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Skill In-Drill: Recognition

by The M.A.D. Dad 4 months ago in advice
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The Art of Awareness or "How well do you know your environment?"

Looking over the past few posts, I wanted to share with my audience a few drills or observations to enhance daily life. For this lesson or drill, let's take a look at recognition. How often does anyone see the following: You are walking in [Insert Public Place] and notice that 75% or greater of the occupants are paying more attention to their smartphone than the activities of the place they are cohabitating.

In 2010, Christopher Chambris and Daniel Simons published a book called The Invisible Gorilla which discussed how people often could be fooled by their perceptions. In essence, the authors led a study involving an individual dressed up in a gorilla suit and noted that people often would notice or be distracted from recognizing that this costumed individual was present. If you are curious, they have videos posted showing some of the experiments on YouTube, and these videos emphasize a scary truth-Humans today tend to struggle with observing their surroundings.

Why? A good answer might be how connected we are with other realities. The Smartphone, SmartWatch, Tablet, Computer, Augmented reality, and the concerns of our own minds overwhelm our senses and turn off awareness. So, how can we possibly stride into a better connection with physical reality?

In martial arts, drills or skill/technique practice seek to improve areas of training that need to be refined. Whether struggle or just a desire to improve, we can hone desired outcomes by focusing our attention on those areas. In order to do this feat, we first need to identify what the underlying issue is that limits improvement or progression. Then, we need to most specifically train that skill.

If awareness is the concern, if only....if only we had a drill to work on focusing on our environment. Thankfully, I believe that I can help. It involves addressing the source of the concern, we need to become more acquainted with our surroundings.

This drill is designed be done anywhere that includes other people. It is something that should after a few times start to develop of habit of improved observation. I caution that this activity can be deceptively more mentally taxing than it may initially appear, so consider trying this for a limited amount of time. Also, we really need to pair some trigger to our activity that will cue us almost automatically to be more perceptive. So, we will pair observation with breath.

Here is the drill:

1. Find a public area where you can sit or stand without drawing usual attention to yourself.

2. Sit or stand and let your vision span out, or try and let your visual field concentrate on the edges of your vision where you do not necessarily focus directly.

3. Starting out, the first part of the drill is practicing the cue with an event. Here, I want you to quietly, breathe out either through nose or mouth a small breath whenever a person enters your visual field.

4. Once you have gotten the hang of the breathing process, let's improve the specific quality of our recognition. Now, selectively, if you see two individuals that share a similar quality-both wearing uniforms, similar hair color, similar build, then and only then perform the small exhale.

5. Changing up the focus, now only perform the breath if you notice someone who has a characteristic that seems out of place with the general environment (examples- wearing a bright colors, wearing a different kind of hat, cane, etc.)

6. As you become more practiced, try and increase how quickly you can notice someone moving into your visual field or even try to expand your awareness or the distance of your peripheral visual field.

7. Keep practicing, mastery is a lifetime pursuit. This is a skill that you can always continue to improve. I have been working on it for decades, and I constantly find new ways to better this skill.

Awareness and recognition and breathing, vital skills paired with a vital function. How quickly an individual can sense danger can determine the outcome of any potentially negative event. In our society, more than ever, given the increased violence in our world, please improve this skill. It literally could save your life!


M.A.D. Dad


Chabris, C., & Simons, D. (2011). The invisible gorilla. HarperCollins.


About the author

The M.A.D. Dad

I call myself the M.A.D. Dad. M.A.D. stands for Martial Arts Direction. I want to help others battle the forces that threaten our peace with lessons that I have been blessed to discover through my experiences in both Martial Arts and Life.

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