on their jackets.
How you deal with them will play a role in how they respond to you. However, that's not in question here...
1. How would you spot a concealed weapon?
2. How would you identify them as gang members, members of a team of some kind or as a some other group association?
3. How would you approach your car?
You are leaving a store parking lot and see a homeless person with a Sign that reads "Will work for food." He isn't actively harassing anyone or displaying any violent or odd behaviors...
1. Is he a threat?
2. Why or why not?
You enter a public restroom and there is another person in a bathroom stall. What is the likelihood of you being assaulted or robbed in this location?
Scenario 1: (1) Uncharacteristic clothing for the weather (which I never disclosed), this leaving someone keeps checking for the weapon (pockets or waistband most common), heavy budges or, budges displaying a particular shape. (2) By the logo, tatoos, hand signs or manners of speaking. They could be a race team, football players or members of some other sports team. (3) Calmly and Confidently without accusations or threats to escalate a simple misunderstanding into a confrontation.
Scenario 2: (1) No... (2) Parking lot enterances and exists, as well as stop lights and intersections are common areas where one car jackers "hunt" however, this individual isn't acting in a threatening manner or approaching you. So any forced attention to this person would only be paranoia and distract you from other more realistic threats.
Scenario 3: High... Depending on your area where this public restroom is located. Restroom stalls, store parking lots and elevators are common areas for physical assaults and robberies, as well as kidnapping and sexual assaults because the victims are usually isolated in a area with little room to retreat and isolated from support.
This highlights the expanded material in the Updated Drunken Wolverine Ninja Kung-fu: A realistic guide to Street Fighting by Shadow Warrior Publishing.