I've Moved

In January 2014, I've moved to a whole new site!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Climb Like Chris Sharma: Limits and Fears from Rock & Ice on Vimeo.
Chris Sharma shares his strategy and techniques that have made him one of the best climbers in the world.
Part 1: https://vimeo.com/42221188 (Chris Sharma shares his strategy and techniques that have made him one of the best climbers in the world)

And on the same topic - a cool article about how "Geniuses are Made, not Born"**
What has become evident is that none of our traits come prepackaged at birth. Baby M.J. didn't pop out doing a windmill dunk. All traits are developed -- no exceptions. This does not mean, however, that people don't differ in the rate at which certain abilities are developed. The precocious feats of prodigies and prodigious savants show loud and clear what one can achieve when you have what Martha J. Morelock refers to as a "rage to learn". Prodigies appear to be the ones pushing their parents; not the other way around.

You want to keep improving at your climbing? Keep making small continuous improvements, show a willingness to learn, and keep having fun!

** Of course, to get to the absolute top-end, there is some genetics involved and a full article can be here with details on this, but the idea that people can achieve higher dreams than they think purely just by showing a willingness to learn is a great thought !
"Although the specific details are currently unknown, the current scientific literature clearly indicates that both nurture and nature are involved in determining elite athletic performance. In conclusion, elite sporting performance is the result of the interaction between genetic and training factors, with the result that both talent identification and management systems to facilitate optimal training are crucial to sporting success."

I'm taking a new approach to learning about climbing right now - suppose you could say it's alternative but maybe not. Update in a couple of months with proper details if anything successful comes from the experiment!

Did I mention we got to watch a acrobat rope show while in Ceuse? Made for some great photos......


  1. I admire Chris and what he has done and how he climbs but I think that video is shite. Increasingly I'm finding that climbing, in particular advanced climbing movement, defies any good anaylsis or insighful comment. I think that fact that one of the greatest movers in climbing who embodies the modern dynamic style of climbing has so little of interest to say on the topic of "his strategy and techniques" leaves me a bit confused.

  2. Have to agree with you on a lot what you said regarding advanced analysis, but also defend that 'advanced climbing' is in it's very early stages of understanding.

    In defense of Sharma's interview, and going by other sports also, most of the top performers are very poor at describing what they do, and how they do it - a good pointer on why many of the best performers never make good coaches (this has been proven several times now both visibly and through tests/analysis). What I do like about the video is his acknowledgement to continuously make small progress - stop trying to make big leaps, which is something I used to see a lot.

    The opportunity is there for coaching to continue to develop, and it will be those people who will understand, and be able to explain properly, advanced climbing movement and strength. Maybe I'm wrong - really interesting topic here so all thoughts welcome. Look at some of the signs that were shown up at the Olympic closing ceremony: "Thanks Coach" - the top-end people only got to where they are with analysis and planning support from others - this is already happening with many of the top-end climbers (as examples: Daniel Woods, Sean McColl all have or had coaches in their youth) so I expect to also see this filter down more into the general climbing public (look at the attendance at sessions in Gravity as an example).

    want to find good movement analysis? Read the likes of http://www.selfcoachedclimber.com - the good information is to be found in those places. Maybe that's just me though :)


  3. I have no doubt coaching is important. But I would imagine that in climbing once past a pretty basic level coaching is focussed on the physical aspects rather than the movement ones.

    I suppose my theory is that there is no such thing as advanced climbing techniques. The hardest climbs in the world are climbed using basic techniques and great strength.

    Self coached climber is a great book and while it's strong on flagging and dynamics the techniques it deals with are straighforward.

    Unlike something like gymnastics in climbing moves are difficult due to the specifics of that move. There is no movement that is theoretically hard and you are right that this might be due to the relative youth of the activity but I think its more fundamental than that.

  4. "But I would imagine that in climbing once past a pretty basic level coaching is focussed on the physical aspects rather than the movement ones." - you'd be surprised. Can't comment for ultra-high end, but my own thoughts are that you have to learn to execute under pressure/physical-stress so movement skills are still pretty important. I also kind of feel that getting timing/movement/etc on harder and harder moves is also pretty important along with strength - I've seen enough mutant-strong climbers (i.e. wayyyy above the level of anyone in Ireland) who can't climb for crap and it's down to technique. They can do the basics (rock-up, twist, etc) but don't have good awareness of balance, arm/wrist/shoulder/hips/ positioning to make me think there is more to it though. I'd also suggest that a lot of gymnastics is also down to pure strength also?

    I guess I'd also regard a lot of "trickery" (toe-hooks, different hand positioning, etc.) as advanced techniques - essentially anything I feel that most climbers don't naturally pick up . Also, and only a thought to me now, but more and more moves like triple-move dynos (catch a hold to stabilise and while still swinging move through to another hold) are being added to the comps and even problems (I believe Nalle put one up in Rocklands last month) which I would definitely regard as 'advanced' moves.

    Still though, cool topic - it's making me think more about it!

  5. Agreed about thriple move dynos. There was one in that swedish comp a while ago. Very very few of them outdoors.

  6. You've got me thinking now about what's basic movement, and what's not! Helped by coming across this article and the 'basic-ness of surfing': http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/22/riding-the-wave-of-surfer-fitness/
    "It is, after all, a sport that when broken into its component parts involves only, as Mr. Farley writes in his July study, “intermittent high-intensity bouts of all-out paddling intercalated with relatively short recovery periods” and “breath holding.”"

    Something to think about.......

  7. I'm a little late to the discussion but I hope its ok to throw a few thoughts out.

    I tend to think in terms of fundamental skills as a way of designating skills that are essential to climbing movement. So for example, watching a beginner's class its easy to observe the difficulty they have identifying hand and foot holds as well as how to grasp them. So its not surprising that beginners don't move very well, as all their available attention is occupied in the task of hold identification and grasping. This is a fundamental skill in that if the climber does not move this skill to the autonomyus stage of motor learning it makes the task of learning other skills more difficult if not impossible. On steep rock turning can be considered a fundamental skill as steep climbing is so dependent upon that skill. On slab climbing smearing with the feet is fundamental. watching sport climbers who are used to steep climbs struggle with their feet when they get on a slab shows us how skills are specific to the type of climbing we do, and shows that climbing a high number grade in one type of climbing does not correspond to climbing at a high number grade in other types of climbing.

    Are there advanced movement skills? I think there are. Being able to control movement initiation is an example of an advanced skill. Having a highly developed ability to recognize common movement patters and apply them in different situations is an advanced movement skill (even high level climber often make sub-optimal sequence and movement choices all the time) Further, its clear to me that off-set balance occurs far more often on harder climbs than it does on easy climbs. In bouldering off-set balance is often non-existent until one is bouldering at least V4 and its rare at that level but it becomes increasingly more common from V7 on up. So dealing well with all the crazy situations of off-set balance that are found in hard climbing is an advanced skill. I also have learned through lots of video analysis that the timing of moves becomes far more precise on more difficult climbs and its not uncommon to see a few hundredths of a second making the difference between success and failure on more difficult moves. Advanced climbers are used to working with this slim margin of error but climbers at lowers grades do not have such an ability to time their movement with that kind of precision.

    1. Hi Douglas,
      Many thanks for the reply, and all good points. I'm doing more and more coaching work myself, so you've left me with a few things to think about (especially at the advanced level). Getting people onto all angles of rock at the very beginning is also essential - I come across a lot of situations where people avoid the steep stuff (don't feel strong enough, etc - but can't get stronger if you don't try it!) allowing it to build into a mental block that they can't climb that angle. Same concept as your description of sport climbers struggling on slabs.

      Out of interest, do you just use a camcorder for video analysis, and review it afterwards? I've done it this way many years ago, but wondered if a more real-time solution would work, especially with giving instant feedback.

      By the way, if you're ever in the vicinity of Ireland (i.e. Europe), you're be more than welcome to give a talk or run a session!

      Thanks again,

    2. Neal,

      Totally agree that getting people on all angles and types of rock early on is essential. In the general literature on coaching its often emphasized that in the first four years of an athlete's development one of the most important goals is to develop skills in all aspects of the sport. also agree on the mental block issue.

      Video analysis: First, I always put the camera on a tripod and use the same observation angle and lens focal length over multiple trials so that qualitative differences in movement can be most easily observed. For playback if I have access to a monitor, I have the camera hooked up to the monitor so I can playback right away. I use dry erase markers to draw the base of support and to show the climber the movement of COG. I don't currently have a camcorder that will play single frame so I need get the footage on my computer to do a finer analysis of movement timing or side by side comparisons of one or more climbers on the same move. Thus I do both real time feedback and comparisons done later. But my preference is doing feedback as soon as possible.

      Ireland is a beautiful place, I would love to visit! I'll let you know if I'm ever headed your way!

    3. Hi Douglas,

      Will remember those early points about 'first 4 years of development', pretty important.

      Thanks about camcorder setup. I was considering trying an iPad, but getting it into a fixed location makes it challenging as not naturally suited for a tripod - although instant feedback would be brilliant on it......think I need to put some thought into it! On the subject of analysis, off to try watch as much of the World Championships as I can :)

      Your thoughts on my last (the first bit about the videos) would be interesting too:

      Thanks for the replies, appreciated - and nice to see what you're putting out on your own site too! Interestingly, I think we have a mutual contact (Brendan Nic... in Salt Lake City....).