Stop Debating and Train!


Too much valuable training time is often wasted pontificating the endless tactical solutions to the problems that arise during training. We need to square these issues away in the boardroom before hand and if new problems arise, have an ‘answer key,’ an agreed upon set of standards to measure against our problem, find a solution and get back to work. That answer key or measuring tool lies in our is our core principles.

Principles are the base from which all our tactics stem.

If you consider that our operating tactics are like branches of a tree, then the principles are the trunk.

Any prudent operator or trainer will question and challenge the principles of their own system and when they do, they will learn that although the language, terminology and tactics may vary slightly, its all pretty much a different branches from the same trunk.

In like 500 BC, Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War”, citing one of the first known scripts of the principles of war; also drawing evolution, regurgitation and development by every major military contender up to present day. However, the law enforcement community didn’t recognize more specific operating principles until the birth of the O.O.D.A. loop in the 1960s.


The O.O.D.A. loop is the brain child of United States Air Force pilot and academic Col. John Boyd (ret.) who noted that to succeed in combat the one who is can Observe, Orient, Decide and Act first and most effectively wins.

In his ground breaking and brutally no nonsense book Sound Doctrine; A Tactical Primer, Charles “Sid” Heal, speaks most aptly to this critical thought process required to be successful in combative situations.

According to Boyd’s theory, conflict can be seen as a series of time competitive, Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action (OODA) cycles. Each party to a conflict begins by observing itself, the physical surroundings, and the enemy. Next, it orients itself. Orientation refers to making a mental image or “snapshot” of the situation. Orientation is necessary because the fluid, chaotic nature of conflicts make it impossible to process the information as fast as we can process it. This requires a “freeze frame” concept and provides a perspective or orientation. Once there is orientation a decision needs to be made. The decision takes into account all the factors present at the time of the orientation. Last comes the implementation of the decision. This requires action, then, because we hope that our actions will have changed the situation, the cycle begins anew. The cycle continues to renew itself throughout the tactical operation.

The adversary who can consistently go through the Boyd Cycle faster than the other gains tremendous advantage. By the time the slower adversary reacts, the faster one is doing something different and that action becomes ineffective.

About 25 years later, Charles Remsberg, author of the renown Calibre Press’ Street Survival Series, had similar deductions he called The Thought Process.  He observed that an officer had to go through four distinct stages. He first has to locate the subject. Then the officer has to physically be in a position to react to the subject’s action. He then needs to identify the subject, the level of threat they pose, formulate an appropriate action and then initiate that action in order to control the subject.

The bad guy only needs to locate, react and attack the officer thus giving the bad guy the upper hand.

Consider these actions like a personal roster. Whomever can make their own roster shorter and their adversary’s longer wins.

Both tactical thinking pioneers recognized the importance of initiative during combative encounters as well as a series of time sensitive processes that need to occur.

These are only two examples of principles that serve as excellent litmus tests for the operating methods we employ.

Tactics are like a Pandora’s Box. And when that box opens up and the endless possibilities of appropriate tactics are discussed, valuable minutes and hours are lost. Time that should be spent conducting ad nauseam repetitions.

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite time in the future.”  George S. Patton Jr.

Solid principles give our trainers the answer key to measure training solutions.

When debating whether or not a certain tactic is optimal, trainers only need ask a simple question:

Will this tactic enhance our abilities to proceed through our processes more efficiently than our adversary, or, hinder our adversary’s abilities to proceed through his processes? 

If the answer to that question is yes, let’s do it. if the answer is no, let’s not.

Quick decisions can be made and we can move on.  


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