OODA Loop Made Easy

By on June 9, 2016

2016-06-01 09.30.05

Lately there has been lots of talk about the OODA loop and how it doesn’t work anymore, how it goes deeper than we first thought and so on and so on.  The OODA Loop is easy.

What is the OODA Loop?  A theory originally created by fighter pilot John Boyd, Colonel USAF, as a way to help fighter pilots win dog fights.  It is an acronym that stands for; Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act.  People go through this process all the time, every day to make decisions, or so the theory goes.  Every time something changes, we start the loop again. His theory is that this is how fighter pilots see the world during an attack.  The theory is pretty good.

Applying that thought, we think about getting inside someone’s OODA Loop.  The idea is that if you can continue to change the environment, you can keep the other person resetting their OODA Loop before they get to the end and act.

It’s an easy theory and actually works.  If you can keep changing things on your opponent before they can get through the loop, then you can win the fight before the other person acts.  The problem comes from trying to think too far into the theory, or that the theory works all the time on everyone.  Trained people can go through the Loop at surprising speed while a true professional has only Observe and Act in their process.  They have trained themselves enough so when they see a trigger they just act.  Kind of like the sound of artillery or gun fire.  Professionals have already decided what to do and where to go before the trigger.  They have looked at their environment, orientated themselves, and decided what to do before the attack.

We would all love to have that preprogrammed act before the attack happens but we really cannot.

This post is to give you an exercise that will allow you to fully understand the OODA Loop and how it works.

Simple exercise to understand the OODA Loop and how it works on you:  Go find an empty parking lot with your car (big one if possible with not a lot of poles or islands in it).  Go to the center and look into one mirror and start backing up.  While still moving backward look to a different mirror, and then back again and see what happens to your brain. That’s your brain going through the OODA Loop without you having to think about it.

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For all you advanced people out there that think this isn’t working, do the same thing, only look at different mirrors as you are trying to back around a corner.  Now you’ll really see your OODA Loop cycling through the steps.  Even if you are a professional driver, you will see the OODA Loop work on you when you are backing in a random area that you don’t know or haven’t planned for.

Using the OODA Loop to defend yourself is harder and easier than you think.  To keep someone’s OODA Loop resetting so they do not act is pretty difficult.  But for most self defense situations, you only need to get a second up on your adversary to win.  You can easily get the other guy’s OODA Loop to reset once and gain that second by dropping something and waiting for them to look away, or yelling at them with something unexpected (like “why are you wearing women’s underwear).  By the time they come back (or finish their OODA Loop Cycle), you are already acting and they are reacting to you.  They have to go through the OODA Loop while you are acting and that will get you inside their OODA Loop enough to win.

Stay Safe,


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