Skydiving and Gunfighting Parallels?

Recently, as a birthday gift, I surprised my wife by taking her skydiving. We both did a tandem skydive and she joined the ranks of those who have jumped out of a perfectly good airplane for the fun of it. This was her first jump, and my second. In discussing our experience after the fact, some potential parallels to my other avocation detailed here on the blog jumped out at me, no pun intended.

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The first time I skydived almost two decades ago in Southern California, I was given the opportunity to pull the ripcord and deploy the main parachute. Free fall was, for me at least, an exhilarating experience. So exhilarating, in fact, that I never even thought about the ripcord and I don’t remember my instructor patting me on the shoulder as the predetermined signal to deploy the chute.

Similarly, my wife described her first free fall experience as “overwhelming.” She had no idea what to really expect and and couldn’t catch her breath or even open her eyes for the first few seconds of her first skydive.

What was interesting to me after my second skydive was how much more aware and calm I was in free fall. The rush and exhilaration were still there, but I had time to think and take in my surroundings, feel my body position in the air, and even look to see if I could see my instructor’s wrist mounted altimeter.

What was the difference? Experience. I had been there before, so my brain knew what to expect. Conversely, for my wife, in a true fright AND flight (see what I did there?) scenario, her mind was overwhelmed with stimuli that she had no real preparation for. She even remarked after the fact that she doesn’t think there is any way to adequately explain to someone what the experience is like. My takeaway was that I think you probably have to jump at least twice to really appreciate the experience for what it is.

So what does all this have to do with carrying a gun and fighting with it? What’s the moral of the story? I’m going to be discussing what is largely theory for me here, but I think I’m on pretty solid ground.

When you do have to use your gun in defense of self or others, you are probably going to be in one of the most stressful situations that you can ever experience. I think it’s safe to say that you will probably function at a much higher level of awareness and performance if your brain has been exposed to similar stimuli before. (Note that even though my previous skydive was almost twenty years ago, I still benefited from the experience.)

Now, going out and getting in gunfights to gain experience is ludicrous, dangerous, and illegal. But what you can do is seek out relevant and realistic training and force on force experiences. Whether we are discussing shooting or other combative arts (or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane), experience is key to a successful (or fun) outcome.

For one anecdotal example, lots of people who have been in gunfights report not seeing their sights. Still others describe crystal clear focus on the sights. What’s the difference? This is pure speculation, but I can’t help but wonder if prior relevant and realistic training plays a part.

There are other factors that might be in play regarding my most recent skydiving experience. At the time of my first skydive, I was still relatively young and inexperienced in a lot of things. Now, prior to my second skydive, I have spent literally hours underwater on SCUBA while concentrating on monitoring depth, time, and gas supplies in order to make it back to the surface alive and well. I’ve also spent more than a decade walking into scenes as a paramedic that are often the worst days of other people’s lives. Does that stress inoculation transfer over? I don’t know. I’d like to think it does, but that is still an unanswered question in my mind.

My point is that training and experience in stressful and potentially dangerous situations is of immeasurable value. If you choose to carry a gun for defensive purposes, I think you really owe it to yourself to seek out realistic real world training from competent instructors. You should take a force on force class so that your brain will have been exposed to similar stimuli before it happens for real. If it ever does happen to you, you’ll be in a far better place to acquit yourself in all respects.

Also, if you’ve never jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, it’s the biggest rush you can imagine. And statistically, tandem jumping is actually a lot safer than driving your car to work everyday. If you’re in the Northeast, Jumptown in Orange, MA is an awesome place to go. Highly recommended!

As always, thanks for reading. Please feel free to share, comment, and ask questions either here at the blog or on our social media. I can also be reached at civiliangunfighter.john@gmail.com.

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