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Simple Lessons:

Short, concise lessons and concepts helpful to students and teachers

The Hawk and the Art of Scanning

By Terry Bryan

The early Chinese martial artists watched nature and used what they saw as a base for creating concepts of the world as it really is. Many forms of martial arts were also based upon animal observations, and their attributes inspired the development of various fighting arts and their theory.

This brings us to the attributes of the Hawk. The hawk defends by staying outside of her opponent’s range, circling, probing for weaknesses. When she attacks, she darts in like a thunderbolt. She is vicious, ripping and tearing with her talon and beak, and then quickly retreats before her enemy can retaliate. These physical attributes are easy to see, but what about the hidden success qualities the hawk possesses.

One of the key principles is that the hawk is a master at scanning as a method of awareness. By moving her attention smoothly and continuously, she builds a comprehensive image of the current situation as it develops.

There are two major errors in the scanning process that the hawk has learned to overcome – fixation and omission. Fixation and omission are universal errors in human attention. Fixation is deadly in combat. It is imperative that the mind be alert in combat in the now, not detained or focused elsewhere. When we become fixated on a given situation, we are open to other attacks which could be equally or more dangerous. The hawk sees everything, as it truly is, not giving it more importance than is necessary to handle the situation.

Omission is equally dangerous, because if you deny the existence of a threat, then you may miss the danger and get hurt. Each detail is paid attention to with an understanding of how that detail is linked to our own specific needs and goals. The hawk knows that she does not have the ability to go toe-to-toe with the larger or stronger opponent, so she has become a master of seeing what cannot be seen. Only by seeing everything, can a true warrior make the right decision in the moment of choice. This is the way of the hawk.

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About the Author:

Terry Bryan is the former General Secretary for the USA-NKF (National Karate Federation), the official governing body for the sport of karate with the US Olympic Committee. He currently is the Executive Director for the American Black Belt Academy, a 501c3 non-profit organization located in Colorado Springs. His column, Simple Lessons, regularly appears on

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

awarness, visual scanning, focus, martial arts

Read more articles by Terry Bryan

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