By Joe Maurantonio

As an instructor of martial training I often find myself speaking about the importance of "paying attention" to the teacher, the lesson and the training that is going on around you and your partner. I believe that students listen to me say this the first couple of times and then blank it out on subsequent occasions... At our Dojo we call this the "Blah-blah" effect. The teacher begins talking, and somewhere after the first few sentences the students begin to "tune out" the rest of the talk. That's why I try to get to the point with my instruction. It's the only "chance" I've got to get through.....

Being distracted has the potential to be dangerous. Especially, if you THINK you know what's going on (perhaps, you believe that you KNOW the strikes we are working on) but actually what was said was "...don't do it this way."

Now, we're all guilty of tuning out our friends and neighbors. Our school teachers and bosses can be boring as heck sometimes, too. But it's important we all remember the dojo is about "life and death". Awareness of our environment is one of the most significant aids in helping you to be successful in your personal improvement.

Now, you're wondering why I'm writing about this, when it is all quite obvious. Let me tell you about something that happened the other day:

I was driving home on the Bronx River Parkway and dusk was forcing everyone to turn on their headlights. As I drove in the left lane, I passed a car and noticed that the driver was shaking her head a little. I couldn't figure out why. Maybe, she was enjoying music on the radio...

As I passed her a nagging feeling began to overtake me. I'm not superstitious or paranoid but I like to listen to my feelings. My "gut instincts" have saved my arse quite a number of times so I follow what I feel. I accept that if nothing bad happens then perhaps my "awareness" subconsciously was alerted to a potential situation that I didn't consciously piece together as "dangerous."

Well... As I shifted into the right lane. I noticed (in my rearview mirror) that the lady was taking her car into the left lane to accelerate. But the way she did it -- I don't know how to explain it. It wasn't bad, but I realized that I was paying a lot of attention to her driving. That concerned me... WE were on a busy parkway, there was something odd about her driving (maybe she was ill ?) but I continued to put distance between our cars. I shifted into the left lane and accelerated around another car in an orderly fashion. The lady's car switched lanes again and then moved.... And that's when her car hit the tail end of another car and spun out.

[It was a weird sensation to be watching this all in the rearview mirror while paying attention to the car in front of me (in order to avoid another accident).]

I can remember hearing her brakes, seeing her car slow down, and then hit the car in front of her own. I remember it all as a slow, almost stop frame, motion. Other cars braked in time to avoid the two vehicles involved in the accident. My thoughts moved to the fact that my heart was beating faster, my breath was erratic and that the cars around me were all slowing down too.

Odd thing, this incident.

I remember a good friend and teacher of mine, reminding me a long time ago, as I was about to take off on a trip to Italy, to pay attention to "details."

"I'll be okay," I said. "My kung fu is pretty good."

"I wasn't talking about fighting, Joe. I know you are a good fighter. I was worried about you getting hit by a bus as you cross the street."

"Oh." Hey, what else can you say to that?

(No buses got me, though. Maybe I was lucky.)

Again, the point of the story is awareness to detail, and the enviroment. All this can keep you very healthy.