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KOTR is looking for a new owner. Are you a developer, a climber and have plans to stay in Korea for a while? If so, email me at [email protected]
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Unread 09-29-2008, 05:06 PM
punchy's Avatar
punchy punchy is offline
stone samurai
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: sokcho, gangwan-do
Posts: 73
a tale of two selves

do you remember how to ride a bike? do you remember how you learned? do you recall being worried what others would think if you fell off your bike once the training wheels were taken off? were you really scared of falling off and injuring yourself? and once you learned how to ride your bike well, did you often get nervous when remounting days later, worried that you may have forgotten or that you might somehow mess it up? do you still get worried when jumping on a bike now?

it's likely that most of you answered like myself. yes i remember learning to ride my bike. though i recall being a little nervous at the prospect of falling, i was excited to learn how to ride after seeing my sister cruising around on her flashy wheels. i don't recall being self-conscious about my failures. once i learned to stay on my bike, i never felt that same fear of falling off. nor would i be nervous that if i jumped on a bike now that i would lose my balance and topple over.

how was it that we learned how to ride a bike? or even how we went from crawling to walking? and how is it that we learn to climb? it's pretty simple actually: our body learns it for us.

tim gallway in his extremely influential book, "the inner game of tennis" (which ilgner cites in 'the rock warrior's way') goes into a useful analysis of how we learn. gallway writes on the methods useful for atheletes to excel in their given arena and though he is clearly writing about tennis, he could just as easily be discussing climbing, ice hockey or any other sport or activity.

gallway sees our endeavours to learn and perform as being influenced by two selves. self 1 involves our conscious mind and it is responsible for analyzing, rationalizing and manipulating self 2. self 2 is our body. it is that faculty which operates beneath the conscious mind and is able to learn complex tasks with seemingly no thinking at all. our body strives to be fluid, in balance and conservatory in it's functions. every time we engage in an activity, our self 2 strives to refine its methods to be more economical and smoother. unfortunately for us, our self 1 doesn't much trust our self 2 and it will often interfere with a very basic function in order to try and control something that it really knows nothing about. our minds get in the way of something our bodies can do very naturally; learn complex tasks involving motor skills in a very short time. anyone who's learned how to drive a stick shift or has attempted to learn how to juggle or slackline will know this feeling intimately. all the while that our body is refining our technique of a skill, our mind interferes by trying to think about what our body is doing and controlling it through subtle manipulation. in practice, the less we think about what our bodies are doing, the quicker our bodies will learn to master a new skill. climbing is no different.

so how can we use this information to climb like warriors? again, awareness is our greatest tool in our quest for growth and personal power. we must strive to become aware of how our mind, our self 1, interferes with the learning process utilized by our self 2 in order to lesson its effect on our efforts. by learning to watch the workings of your mind as you engage in climbing, you will begin to notice how much it gets in the way. overthinking, hesitation, phantom fear, self-doubt, self-consciousness; all of these are roadblocks to the learning process implemented by our self 1. once we recognize that these hinderances exist and we begin to see them in action, we begin to negate their effect on our performance.

gallway, in a typical tennis related anecdote, describes one of his experiences as a coach while attempting to teach an aspiring tennis player how to hit an accurate and consistent serve. the young woman whom gallway was teaching, was having trouble with her aim, power and consistency during service. at first, gallway gave the typical coach's advice. follow through with the serve. keep your eye on the ball. keep a relaxed grip on the racquet. the woman acknowledged all of these tidbits of advice, but continued to lob balls in the net, off court and every now and then in a decent serve. next, gallway tried a different tact. this time he advised the woman to forget how she was supposed to serve. all he asked of her was to look at the exact spot where she was trying to hit the ball, and just picture hitting that spot with the ball. she started a series of lobs and although she initially repeated her previous performance, she eventually started nailing the far corner of the court with power and consistency. by concentrating on something outside of her technique, she was able to let her body do naturally what it was struggling so hard to do in the first place; learn to hit a decent serve. while her mind was distracted by the far corner, her body was able to refine its technique with every serve.

when you read this anecdote, are you able to relate it to climbing? have you experienced this in your own climbing before? by putting this technique into practice during climbing, we can move past the interference from our minds and let our bodies hone its technique of its own free will. this is one of the reasons why climbing is the best training for climbing. the more you climb, the more you refine your technique and your repertoire of climbing moves. our bodies can learn and remember the subtle balance involved in new techniques (laybacking, crack climbing, gastoning, etc) much faster than we can attempt to analyze and digest them cerebrally. the next time you head out on the rock or to the gym, try to watch how your mind tries to interfere with your climbing technique. try to distract yourself with positive visualization of whatever you're attempting and let your body do what it was designed to do; learn to move.
the way i see it, there are two worlds: the world where nothing is sacred except money, and the other world, where everything is sacred.

-ron kauk
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Unread 09-10-2009, 11:45 PM
punchy's Avatar
punchy punchy is offline
stone samurai
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: sokcho, gangwan-do
Posts: 73

"just lower me down."

"are you sure?"

"yeah. my head's not here today. sorry."

"how about you give it one more go, and if you still want to come down, i'll lower you. that sound good?"

"that sounds reasonable."

i get up high on the footholds. straining to not barndoor off of the slopey sidepulls. i look to what may be a juggy ledge, or another big sloper. i hesitate. i step down. i step up. my head is not just uncomfortable. it is not even listening to me anymore. it wants down. i encourage myself to calm down, breath, reanalyze the problem ahead of me, and shoot for it. again, my mind is revolting. i get up high on the footholds and look down a few meters to the last sun bleached crusty piece of sling that is supposed to catch my fall should i slip off into the void. my mind tells me it'll snap. the van, where we started off this morning at 7am, sits at the valley floor, some 600 meters below. a lot of air under my ***. i should be exhilerated. excited. awakened by the challenge. but my climbing today feels weak, sloppy and uncomitted. and worst of all, i'm not having fun. but i continue to pay attention. i sense value in what's going on in my head.

i end up giving in to my mind. it doesn't want to work for me today and i lower off a bit frustrated, but holding no grudge against it. i strive to watch my thoughts and my actions with a detached interest. i feel bad for roland, my partner, who was really psyched to get back on this route, excalibur, smack dab in the middle of a beautiful alpine cirque in the swiss alps. he had been shut down on it on his first attempt a few years ago, after being unnerved by a 10 meter whipper on the first pitch. though the climb is graded no harder than 10c, the climbing feels much harder, and the runout bolts and old slings play a big number on the head.

through all this, i become very interested in what factors are hindering me on this beautiful day in the mountains. though it's an alpine climb with all the loose rock, sketchy gear and tempermental weather that goes along with it, today is sunny, warm and cloudless.

analyzing my head, i come to terms with my noncomittal climbing. i know that i'm not always debilitated when faced with fear on a runout lead. not even typically. so why am i shutting myself down today? i notice that i'm having a lot of trouble figuring out the sequences and visualizing the holds. this alpine limestone is hard to read. what i often take to be a good edge or a nice jug, ends up being a sloper or a nonexistant hold. this constant misinformation is leading me to hesitate more and more. i become less sure of my sequencing. i don't trust what my eyes are telling me. i am suddenly uncomfortable and unsure about my climbing. i cease trusting in 'the process'.

roland takes the sharp end and finishes the lead, commiting to the crux sequence that i could not. we do one more pitch (the fifth) up a steep dihederal crack to gain a ledge and a stunning vista of the surrounding mountains. then we mutually decided to rap off, bailing on the top four pitches.

i don't feel regret or guilt about how i climbed on this route, or about backing off it. it was an enlightening experience. i enjoy that climbing can still teach me. challenge me. humble me. on another day, i might have been 'in the zone', and more willing to commit to the risks this climb presented. for having an 'off' day, i had an excellent opportunity to analyze how my head works (or doesn't work) when put in such an uncomfortable scenario. i started off feeling energized and excited after the two hour hike up the steep cliff to the base of the climb. but as soon as i began climbing, i felt something was off. try as i might to refocus my mind, i couldn't shake the feeling.

as climbers, we all have days where we feel 'something is off'. we can't be in the zone all the time and it's very important to not be too hard on ourselves when we don't live up to our own expectations. this is one important reason why expectations can be so detrimental to our performance. all we can hope to do, as rock warrior's in training, is to pay attention to what we're engaged in, how we respond to it and all the while to accept it as it is. it's useful to to give yourself encouragement to push through the fear and discomfort. but if we start arguing in our own head, chastizing ourselves for not being more focused, committed and in form, we are not helping ourselves learn from what's going on in front of us and in our heads. the more we put ourselves in these situations, the ones that really make us squirm in discomfort, the more we will expand our comfort zones and understand the roadblocks and limiting habits in our own heads. and only through awareness of these can we hope to overcome them.

as i mentioned before (reiterating arno), commitment can go either way. the important thing is that you realize it is your choice. go for it or back off. either choice involves commitment. commitment of the consequences of a fall. commitment of the decision to exit the risk. no guilt. no regret. when we pay attention to what's really going on, and analyze the situation for what it is, we will always make the right decision.

my mother would always have a saying whenever, as a child, i'd whine about something i wanted to change. this would typically be at the dinner table when my then, picky eating habits lead me to whine about whatever new, unexpected and unknown dish was put before me. i often use this phrase with climbing partners when i hear the same sort of whinging on a route. "this hold sucks, i wish it was bigger." "i hope i don't fall."

it is what it is. eat it.
the way i see it, there are two worlds: the world where nothing is sacred except money, and the other world, where everything is sacred.

-ron kauk
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