Understanding the OODA Loop

Understanding the OODA Loop

Lt. Col. John Boyd is considered by some to be one of the greatest military strategists of all time. He served as a fighter pilot in the Korean War, but is known for his concepts for fighter tactics and designs. He published many theories, but his most significant contribution was one incredible strategic tool: the OODA Loop — Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

The OODA loop is a process that you are already doing every minute of every day. For example:
1. You observe that you are hungry.
2. You orient by remembering there is a Whataburger down the street.
3. You decide to go to Whataburger.
4. You act by driving to Whataburger and getting a combo. You may even have an apple pie while you’re there.

It’s a simple theory and works to your advantage, particularly when you are situationally aware and have had self-defense training. Here is a scenario:
1. You observe that you’re getting out of your car in a Walmart parking lot.
2. You orient by looking around for potential threats. You see a man walking in your direction.
3. You decide to change your route to add distance.
4. You make eye contact with him, cut through cars to the next row, and quicken your pace to the store.

If he is a bad guy, he has his own OODA loop that is planning his attack. By going through your OODA loop and making your behavior more aware and less predictable, you forcing him to run a fresh loop. He must re-observe, re-orient, re-decide, and re-act to the actions of your current loop. By forcing him into a new loop, you have taken taking control of the situation and affected the action-reaction power curve. He will look for a softer target.

Tom Givens of Rangemaster says that you will always be reacting to a bad guy’s OODA loop that is already in play. Tom teaches that in order to get the upper hand in the OODA loop cycle, you need to make the bad guy think, “WTF?!” at least twice. One way to do this is to step out of the bad guy’s tunnel vision. If he is drawing his pistol directly at you, step to the side. This lateral movement will remove you from his field of view, make him say WTF, disrupt his OODA loop, and give you a chance to draw and fire.

If you can keep changing the scenario on the bad guy before he can get through his loop, then you win. Training helps you go through your loop quickly and not caught in the Observe step. You must already have observed your environment, orientated yourself, and decided what to do before an attack.

The OODA loop is a decision process, and also a model of how to quickly adapt. Being adaptable is an important quality and one of AG & AG’s core values. We dedicate an entire month in our Shooting Journal to focusing on adaptability with journaling worksheets and dry-fire and live-fire drills. Boyd said, “He who can handle the quickest rate of change survives.”

About Robyn Sandoval

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