April 27, 2021

Care and Feeding of the Common OODA Loop

Your bog-standard OODA loop is defined as Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It sprang from the fevered brain of Forty-Second Boyd, so-called because that was his max time in the air as a fighter pilot getting the drop on some poor newbie that thought the old man was slow. (Spoiler: the old man was not slow.)

The concept of the OODA loop originated in air combat but it has been expanded and applied everywhere, including some places it probably shouldn't (notably corporate software development). It works best with situations that require quick actions, with minimal actors, and with minimal parameters to the situation. (None of these are commonly found in corporate software development but I'm not bitter, not at all....)

It is, however, useful for you as an individual. Especially as the current political climate can suddenly and rapidly become kinetic and deadly (riots, "insurrection", state-sanctioned violence). Nobody knows exactly what could happen on any given day, but if you keep the OODA loop in mind it will give you that most precious of things, options.

1) Observe. Be in the habit of observing, and of noticing when things seem odd or potentially dangerous. Are the people on the street suddenly walking only right next to the buildings? Are there only a handful of cars on the usually busy road? Cops running in one direction, weapons drawn? (Happened to me, amazing how that got my attention good and hard.)

2) Orient. Decide what your available options are. We would all like Ironman's power suit, but those things require more expensive maintenance than a Contach. Run? Hide? Pretend you didn't notice anything? What can you do with what you have? Can you get to a position where you have more available options?

3) Decide. Pick from those options. Accept it may be a bad option but not the worst.

4) Act. Commit to what you decided--this is important, do not switch without good reason. Indecision, or failure to commit, will sink you as bad as never deciding at all. Good martial art training incorporates never stopping to correct a technique, because you will fight the way you train. Finish what you start and then do it over the way you were supposed to. In a real fight, you need that muscle memory.

Further, it is NOT cheating to think about possible scenarios ahead of time. Go through it in your head, but know that is no substitute for real practice. Violence has a way of shocking the law-abiding into immobility, and that can get you killed. (Not that I am advocating starting fights in bars! You might spill your booze....)