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Improving Your Situational Awareness with Tim Larkin

Tim Larkin is a self-defense coach and former military intelligence officer with over 25 years of professional experience. In 2011 he was named Self Defense Instructor of the Year and inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame.

In his military career as an intelligence officer, Larkin was part of a beta group that redesigned how Special Operations personnel trained for close combat. He has 25 years of experience training people in 52 countries on how to deal with imminent violence using his unique Target Focus Training (TFT) system.

"Attention is our most valuable commodity"


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  • Tim has a long history of learning martial arts, and 9/11 was a seminal event in his life that prompted him to want to teach others to improve their skill sets.
  • Behavioral modification: implementation and integration into their lives.
  • Situational awareness is an essential skillset to have. In modern society we live in it is not as necessary as in the past, until you need it.
  • Smartphones are taking all of our senses from us, and we are giving up our sensory attention to addictive platforms. Tim watched a video of a robbery on a bus in Seattle in which the thief was robbing people along the bus while they were on their phones.
  • When considering your own phone use when heading out, ask yourself: are you going to willingly give up your senses while walking on the street?
  • The number one benefit of situational awareness is that you are less likely to be targeted because you are more aware.
  • Predators do not want a challenge.
  • Example from a friend of Tim’s: after getting on the subway and scanning the environment, it is surprising to see how many people do not notice the predators.
  • Once a predator sees you are aware, you are no longer someone they look at.


  • Use gamification. Remember playing Hide and Seek? When you were looking for somebody you were behaving proactively and it felt great, but when you were hiding you were making yourself small, hoping you would not get seen and behaving reactively.
  • While you are out in the world, try to be the seeker.
  • You can also try the game of thinking like a bad guy. Ask yourself: where would a predator be? Try to ask yourself this not in a fearful way, but in more of a fun way.
  • A helpful byproduct of these games is that you improve your situational awareness.


  • When you are about to travel, consider your disaster preparedness.
  • You can employ strategies of situational awareness like noticing how many seats away from the exit you are on the plane.
  • Consider that in a disaster your vision clarity might be gone due to smoke or other factors, so try to come up with a strategy such as “I need to touch 7 seats before reaching the exit.”
  • Many people who have survived disasters employed some base form of situational awareness to help them survive.
  • Attention is our most valuable commodity. It is important to give ourselves the gift of giving our attention to our own protection in time and space.


  • The game exercises are a great way to practice mindfulness, focus, and concentration and become more present.
  • Criminals are adept at attention and focus while they look for easy marks because it is their living.
  • Walk around as an aware person. Try to avoid immersing yourself in your phone or adopting a victim profile of hunching over. Consider whether you are giving your attention over to predators who might be around.
  • You can learn so much more about a city if you are practicing situational awareness and focusing on your environment.
  • Memory problems often arise not from retention but attention.
  • Rather than viewing it as a negative, situational awareness can be a way to embrace the world, see what is out there, and be proactive in this world.
  • By paying attention you can pick up cues. You might see there is something strange happening, and be able to get yourself out of situations before they worsen.
  • Our brain is a deletion device. At all times it is trying to keep a lot of information out because there are a million stimuli it could focus on. When you control what to focus on and let in by asking proactive questions about your environment, you will see and become aware of a lot more.


  • To start working on your own self-protection, a good place to start is with your home. Once you have thought about your home, you can apply it out in the world.
  • You can rehearse scenarios involving self-protection with your family or on your own at your home, and you can create a plan.
  • Tim’s example: if something is to happen, Person X goes to a particular part of the house while Person Y enters the house and can take action knowing the other person is safe.
  • Rehearse in advance who you are going to call, and where you will keep your phone.
  • Situational awareness gets portrayed as scary, but it should be fun.
  • A lot of people are desensitized from their senses. Thinking about your senses and asking questions like “what are three noises I can hear right now?” can bring you back into the present and encourage focused attention.
  • Learning about situational awareness is about preparedness rather than paranoia, and can be a step towards living a more peaceful life.


  • Take a screenshot of this episode, tag us (@jimkwik and @TFTTimLakrin) and tell us the physical skill you will apply the slow learning method to. We’ll repost some of our favorites!

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