The Faculty of Attention (2017)
How many times have you seen people walking with their headphones in, with their eyes firmly placed on their phones? How many times have you seen people bump into each other or things just because they were not looking? These are very common occurrences, especially nowadays with the continual advancement of technology. Why do people listen to music when running on treadmills? Is it to distract them and divert their attention onto something else than what they are doing? Absolutely.
Most car accidents happen because the driver’s attention was on something else. This in itself is a scary thought as so much can happen in the blink of an eye just because one’s attention had been momentarily distracted onto something else.
It is all to do with the faculty of attention, one of the most important faculties that we have. Often, we get distracted with our phones or even with our own thoughts. An important part of, not just the Martial Artist, but every one’s safety is to have awareness skills. To have an awareness when you are out an about is simply to be alert, conscious, reactive and attentive to the things going on in the environment. For a Martial Artist, it could be walking into a room, watching people, their behaviour, their physical and personality attributes, whilst keeping note of where the exits are. Some are even able to recite many things from the license plate numbers to the colour of shoe laces of an escaped assailant.
The truth is, many people these days simply do not have good awareness skills in the slightest; the ability to be able to spot something out of the ordinary or the ability to not bump into anything or anyone. For the most part, awareness is something that can save one’s life from being able to read the situation and recognising threats to removing oneself from it before something happens or being able to deal with the situation in a calm manner.
In the last article, Composure Under Pressure, the importance of breathing was emphasised so that an individual’s mental and physical faculties can be returned to him in the event of a stressful and dangerous situation. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to think too much, where one has become a slave to his own thoughts. Often, many either think about past events, what could have been done differently or what will happen, what should happen and what could happen instead of what is actually happening. With the attention focused on anything but what is currently happening, anything could happen in those moments and an individual would be powerless to react to it. If an attacker were to hold you up with a knife, the tendency is to either look away or at the knife itself. Having awareness can either allow for you to prevent the situation from the first place, or remember everything about the attacker should he escape with your possessions.
If you drive or ride a bike, you need a level of awareness to get you from A to B. It is therefore important to implement those skills when you are walking. If you are too busy in your thoughts or what is happening on your phone, then your attention will not be on where you are going. If there is a tight turning for instance, the driver is taught to come out and then in so that he does not hit any oncoming cars. The same principle can be applied when walking around a tight corner.
Being able to place our attention on the present, onto what is actually happening when we are out will enable us to see much more in terms of the ongoings in our environment.
Update 23-11-2019: I am proud to announce that this article contributed towards the production and conception of the short video below, The Faculty of Attention (2019) directed and produced by the very talented Reuel James of HercuLeys Pictures. It was an absolute pleasure to be a consultant for this video, as awareness, composure under pressure and personal safety are topics I have always been passionate about spreading; this video covers a lot in a short space of time, so please do watch and share it with your friends as it could make the difference.