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Main blog page » Archives » November 2016 » Loop-de-loop-de-loop

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11/06/2016: "Loop-de-loop-de-loop"


Ah, yes. The OODA loop. We've talked about it before, but it's worth examining again - because there's actually more than one kind.

The kind we're all most familiar with is the loop that you can get into while reacting to a situation - be it a physical attack, an under-fire training situation, or an emotional confrontation at work or elsewhere. In that loop, you need to be able to keep your cool enough to be able to get out of the loop to something that works. (That includes getting the heck away from the situation.) It's harder to do with emotional triggers (especially ones that come with personal baggage), but is still doable.

We liken it to being in a roundabout (traffic circle). You get into the circle, know where you're going, and get off. If you miss the turnoff, you go around again, then get off at the proper place. What you don't want to do is to keep going around and around, because you never get anywhere, and only (literally and figuratively) spin yourself up.


There's another kind of OODA(-ish) loop, though. It's your daily activity. Those things that you do by rote, or nearly so. Then you encounter a situation where things aren't quite normal, but even though you may realize that, you still proceed with your normal routine.

Two stories for consideration.

Story 1

On 11 September 2001, the first tower had been hit, and the second was being evacuated. Then it, too was hit. People were evacuating - but at the bottom of the second tower was a Starbucks. Which was open. And people were in there buying stuff.

In retrospect, we shake our heads. At the time? People surely felt the wild shaking of the second tower after it had been hit, but if they were otherwise unaffected - nothing falling down directly around them, no fire etc. nearby - perhaps they didn't realize the severity of the incident. Or perhaps they did, but their brains were still going through their usual routine. Routine is comfortable - could that have been part of it? Was it just not knowing how bad things were? Or both? (Or something else?)

(We don't have an answer as to why, just that this did happen.)


Story 2

One of our dojo members was in California. Right-hand turns on red are legal there, but he made one at an intersection that was marked as no turn on red, and was pulled over. He signalled to the officer in his rear view mirror that he would be pulling over, and got an OK sign.

The dojo member is a little heavy, doesn't move well sometimes, was in a small rental car, and keeps his wallet in his left hip pocket.

So he opened the door to reach for his wallet more easily.

The next thing he knew, the officer had a gun trained on him and was shouting at him to close the door. He did so. The rest of their interaction was uneventful.

In retrospect, the dojo member - who has trained with us and in other styles for many years - knew he should have told the officer what he was intending to do. He knew he wasn't a Bad Guy, and that the officer would need to see his ID, so he did what he would have done in a normal situation (e.g. if he had been rear ended). Unfortunately - and this has always been the case - an officer can't regard any situation as "normal", because they can turn bad very quickly. The dojo member knew that as well, but...

Fortunately things ended well for both of them.


Don't get caught in the "what I'm doing isn't working" OODA loop once you're under attack - but also recognize that situations other than physical threats or attacks have the potential for you to get stuck in the other, ordinary-situation loop. It's another angle of the "keep your eyes open and be aware" mantra we constantly stress to our students. It helps keep us - and others - safe.


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