The seventeenth chapter in Dan BC’s 4-way manual… dirtdiving, walk-throughs, creeping and exits
During the jump preparation we do extensive amounts of repetitions of our team communication and personal flying skills, habits and disciplines. It is during this process that we have the best opportunity to develop and train the correct instincts.
It is crucial that we do each repetition of each skill correctly every time. If we are at all complacent about this we will inevitably do as many repetitions executing the skills incorrectly as we do correctly, and in doing so will have trained the wrong instincts. We are going to do the repetitions either way. Be sure to take full advantage of this opportunity to get it right.
The goals of every dirt dive include:
- Reinforcing all the personal and team skills, habits and disciplines including sharp moves, full stops, eye contact, communication, awareness, anticipation, solid grips, synchronicity, key discipline, the correct response to errors and decision-making
- Simulating the feeling, pace and attitude we want the jump to have
- Creating the correct pictures on the creepers
- Building confidence in how the jump will go and our ability to take it there.
- Being efficient and not wasting any time.
DIVE PREPARATION PLAN
- Initial walk-through
- Random angles
- Random series
- Whole sequence
- Exit line-up
- Extended final walk-through
1. INITIAL WALK-THROUGH
The initial walk-through sets the tone for the prep and in turn the jump itself. Yet during this first part of the dirt dive most teams focus only on trying to remember the next point while fumbling through the sequence with their eyes staring at the ground. They waste the opportunity to work on all the basic disciplines. The dirt dive usually feels nothing like they want the jump to. Not only have they not met any of the goals of the dirt dive, they have actually trained all the wrong things and invested quite a bit of time doing so.
During the first walk-through we haven’t yet learned and memorized the sequence of the jump. But we must still move sharp, stop hard, stay together, maintain good eye contact, pick up solid grips and practice good key discipline. The only reason this doesn’t happen is because the formations get keyed before everyone is ready. Being ready is not defined simply by the formation being built. The team is ready when everyone is anticipating the next point and prepared to move, right on the key. During the first walk-through the key person needs to slow down the keys and allow time for the team to anticipate the next point. With good anticipation the team can sharpen all their basics right from the beginning of the preparation.
After walking through a few pages of the formation sequence the team starts to learn the jump. They will be ready sooner and the key person can start to pick up the pace. Since the team’s level of anticipation changes throughout this process it is a unique opportunity for the key person to practice the important skill of being able to read the readiness of the team and work the key speed accordingly.
The entire dirt dive feels strong, sharp and together. We see the stages of the blocks, the midpoint pictures and produce the pace of the particular category the jump falls into. We finish the first walk-through with confidence and the entire process only takes a minute.
The first walk–through also presents a unique opportunity to practice how we will respond to brain locks and other glitches. Since we don’t yet know the jump it is very likely that we might have a few brain locks. Take advantage of this and train the correct instinctive response we will need to have if the same error happens in the air.
When there is a brain lock, or any error, the person having the glitch often responds with frustration or in a panic. This inevitably leads to the problem escalating and taking a great deal more time to recover from than necessary. Instead, the person having the glitch should respond calmly. Stop, take a breath and expand your awareness by looking into the center. The answer to your problem is right in front of you. You will quickly recover and the team will immediately be able to return to the normal team pace.
The best skydivers in the world make mistakes. But they have practiced how to recover from them. The first walk-through is your chance to practice the very important instinct of how you will respond to errors.
FIRST WALK-THROUGH PROCESS
- Before beginning the walk-through, take a few seconds to get the sequence in your heads
- Begin from exit. Don’t talk
- The key person should break the formations when they see the team is ready and anticipating the next point
- Expect to hold each formation longer than normal while the team learns the jump
- Move sharply
- Maintain good eye contact through the entire transition
- Stop completely. Practice anticipating the next point before taking grips
- Have solid contact when picking up grips. It is not important to actually take grippers. For instance on a cat you could pick up solid grips on hips instead of bending over for leg grippers
- At all times move in synch together with grips on and off simultaneously.
- There will almost always be glitches on the first walk-through. Use this opportunity to practice how you want to respond when the same error happens in the air
The first thing we do on the creepers is define the exact geometric choreography the particular formation sequence calls for. It is the most visually accurate way of rehearsing the correct pictures of what the formations and transitions will look like in the air. To get the most out of this process you should creep each move exactly like a stop drill.
- Always let the key person key the point
- Move sharply to your next position
- Maintain eye contact throughout the entire move
- Stop. Anticipate the next point
- Match the center flyers as they pick up grips on the formation
- Look right at the grippers and practice picking up grips you would want to fly a piece with
- Return to the previous formation and repeat each move three times, more if requested by anyone on the team
- When moving back to the prior formation, continue to do each part of the move correctly.
- Move sharp, maintain good eye contact, stop completely, pick up good grips, follow good key discipline
Most teams include creeping each angle three times in their dive preparation. They usually let the key person key the first point and move relatively sharply to the next point. Then as soon as it’s built, anyone keys the second point, and they mosey back to the previous point and start again. In essence they trained an equal amount of sharp moves and weak moves. They practiced incorrect key discipline on as many formations as they practiced correct key discipline. They have reinforced as many bad habits as good ones. Do every part of the move correctly every time.
3. CREEPING BLOCKS
Creeping the blocks is a skill in itself and one that is well worth practicing. With enough repetitions you can do it in a way that comes close to simulating the proper technique and creates the correct pictures. But even then, many don’t have an accurate feel to them. It is important to be clear about what are the actual benefits you can get out of creeping the blocks and when it can potentially have a negative effect.
At minimum you should creep each block once while doing the angles. The purpose of this is to remind yourself of the technically perfect move and to see the pictures created in that move. Stop the block completely at the midpoint picture. See the closing point and finish it.
4. RANDOM SERIES
Creep each random series three times, always doing it like a stop drill. Practice anticipating at the pre-finished picture. Start from the close of the block, go through the random series and stop at the top of the next block. This will help you to prepare to shift gears on the jump.
5. ENTIRE SEQUENCE
If the jump includes blocks that you can creep well, and the sequence feels fairly realistic, then creep it three times. If the creeping does not give a fairly realistic simulation of the jump than it is okay to skip it.
Get off the creepers and do a good walk-through that lasts at least 35 seconds. During the walk-through, more so than on creepers, we can truly create the same feeling and pace that we intend for the jump to have. Do the walk-through with the flow and pace of the particular category the jump falls into.
Before starting the walk through take 30 seconds to get the sequence in your heads. Then begin from the exit count.
On a walk-through it is important for the team to pick up and release grips together. Have grips with solid contact but don’t be concerned with practicing picking up grippers. It is too awkward and can have a negative effect on the feeling of the walk-through.
7. EXIT LINE UP
On a five minute call go to the aircraft mock-up and do an exit line-up in full gear. Launch the exit, stop it right outside the door and transition to the second point.
8. FINAL EXTENDED WALK-THROUGH
Step away from the mock-up and do another walk-through that lasts for at least one full minute.
Training good habits
It is very common for teams to quit in the middle of a dirt dive as soon as there is a glitch.
When you do an extended walk-through someone will usually begin to get distracted and make a mistake. But during this long dirt dive you are not allowed to stop, talk or quit when there is a glitch. You have to recover from it and get back on your game.
By doing so you are training how you plan to respond to distractions or problems in the air. By maintaining a steady, strong team pace during the walk-through and holding it together for a full minute you not only practice the team’s plan for how to recover from errors, you also discover a new level of calm, intense focus. It’s easy to dirt dive for 20 or 30 seconds. It requires a much higher degree of discipline and focus to hold it together for a minute or more. Use the opportunity to experience this intense focus.
Every part of a dirt dive is an opportunity to practice the correct disciplines, skills and habits or the wrong ones. You must be very disciplined about this process or you are likely to get more repetitions practicing the wrong habits than the right ones.
It is important to be very regimented as you do the dive preparation process. The entire dirt dive can be done in a few minutes. There is no advantage to lengthening the dirt dive by talking too much or joking around. Get serious, get the job done and then relax and take it easy.
- In this dive preparation plan we ONLY make moves that are sharp
- We ALWAYS maintain good eye contact through EVERY transition
- We ALWAYS come to a complete stop at the end of EVERY move
- We are CONSTANTLY working on our anticipation
- We ALWAYS pick up solid grips
- We ALWAYS practice good key discipline
- We ALWAYS move in synch like a machine
- We are ALWAYS on the line.
By practicing only the correct habits and repeating them again and again they soon become instinctive for us. We are constantly reinforcing the correct skills and habits and they soon begin to happen naturally without any conscious effort. We prepare well and walk away from the dirt dive ready to go, and confident that we are going to have a great jump.
More Magic From Dan
Previous Article (16): Jump Categories
Next Article (18): Debriefing
Above All Else
Several articles in this series are extracts from Dan’s amazing book, ‘Above All Else’, which covers far more than skydiving. It’s available from Square One HERE or Amazon HERE, where you can check the glowing reviews, mostly from non skydivers, such as:
“I can’t recommend the book more. Do yourself this favor and just read it. Sure, it’s not Shakespeare, but it’s truth. At 120 MPH. And you will be forever changed.”
Amazon review by Esta Desa
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Please check out my book 'Above All Else' here