Facing Violence Requires Extreme Aggression to Short-Circuit the Aggressors OODA Loop

On Wednesday November 4, a student at UC Merced attacked four individuals with a knife and was subsequently shot and killed by campus police. This week we will examine this attack and the outcome as it relates to the OODA loop.

Faisal Mohammad, a freshman at the university in Santa Clara, California stabbed four people in a rampage “intended to kill a lot of people,” according to authorities who found a detailed manifesto on his body.

In a statement my Merced County Sheriff Verne Warnke, the document found on Mohammad included “a detailed list of his targets and intentions.” Mohammad planned to stab a police officer, take that officer’s firearm and subsequently use it to shoot students.

Precisely what his intentions were beyond those mentioned in the manifesto remain unclear and perplexing. Investigators found numerous items in the backpack Mohammad carried, including zip tie handcuffs, petroleum jelly, a night vision scope, safety hammer, and rolls of duct tape, among other things.

Thankfully things did not go his way. The attack was thwarted when Brandon Price, a 31-year old construction worker, heard screams coming from the classroom and ran to intervene (thinking a fight had broken out). Price was stabbed in the process, but likely saved the first victim by quickly attacking Mohammad.

This is an example of how dramatically the tables can be turned, when an attacker expects his targets to react in terror – but instead he/she is met with extreme aggression. This challenge to an attacker’s perceived power can short-circuited the OODA Loop and facilitate partial or full shut down of his/her tactics – including significantly reduced/slowed mental processing, tunnel vision, loss of hearing, and ineffectual flailing.

If you are unfamiliar with the OODA loop that Chief Kirk often references, it is an acronym for a decision cycle of Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. Developed by military strategist USAF Colonel John Boyd, the theory explains how to direct one’s energies and tactics to defeat an adversary and survive.

A diagram of the OODA decision cycle shows that all decisions are based on observations of an evolving situation. The observed information must be processed for orientation – what it means to the observer. And, the observer must make decisions based on orientation that often require action.

“In order to win…[you must] operate at a faster tempo to generate rapidly changing conditions that inhibit your opponent from adapting or reacting to those changes and that suppress or destroy his awareness” says Boyd. (Which is why this theory is a perfect blue print for Krav Maga).

The UC Merced attack and subsequent intervention is a perfect example of how violence can be thwarted by responding with aggression and creating a substantial acute stress response in the bad actor- short-circuiting the OODA loop.

…walk in peace (and respond with aggression).

Other notes of interest:

Brandon Price, the construction-worker ‘hero’ and father of four, says he wished he had a concealed firearm on his person when he saw the 8-10 inch knife Mohammad was wielding. Prior to this incident he was an opponent of concealed weapons.

John Boyd, creator of OODA loop theory, was an advocate of maneuverable fighter aircraft, in contrast to the heavy, powerful jet fighters that were prevalent in the 1960s. Boyd was the inspiration of the Light Weight Fighter Project that produced both the F-16 and the F/A-18 that are still used today. He is known as the ‘father’ of the modern fighter jet. His approach favors agility over raw power in dealing with opponents in any endeavor.

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