OODA Loop: How to make quick decisions that keep you safe and alive…

Arrows pointing to safety on the left and Risk on the right

In a world where violence is unpredictable, how do you make quick decisions to keep yourself safe?

There were two main things that first attracted me to Krav Maga. The first was the simplicity and effectiveness of the techniques. And the second was how much practical theory there is in the teaching.

Today, I want to explore one of those theories called the OODA Loop…

So, have you ever been in a situation where you were unsure of what to do?

You probably found yourself thinking about all the different options available and weighing them up. This is natural, but it can also be dangerous if there isn’t enough time for this process.

Making quick decisions that keeping safe is important for anyone who practices Krav Maga. It’s also an essential life skill.

Enter the OODA Loop…

The OODA Loop is a four-step decision making framework which can be used to make quick decisions in a crisis situation.

The OODA Loop, was developed by Colonel John Boyd of the USAF, and is one of the theories that we teach in Krav Maga.

Colonel Boyd is considered to be one of the top American military strategists of our time, his work is used extensively both inside and outside of the military, especially in the self defence/protection field.

OODA loop drawn on a chalkboard

In order to make quick decisions that keep us safe we first need to understand how decision-making works. The OODA Loop helps us do that.

The first step is to Observe: In other words, to ask ‘What’s going on around me?’

The second step is Orient: ‘What does this mean and how will I respond?’

Thirdly, Decide: ‘How should I react right now?’

Finally, Act: Execute my plan.

It’s helpful to visualise the OODA Loop as a circle with each step representing an action taken by you leading into the next step in a continuous cycle.

So what is the OODA Loop? And how does it apply to me?

In a nutshell, the OODA loop is the process of making quick decisions. To stay safe based on what’s happening around you.

The idea suggests that the key to success lies in how quickly you can make decisions that are appropriate in those circumstances — a skill known as reflexivity.

As already discussed, the acronym OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act.

Observe

The first part of the OODA Loop is Observing what’s happening around you. In other words, are there any threats?

This is done by scanning your surroundings for potential dangers. When we observe, we take in new information about the environment.

Considering new information allows our minds to become an open system instead of a closed one, giving us insights that are crucial to making better decisions.

This means that if we remain open to new information, we’ll have greater opportunities for success and keeping ourselves safe.

This is not always an easy task — it can be hard to keep our minds open and receptive during the high stress of a confrontation.

But the more we practice, the easier it becomes.

Observing is a key element of self defence. It’s your responsibility to stay safe and to be ready to react to any potential dangers.

But how do you decide what to observe?

Here are a few ideas: -What does an attacker look like? What weapon might he be holding? Does his body language suggest anything about his intent or abilities?

Another consideration is the environment in which you’re standing. Environment can provide critical additional information such as whether or not they have access to weapons that can harm you (e.g., kitchen knives).

Woman in red shirt in defensive stance against a bad guy

Observing your surroundings helps you form a hypothesis for deciding on how best to act next.

This means that by getting into the habit of scanning our environments for possible threats, we can be proactive about our safety.

When someone trains themselves well with these observation skills, they’re able to make decisions faster than usual which leads into the next part of the OODA Loop…Orient.

Orient

In the Orient phase, we take all the information we gathered in the Observe phase to come up with the ‘mental model’ or theory we’re going to use for the particular situation we’re in.

Realising that not every situation requires the same response, we adapt our model to the current situation based on the data collected.

Sometimes, for example, we might need to run as fast and as far away from a threat as possible. Other times, we may want to try talking it out with the person, or we may have no choice but to engage them.

It’s important at this stage not just to consider what will happen if you do nothing but also what might occur because of the actions you take.

For example, how will an aggressive person react because I ran? Will they chase me? Do I stand a better chance of surviving if I fight or if I comply? Will it be harder for me to escape then?

The time spent deliberating should last as short of a time as possible, no more than a few seconds before moving onto the next step.

The point is, in the Orient phase, we come up with the idea of how we’re going to make decisions in the next phase of the OODA Loop.

Decide

At this point in the OODA Loop process is where an individual decides what their best course of action will be based on all they’ve observed so far. This phase also includes executing plans about how you’ll deal with any threats that come up.

Image of a compass superimposed over a silhouette of a man

The two primary aspects of this are deciding how much risk you’re willing to take on (e.g., run away, attack) and choosing a course of action based on that level of riskiness (run toward them or stay put).

The most important thing you can do when faced with a potential threat is make decisions quickly…

You’re going to evaluate all the options and select which one is best for your situation.

Act

The next step is to act on it quickly. So don’t take too long to implement the course of action that you chose in the decide phase.

Just do it, just go with your gut! This could mean that if someone comes at you in an aggressive manner, like they want to fight or rob you, then striking first while their guard is down could be the best course of action to keep you safe!

This would be much faster as you’re reacting before you’re put in worse danger. In this case, the OODA Loop has served as a tool not only for self-defense but also self preservation.

This is the OODA loop in action: observe, orient, decide, and act!

It’s important not only for self defense but also for any other sort of fast-paced situation such as driving or operating machinery.

Although there are many ways to react to danger (e.g., escape), making an immediate decision will help you stay safe, especially if confronted with violence at close range — which happens more often than people think!

It takes a lot of skill to be able to make quick decisions that keep you safe.

The OODA Loop is the framework choosen by many Kravists for decision-making in order to get the best possible outcome.

It can work as your own personal filter for making tough decisions in everyday life too! All you have to do is ask yourself these four questions:

1) What are my options?

2) What are their likely consequences?

3) What is the objective I want at this moment?

4) Which option will give me what I want most quickly and with the least risk or harm?

Krav Maga as a self-defense system promotes realistic fighting techniques.

It’s not about winning a fight, it’s about escaping from one. The OODA Loop is an important concept because it teaches you to make quick decisions that keep you safe.

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