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Foundations of Flight | Learning About Learning Freefly—Even Progress

By Joel Strickland

Foundations of Flight | March 2020
Sunday, March 1, 2020

Learning bodyflight is both rewarding and not easy. Once you get good at a skill, you will want to perform it more and more often. Your brain and body understand it. It feels easier and more graceful every time you do it. It seems dumb that you spent so long not being able to do it.

It feels great to reach a goal, but if you don’t pay attention to the big picture, the accomplishment can quickly become a monkey on your back. If you’ve learned a particular skill, it is only natural to want others to see it. It’s a powerful feeling when your peers see you excel at something. They saw you do that one thing really well; they all think you are super good. Therefore, you’re cool now! Hooray! You may start thinking that you best not let them see anything else, ever. So you continue to pursue that one thing. Forever.

Skill Balance

The first opportunity you have to address skill balance is right at the very beginning, either during your first handful of skydives or sessions in the tunnel. Regardless of how your instructor explained belly turns, you will find that turning in one direction is easier than the other. Whether you’re right-or left-handed, your brain will favor the dominant side. (This will forever be true, no matter how good you get at bodyflight.)

Consequently, you’ll be naturally inclined to go to your dominant side during training. You’ll develop habits and build muscle memory. Before you know it, you’ll be rock solid on your good side but lousy on the wonky side. The only way around this is to learn self-discipline at the same time as you learn everything else. Make yourself perform your turn (or any other skill) one way and then the other. No excuses.

The Sphere

If you are drawn to a particular freefall discipline, there are obviously specific skill areas in which you’ll need to be strong. However, in terms of pure bodyflight skill, you should strive to progress evenly. Think of your skill sets (every angle, orientation and direction) as forming a sphere around your body. Your goal is to grow each skill set evenly, keeping the sphere round and undistorted. With every season of jumping, you’ll find that there is a symbiotic relationship between every method, drill, movement and skill you learn. To become an accomplished flyer who progresses most efficiently, aim for balance all around.

Key Points:

  • You should never think of seeking out and developing your weak areas as going back to something. There is only forward.
  • Develop the habit of training your wonky side as often as your good side. It is worth the effort.
  • A flying buddy who favors the opposite side from yours is very valuable. If you can find someone whose strong side mirrors your own, they will constantly challenge you.
  • Even if performing moves on your wonky side never feels completely natural, you can train enough that that nobody can tell which side is which.
  • Self-discipline is key. Do the hard work at the start and reward yourself at the end. Practice something with focus, then add it to your repertoire forever.

 

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