Passive and Active Grips
by Jan Meyer
"Present your left, grip with your right" is a common way to define who takes which grips. The rule is very limited as it applies to very few formations. It also does not account for grips that naturally present themselves because of a transition. The rule is seldom followed by jumpers. Many a zippers have taken longer to complete because of "fighting" grips.
A passive grip is a presentation of an arm or leg to another to grab hold of the gripper. An active grip is the hand or legs that grab hold of another jumper. Except for leglocks, legs are passive grips. Arms or wrists can be either passive or active grips.
A completed formation depends on jumpers having levelidity, proximity and proper grips. A jumper acquires levelidity and proximity as he stops in his slot. He must then take or present grips to complete the formation. Part of a dirt dive should include defining the active/passive grips for each jumper. This is essential for the ambiguous grips, as the arm/arm grips in a zipper.
By way of example, consider a bipole to star transition. In the bipole in Fig.1, jumpers 2 and 4 have active grips on jumpers 1 and 3. The passive grips are 1 and 3's legs. The active grips release the jumpers for a full break. Jumpers 1 and 3 must now turn 180º towards the center for the star formation. The problem is to decide who takes the grips in the star and who presents grips in the star.
One method is to designate 1 and 3 to have both active grips on 2 and 4. This method works fine, but 1 and 3 handle the entire workload for the grips. Not only do 1 and 3 have to ensure levelidity, proximity with 2 and 4, they have to find two grips.
Another method that evens out the workload and takes advantage of the natural grip presentation of the transition is depicted in Fig. 2. As 1 turns into his slot for the star, his left arm is "leading the way" and can easily be placed in a waiting and open right hand of 4. The right arm of 1 can easily drive into the left arm of 2. The grips for 3 are determined the same way.
The 4-way star illustrates how grips depend on the way the star is built. In the previous example, each jumper had one passive and one active grip. This is because of the transition from the previous point, a bipole, gave a natural way to take grips and even out the workload. Suppose four jumpers come from the outside of a larger formation to meet in the middle to build the star. Two people are designated as set-up jumpers and the other two jumpers close the star. The set up jumpers have passive grips, while the closers have active grips, as shown in Fig. 3. A star can also be built with a base person, (1), waiting for the adjacent slot jumpers to dock, (2) and (4), and then closes as (3) docks. Jumper (1) will have passive grips. Jumpers (2) and (4) have active grips on (1) and present passive grips to jumper (3). Jumper (3) has active grips on (2) and (4), as shown in Fig. 4.
A formation does not uniquely determine the active/passive grips. The method used to build the formation and the transition are used in conjunction with the formation to decide the passive and active grips. The benefit in deciding these grips during the dirt dive is that the actual dive flows smoother and jumpers won't "fight over" who takes the grip. A formation gets completed sooner.
Originally published in Sport Parachutist's Safety Journal V2, #4 Jul. 1990.
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