In self-defense circles, the words “situational awareness” and “zanshin” are frequently used. Both of these terms mean basically the same thing, although the transliteration of this word in Japanese, zanshin (残心), is “remaining mind.” Situational awareness means what it sounds like: being aware of your situation. This can apply to many things in life but when it comes to self-defense, situational awareness begins once you are outside of the relative safety of your home, work, or vehicle.
Self defense training is that safeguard. As I learn to strike properly and with strength, I can see myself standing up to the Boogeymen of this world. I can learn to throw them down, stop them from hurting me, and get away to safety. The more I learn, practice and grow, the more I can do for myself with a sense of confidence. With this confidence comes a change in perception about the Boogeymen, they are not a specter anymore, I am no longer haunted by fear and ignorance, I will no longer freeze. I will take action on my behalf.
In the simplest terms, self-defense training is learning techniques that keep you safe all of the time. This includes scanning your environment for danger, hiding, when to do (or not to do) something, proper punching and kicking techniques, how to fall correctly, grappling, and other movements that reduce harm and allow escape from an attacker. But this kind of training does so much more than teach physical skills. There are emotional turning points and cross roads we reach in the midst of the physical aspects, like learning one’s worth and value.
In the most basic sense, fear of the unknown is a normal response to what we don’t know a lot, if anything, about. But staying in that fear and letting it rule prevents growth. If we choose to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations — like learning a technique involving close contact with other people, (like grappling) — we can grow from the experience.