The OODA Loop

If you are not Military/Law Enforcement or a Krav Maga Student, you may have never heard the term OODA Loop. The week, I was in Washington, DC, with Team 144. Our Head Instructor did an amazing job explaining this term. I’ve heard the term, and used it in a few presentations, but never really completely understood it enough to explain.

OODA Loop is an acronym for “Observe, Orient, Decide and Act.” The analogy the Head Instructor used over and over to make this term clear was…..

Everyone operates on an OODA Loop; they observe what’s going on, then they orient themselves to the situation, then decide what action they want to take, then act. After acting, the cycle repeats, creating a loop. When defending yourself from an attacker, you will always be at a disadvantage because the attacker OODA Loop is already spinning when they get ready to “Act” or attack you.

So, the reason we train in Self-Defense is to be able to Observe what’s going on, Orient ourselves to the situation, Decide what we need to do then Act before the attacker attacks. Self-Defense is about surprising the attacker with Speed and more Aggression then they are trying to inflict on you. The purpose of Speed and Aggression is to break their OODA Loop. So, if you can catch them in between the Decide and the Act stage, you will be able to break their Loop, and they will have to start back over with Observe.

With Krav Maga, you continue to defend yourself until you can get to safety. You don’t give them time to start their OODA Loop back over before you are out of harm’s way.

Here is an example of The OODA Loop in action. You are walking in a parking lot at night to your car. As you are walking, you noticed a suspicious person looking at you then walks past you, but you continue to walk to your vehicle. As you get close to your car, you hear the suspicious person turning around and begins to walk towards you again, but this time they are coming from behind. As you turn around, this person is reaching to grab at your arms.


Let’s figure out where is the suspicious person is in his OODA Loop. That person walked past you, so he Observed the situation. The person was able to see if anyone else was close to you in the parking lot so they would decide if they had the time to attack you. So he Oriented himself to his surroundings. Now, after passing you, he turns around and walks quickly to you, causing you to turn around and notice him reaching for you, so he Decided what he was going to do.


As he was grabbing for your arms, you will respond in some kind of way. The average person would scream out of shock and pull their arms close to them, trying to stop from being hit or grabbed. But if you were trained in Krav Maga, you would be able to pull from a list of counter-attacks.

So, as a student of Krav Maga, you would quickly go through your OODA Loop of Observing the threat, Orienting yourself by getting into a fight stance, then Deciding on what strike you would execute on this suspicious person. And before the suspicious person have time to attack you or Act, you Act or Counter-Attack the suspicious person with a Front Kick to the groan and while the attacker is bending over in pain, throw two to three Controlled Knees to the attacker’s face, finishing the attack with an Elbow number 7 to the back of the head.

Now the attacker is on the ground trying to restart his OODA Loop, and you are in your car driving to your house to report the attack to the police.

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