Kim’s Game: It’s All About the Details

I have mentioned in several previous posts about my disdain of blanketed statements about situational awareness and other concepts of self defense. I’m sure that most of the instructors who use these statements only do so out of ignorance to what situational awareness is and how to train this skill. The primary purpose of this post is to provide another way for people to gain the proper situational awareness skills needed, to help supplement their current training and/or help instructors move past the blanketed statements. With that being said, another exercise for situational awareness is called Kim’s game.

Kim’s game is also known as, Jewel Game or Play of the Jewels, but I prefer Kim’s Game due to it being a backronym, Keep In Mind, making it easy to remember. This game, and it’s name, came from a 1901 novel by Rudyard Kipling titled Kim. The titled character (Kim) plays the game during his spy training. Kim spends a month training with an intelligence agent, who uses the guise of managing a jewelry shop. The first time Kim is introduced to the game, the agent places a handful of jewels into a tray and his servants states, “Look on them as long as thou wilt, stranger. Count and, if need be. Handle. One look is enough for me. When thou hast counted and handled and art sure that thou canst remember them all, I cover them with this paper, and thou must tell over the tally…” [1] The two play this game many times with jewels, objects and photographs. Kim’s trainer states, “do it many times over till it is done perfectly – for it is worth doing” [2] Here is a clip from the film adaptation (skip forward to about 1:20).

Kim’s game is an easy and fun way to train your brain to remember details. It is so effective that it is used by many organizations, such as, sniper schools, boy scouts and intelligence agencies. This is especially useful for the automatic scan from the habits post. However, there are several other applications for this skill, such as, remembering license plates, descriptions of attacker(s), finding a way back if lost and many others. This skill can be honed and precise, if practiced.

To hone this skill, like anything, the individual must start slow and as proficiency is gained, the game should become more challenging. For example, to use for the automatic scan, I usually have beginners start by walking into a room for 10-20 seconds and memorizing 5-10 items. For now, it doesn’t matter what the items are. This is about details and getting the mind to focus and remember those details. I want the individual to memorize every detail of those items: what color, how big, where is it located, etc. Once the time is up, I have them do some physical exercise. Once the training evolution is complete, I require them to write down as much information about the items as possible. If this is being practiced alone, one can go about the day and recall the details later.

When the individual develops proficiency, the time allowed to observe becomes shorter, the amount of objects increase, and the items become specific i.e. light switches, fire alarms, exits, fire extinguishers, reflective objects and weapons of opportunity, to name a few. If you would really like to test your skills, play the game at random with out planning to. For example, after your trip to the gas station or the grocery store, see how many of the items from the automatic scan you can remember or the layout of the store. This can even be added to the exercises I mentioned in the exercises for situational awareness post.

Try not to get hung up with my examples, there are so many ways that this can be adapted into training; just be creative with it.

Remember that this exercise is not just for remembering items. Ideally, this is to create a pattern where you observe and remember details. Scanning a building for exits is just as important as scanning an individual for weapons. Maybe you will get lucky and see the pistol or knife, maybe not. If not, can you see an imprint of either? Is there a bulge on the waist band or around the ankle? Is there anyone in your immediate area that is displaying behavioral cues?

This exercise is about getting accustomed to observing and remembering details until it becomes an unconscious habit.

1. Rudyard Kipling Kim (London, U.K.: Doubleday, Page & Company 1901) 247
2. 249

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