Quoting from Wikipedia:

The OODA loop has become an important concept in both business and military strategy. According to Boyd, decision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby "get inside" the opponent's decision cycle and gain the advantage.


There isn’t all that much to say.  Training can shorten your loops, allowing you to get inside a less trained person’s loop.  Fast loops are good, slow loops are bad. Being unpredictable even to the point of chaos is generally an advantage if it keeps forcing the opponent to re-loop without being able to execute an effective action.

The problem with martial arts games of all types (wrestling, boxing, MMA, push-hands) from a fighting point of view is that they limit you.  When you have a lot of training and you are suddenly confronted with a new set of rules which deny you those training options or action, you will likely get stuck.  Why?  Because you train for speed, and when you train for speed certain conditions will trigger a certain kind of action.  If you train to pull off particular types of set-ups, or throws or strikes, your body will just start doing them when the opening appears.  If the rule set doesn’t allow it, you will have to spend a second stopping your body from making the move.  Your mind can get stuck making sure that you really aren't allowed to do what your body has trained to do.  Your body won’t believe that it isn't allowed to do that thing which has worked so well in the past until it has had time to adjust to the new set of rules.

If you are training self-defense, you are training people to break the rules, to do the unexpected, to temporarily abandon social constraints.  

This is related to the observation that oftentimes martial artists aren’t able to use their training in a surprise attack. The conditions just don’t seem right, you’d have to keep telling yourself, yes, go, do it now.  The second time you get attacked it probably has a better chance of working, but who gets surprise attacked twice now-a-days?  

The OODA loop is also important for training to win games in which both people are trained with the same set of rules.  It is still possible to be faster and more difficult to predict.  There are also things you can do to disorient or shock your opponent.  A great deal of tai chi is focuses on the disorientation aspect of the OODA loop.  


One of the interesting training questions that comes up in partner work is the distance vs. action ratio.  Acting first usually trumps waiting because it forces the opponent to re-loop, dealing with an attack rather than attacking.  But if you are ready for an attack there is a certain distance where any action is a mistake because it will reveal your intent too soon, giving the opponent time and options for a powerful response.  This is why in Greco-roman wrestling, for instance, there are these long stand-offs where both wrestlers are waiting for the other person to make a mistake.   Swords and knives have this quality too, as long as both parties want to avoid getting cut any thrust of the knife makes the hand vulnerable to attack.  Tai Chi is famous for playing in this close quarters realm where whoever acts first loses.  But of course a player of great skill will disorient their opponent on contact.


OK I've said enough about that.  It came up a while back with Tabby Cat, who has a new video.

The problem is obvious if you watch it.  The guy Tabby is pushing with looks like a loaded gun forced to keep the "safety" on.  He sees ways to act, but then remembers he isn't allowed to do that: OODA loop shut down.  It's very different then two people who train with the same set of rules.  There is something else important and valuable to see here, namely that Tabby is easily uprooting his opponent by using his opponent's tension.  It is a very difficult skill to learn because you have to comprehend what is happening and melt all the tension in your body.  But what I always look for in a Tai Chi guy is, can they do it in the form?  Can they do it in a big range of motion?  Can they do it to the side?  Up, down, left, right, front, back, circle? From behind?  On the ground? or over their head?  (While sipping tea is my goal.) Notice he only has the skill upward from a low position close to the body.  That would be the easiest position.  Sort of like treading water in the deep end of the pool.  Swimming in the arctic it ain't.  

Anyway that is my conceited opinion and that is what I was thinking when I got to the later part of the video where he wraps the red pregnancy cloth around his arms.  OK perhaps it is because I've been doing too much relaxation of deep unconscious tension lately, but when I saw that, I just about busted a gut!  Now that we know you can tread water in the deep end, why not try it in the kiddie pool!


Well, if you've read this far I have a little treat for you which is mostly unrelated.  I have been thinking about advice to give beginners who what to go far in internal martial arts.  Here is my advice.  Don't try to make any technique work.  It is quite counter intuitive, but the problem is, if you try to make a technique work you will be conditioning yourself to feel either 1) a type of active resistance, or 2) success.  The problem with the feeling of active resistance is that when you actually have the internal gongfu you won't feel any resistance.  The problem with the success feeling is that when your technique fails in a violent confrontation you are likely to freeze.  Now I don't know from experience that the feeling of success in a flaw, but my gut tells me it is.  Anyway, to win by force is a mistake.  What we want is that you just practice the techniques, if there is resistance change, if not keep going.  In the beginning it is the outer forms that really matter.  Know the technique, don't try to make it work.  A subtle difference perhaps, but I'm finding it is a powerful teaching key.

External Internal Mixes

Just wanted to share this video of one of my class mates from the early 90's.  Stan was a strange kid, about 17 in this video, I remember him having some mental development problems that made him a bit shy and awkward in conversation, but he was fun to practice with.

And here is Shifu Qing Zhong Bao, George Xu's main teacher before George left China around 1980.  He is 95 years old in the video.  Lanshou, the system he is a master of, and the one Stan is demonstrating above, is considered a mixed internal and external system.  Whatever right?  Looks like it is pretty good for health in old age as well as training young people for maximum versatility.  

Visualizations, Videos and Learning the Sword

In traditional Chinese Internal Martial Arts visualizations are used to help people develop qi and the ability to move it.  The key expression is:  "To make imaginary real, and to make real imaginary."  This is one of the things that annoys me about the whole movement to make martial arts less theatrical and more "real."  Folks, that's level one!  It's only half the job.  Once those fighting skills are perfected and all the applications have clear intent, power, etc, etc, then the task is to make them so natural that whatever the mind does, it is expressed instantly and effortlessly.  The art enters the realm of imagination.

I recently have learned a lot about my Northern Shaolin Sword form (Wuhudao) from playing with Maija.  She's great. What amazed and delighted me the most is that every single move in this old opera form from Kuo Lien-Ying is totally functional.  Even the things that I had thought were artistic flourish turned out to be really useful techniques!

And while we are at it I have a new favorite visualization.  The most common visualizations of qi are clouds, steam, silk, water, fire...etc....   all that old school stuff.  But my new favorite thing to visualize is dry-cleaning plastic!  It puffs up, it floats down slowly, it spins around, it has a mind of it's own.

Dry Cleaning Plastic Dress by Susan Lenz


Wrestling this much as a little kid might stunt his growth, but still, he looks mighty good.  The Yahoo write up is just silly, it's clearly trained skill, not strength.  It's also impossible to tell if there is talent here unless you know more about how he trains and who trains him.

Which reminds me.  At a Rory Miller workshop the other day there was a guy who trains a lot of martial arts... but mostly with weapons.  He said that when he does train open-hand he usually focuses on striking.  This guy expressed a lack of confidence with ground fighting and even stand up grappling.  He said something like, "I haven't really wrestled since I was a little kid."  I was like, don't dismiss that. If you wrestled as a little kid that's the best possible training there is.  As it turned out, when I grappled with him standing up he had a tendency to want to use jumping action in his legs to get control, but he quickly noticed that didn't work.  When we went to the ground, he was as good as anyone.  It's like riding a bike.

National Living Treasures

ling-3I really don't know what to do.  Paulie Zink has another video up on Youtube.  His Daoyin is the link between Daoist hermit rituals, Shaolin, the martial theater tradition, and internal martial arts.  I don't know of anyone else that has even come close to receiving the complete transmission of this knowledge.  Paulie Zink has it, yet hardly anyone appreciates that fact, even worse, I don't think he appreciates it!  For crying out loud, why call it Yin Yoga?  You're killing me.

For those who have missed this story, here are some of the details.  Paulie Zink learned Daoyin and Monkey Kungfu in Los Angels in the late '70's early 80's from a guy, Cho Chat Ling who learned it from his father and taught no one else.  The Monkey Kungfu is made up of 5 different Monkey forms and qualities all of which Paulie then taught to his close friend Michael Matsuda.  I interviewed Michael last year in Santa Clarita and he told me that he never learned any of the Daoyin and that Monkey Kungfu and Daoyin were completely different systems.  It's my opinion that Monkey is one of about 20 Daoyin animal movements, but it happens to be by far the most developed of the animals because Monkey was such a popular stage role in every part of China.  Michael dismissed this notion by saying that it was purely a martial arts system.  He backed up this statement by telling me that a group of Paulie Zink's teacher's father's Kungfu cousin's  disciples (got that?) came to visit Los Angels from Hong Kong twice in the 1980's to compete in tournaments and Michael got to travel with them.  He said they were superb fighters, unlike Paulie Zink who never had an interest in fighting.  But Michael also said that none of the visiting group knew Daoyin, and none of them knew all 5 monkey forms either.  That means Michael is also a National Living Treasure and more people need to get down there and study with him.  I took his class-- that's some serious gongfu!  (Buy a video!) (There is more of Michael's argument here, but the idea that there was some wall of separation between fighting skill and performing skill does not stand up to historical scrutiny.)

The purpose of Daoyin is very simply to reveal the freedom of our true nature.  That's the purpose, or I could say the fruition.  One of the reasons this thing has gotten so screwed up is that people are always confusing the method with the fruition.  They think that physical looseness and flexibility is the fruition, when in fact it is only the method, and only a small part of the method at that.

The method of Daoyin is very simply to distill what is inside from what is outside so that we might become aware of this other thing, call it emptiness, call it freedom, call it original qi, call immortality, call it whatever you want.  The world outside of us is always pushing or pulling, and the world inside of us is always pushing or pulling.  The premise of Daoyin is that there is a place in between inside and outside which is always pure and always free.

Thinking back to how Daoyin was created, there were two ways in.  One way was to cultivate extraordinarily plain stillness and emptiness, and from that experience begin moving.  The other way was to tap into the spontaneity of the animal mind, to move, think and feel like a wild animal.  In order to have the complete Daoyin 'experience' you would have to go in one way and find your way out the other!  So in a sense, Daoyin can't really be taught, it has to be found.

One of the many differences between Yoga and Daoyin is that Daoyin has what we call in the martial arts world, "external conditioning."  Somewhere in the middle (1:26) you see Paulie putting his legs together and flopping them side to side, whacking them on the ground.  His torso becomes like water and his legs like someone else's legs.  Who cares?  Just throw them around.  This is one of the doorways in.

Later, when he does the pig, he is banging his knees on the ground in a rapid fire vibration.  Then near the end he does the caterpillar (changing into a butterfly) which looks totally smooth, but I've taught it to kids a lot and I always have to explain that "gongfu teachers like me are the model of toughness and dispassion!" and "I don't care if you get little purple bruises--the cure is more practice!"

In the video he starts with the frog, then the stump, the tree, then the crab, the transition to lotus sitting, then the pig (at 1:59, I've never seen that before!), then the caterpillar into the butterfly.

The music is barely survivable.  It should really be done on a hard, unforgiving surface.  The production quality is even lower than the stuff I do.  I'm pretty sure that most people will look at this video and say, it doesn't measure up to this or that standard--but that's partly because people don't know what they are looking at.

He is doing only a tiny fraction of each animal. Viewers should know that all the animals have meditation postures, and they all come totally to life, like the pig did for about one second (1:59).  The pig is particularly interesting because like the dog, it was the lowest status role there was in the Chinese theater tradition.  Think about it, to be an actor was lower status than a prostitute or a thief!  Playing the role of a dog or a pig was really low.  The animal role specialists would draw straws to see who the unlucky guy was who would have to play the pig!

Given that Paulie's teacher probably inherited a really low social status, it isn't all that surprising that he would want to abandon it himself and go into the import-export business (no one actually knows where he is now), but he obviously valued it enough to believe that it should be passed on to someone in it's complete form.  I can even understand wanting to free it from it's original Daoist/Theater context, even if I think that was short sited and highly problematic given that Paulie does not seem to understand what a treasure he is or has.

More Video Libraries

More old martial arts stuff appears on Youtube everyday. This guy has assembled another library, like this one I've posted about before. I found this wonderful bagua video of Bai Yucai. I love the way he does turns off of his front foot from the swallow swoops down pose. Don't much care for the applications and I would like to see some fast movements, but great stuff:

I also found this. I haven't written about Zhaobao style of Taijiquan before because I don't know much about it, but it has created a bit of a stir because some of the practitioners are good and because unlike Yang and Wu it does not derive directly from Chen, in fact it may be older. Zhaobao village is very close to Chen village so the controversy is really about authenticity of lineages... which are all in dispute anyway. I like his way of moving, clean and lively: