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Have You Trained Your OODA Loop?

Joel Gaines photo

Author: Joel Gaines

Have You Trained Your OODA Loop?

OODA is a cool bit of neuroscience, especially since we spend all day doing it and don’t even know it. So what is it? Why do we “OODA” and how are we not conscious of it?

OODA is an acronym for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It is how our brain collects and processes information so we can make informed decisions and then act upon them. Pretty cool, right?

The OODA Loop is a concept developed by US Air Force pilot and strategist John Boyd. It is designed to explain the decision cycle of an individual or organization. Understanding this cycle allows you to influence it. 

Let’s apply OODA to a couple of scenarios. Then we’ll talk about how we can influence our reactions.

Scenario #1 – The Firecrackers

Whenever there is some violent encounter involving a firearm, a number of witnesses are interviewed by the media in order to get that “personal interest” aspect in the story. Invariably, you hear something like, “At first, I thought it was firecrackers.”

When the firearm went off, the brain Observed a “thing” (in this case, they heard an unfamiliar noise) and oriented it. Our brain orients things to something it knows. If your brain does not know or cannot conceive of something other than firecrackers, then it orients to the noise of firecrackers. Yeah – firecrackers… in a shopping mall on August 13. Firecrackers make a TON of sense, right?

“…but then I heard it again! Pow! Pow! Pow! And I was like, Oh crap! That’s a gun!”

In this case, the brain kept working on the orientation and a realization occurred. Ta-da! The noise came from a gun.

“…then I just grabbed my kids and got out of there!”

Bingo! Decide, then Act!

Scenario #2 – Good Guy with a Gun

I know a number of people who carry, but no matter how available we make firearms training to them, they won’t train. They see themselves as “a good guy with a gun” and their intentions are certainly very genuine. But they are actually quite dangerous, and OODA is not their friend if and when they have to draw their firearm.

Let’s go back to the same violent encounter at the mall. “Good Guy” is there and logistically equipped to help stop the bad guy. But he hasn’t been trained on how to position himself in a way that he can shoot the bad guy without hitting the people running behind the bad guy. He has done the first two steps: observed and oriented. Yet now he’s stuck in indecision and can’t act, or worse, he decides to shoot without regard to what is behind his target.

Good Guy could have gotten training to mitigate pauses in OODA. Proper training helps with the following:

  1. Keeping him alive while he’s wracked with indecision
  2. Keeping innocent people alive while he’s wracked with indecision
  3. Allows him to intervene without being a danger to others

Controlling Your OODA Loop

The two things that put a dramatic pause in your OODA Loop are:

  1. Not being able to orient – “That noise can’t be gunfire, because that doesn’t happen here or to me.”
  2. Not being able to decide – “I don’t know what to do because I have never taught my brain to do it.”

How do you mitigate pauses in the OODA Loop?

If you have no intention of carrying a firearm, you should at least take an active shooter course or a violent encounter avoidance and survival course. Heloderm – one of our partners at Warlizard Tactical – delivers an outstanding training experience in these areas.

If you are going to carry, get training. At, Warlizard Tactical, we teach Basics of Pistol Shooting, Defensive Pistol Shooting, and Fighting Pistol classes. These are great courses that teach you to Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act with the best of them.

Bottom line – get trained!

Interested in shooting lessons? Find a firearms training class near you.

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