Over the years I have written about the spiritual principles that came through me and became my vehicle for personal expression. I have written about the steps I have taken to keep me from repeating any of my old behaviors. However, this is the first time that I have presented these urban combative principles for better physical execution in everyday life (before the first punch, kick, take-down, or weapon is used). These 18 key principles helped me to get through jail without fighting and to earn the respect of inmates and officers through my day-to-day display. Later on I was able to go back to the neighborhood and people I helped destroy, or who helped me destroy myself, and be an example of personal transformation without resting on my laurels. These principles helped me to learn to live at peace from the inside out, regardless of what happens. They have allowed me to follow good orderly directions from within myself, regardless of any human immaturity or egos I have to deal with externally. They are a reflection of my own immortality.

By fighting off my human desire to meet others with the same type of energy that they present to me, I am able to grow personally to a new level. As we say on the street, I must flip the script for personal empowerment in order to accept the new for being exactly the way it is supposed to be at that moment. These principles allow me to show empathy toward others so that I can see them as brothers and sisters, not as enemies. I remember my first press conference with my Kung Fu Grand Master, Dennis Brown. He said that if you should ever have to resort to the destruction of another human being then you have already lost the fight.

Principle 1: Be Aware of Your Surroundings at All Times

It's the first of the month in the tough ghetto neighborhood. It's payday for the poor. The welfare check has arrived, and the drug dealers can't wait. It's also their payday, and they can easily estimate $20,000-$50,000 in income. This might seem exaggerated, but it's not. This dealing goes on every day, and with this business comes violence, guns, and murder for those in top positions of power.

There was a time when such events were going on only in the inner city. Nowadays, they could be happening anywhere—on the job, in school, at the playground or amusement parks, to name just a few locations. People who run such operations are totally aware of those who are out to get them. They tend to use neighborhood buildings for external protection and find weak people in need of money to serve as their lookouts.

Since such criminal activity is not just prevalent in urban areas, but extends into the suburbs as well, today's youth must be taught at an early age to avoid suspicious environments and individuals. Prevention is the key to circumventing many of the potentially dangerous consequences of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time or abducted.

• Being aware of illegal business in your community is one way to keep kids safe. Teach them to be aware of the following:

• Crowds of individuals with abscesses, puffy paranoid eyes, and skinny bodies

• Crowds of people looking like the above and traveling in and out of the same place

• The same people in the same place each day, just hanging out

• Sharp dressing and slick talking individuals

• Individuals speaking street slang in a rhythmic motion but in tones that you don't understand

• Shootouts

• Individuals with fancy cars and lots of expensive jewelry

• Constant traffic in and out of the same place at all hours of the day and night, most of the time involving the same individuals

Adults who work with kids in today's world, including parents, are wise to be concerned for their safety and for the safety of all youths. Even the youngest of children must be taught to be aware of their surroundings to avoid being robbed of their very essence as individuals through unfortunate events. The consequences of such tragedies negatively affect their transformation into adolescence and adulthood, resulting in some heavy mental issues that they eventually must confront and overcome. If not it could lead to a continuance cycle of irresponsible behavior ability by today's teens and young adults.

I know firsthand what it was like to be robbed of childhood innocence by close family members.

In order to help others be more aware of their surroundings, I want to share a few things to look for in sensing danger from an individual in your environment:

1. Notice the hands. Where are they? Are they out of sight in his pockets, folded, or behind his back (possibly holding a weapon)?

2. Observe how the individuals are standing or spaced out. Look for negative body language. A person that is there with their up and arms folded with a strong eye stare at you along with tense jaw bones. As their chin is slightly dropped lower to its crest. To many anyone of these positions by themselves is negative body language.

3. Listen for voice tone and negative statements along with negative body language.

4. Notice whether the individual is nervous, anxious, or tense. Is he fidgeting, rocking back and forth, or very stiff?

5. In some cases, assailants attempt to intimidate their victims with a penetrating cold, fixed stare. Others are nervous and shift their eyes back and forth, avoiding eye contact.

6. When maintaining visual contact, shift your view to the surrounding area. Make a mental note of any potential escape routes.

7. Always look around for any object which can serve as a weapon. Notice the ground beneath you. Is it cement, concrete, broken glass, or sand? Is it wet or dry? If it is dirt, you might be able to use it as a weapon by throwing or kicking it in the assailant's face, giving you time to follow up or to escape.

8. Your two choices in a potentially dangerous situation are to put distance between yourself and the assailant or taking control of him.

Become Aware

Awareness is one of the most powerful, yet, often underused tools in our arsenal. With all that is taken place in our homes, with social media, and in communities where we live, true awareness has taken a backseat to the artificial reality that many people are living. Awareness will not only make navigating our neighborhoods easier, it's about leading and learning how to get to a much higher standard of living.

Situational awareness is awareness on a higher level. This is a skillset that is important for everyone living in an environment inhabited by people with different energy and ideas as it relates to what is best for a community. For those individuals tasked with protecting our communities, situational awareness is critical to maintenance and security. Police officers are required to make quick decisions under adverse condition, often without an overabundance of information. If the situational cues are missed, the health and welfare of our citizens, officers of the law, and community property are vulnerable.

The above is an original article by Willie "The Bam" Johnson.  He is also the author of The Complete Martial Artist: Developing the Mind, Body, and Spirit of a Champion, Self-Mastery Empowering Youths, Publication Date 2019, YMAA Publication Center, ISBN: 97815994396533.