Have you ever felt stuck, plateaued or lost with how to improve in climbing? The day I decided to find my potential with climbing, to take the sharp end and lead my ability, to remove the mental boundaries that were holding me back, was the day my relationship with climbing changed. I sought out training, applied myself 110% and tested my skills against the very best athletes in climbing from around the world. I learned a lot and I achieved a lot. There is no single thing to do, no potion, quick trick, or technique that will transform someone or take them to the next level. Climbing is a lifelong journey that will give back what is put in and with it’s multifaceted opportunities, means there is always something new to be learnt. Wanting to improve, means a commitment to this process. The time it takes to break through depends on this commitment along with the right focus/direction.
For a long time, I never really thought about when enough training would be enough. I mean, is there ever a point you reach where you think you’ve learned all you can learn? Can you actually reach a point where you have applied all there is to know? Can you ever reach your maximum output and therefore, your peak performance potential?
They say the best way to learn is to teach and since I’m someone who enjoys giving back to my communities, it’s been something I’ve done with all of my climbing experience. Passing on the knowledge I’ve acquired and coaching individuals has indeed taught me a lot about myself and about climbing. It has, in essence, answered the questions I had begun to question.
If you consider the amount of time it takes to master a subject, then you will understand what it takes to master climbing. Have you ever watched the movie Jiro Dreams of Shushi? It’s exactly like that. You have to fall in love with climbing and practice, practice, practice to reach perfection. But, just like Jiro says about his sushi making, perfection is also never attainable, even in climbing. There are steps to perfection, using the best possible techniques with swift and precise movements; engaging the body in the optimal way to yield successful completion of movements; but there is never the attainment of the ultimate perfect technique.
Climbing mastery, therefore, is an art and one that must be continually studied, practiced, and explored in order to advance. If you train in one style for too long, then that’s all you will know not to mention you risk over training or under training. Training haphazardly and you will see haphazard gains. Not knowing what to train, but training for the sake of training, will do little to advance your skills.
The first step towards mastery is knowing where you are. Sometimes you can hone in on these things yourself, but it is best to have someone else, someone with more experience than yourself, look at you. Even if you have been climbing for a long time and think you have nothing more to improve, a different set of eyes may show you otherwise. Take Yuji’s recruitment of Daniel Woods for an objective on Mount Kinabalu (see Reel Rock 8). Yuji picks up on Daniel’s energy and admits to himself that maybe he (Yuji) wasn’t being as aggressive with his route as he could be. Even the Sensei was able to learn something new, or reveal to himself something he could focus on that could potentially help him succeed with his route.
This example underscores what I have come to believe about my relationship with climbing. While I can learn things from coaching others as I revisit fundamentals, it’s better to get a formal tune-up with emphasis on the things that I should be working on to improve myself. Take footwork, for example. This basic yet often overlooked skill can always be improved. For instance,even if I thought I had good footwork, a coach can call out the instances when I’m not making my feet work for me. It’s this kind of focus I want and desire. It’s the kind of feedback I could not identify for myself and the kind not easily identified by most climbers (simply because most climbers are unaware themselves). It is for this reason, I seek out coaches and coaching. I am eager to learn something new, keen to keep my training fresh and targeted and to be inspired to find within me new depths with which to perform.
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