For training in Extreme Sports I grew my skills using the mind/body philosophies from practicing internal martial arts.
The skydiving form I trained in was Style competition. Style is based 3 different sets of 6 moves within a gymnastic routine. Style is one of the fastest mind/body sports in the world. It is the epitome of mind/body focus—you’re all alone in the air, you only have less than 26 seconds of airtime, and you’re falling at about 200 mph.
I was the first US woman to win multiple World Championship for the U.S., competing against the best from 30 countries.
In this Extreme Sport Training series of posts, I recount some of the lessons I learned and how I used them in training.
Great Potential and Great Function: from Soul of the Samurai, by Thomas Cleary
“Great function appears because of great potential. Because this potential is always there within, when it is natural, an extraordinary speed occurs; this is called great function. When potential is unripe, function does not become manifest. In all paths, when concentration builds and exercise is repeated, potential matures and great function emerges. If you build up effective exercise, the potential will mature. Potential is energy. Mind is the inside, energy is the entrance. Since the mind is master of the body, it should be understood as that which resides within; energy is at the door, working outside for the mind, its master. Therefore the potential is something very important. If this potential is working, it emerges outside and the great function manifests.”
How I learned: “Great Potential—Great Function”
My dream was to win a spot on the US Parachute Team to compete in the Style competition.
The best place to train was in Raeford, North Carolina. This is the location of Ft. Bragg and headquarters for the Army Golden Knights Parachute Team. People worldwide come here as it offers the ultimate experience in disciplined training. At the time I owned a parachute center in Coolidge, Arizona, but I sold it—along with almost everything else I owned—to go train at Ft. Bragg.
When I arrived in Raeford, I was intimidated from the start, as I was the most inexperienced jumper training in Style.
Raeford airport was a difficult place to make skydives. I was used to the desert, where you have an expansive amount of room to land, and the sky is clear and mild. At Raeford the sky was always heavily overcast with voluminous clouds; it was hard to see the ground from the air. The landing area was extremely small, with tall trees and buildings circling the drop zone, which created a very bumpy and scary parachute ride into the target area. The wind was always blowing, so if you could not “spot” your jump right, you would have a difficult time landing anywhere near the drop zone. Just to make the jumps here took an expert.
Within about a week I knew I would probably leave. About that time, a former well-known world champion flew into the airport in his Cessna 180.
This master watched some of my jumps on the telemeters, from which he could see my body perfectly, even though I was falling at 200 m.p.h.. He came over to where I was packing my parachute and knelt down and spoke with me.
He said, “don’t listen to what people are saying – I can see that you actually have great potential. You have the body for it—gymnastic figure and strength—with natural ability and the most important thing, a strong will and energy.”
I listened, and he became my coach. He dedicated himself to all who wanted to follow his unorthodox training, however not many liked his outside-the-box theories. Normal training was the path everyone else took—I trusted in the unknown.
My coach saw my potential and began teaching function. I became a vessel, or the potential for function. I became teachable so function could manifest.
The Daily Ritual
When I started training with my coach, I spent almost the entire year practicing just one move he wanted me to perfect - and, it had nothing to do with the actual gymnastics set.
I had to build the potential first - also called the foundation.
I was attempting to start the gymnastics set by leaving the airplane and going right into a vertical head down dive to gain more speed than usual.
Usually, a jumper leaves the plane in kind of a squat position with their knees up under them, so they could see the heading. Style is based on an exact heading, if you are off the heading you are disqualified before you even start. In this squat position, you cannot fall as fast as if you are in a head-down dive.
To get more speed, which would make my Style set faster, my coach wanted me to learn to start the gymnastics set from a head-down dive.
If my dive was not lined up exactly on the heading, I would be disqualified even before my Style set started.
Perfecting the dive was very difficult, because when you flip over into a dive, you are now looking backwards at the horizon - away from your heading. Disorientation is huge, as I could no longer see the heading. This was why no other competitors started their Style set like this. It’s just too risky.
While in this dive, I had to focus during the few seconds I had, while falling at 200 m.p.h. to get ready to slam into the first turn and subsequent maneuvers of the Style set.
If I had not spent hundreds of jumps just learning the foundation and technique of this dive, I could never have developed the sense and knowing of where my body was.
I had to develop vision throughout my whole body. I had to form eyes in the back of my head. I had to feel and intuit my positioning.
I started developing extreme focus. Eventually, I progressed to where I could drop the thinking. This is a key point.
After about 8 months of perfecting just this one technique to start the Style set - my coach starting training me on the next move - coming up out of the dive and slamming into the first turn. A movement so fast, you could not be "thinking about it."
Through years of training and effort, I learned creating the potential is the starting point for any endeavor not only in sports but in business.
The starting point has to do with desire, will, and focus, but it is useless without creating the potential, which is training the internal energy directed by the mind.
Results come from the alchemy of practicing the right form over a period of time until it becomes mindless. Your mind becomes so refined you start to tap into the power and energy of right function—when you need it.
Think of your own lesson on “Great Potential—Great Function” if you are beginning to train in any sport or endeavor. It will be the key to your success.
Now, go to Lesson #2