You see the pros gracefully dropping a knee and extending a leg to slide around effortlessly. A coach told you the importance of knee slides and turns. You want to learn that skill ASAP! Why is it taking so long?
Not a mandatory skill
Learning to move with your lower body is a powerful way to fly and rewarding skill to master. However, it might not be important to learn immediately or for the flying you do. If you are aiming for a competitive 4-way or 8-way, knee movement is critical. If you want to get an AFF rating, knee slides and turns are useful. If you are very very serious about big-way work, knee slides come into play.
If you are pursuing skydiving more casually or have limited resources, it might not be the best skill for you to hone; excellent fall rate control will get you further faster. Choose your battle carefully!
Knee work is hard for most people
You checked out your end goals and have decided this skill is important. Congratulations! Before you start know that it takes time to master. This isn’t a 15-minute tunnel skill. I work with students who think something is wrong with them because they can’t get their bodies to do this unnatural movement immediately. They are normal.
It takes most students several hours to start mastering. Even people who are lucky enough to pick it up sooner need time to integrate into muscle memory fully. Before you embark on the journey, make sure you are ready to accept the commitment.
Degrees of success
Learning slides or turns in the tunnel is usually done with full extension in mind. These big and powerful movements are flashy and obvious. Smaller, more practical movements are easier and more achievable.
As a coach, I focus on the big movements in the tunnel. Aiming for the full split allows me to see what angle and motion you are making. Also, students who master the big movements can easily dial the correct motion down to a small movement when needed. The opposite is not necessarily true; baby movements might never become full throttle movements.
Even if you aren’t quite a master at the big movements, know that the awareness and smaller movements are having a real practical effect. Just using your legs a little can result in a solid slide and a more in place turn.
Having this skill in your toolbox undoubtedly helps you in whatever you choose to do. Accept it takes time and embrace the learning process instead of becoming frustrated. Even small steps are having an effect and eventually, you will be able to blaze across the sky with those extra cool lower body movements.