The Micro of the Macro
I don’t exactly remember when I started doing this but for awhile now I have been able to see skydiving and all it’s different components as a smaller version of our bigger society and all of it’s components.
What I call the Micro of the Macro.
There are many different sub-cultures in the Macro society. As well, there seems to be a matching number of sub-cultures in the Micro skydiving society. These sub-cultures are very common things such as, Education, Politic’s, Technology etc….
So when I see a situation in the world, to help me understand it better, I will compare it to what I see in skydiving and visa versa.
Not only to see if there is a similarity [and there almost always is] but to put it in another context that might help me relate.
The one comparison I have been pondering the most lately is Religion. Religion in Skydiving? Really!?!.
Now I’m not talking about Skydiving for Jesus or stuff like that
[not that there is anything wrong with that].
No, I’m talking about different Freefall belief systems inside the whole that is skydiving.
Relativework absolutely would be considered a skydiving religion with it’s many sub religions.
Freestyle would be considered a skydiving religion.
Freeflying would be considered a skydiving religion.
With new one’s appearing all the time.
All these different avenues of pursuit in Freefall, have common
mind-sets or belief systems that the practitioners develop and utilize together to practice their particular Religion.
Labeling the comparisons of Micro Religions in Skydiving to the Macro Religions of the World I will leave up to you.
But I would like to reserve Buddhism for the Freestylists.
They are a peaceful group.
There are many similarities to be found in these Micro Religions of skydiving that mirror the Macro Religions of the World.
For instance, there are mass Religious gatherings in the Micro Religions where people of a common belief gather from around the world to hear their Religious leaders speak and have themselves organized into large mass Meditations in the sky.
But not until all the separate minds have achieved oneness does the whole formation come to pass.
Then there are great celebrations in which animals are sacrificed
[mostly chickens] and much wine is consumed.
These celebrations often go on until the sun rises the next day.
Then all the pilgrims return back to lands from which they have journeyed to share that which they have learned and to tell great stories that they have heard.
With this, the myths are perpetuated and the Religions grow.
As it was with Macro Religions, Micro Religions have also emerged from desert wastelands. Where seekers from all walks of life gathered together to blend their thoughts and beliefs together to create a foundation on which a new Religion could be born.
Many of these Religions were breakaway or sub-religions from already well established religions.
Many of these Wanderers of the desert left their worldly possessions behind to live more solitary lives in tents and caravans with their fellow seekers. They came from all walks of life but shared in the same simple truth of Freefall.
After a period of time practicing and refining these new Religious beliefs over a Sacred Triangle in the desert, a new religion they called Sequential Relitivework was born.
So when the desert became deathly hot these sages wandered off separately across the land to share what they had learned with others who might accept this new idea in Freefall.
One Temple was founded in the Valley of Pope.
In my personal sojourn on this path to greater enlightenment I too have been a wanderer. Seeking out these sages where ever that they happen to dwell.
I too found myself drawn to the Valley of Pope.
Some of the sages I found there came from an original Relitivework brotherhood.
They had names like BJ, Captain, Hod, Skratch and many more.
Their true names were never revealed to me.
Having the vision of what was possible I too sought out the Priesthood in this new Religion and after many years of practice and prayer I finally achieved it.
But my desire for a greater understanding of the environment we call Freefall was greater than this one Micro Religion could offer, so I left the Valley of Pope and Wandered across the land.
My wandering brought me not unto the desert but to the jungle.
To the land of Zephyr-hills.
I began to put some of my learned knowledge into a more solitary practice and from that the beginnings of a new Religion emerged. We called it Freestyle.
The people who were most receptive of this new path were people who were tired of all the same old religious dogma of the currant religions and wished to shun the old traditions of the past and create a path that was more of their making.
The Micro of the Macro
I have always found it curious that folks can find it so easy to condemn a new Religion as just a fleeting ideal or passing fad.
But what I have come to understand is that whether it be Micro or Macro,
human nature is just that way.
What a different belief system brings to light is a possibility that the path one has chosen to commit themselves to may be wrong. So to make themselves feel right about their chosen path they ridicule another as being wrong .
It isn’t so much about the new being wrong as it is about wanting the old to be right.
The parallels of the Micro to the Macro seem clear.
Because I have sampled the sacred wines of many of the religions of our Micro Society it has given me a greater appreciation of other souls who seek to perfect a path of Religious beliefs and skills. [VRW rocks!]
This understanding merges all the religions together and allows me to see a much broader picture of how everything relates back to itself..
With this, there is a greater acceptance of the oneness of who we all are together.
And though I have not immersed myself deeply in all the new Religions that are emerging at this time, I can truly appreciate each practitioner as a skilled BrotherSister of the air.
I once wrote a story to a friend of mine to illustrate this recognition and commonality that we share in the sky. It went like this:
“One time on my way to a boogie flying commercial, I found myself looking out through the window at the vast amount of space we were traveling thru. As my mind wandered I put together a daydream about what it would be like if this plane suddenly exploded in mid flight and I found myself in freeflall.
The instant chaos of Falling thru the frigid air with all the debris and screaming passengers tumbling wildly out of control. The feeling of deceleration as I decelerated to freefall speed. Grabbing pretty stewardesses and giving them a quick kiss pass as they flailed by.
Then all of a sudden across all this chaos I see one other person falling stable.
At that very moment she see’s me as well. In an instant, even though we have never met each other before, there is a recognition we both share. We recognize each other as creatures of the air.
We fly toward each other through all the pieces of luggage and flailing passengers. As we come together ,shrugging our shoulders in recognition of the situation, we both know that this will be our last time in freefall.
I point toward an area that has the least amount of debris and push into a track. Instinctively she slips into formation with me and we fly off together threading our way out into the open air. Finally clear we find ourselves barrel-rolling around each other playing in the air as we head off into history as the two passengers who landed a mile away from everybody else in formation with each other. The end.”
For me it is easy to pass between each of the Religions in our micro society because I see the balance. But in each separate Religion I hear similar comments about superiority over the other Religions.
It seems funny, to me, how even in that respect there are similarities.
In the end, we do put our rigs on one leg-strap at a time. Time and altitude a common reality. Although one of our new religions does have it’s practitioners appearing a bit more angelic with their sporting of wings.
But in the end we, all in our own way, are advancing the idea of human flight.
In that common idea, we are all one.
When I was in the First grade I was really little.
I could keep up with everybody no problem but being little you had to watch your back more than most. You never knew when a wedgy or getting tripped into a mud puddle was going to occur. At first it wasn’t obvious so from time to time it just did.
It only took a few times before a knowledge from deep inside me started to emerge.
I suddenly started to be able to read the signs and see the signals of impending embarrassment. I started doing things instinctively like always tucking in my shirt to avoid the random wedgy or always going on the attack first at a mud-puddle.
These weren’t lessons that are taught or handed down to you.
No this, obviously, was a primal instinct that small people become acutely in-tune with.
So like all kids my size, boys and girls, there is this universal dream.
The dream is to be as big as everybody else and to be a little bigger would be best.
In the dream you could just imagine what that would be like if you were as big as everybody else. Rather, what you wouldn’t have to deal with anymore if you were as big as everybody else.
But year after year nothing changed. I just seemed to stay the same size, relative to everybody else.
In the summer between my Sophomore/ Junior year in High School I started skydiving. At that time I was 5′ 2″ and weighed 110 lbs. and High School sucked! At the Drop-zone I had the nick name “Little Mike”.
When I graduated High School I wasn’t the smallest but I was close.
I finally did hit a season of growth around age 19.
Since all my skydiving friends where 10 yrs. older than me, they had stopped growing and I finally caught up.
Now many years later I really enjoy volunteering at the local Elementary School mentoring 1st-3rd graders on how to read. It is so cool to see the success of sounding out a word or in finishing a whole book even if it is only
10 pages long.
I remember how it was to suck at reading.
I also remember how it was when I came back to school for the Second grade after summer break. It seemed that somehow everyone now knew how to read a ruler. Now I was there the year before. These where all the same kids and I’m pretty sure that the ruler lesson hadn’t gotten by me the year before.
So how was it that they all could read a ruler and all I saw was numbers.
I know that doesn’t have anything to do with reading but it’s still a sore spot for me.
So anyway, now when I teach these little kids I try and remember what it had been like for me back then.
A couple of things that I do is; I fail from time to time. I get a word wrong or get tongue tied. So it doesn’t seem like a bad thing and happens to everybody. I also don’t let them always win, because that’s a much harder lesson later on. This is stuff I look back on and think it would have been great if I had gotten those lessons earlier than I did.
So the other day at the end of mentoring as I was heading out the door to go home, I found myself behind the line of kids walking out the door to go back to class. About a dozen 1st&2nd graders in all. Boys were screwing around behind the teachers back and girls were whispering stuff.
As we rounded the corner, where I would normally turn out into the parking lot and they would march on back to class, I realized something incredible.
It suddenly dawned on me that I was the tallest one in line.
The dream had come true, even if it was so many years later.
It was so cool!
I finally knew what it felt like to be the tallest kid in the class. And the moment the dream totally sank in was the very instant I tripped the last kid in line into a mud puddle……… Dream Realized.
So now I have a ponderment; Just how many dreams have come true for me that I totally missed because I wasn’t aware of the moment when they had?
Recently, I happened to walk up on a conversation between a novice paragliding pilot and a fairly seasoned paragliding pilot.
The novice pilot wanted to know how to
determine whether it was too windy to fly or not.
The more seasoned pilot started to layout a
formula that seemed to come more from a flight manual than his own personal experience.
Now I’m not that seasoned of a paragliding pilot but I have been around this type of thing for awhile, and even I was having a bit of a time putting the information into context. The explanation went on for awhile but the more it went on the more complicated it got and the more it seemed like a commentary on what the more seasoned pilot knew than how to decide weather it was too windy or not.
At the end of the explanation, I think the novice pilot was convinced more than ever that this was going to take some time to decipher when it was too windy or when it wasn’t. He then turned to me and said “Is that how you do it”? Now, I do have a formula too but I had never actually put it into words. It was more of a feeling that I have at the time. I know that’s not very technical but it works for me so even I was surprised when I said, “I decide whether or not to fly based on the Margin of Influence I have over the conditions”. Everybody let that sink in for a minute, even me.
Paragliding is new to me but I brought a formula from skydiving for evaluating risk, and until now, I hadn’t really thought about the actual nuts and bolts of the concept. Let me use a skydive to illustrate the idea.
If we break one jump down into all it’s parts, you can see what I’m talking about. The parts include the gear, the dirt dive, the plane ride, the skydive, the break off, the transition from skydiver to parachutist, and last- the pilot.
First: The gear.
Before the first jump of the day I take my rig out and go over it top to bottom to see that everything is basically in order.
I start at the right leg strap and go up the right side of the harness. Cutaway handle is where it is supposed to be, I check the 3-ring and loop, and make sure the riser is stowed properly. Next, I check the reserve pins to see that they are straight and not bent [sometimes my rig gets thrown around in the car] and the loops are not frayed. This is where I’d turn on the AAD, paying attention to the numbers to make sure the batteries are good. Then I make sure that the throw out pocket is looking good, I follow the bridle, checking its routing to the pin. I check the loop and make sure there’s no fraying of anything, and the pin to see it is seated the way I like it. Then I go down the left side of the main lift web checking riser stowage, the 3-ring and loop. I check the reserve handle placement and integrity of the cable.
Now because I do this first jump every day, my Margin of Influence on the gear is high and I only have to check basic stuff between jumps (packers are great but don’t depend on them to look your gear over for you).
Second: Dirt diving the jump.
Now I like doing Freestyle a bunch, so just like an RW jump, I dirt dive the whole jump from exiting the plane to pulling. If I am doing an RW jump, I put a bit more than most into the dirt dive. I put in all the arm movements, head turns and shoulder movements that I would actually do on the jump. I learned while doing team stuff that if I just use my brain to remember a jump it is too much work. So I add all the inputs that I can to get my muscles to remember what they are supposed to do. Now my brain just needs to remember the name of the point or the color of the suit I’m docking on and where. I also go through all the body positions for the track, wave off and pull. I practice touching deployment and cutaway handles. Like I said, I did this when I was doing teams and got more than my share of scoffing at my dancing dirt dives, but hey it worked for me and it kept my brain-locks to a minimum.
Third: Getting on the plane.
This is where our Margin of Influence drops considerably. I tighten up my leg straps and guard my handles getting in, getting seated, and while putting on the seat belt. I have had a pilot or two tell me to get out before we got to altitude and I don’t argue much with pilots, I really feel safer under a parachute anyway.
On the ride to altitude I’m kind of a quiet guy, I’m dirt diving and trying to stay focused. One thing I do on the way up, is try and look out the window to see how high the bottoms of the clouds are, if there are any. I do this so when my man-made altitude-sensing device [altimeter, dytter etc…] doesn’t work for some reason, or the spot puts us through a cloud, I still have a good idea where I am altitude wise. This gives me more Margin of Influence on decisions I might make in freefall, if I find myself in such a situation. From the time you climb through the cloud bottom to the time you reach altitude, the cloud level may change some but it won’t be a lot.
Fourth: The skydive.
Up until now everything has been all about me, but now a few more things come into play. The more folks on the jump the less Margin of Influence I have, because each person has their own Margin of Influence that can infringe on mine. Other things like where I am in the exit, the spot, and the winds all come into play.
So now we exit, and because I spent so much effort on the pre-jump to get my body remembering what it’s supposed to do, I feel pretty confident. Because of that, my Margin of Influence is solid even when someone else makes a mistake. Remember it’s just one minute of concentration when it comes right down to it.
This is another place where the number of people on the jump can be a factor. On track off, everyone should pay attention and maintain clear airspace below them. Then when they look over their shoulder before they pull there shouldn’t be anybody there. But if folks start tracking for the spot or looking over their shoulder during the track, flight patterns get crossed and unexpected stuff happens.
Six: From skydiver to parachutist.
I figure this is one of the most dangerous transitions/situations on a skydive, even so, you can still have a large Margin of Influence. Keeping your shoulders level and straight thru the deployment can keep a bag from spinning. Grabbing the back risers first instead of the toggles allows you instant control of the canopy and where you are going. This control helps aid in avoiding a possible collision and it also lets you turn toward the spot at half speed while you mess with your slider.
Seven: Being the pilot.
As soon as you release the brakes the canopy has to accelerate to maneuver, by using the risers before releasing the brakes you stay in half brakes and the canopy is very sensitive and can turn on a dime.
It is a good practice to try this from time to time, after you open, leave the brakes stowed and explore the control you have using just the back risers. The more you understand the canopy and it’s broad range of control the more your Margin of Influence is increased. Usually after I open, if I’m not already there, I try and maneuver closer to being on the wind line. Another piece of information I get while on the ground before I get on the plane is to know where the wind line is and where the spot should be. That way I know when I’m not where I should be.
Constantly looking around and clearing my turns is how I keep my Margin of Influence high on the way down. I try to be way ahead of my flight pattern so I can adjust to changing situations.
Nowadays with Wing Suit jumpers and sub-100sq ft canopies, folks can enter into your airspace seemingly from out of nowhere; they may feel the same about you.
Nothing is written in stone as far as my flight path is concerned. And now with swoop lanes in the landing area, staying clear of that is a priority. These guys are hyper-concentrated on a very narrow flight path.
Their heads can’t be on swivels because of the timing involved in what they are up to. With this understanding, my Margin of Influence is enhanced just by staying out of the way.
And here we are again at the question: Is it too windy to jump?
The size of your canopy and the weight you have under it influences your control range.
Here is what I think about when I decide whether or not it’s too windy. How high are the winds and are they gusting or thermic? Is the area I’m going to land in full of obstructions [turbulence makers] or clear? Sometimes in windy conditions or with lots of people in the air I will land a bit farther out just to be in clear air and walk a bit more just to avoid the chance of turbulence. Keep in mind, parachutes create a wake so flying behind someone puts you in their turbulence. Also what is going to be my penetration in these winds? This is determined by your wing loading. Back in the day of round reserves that was a big consideration on winds. What was good for my main wasn’t necessarily good for my reserve. Now with square reserves it is pretty much the same decision making. A cool trick under canopy to figure out what kind of penetration your canopy has is to turn into the wind and pull down evenly on the brakes. Looking down you can see when the parachute stops flying forward. If you find it stopping at half brakes then you know that your parachute has half the performance in those wind conditions. If you only get to quarter brakes then you know it only has a quarter of the total performance. This is a good way to determine how far downwind of the place you want to land that you can go and still get back.
So, I’m what you may call a wind wimp. When things get up around 20mph, I’m more likely not to jump. A friend of mine who jumps in Kansas has told me that if that was the criteria for jumping, she wouldn’t get to jump much at all.
So, pick your conditions and know that it is always ok to say no.
I recently read a University study that said that it takes ten thousand hours to become an expert at any new skill. Now I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule but what I take away from this study is that your Margin of Influence is greater the more knowledge you have at a skill. When you first start something like skydiving, or any skill for that matter, your Margin of Influence is directly affected by the instruction you receive, as you become more proficient your Margin of Influence goes up.
I once saw an interview with six multi-millionaires and they each gave the path to their success. They all had different stories but they had one idea that rang true for all; always make your own decisions because if you are wrong than you are the one who is wrong. If you follow what someone else says and they are wrong then you are still wrong.
In other words, get all the input you can but when it comes time to decide on a situation make sure that you are the one who has enough information to make the right decision for you.
And as for those ten thousand hours to become an expert, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be in Freefall or paragliding for ten thousand hours, it means that you need ten thousand hours of concentrating on a particular skill.
Again, another University study took twenty people shooting baskets with a basketball. Ten of the subjects practiced everyday for a month for an hour and the other ten only practiced in their minds for an hour a day. After a month they got together and shot baskets and there was virtually no difference. If you only think about a skill while you are actually doing the skill than it may take you longer than if you take time to really practice it in your mind.
There are many folks that you will run across in life that right from the start you may view them as a “Natural” at a particular skill. I don’t believe that this is true.
I believe that someone who shows “Natural” abilities is really just someone who’s mind is more open to the new skill they are attempting and can visualize what they are doing before they attempt it. We all have the ability to do this. .
Remember, imagination is a skill all by itself. It too needs to be practiced. A well developed imagination can be used as a dry run on reality with a Margin of influence of 100%.
Organic Video Review
For most folks in skydiving today, video is an absolute part of the learning process. Cameras mounted on helmets seem to be as much a part of the freefly movement as the parachute. I’ve seen many a novice freeflyer decked out in the latest video technology while just learning the basics of sitting. RW competitors wouldn’t’ even think of practicing without a camera recording their every twitch. Skydiving has become, in some aspects, a video game.
A typical day at the DZ has folks landing, dropping off their rigs with the packers and heading straight for video review. †More than once I have asked the question: ”How was your jump?” and had the response “We’re not sure, the video didn’t work”. That answer always gives me pause.
Could this be a shortcoming of technology and the way we use it? This is where I can see that technology could be slowing down our learning progression. If we are using a technology in our skydiving progression, that if taken away the learning stops, then perhaps learning can be enhanced just by using it in a different manner. Let me just share a few thoughts about the technology we use and perhaps a little evaluation on how we use it too.
The history of video review in skydiving goes back almost 30 years. †An 8 way team by the name of Mirror Image was training down in Zephyrhills Florida and a guy by the name of Jim Baker was the camera flier. †The camera equipment he wore was about the size of a regular sized video camera but he also had to wear a recording deck about as big as a full sized DVD player. His exit position was rear float, one time when he exited the DC-3 he was picked up by air traffic control radar in Tampa. This use of technology was the beginning of a new age when there were no guidelines, which is what is so nice about new beginnings. But as with most new beginnings, if left to it’s own devices it may go in any direction. I’m one of the few who can look back on the entire 30 years and see the direction it has taken.
One of my core beliefs with technology in skydiving is this: Technology should confirm and reinforce what you already know. Be it an audible altimeter to tell you your altitude, or video to show you what happened, or a GPS to tell you where to exit. In my opinion, there should be more dependence on self and less on technology. Technology is fine, how we use it is what needs to be evaluated.
From the moment you commit yourself to making a skydive your body starts taking in information towards that jump. As soon as you know what load you’re on, you’re then pretty sure what plane you’re going to use. Now your mind/body connection is activated and you start pulling from your earlier experiences on how the dive might be approached. If it’s RW then you might be thinking of your job on exit. You go to the creepers and dirt dive each movement, optimum grips, eye contact and keys. With VRW it’s similar (only they haven’t figured out a creeper for that yet). Freestyle would be the exit body position and movement out the door. So the skydive begins in your mind/body before you have even put on your gear. Eventually, your load is called, you put on your gear, load the plane, make a skydive, become a parachutist, drop off your gear with a packer [unless you pack for yourself but who does that anymore] and are eager to see the video.
Now take a moment and think, what did primitive skydivers do back in the round age with all their ripcords and Sears coveralls (complete with hammer pocket)? Well, they had to rely on their own awareness and recollection. There was no video. When eventually they started jumping together, they could share experiences and that would allow them to confirm what they thought they already knew. It was a long time before movie cameras came onto the scene but they finally did. But by the time the movie got sent away to be developed and then sent back, a week had gone by and it would truly only confirm that what they thought had happened actually did happen. So primitive skydivers needed to raise their awareness and become more connected to the element of freefall not only to survive but also to advance their flying skills.
(OK, OK, Dude! Move on. What does this have to do with how we use video? Yeah, Yeah, Sorry!)
Let me put some thoughts in play on how to use video in a more Organic, self-reliant way.
Picture the end of a jump going something like this: You land and take your rig to the packer like always, but then you go off by yourself for a couple of minutes and debrief yourself. Visualize everything from the climb out, the exit, all the way to deployment and becoming a parachutist; certain highlights will stand out. †Run it through your mind one or two more times, then meet up with the team for a casual run through of the dive together. Casually debrief as a group, not really hammering any particular point, and a few more things may come to light because of something you didn’t or couldn’t have known. Now go watch the video. This is where you will get to see if what you are recalling is close to what actually happened.
Video should confirm what your mind/body has been telling you. With thoughtful introspection and visualization, you will become more conscious of feeling the freefall environment and in this way your body will learn to react to what it feels instantly. With so much dependence on video, your mind/body is taught to learn and react more from what you have seen on the video than what you feel in freefall. That adds a whole other step before you start reacting to a situation in freefall. I am of the opinion that this is why there appears to be a need to make so many jumps to advance. Practice and repetition will get you there but so will a more complete use of all the information available.
So now 30 years later video review is still being used in the same way as when we started using it so long ago.
Do we watch and review video like we watch TV? It seems a re-run is a re-run and a bad re-run gets erased.
But actually, a bad re-run is gold because that is where the learning really takes place. How are we using technology? Could there be more knowledge gleaned from each jump if we just slowed down a beat and looked at our jump more Organically?
An Organic way of thinking sends you down a path toward being more dependent on self than technology by enhancing awareness. There is no reason not to use technology but remember, all man made things break or fail. When they do, it shouldn’t take anything away from your jump.
The idea of Organic Skydiving is built on this awareness of self in a very unique environment. It is unique to the human animal. You are exploring an environment that has only been dreamed of by past generations of human beings. Their dreams over thousands of years have brought us here and we get to become the first generation of human beings to become creatures of the air because of those dreams. There are no primal instincts to fall back on here. We are the first. There may become instincts in the future because of what we learn here and now but we are the beginning of the gene pool of human flight. In a way, I guess, procreating with other skydivers could be seen as a good thing. But no matter where it goes from here, enjoy this unique privilege. Skydiving is what it is today because there have always been people who tried new things. Organic Skydiving is you in control of yourself in Freefall. It doesn’t have to be anything like what anybody else does in this environment.
Make it yours.
An Organic Skydiving philosophy would have to have some basic truths. Skydiving isn’t Relative work or Freestyle or Style or Freeflying. Those are all things that you do while skydiving. The basic truth is: Skydiving is you in control of your body while falling through the air in freefall. And while that may seem to be over simplified, well, it is. We have a tendency to make skydiving more complicated in our minds than it need be. Being in control in freefall has many aspects that we build on as we move forward in our skydiving pursuits. If you are going to try and be the best at any one of the skills that I listed, then you need to focus on that skill. But what about cross training? Do some of the skills cross over? Yes they can. But before we get into how that can happen lets make it even simpler in our minds. On a jump, once we have left the craft we are using to get us to altitude, we start to accelerate to terminal velocity. Depending on how much surface area we are exposing to the air will dictate, more or less, what that speed will be. To fall straight down we seek a balance of all the surface areas that are exposed to the air rushing by. A truth: IF there is balance of dragdeflection of this air as we fall through it, we fall straight down.
If there is an imbalance on these surfaces then there is movement.
So whether you are on your head, standing up, laying flat or in a Daffy, if there is balance then there isn’t any movement. So suppose we are laying flat and wanted to turn. Then by deflecting the air with your arms, chest and legs you can go out of balance and create a turn. Simple? Well we didn’t think so at first but now we hardly think about it. Not a Truth: Turn your head and your body will follow. Unless you are deflecting a lot of air with the side of your face, this is not physically true. You may turn your head and your body turns but it isn’t because of your head. It is because of what you are doing with the rest of your body. Being aware of this simple premise of deflection of air will get you where you want to go much more efficiently than by just turning your head and expecting everything else will come automatically.
So here is where I would like to bring in the concept of the vertical line. The vertical line is that line that you can feel as you are falling straight down. Where the air is coming from is down and where it is going is up. This is one of those tactile inputs that you get from free fall. The more aware of it you become the less you have to depend on what you see and the more you can depend on what you feel. There are times in Freestyle when you will be flipping. Sometimes so fast that your eyes aren’t a dependable way to tell where you are. But you will feel the vertical line. Where the air is coming from is always down and where it is going is always up. You can depend on that for sure. This awareness will allow you to anticipate where you are about to be so you can initiate a combination of deflections that will bring you to a stop where you want to stop. I will write a separate article about the inner ear but for right now, I would like to add this about the inner ear. You can tumble your inner ear [the vestibular system] so violently that even if you were to be able to see the face of an altimeter clearly and see the hand and numbers, the information just doesn’t go into your head in a way that you can understand. I have pulled way high because of this a few times. I learned a few tricks to take care of this and we will discuss that later. Even though I couldn’t read the altimeter I could feel the vertical line clearly and maintain control of where I was. So no matter what you are doing in Freefall, become aware of the vertical line. If you are sitting and you are totally still with no movement, close your eyes for 2-3 seconds and you will feel the vertical line easily. If you are on your head or just laying flat, close your eyes for a second or two and you will feel it. On that same Idea, if you find yourself moving and can’t figure out why, then try closing your eyes for a second or two and you will be able to feel where the imbalance of deflectiondrag is. It will become much more apparent than trying to see where it is with your eye’s. Remember your whole body is a sensor. The information is always coming in even if you aren’t conscious of it. In the beginning of any new skill you are learning, start to take inventory regularly. Where’s my legs? Where’s my arms?. Am I arched?, Am I flat?. And I don’t mean just when things aren’t going right. You especially want to do it when you are doing it right. Think legs and you will feel legs, think arms and you will feel arms. The information is there for you to become aware of.
I do this to this day. It’s a routine.
Alright then, I will always be harping on awareness in Freefall. The cool thing about our sport is that it is an extremely tactile sport. Remember when you made your first jump? There was some time right at the beginning when you let go of the plane and you don’t have a clue what was going on? That is what we call “Sensory overload”. That’s because we just put our body in a situation that is absolutely, positively was not designed to do. All your neural pathways get overloaded with so much new information that they had never experienced before that they just went into “What the F…” mode or as is commonly known as fight or flight (a different kind of flight). But the human body is so adaptable that it only took a few seconds for your body to start to create new or modify old pathways to deal with this insane new situation you were putting it through. Now, lots of jumps later, your body understands that this wasn’t a onetime deal and it has created independent pathways for just this purpose. The human body is cool because on every square inch of the human body there is a hair and this hair acts like a sensor. In freefall, because of the air we are falling through, these sensors send a ton of information to body to evaluate and react too. And I don’t just mean your brain. It sends information to your muscles, the fascia around the muscles, your ears, your eyes, and the whole body. Unfortunately we tend to shut a lot of that information out and react mostly to what our eyes are telling us and that is limiting your awareness by a whole lot. Here’s something to try next time you go skydive and are doing a no-contact exit. Looking at the door from the inside of the plane. The angle from the top front corner of the door and the rear lower corner of the door is more or less the angle of the relative wind (I will be referring to it as the Relative plane from now on. There is no hill except for Ron but I will get into that a bunch more later). This doesn’t work if you are jumping a tailgate. You are going to use that reference on how you push your shoulders through the door. So if the door is on the left hand side of the plane, your right shoulder is up and your left shoulder is down. Now as your head goes out the door (very important it is outside the door) close your eyes and count to 5. What will happen is you will fly the air you feel on the relative plane. The ground won’t influence how you position your body, the feel of the air will. Welcome to Organic Skydiving. This is the pure skydiving feeling that we are seeking. This is where you will become aware of the vertical line.
All of a sudden…..Mike
Hey folks, Kelly asked me about what to be considering when moving from “Belly Flying” (I hate that term) to Freestyle. So I thought I would include everybody that was interested from the beginning of this thread. This will take a few different messages to get there because I want to start with some philosophy first: First, Freestyle can get away from you in a few different ways. Loss of control is usually where folks have a lot of concern but Loss of altitude awareness is first and foremost. Loss of altitude awareness There will come a time where you are working on some inverted posture and time just flies by. There you are concentrating on pointing your toe and keeping your leg straight up, you roll over and there is the ground big as ever. So here are the guidelines that I try and follow. First: Any position that takes the ground out of your peripheral vision should be done above 5000ft. This would be flying on your back or looping of any kind. From there down practice things like T’s. Daffy’s. Flip thru’s etc…. These are things that put the ground front and center. Audible altimeters, altimeters and even your Cypres are all man made and should be used as back up confirmation of what you already know. They should never be used as a fail safe system that makes you aware when you are supposed to be. They are man made and break from time to time so don’t depend on them. Your eyes are way more reliable. On the way to altitude make yourself aware of the altitude of the bottom of the clouds (if there are any). That way you can glance at them during your routine and feel confident of where you are. When you use your altimeter look at the ground first and then your altimeter. This is a good practice no matter what you are doing in freefall. Calibrating your eyes is a good thing. In freestyle you put your body in a lot of different attitudes which put your altitude reading device in your burble. This can cause your readings be as much as 1000ft higher than you actually are. There’s nothing more exciting than looking at your altimeter while you are on your back and seeing it read 4000ft, then when you roll over watch it suddenly read 3000ft. A good practice is to get a hand mount thus keeping it of the burble more. In this day and age we depend on batteries a lot. What are the chance of them going dead? OK I know that is a lot about altitude awareness but it truly is the most important aspect of our sport. Remember: This is an extremely dangerous sport but it can be done very safely. Don’t ever loose sight of that. OK, why don’t you chew on that for a bit. I have to go finish cutting a couple of suits and I will get back with you and we will learn about the vertical line. All of a sudden…..Mike
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