Wingsuit Progression Series
A series covering WS skydiving, from your FFC through Exits, Skydiving with Others & Safety, by Matt Gerdes & Taya Weiss...
With each block it is important to understand the technically perfect move. Understanding it is fairly simple. Executing it is another story. Even the best teams with thousands of jumps together don’t do the blocks perfectly every time. But their blocks are still good even when they are executed less than 100% technically correct.
Training so that even your worst blocks are still good is accomplished by having a midpoint picture in the block, which defines where the block is actually going to close and what you need to do to make it close there. By recognizing this mid-picture you are able to make any adjustments necessary to compensate for a less than perfect block execution.
All teams know the technically correct move. This information is readily available through many coaches and published works. All teams plan to, and usually think they do, the technically correct move every time. But one time they close the block, the next time they miss the close, and they don’t know what they did differently. Few teams understand how to use the midpoint picture. They fly through this midpoint picture when they execute the block but they don’t recognize it or use it to define the closing spot.
Recognizing this mid-picture, you make adjustments to compensate for less than perfect block execution
Using the midpoint pictures will not necessarily make your best block times any faster. But it will absolutely make your worst blocks much better. You won’t have bad blocks any more. A technically incorrect block will still be good and a technically correct one will be even better. But there won’t be any that get away from you. Take for example 4-Way Block 21, ZigZag – Marquis. The technically correct move is basically to spin the pieces in place. The centers drive out, outside flyers drive in, spin the pieces and close them. That sounds good but if you are a foot off one way or the other you may go right past, land on top of, or slam head to head into each other.
there won’t be any blocks that get away from you
The midpoint picture of Block 21 is when the outside flyers are crossing legs. The center point between them defines the spot where the pieces need to close. This holds true even if when they cross they are right on top of each other in a deep vertical or ten feet apart.
Consider these two situations caused by different technical errors. If when they cross the outside flyers are ten feet apart they will see the spot between them and they know that they both need to pull their pieces back five feet to meet at the closing spot. If they have a very deep vertical cross they will see that to meet at the closing spot they will need to pull the pieces away from each other. These two different technical errors could happen for a number of reasons, but either way the team is aware of the situation at the midpoint picture. They have it totally under control and there is never a doubt of whether the block is going to close. It will close because they have seen what they have to do to make it close. In the worst case scenario the block still completes at an acceptable speed.
By completely stopping at the midpoint picture we can take a good look at it
The best way to train most of the blocks is similar to the stop drills on randoms. We do this by breaking the block into two stages. On the first stage we do the first half of the move aggressively and stop dead in our tracks at the midpoint picture. Stop long enough to take a mental photograph of it. See exactly where the block is going to close. Key it to start the second stage of the move and fly aggressively straight to the defined closing spot. Always start and stop both the stages with on-the-line power.
The correct time to start the second stage of the move is when we can see exactly where the block is going to close. By completely stopping at the midpoint picture we have the opportunity to take a good look at it. The more familiar we become with this picture the easier it is to identify it. Soon we are able to start the second stage sooner because we are able to recognize the closing spot sooner.
It won’t take long before we are able to see the closing spot as we continue through that point and will no longer have to actually stop there. With enough repetition we are able to begin the second stage so early that it appears on video as one continuous movement even when we are still thinking of it in the two stages.
How you build the first point of a block will often have a significant impact on how well the block goes. Unlike most randoms, the first point of a block requires a particular shape for it to be most advantageous for the block move. For instance on blocks that are done vertically we usually build some of that vertical difference into the first point. Others may require straight cats or cheated cats.
It is also very important that the grips within pieces are solid and that everyone clearly sees the key. This way the pieces move perfectly in synch and at full power right at the start of the block. This requires a heightened degree of readiness from each team member.
The shape of the first point of the block and readiness of the team are central to the block being executed correctly. To guarantee this is done when building the first point of the block it is important to do a more stop-drill-like build, with extra emphasis on looking longer, stopping perfectly in position and clearly communicating the key. Initially in your training it will feel like there is almost a slight pause before giving the key to begin the block move.
The shape of the first point of the block and readiness of the team are central to the block being executed correctly
Investing that fraction of a second into guaranteeing a perfect build in the top of the block will benefit the team in two ways. One, the team is much more likely to execute the block correctly and at their fastest block time. And two, the block will feel under control and predictable and the team will be more confident and ready to transition at the close.
Attention also needs to be paid to getting the block move completely stopped at the finish. Of course we intend to arrive stopped on the close. But when moving at full power, stopping completely would require slowing down the move. It is not uncommon that there is still a little (or sometimes a lot of) momentum on the close.
As you see the block is getting ready to close, be prepared to physically lock it down on the finish. This lock-down doesn’t necessarily require additional time. If the block is executed well and you are physically prepared for the close, the lock-down happens on contact. If there is more momentum on the close or you are not physically ready you may have to “squeeze it” to shut it down. For these reasons we also anticipate the possibility of a small pause and a slightly slower key at the close of the blocks.
It's time well spent to squeeze a block on the close to completely stop it
It is time well spent to squeeze a block on the close to completely stop it. This will usually take less time than the transition out of block if it gets keyed while still moving.
With more experience your team will always build the top of the block correctly and the closes will be more predictable. The time it takes to be ready at the start of a block and the squeeze on the finish will nearly vanish.
Photos in this article show Perris Fury
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