Grip Management

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As an 8-way flyer, having a planned grip sequence is a seemingly small but very important part of your game.

Golden Knights 8way
Golden Knights 8-way

Deliberately adding a mutually understood grip sequence will help to ensure efficiency and free your mind to be one step ahead, able to anticipate moves and stay on track during split-second problem-solving situations.

Grip Process

It is important to have a step-by-step grip process planned and rehearsed specifically for each jump. This is especially helpful when it is your duty to key the formation. In some instances the process may involve as many as five steps. Present right, pick up left, check left, cross reference and key. At first this process may take some time but with training and practice it will become faster.

Make it part of your process to look at your grips BRIEFLY as you pick them up. Not adhering to your process by blindly grabbing, swiping or ‘Jedi-ing’ your grips can often be a costly shortcut as judges don’t normally award points for lack of stationary contact.

Block 19 – taking high leg grips keeps the diamond small and makes the vertical easier
Block 19 – taking high leg grips keeps the diamond small and makes the vertical easier


Developing a stardardized or, ‘plug and play’, grip plan for all block moves is essential. Once established there are very few situations, if any, when the plan should change.

An example of grip standardization is on Block 6, Star – Star. Turning the subgroups clockwise, our standard is to have the flyer on the right pick up the wrist of the flyer on the left. There are situations when it seems logical for the jumper on the left to pick up the grip when building Block 6 from certain formations. However, through much trial and error we’ve found that it’s best to stick to the standard even when it seems counterintuitive.

Grip Presentation

It should go without saying that when presenting a grip for pick up, keep it as stationary as possible. Avoid the, ‘Criss Angel Mindfreak’ arm disappearing act, giving your piece partner the additional challenge of having to deal with a ‘hand in the fishbowl’ scenario.

Double Leg Pick up

When picking up both legs, first target the one farthest away from you. This will ensure easy pick up of the leg closest to you. It is common for beginner and intermediate flyers to do the opposite, grabbing the closest leg which sometimes leaves the farthest one just out of reach.

An outside and inside leg grip is the best plan for turning cats
An outside and inside leg grip is the best plan for turning cats

Last Grip Scenario

During your team’s creeping session, it is important to identify where the last grip is likely to be taken. This information is important for the flyer(s) whose duty it is to key the formation, as it may disrupt the normal sequence in their key process.


“Fortune favors the prepared mind” is an adage that definitely holds true with regards to 8-way Formation Skydiving. Once your grip plan has been established, visualize it repetitively as an important part of your complete mental dirt-dive.

Golden knights dirtdive: Fortune favors the prepared mind
Golden knights dirtdive: Fortune favors the prepared mind

8-way Series

This is the fourth in a series of five articles about 8-way, by multiple World Champion Matt Davidson.

Next article: Competition Headspace

Previous article: 8-Way On the Hill

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Meet: Matthew Davidson

Matt Davidson served for 24 years on the Golden Knights 8-way team and played an important part in their finest achievements, three world records in 1997 and 2015. At 45, he retired from the Army after 27 years and did a season on Arizona Airspeed 4way team.

Acceptance to the US Army Parachute Team (1993)
Multiple National Medals/Titles (Gold, Silver, Bronze Medals), 4, 8, 10 and 16-way (1996-2019)
 3 x World Cup Champion, 8-way (1998, 2011, 2017)
 5 x World Champion, 8-way (1997, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018)
 2 x World Air Games Champion (1997, 2015)
 3 x World Records, 8-way (1997 as alternate – 31 points, 2015 US Nationals – 32 points, 2015 World Air Games – 33 points)
 2 x World Meet 8-way Silver Medals (2008, 2010)
 1 x CISM Military 4-way World Record (2006)
 1 x CISM Military 4-way World Champion (2006)
 1 x CISM Military 4-way Silver Medal (2007)
 1 x CISM Military 4-way Bronze Medal (2011)

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