Please take a look at Articles on self-defense/conflict/violence for introductions to the references found in the bibliography page.

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Hey, NOTHING here is PERSONAL, get over it - Teach Me and I will Learn!

When you begin to feel like you are a tough guy, a warrior, a master of the martial arts or that you have lived a tough life, just take a moment and get some perspective with the following:

I've stopped knives that were coming to disembowel me

I've clawed for my gun while bullets ripped past me

I've dodged as someone tried to put an ax in my skull

I've fought screaming steel and left rubber on the road to avoid death

I've clawed broken glass out of my body after their opening attack failed

I've spit blood and body parts and broke strangle holds before gouging eyes

I've charged into fires, fought through blizzards and run from tornados

I've survived being hunted by gangs, killers and contract killers

The streets were my home, I hunted in the night and was hunted in turn

Please don't brag to me that you're a survivor because someone hit you. And don't tell me how 'tough' you are because of your training. As much as I've been through I know people who have survived much, much worse. - Marc MacYoung


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“All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.” - Montaigne

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OODA and Principles

I have been thinking lately about the OODA loop and its importance in self-defense. Then I began to contemplate how the OODA relates to teaching principles. I believe the following martial principles relate directly to how one learns and uses the OODA loop in self-defense, i.e. "Control, Lengthen our line, natural action, reflexive action, imperception and deception. Body-mind. Speed, timing, rhythm, reactive control, non-telegraphing. Mind, mushin, kime, zanshin & being, character."

I am theorizing this because I don't have any direct knowledge and experiences relating both the OODA loop (on a conscious level) and these principles as a single related topic.  It would be interesting to find out if this relationship truly exists and has relevancy in learning self-defense where the OODA loop can be a critical element toward avoidance, etc. I am still studying about the principles ergo why I am relating thoughts as to theory vs. reality and experience - to date. Look at this effort as my attempt to "connect the dots." 


Looking at the loop both the observe and orient stages are somewhat about control, i.e. controlling yourself with awareness and controlling others by the decisions you make before an encounter where you train to decide and act before the adversary reaches the same level in the loop. 

Lengthen our line:

To lengthen our line has a lot more to do with things other than just being better in the various martial practices and that includes the OODA loop where one becomes better at breaking the loop "sooner" than your adversary thus achieving the advantage, i.e. lengthening your line in relation to the adversary.

Natural Action:

This one is, in my view, critical when using the OODA loop, i.e. getting past the OOD part faster than your adversary which also alludes to the lengthen you line principle. The ability to move naturally and instinctively is a matter of training to act without conscious thought as any particular scenario might require. The type of reality training that pushes the observe, orient and decision process past consciousness and into the lizard part of the brain so it may act quicker than an adversary. 

Strive to act in a way that most others would not and do so in a manner that cuts short the need for the OOD part of the loop. This then becomes reflexive action as follows. 

Reflexive Action:

Natural action thus speaks to reflexive action, i.e. This speaks to the training necessary to achieve an instinctive action or reaction as the case may be. The time necessary to be attacked means you have a fraction of a second to observe, orient and decide as to the action needed and that is the crux of this part, to act faster by reflexive instinct acts that come from the faster part of the mind, the lizard brain. 

This means practicing relevant, realistic actions through repetition, the point of physical exhaustion and mental exhaustion. This will promote the encoding of such things into the subconscious mind - the place that uses reflexive action. 

Choose care in what strategies and tactics you encode because to unlearn useless things takes twice as long as learning them the right way the first time. 

Imperception and Deception:

The entire idea behind the loop is to be more effective than an adversary. If we can execute a tactic beyond the adversaries perceptions then we are successful. It is said, "the easiest strike to land is the one the adversary never sees coming. Doesn't this speak to all the above along with an adversaries perceptions? Then if we can deceive by misdirection and adversary does this allow us the ability to confuse their loop while speeding up ours. 


"As the mind perceives, so the body follows." The loop is all about the process of getting to the point where the body acts. It has to act appropriately to the situation. If the mind seizes then the body freezes. The ability to get past where the mind resides in a conflict determines whether it will result in a quicker action over a freeze or a freeze on a specific such as a hand on your body, etc. To get the adversary locked on to some event while your mind roams freely to the next action gives you the advantage and therefor you bypass the OOD faster and reach the A first. It is about the minds propensity  to react in a decreasing manner in proportion to the minds intent to attack. 


The essence of the loop, to gain the speed through the loop that makes your line longer than your adversary to take the advantage and thus keep it by constantly keeping the adversary in their OO loop, i.e. infinite loop of the OO so as to never gain access to the DA of the loop. Look at it like the principle teaches us that the rate at which our body moves or covers distance, i.e. how we move in the act part of the loop while the adversary is still in the orient part, etc. Then think of the effectual speed, i.e. the time it takes to complete a tactic, i.e. the adversary is still orienting on one tactic when they are put back to the observe level when you quickly enter into the next tactic keeping them in the lower part of the OODA loop. 

Then the development of timing speed, i.e. once again to achieve speedier timing over an adversary once again lengthening your line to your adversaries. Spatial speed provide movement that is half that of your adversary, i.e. you cover a distance in half of an adversary thus doubling your speed in relation to the adversary. This thereby implements well when you have mastered other associated principles such as positioning, angling, primary gate, axis, centripetal motion, and centerline, etc. while making the same technique smaller without losing effectiveness, i.e. power, etc.

Making effectual speed with movement, speed, timing speed, and spatial speed puts your training into the instinctive state of mind-body therefore resulting in a greater line length than your adversary keeping them in the observe and orient stages while you remain in the instinctive decision and action stages. This can keep you from having to return to the OO stages or levels except in the most lizard brain instinctive OOD efforts, i.e. again lengthening your line to an adversaries. 


Timing as in response, i.e. the ability to ACT while the adversary is either in an act or in the other levels of the loop, i.e. the OOD. This response or reaction does not have to stem from a physical attack. It my be some other action necessary to trap the adversary in the OO part of the loop. Many Chinese systems are predicated on this type of action, i.e. the flurry of techniques is one way to keep the adversaries mind trapped in the observe part of the loop. 

Timing is not about how we move, it is when we move and that is critical in the OODA loop, i.e. we must achieve the end of the loop faster than our adversary. We must be able to observe, orient and decide how we move when an adversary commits or intends to attack. Sometimes our timing of action can put the adversary into a freeze of motion, i.e. to commit themselves to one act while you are doing something else that also causes the mind to shift to another observe and orient over action. 

Know instinctually, to move through the OOD faster, what actions you can execute at the moment the adversary "intends" to do something, any course of action on the adversaries part. Sometimes, reaching the A level causing the adversary to commit to some action that you subvert is like freezing them into that action where the only course for the adversary is to revert to observe and orient over and over again. 


The pacing at which we execute reactions to actions, i.e. knowing or feeling the rhythm of an adversary then disrupting that rhythm with your own couples with other principles allows you to push the adversary back to the OO levels of the loop freezing the adversary from the DA part of the loop. The more actions you can apply compared the those of your adversary means you are changing your rhythm so that is disrupts theirs so that they end up caught in a motion freeze not able to decide and act but remain caught in an infinite loop of OO level. 

It is a matter of your setting the rhythm so that the adversary remains caught in the catch up mode and if you can execute more in each beat of your rhythm over your adversary you will be successful in avoiding damage and reaching safety. 

Note: It becomes easier as we progress with this theory that all of the principles converge into one since rhythm ties in nicely with timing since the rhythmic beat of any effort is also a matter of timing, i.e. the time of the beat and the timing of the space between - the closer/shorter the longer the line you have to your adversary. 

Reactive Control:

A hallmark of OODA, i.e. reaching the A level faster than your adversary, i.e. one way is to keep the adversary reacting to our techniques thus keeping them locked in the OO levels of the loop. It forces the adversary to remain in a defensive keep-away tactic meaning the same thing, i.e. a reactive (to our efforts) control. Keeping the adversary in a reactive state vs. an active state.


Telegraphing is an overt giving of an adversary as to what you are about to do. Like the philosophical principle of yin-yang, this works both ways. The loop as it works through this principle is how you reach the action level without giving the adversary a moment to observe or orient on any particular action. This keeps them in the OO levels while you take tactical and strategic control at the DA levels with emphasis on the A level. 


The most important part of any human and a human's ability to defend against violence. The body by itself has not real ability for everything including the parts that work instinctively and automatically such as the breathe you take and the blink of your eyes. It takes the power of the mind to control the body and the body can provide training of the mind. 

When I think of mind and the loop I think of intention, the intention you have and the intention of your adversary. Part of applying any strategy and tactic against an adversary deals with how you apply both to the mind of your adversary. Again, using your mind and body to create a mind stuck in the OO part of the loop. We use this to cause the adversary to end their attack.

By achieving through training, practice and experience we can reach the DA part of the loop and remain there where the OO loop is activated and completed by the lizard part of our minds or brains. Your breathing and blinking, etc. are run in that part of the mind so training and practice with a good dose of experience will encode actions necessary to move faster through the OOD part of the loop. It is about removing the conscious thought processes that are inherently flawed and slow. The lizard moves much faster and to achieve a greater speed through the OOD part of the loop is a matter of the mind.


When I spoke of the lizard brain it cannot be ignored as to the concept of mushin in martial systems. It has been bandied about in martial circles, the empty cup, refers to the mind-no-mind concept of Asian beliefs. There is possibly no other ability that will move us faster than our belief systems and those need care in learning, practicing and applying both in life as in defense of life. 

Mushin is about getting the mind-body-spirit trained to work as one wholehearted unit to move us faster than our adversaries through the loop. Training and practice must achieve this level of instinctive action while baffling the mind-body-spirit of your adversary so they remain caught in an infinite loop that is OO or observe and orient. It is a matter of making your line longer than your adversaries.

Out conscious thoughts tend to clutter up our mind. Often the lead to a freeze in the observe and orient levels of the loop. Using the concept of mushin by training the mind to quite itself and leave present moment emptiness of mushin that triggers the lizard mind so it can do what you train it to. Think of this as using the peripheral part of your vision allowing for the lizard to control actions vs. the focus of direct vision being slower and cumbersome as it triggers the conscious mind chatter that distracts and slows the loop process. 


The reciprocal of mushin is kime, i.e. focus so sharp that you lengthen your line in relation to your adversary. It is such a focus that you apply your tactics and strategies faster and instinctively remaining in the upper half of the loop while the adversary is trying to catch up stuck in the lower half. 

The type of focus that is fluid in nature allowing you to remain in a mind uncluttered, unfettered, and unfocused while remaining responsive, alert, and aware when in chaos and under the influences of the bodies chemical dump from the encounter. To achieve total kime remember that the principles of proper technique become critical, it must be singularly powerful and complete. 

Zanshin & Being:

When I think of zanshin I think of present moment mind. Being totally and completely in the moment, have total attention to the very moment in time in which you reside - even when those moments last only a moment. It is about losing yourself by being in the moment. It is a type of awareness toward everything that is happening in the moment. The ancient Asian martial masters had a saying, "stand like a mountain, flow like water, move like the wind," that means "full attention to the moment." It is about total focus, it is about total commitment. 

It is about reaching the end of the loop before your adversary. Total commitment and focus is an advantage over an adversary when you bring together all the martial principles into one whole effort or action to defend and protect. It is about transcending any other conscious state that hinders, restricts or creates tension of the mind and/or body. Be in the moment and keep your adversary in their conscious minds subject to the freeze and other obstacles. 

It is about seeing the true nature of things - being in the moment.

This seems to cover my initial analysis of the loop and the principles. Take a look for yourself by the study of the loop and then the study of the principles (see below). This will take some work but it also means that more of the principles will become more of the study and practice of martial arts both as a way and as a means of defense. 

The OODA Loop:

Do a little research on this by googling "OODA Loop" and then take a look at these sites as well. Do a search on the OODA loopl:

Pearlman, Steven J. "The Book of Martial Power." Overlook Press. N.Y. 2006.

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