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Extreme sports training - second step; using energy

Potential is Energy

From Soul of the Samurai

Mind is the inside, energy is the gate. Since the mind is the master of the whole body, it should be understood that it resides within; energy is at the door, working outside for the mind, its master. Energy that is kept watchfully at the door is called potential.

Flashback: Learning to use energy

After about six months of perfecting the start of the skydiving gymnastics routine - a verticle dead-down dive on heading, I entered the next phase of training - the gymnastics moves. These moves are what I would actually be judged on within the Style jump.

The Style gymnastics consists of six maneuvers of three different style sets. A “Right Set” a “Left Set” and a “Cross Set."

Each of these turns have to be performed lining up on an exact heading. Anything that is off the heading is a deduction in points or a complete elimination.

The “normal” way to make these turns is by coming out of a tight fall-away to gain your speed, then start your turns in this same tight position. It’s nearly impossible to hold tight as it’s natural for your arms and legs to come out here and there to maintain your balance.

So the entire competition is about this dilemma of staying as tight as you can. My coach - “Sky god” always thought there was a better way to make very fast turns by actually using the air as a help instead of a hindrance. His theory was that if you started the Style set from the dive – which I perfected, then you have an elongated body coming out of the dive to suck up into your first turn and when you came around to the next heading to turn the opposite way you should again elongate your body and very quickly use the air to slam into the next turn.

He also thought that if you sat up on your turns about 45 degrees, your body mass to the air would not be as great, so you could turn much faster than if you were faced flat to the earth. It was a pulsating type of movement where you used your legs and arms on each turn to give you the momentum to turn - just like a top spins.

As I became “Sky gods” experiment, I would now go up to an altitude of 12,500 feet so I would have more airtime to start practicing these turns. No more diving for now – now it became all about perfecting this pulsating turn.

At 12,500 feet I had about one minute of airtime instead of 25 seconds. He did not want me to lose any of this precious airtime, so he had me start making the turns sub-terminal right out of the airplane.

On a jump you usually get some air speed before you start making any moves - as when you are sub terminal you have no air to work with – no foundation. This makes you work extra hard to control your body and make an exact turn. It seemed – of course – impossible to do this type of turn at first. It took great core strength, and it was not until I made many jumps over many months did I get the hang of it.

What I know now is that I had built my core strength over that period of time. I was actually using a martial art form of using my “center” of gravity called the Dan Tian, which is about 3 inches below your belly button. All the potential originates from this place. My breathing came from this energy point to direct my mind in the direction I was to turn. This energy was directed into my head, hands and arms in a very concentrated way, which gave me speed, precision and power.

I also learned that where your mind goes and head goes – your body will go. But ultimately, it had to come from the potential of the Dan Tian and the breath (energy) had to come at the same time within each turn. You would never be able to do this type of turn without using a powerful energy breathing into each body movement.

It became obvious why the old way of making the turns, (with a flat body) never ultimately worked well. The jumper is fighting with the air instead of working with the air. Even worse, there is no breathing – it’s like you are holding your breath trying to stay tight at the same time. There’s no ultimate energy – the right energy. And, there certainly was no potential in this form.

This part of the training was the foundation. Perfecting a foundation is where the potential manifests. And, Energy comes from potential - it's right technique combined with breath and mind.

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