Understanding Movement and The Bear of Little Brain

Deltics 7c, Europaidh.

Happy Testicals 7b, Kilta.

Ipso Facto, 8a, Aird.

I think I'm goin Bald 8a, Europaidh.

The Boneyard Traverse, Europaidh, Lewis.

Hyper Ballad 8b+/8c, The Boneyard, Lewis.

Trace Element, 8b, Port Nis Boulders, Lewis.

Words and photos by Si O'Conor. This piece is taken from Si's blog. Si, who was born in Galway, lives on Skye Island in the far west of Scotland. He has battled against the rain, midgies and his doubters to climb hundreds of new boulder problems all over Scotland.

The text highlighted in green has been taken from the following article http://www.aikiportal.dk/main/Living_Aikido_by_Bruce_Klickstein.htm

Training in Aikido is complex. Training in climbing and bouldering is also complex. At least, a complex thing to answer when I get emails asking: how do you get so strong?...how do I train to climb harder? There are a great many skills, techniques, principles, and attitudes to be studied and synthesized into a single understanding when it comes to physiology. I'm no expert on sport science like Dave MacLeod, but I am an expert within the understanding of what my own body physics are upto, and yet, I'm a beginner and a child.

For this explanation I've tried to bring a comparison between Aikido and climbing. I am, in the proof of time, a better boulderer than Akidoka but bear with me. The example still has a meaning within the context I've provided...



Call it Aikido, call it yoga, call it bouldering, call it by it's name, it's all movement. Traditionally, there exists a step-by-step methodology that will guide a student steadily from the early stages of training to more advanced levels in budo [an art of war]. Traditionally the same happens in climbing. The comparison is extremely similar in both arts. At its source, Aikido is a budo. At it's source bouldering is a way of out manoeuvring a foe that confronts you. If you attack a move in bouldering head on, you quickly find out the rock is imovable, hence we call it a problem. A person who climbs in this way is most likely also expecting to physically walk through walls in his time off. The same person also expects that he can walk on water rather than take the bridge like everyone else. So it stands that, a problem is a solution you havn't found yet, a move you can't describe and now you are a student of the rock, master of nothing, even if you just climbed V15.

As a budo, Aikido is more than a group of practical combat techniques, though it is a very effective self-defense form. Aikido works in the realm of human and spiritual development. It's not just a martial art that has a philosophical base or a spiritual side attached. Nor is it a spiritual creed with a physical form attached. The techniques and philosophy of Aikido and bouldering can no more be separated than two sides of a coin. A £1 can be cut in two halves, heads from tails, but it isn’t worth two 50ps any more. Separate the form from the spirit of aikido, and you end up with neither. Separate the physics of climbing and bouldering and you are left on the ground frustrated, a child. The techniques and the philosophy of movement are one. Iv'e seen hundreds of boulderers at work in my time. I've seen the joy they have between in failure or success, but Iv'e seen equally the wee glance back at the rock their mates didn't see...and I know what's on their minds. Some players also are too mindful of how they appear to climb. To them I would say explore. Do the silly thing your mind says will work, even if it doesn't look cool it might just work. OPEN UP YOUR HIPS FOR CHRISTS SAKE!!

Some people just want to watch Bruce Lee movies and smash bricks over their heads and make a big noise doing it. There are climbers out there who still believe that shouting louder at passers by about their achievements will improve their art...wrong. Evidence of achievement is self-evident in the persons whole being, not in the words they'd like you to be swept away with...not in a movie, not in a static photograph. Spend less time being strong for climbing and more time climbing strongly, confidently, at whatever level you have.

A roundabout in a kids playground spins extremely on it's outer edges, yet the central position still moves relative to it's fierce perimetre. If you are centered in movement you have a clearer focus of the overall task at hand. This isn't a hippy fact. it's a plain fact of physiology over points of contact divided by the intention of the movement you have executed. If you have lied to yourself about your ability to juggle, you will drop the balls, even before anyone else is aware of the fact. Be pure, don't grip like you have no intention of moving until the next ice age. Use the grip as a propellent. Strike at the heart of the move, don't draw the sword unless you mean to use it, be calm in your execution, love it fully as you drive it home.

One perfectly executed move in Aikido is equivilent to one perfect move executed on the rock. When you've done this perfect move, stop. Go home, revel in it, but don't presume to believe you are master of the high seas or you'll be on your ass in the second show. In bouldering, on occasion, your own outer edges [arms and legs] will be put unexpectedly into a wild place, but they are the reaction to your own central intention. Find your centre. Go with it, see what happens.

Conceptualizing about bouldering or aikido out of the context of training is a practice wrought with pitfalls, which only increases the possibility of misunderstanding some of movements fundamental principles. A description of an object and the real object are not the same thing. The concept of aiki principles is like a picture of a bowl of rice. You wouldn't be satisfied eating a picture of a bowl of rice, nor will you be satisfied just having the idea of aikido in your head. A real bowl of rice is nourishing and so is the real aiki when it is alive in your body and spirit. The concept that is aikido is learned and expressed through the techniques of Aikido. The philosophy of aikido comes to life only when you practice it and live it. Mastery of each art is a journey, not a destination. Any Aikido master will tell you that: To attain that condition of being in which philosophy, technique, attitude, and spirit merge requires consistent, sincere training. There are no shortcuts.

The first step in learning anything is to say the words “I don’t know”. The first step to doing a new hard problem carries an equal philosophy. If you take the sequences of Hyperballed and try to use them to complete Trace Element it's an impossible situation. It's logically stupid for most of us to even think that that would have a remote chance of working, so why do we not address it on a more subtle level. When you say the words I don't know as a climber, you learn, and you are open to learning by your own inner need to be improved by the experiences that await you. When I approach a new problem, I am a novice and I try to take pride in the humilty that being a novice in that sense brings me.

When you consider yourself an expert, your beer glass is filled with old knowledge, your own incoherent amnesiac ramblings of days in Jacksonville and there's little room for anything more. The purpose of training in a dojo is for discovery, for growth, not for performance of what you already know. The reality of bouldering is to step beyond what limitations beset the mortality learned in movement, but bring none of the old baggage, except say, for engram reference. There is a natural process involved in learning and growing in whether you're an Aikidoka or boulderer. You begin by practicing small parts of techniques and principles, then you put some of the parts together and try to make them work smoothly as a whole movement. Often the parts work well but fall apart when the whole technique is attempted. Gradually, your understanding of the parts and of the whole will merge. Trying to get it all now – is equivalent to learning to juggle starting with seven balls. You end up dropping them all. Start with one, then two, then three and soon you will be able to pay attention to the overall motion instead of trying to catch each one.When Neil Morrison recently attacked me on the climbing forum for having sand on the edge of one shoe whilst performing a fluid and apparently bizarre move up the 8a overhang of I Think I'm Going Bald, I just thought, what a silly man...to think all that energy would be focused in one foot...to think that it's so conclusive of success or failure.

Don't look at the number, look at the task that's presenting itself to you, right there, but see it as a whole...talking about it afterwards is not the art of performing it. Don't wave the gun in the air, take direct aim and carry out your intention. You can't be slightly pregnant. If we went to a circus and the clowns came out and just talked us through their act, we'd leave...and that's the difference...Throw throw, catch catch, throw throw, catch catch....thats it, now pick up the third ball but don't throw it, get used to it's presence in yer hand...soon you'll be juggling....just don't get squashed crossing the tracks.