Relax Arch Neutral

by Jen Sharp published in Parachutist Magazine December 2013

Skydiving teaches its participants to expect the unexpected. To go with the flow, we use planned spontaneity, a method of balancing intense, detailed preparation with creativity and flexibility. Just like when we need to deal with unexpected issues in our daily lives, we often must make split-second decisions when we’re skydiving, sometimes with only a partial picture of the situation. One simple technique that is easy to remember and execute and applies priorities correctly to almost every situation is RAN: relax, arch, neutral.

You can teach your students this technique to help them regain their awareness in both routine and distressing situations. I developed this mnemonic for AFF students in the late 1990s when I noticed that the traditional advice to stop an unwanted turn by countering it only led to a worse body position. Using RAN helps the student reset back to something that does work instead of taking an ineffective problem-solving approach by trying to fix something that’s wrong.

Physically, the relax-arch-neutral technique is just a breath in and out (sort of a sigh), and when a jumper masters it, it is fast and fluid.

Relax, arch, neutral: In freefall, this technique self-corrects problems in body position or mental state. It’s something positive and specific for a student to do and works well to help him deal with almost any unexpected issue.