Building Awareness of Surroundings

The physical training of karate has many benefits. Awareness of surroundings is important for self defense. That is the ability to move around and among people and objects. And for martial artists that includes doing techniques in crowded or unusual places.


A basic level of awareness of surroundings and people is gained from any form of free sparring. That is sparring where your partner is moving as they see fit. Then you can’t anticipate their moves and you must respond to a fluid attack situation. At our dojo we may take that training up a notch by adding more variables. These may include a “friend” on your team, multiple attackers, guarding and object or person. Team padded weapons sparring is a highly fluid, chaotic-looking drill. Yet we use equipment, rules and supervision to keep students safe while they hone their skills.

Many other drills and activities that don’t involve sparring will help with awareness of surroundings among people. As Gauger Renshi often says, “Big people watch out for little people. Little people watch out for big people.” That is when he explains rules for a drill that includes group movement. Fun skill-building drills may include many students moving at the same time, and often to or away from the same thing. Our Dojo Kun rules of respect and self restraint help us to build our skills while preventing injuries to ourselves and others.  


A favorite drill that helps our youngest students improve spatial awareness of surroundings is the obstacle course. Older children and adults will rarely practice on this same fun path. But they have a many drills that use parts of those obstacles. Such as running laps while striking a bag at each corner. Or rolling, standing and hitting heavy bags, or striking multiple bags. And that’s just the heavy bag work.

There are also obstacles to jump over or puzzle mat paths to stay on, among other things. Any variety of ways that make you move differently will improve your ability to deal with different surroundings “on the street.” This improves your life protection skills.  


These drills are enrichment and add variety to the traditional curriculum we always work on. Our experienced instructors skillfully lead these drills while keeping safety a priority. We use our large equipment to ply students’ techniques while navigating new territory. This is an occasional challenge. The drills with several people moving unpredictably at the same time are a rare treat at our dojo. These are all fun ways for us to test our skills while improving our awareness of surroundings.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger

karate students striking a line of heavy bags in turn, improving awareness of surroundings

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