The OODA loop was Air Force Colonel John Boyd’s creation. It started as a way to help train fighter pilots and has been adapted to other military and law enforcement applications.

I learned about it through working with material created by Kasey Keckeisen and Rory Miller. It has greatly enhanced my understanding of the material that I have trained in for the past 35 years. (You don’t know what you don’t know)

OODA.Boyd_.svg_The OODA loop is a four stage process for decision making. The four stages repeat toward the conclusion of the action. These stages are Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. While Col. Boyd developed this as part of being a fighter pilot, the process has been applied to many other areas. It is a natural fit in the martial arts. The integration of this process most easily seen in sparring but fits all training.

A very basic description could go something like…

Observe – Closed stance with Lead leg attack
Orient – Position in relation to the kick’s potential targets
Decide – What strategy do you want to do: evade, block, counter
Act – perform strategy choice

The faster that you complete the process, the more successful you will become. It is common for people to get stuck in the Orient/Decide portions, which you can take advantage of. if you can keep them second guessing what they should do, you’ll be able to apply your plan move effectively.

On the other hand, your job, though, is to develop your process to become only the Observe/Act pairing. This will help provide the quickest successful response. Once you have seen things enough, you can act upon observing and not have to wait for the process to finish. An example of this is how often people throw lead leg round kicks during sparring. You see it so much that your counter (evade or attack) happens almost as fast as they can throw the kick.

When you really start looking at your training, though, all of this has been built into it from the start. You may not have seen the process while learning your patterns or even in your one-steps but they’re there. Master Tom Sullivan always stated that “When two fighters had equal skill, the one who know his patterns better would win.”

The OODA loop is present in everyday life as well. Driving through rush hour traffic provides a lot of practice. Something like…You are in the left lane gaining on two cars in the right lane. The lead car in the right lane is going slightly slower than the second car. You watch as the second car closes the distance on the lead car and are waiting for it to decide to change lanes to pass. The second car ends up either stuck in the orient phase or the decide phase because it ends up braking as it gets too close to the lead car and has run out of space to change lanes in front of you.

So, now that you know what the OODA loop is, you can  actively apply it to make you more successful. Remember this is just an introduction to the OODA loop. You should learn more, as with everything else in life.

Author: Master Robert Frankovich

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