A Tandem Freefall
Soldier Opening Parachute After a Freefall

A Philosophy of Freefall

This paper is written about the basics of the three dimensional element we call freefall. If you understand the fundamental foundation of a subject then solving problems or creating new ideas are much easier because there are basic principles that don't change. So let's start very basically and I don't mean to insult your intelligence but rather help you to understand how easy it is to fall down.


You in control of yourself in the three dimensional situation of falling down is freefalling. Once we reach the speed where we fall no faster, terminal velocity, that is approximately 120 mph, we are working with aerodynamic forces. In other words, the air we fall through causes a force we can manipulated to create movement or no movement, balance or imbalance. Now there is nothing natural about being in freefall. There are no primal instincts to fall back on. None of your ancestors did this before you, so understand your place in history as one of the first generation to get to play in the air. There might be a few that are called "naturals" but actually there is nothing natural about these people who seem to grasp the idea of freefall easily. They are just very open minded to this new environment. But understand there is nothing natural about jumping out of an airplane and living to talk about it at all, although being human beings we are very adaptable.

Falling straight down in freefall is caused by a balanced deflection of air of all parts of the body. Using the standard face to earth position while there is a slight arch of the pelvis the arms create as much drag as the legs or the arms balance the legs. This is called the neutral body position. The neutral body position is not to be confused with the box position. The box position is an attempt to standardize a body position but since there are no standard bodies this is quite impossible. The principle of the neutral body position is that the arms balance the legs and is adjusted to each individuals needs.

Let me step back to the beginning of your skydiving. Whether you started with the AFF program or static line, there was that moment at your first jump when you first left the plane but you didn't understand what was happening during the first five or ten seconds after leaving. This is what is called sensory overload. Your body is a big sensor and when you step off the plane your mind tries to take in all this information and process it. But because you were not designed to do this it has nothing to relate these feeling to. Being the adaptable human you are, your mind realizes there is life after the exit within just a few seconds and starts to take in this new experience of feelings. It may need several jumps after the first before the body starts to accept this environment and even hundreds of jumps before you realize totally every moment of a single jump. Every jump you make the information still goes in and soon your body will start to react to things automatically.

The most basic skill is falling straight down in a neutral body position meaning your arms balance your legs. So when you find this balance between the arms and legs there is a feeling of falling straight down and it is different for each individual. Remember too that the body will always try and find the most stable position. An unconscious body always falls with back to earth because we bend forward easiest. So you "the vertical being trying to understand a horizontal sport" learned at the beginning: the more you arch the more stable you will find freefall to be. Now as we chose to learn this sport face to earth, slight arch at the pelvis, arms balancing the legs, then this is to be understood as a basic body position and even though we are in a three dimensional environment this will probably be one of the most comfortable body positions you will experience. So feel confident in the fact that no matter what position you may find yourself in, if you arch hard and go to neutral your body will always go back to this comfortable face to earth position.

Now as I said in the beginning: skydiving is you in control of yourself in the 3D situation of falling down. Everything we do and will do comes from this basic idea. Skydiving is not RW or Freestyle or Style or whatever, these are things you do while skydiving. They all use the same forces and principles. So you will find that they all relate to each other. There is the same principle of balance in Freestyle or in RW (arms balance legs). But in some situations the body won't be arched and you may have to adjust two arms to balance one leg like in a Tee. In Style the legs are tucked away and the arms are stream lined to balance and there is absolutely no arch. But in all there is balance.

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