little stones: pwning with mental fury

9 03 2009

"but master yoda, the crimps are too small. i will never send this rig. never"

as my junior high football coach once said “if you shake it more than twice you’re playing with it”.  at the time i thought he was just trying to make public bathrooms, puberty, and football banter awkward as f**k, but in retrospect i can see he was trying to teach me something important:


f’realzies.  talking to a person while staring at your junk is – if not odd – at least a bit crowded.  i mean, while it might appear like you’re doing some super-sexy ventriloquism, the voice acting is actually being rendered by another dood who is – not surprisingly – also staring at his junk.  too many moving parts if you ask me.  plus, as coach once told me after practice, “if you don’t look a man in the eye they won’t take you seriously”.  seriously.

his wisdom was not, however, relegated to the bathroom.  he had other – far more helpful – life tips that still haunt me to this day.  like, “don’t cheat on your girlfriend unless the one your cheating with is better lookin’.”  helpful.  i think it’s good for adults to teach children how to fail at relationships before they are emotionally mature.  that way, when they figure out what’s going on they’ll be accustomed to being desperately alone and will know exactly which type of liquor best numbs the pain as they cry themselves to sleep at night.

but coach wasn’t always out there teaching us how to physically assault one another or become middle-aged misanthropes.  no, the gipper also taught us a thing or two about mental toughness.  and it is precisely this topic which we shall discuss today.

in climbing and in life mental toughness is short hand for “stop paying attention to how scary/painful/intense this moment is and keep going”.  it’s what gets children through wars, free soloists up hard multi-pitch routes, and, apparently, junior high football coaches through divorces two through five.  but sadly it is not something we can all simply call up.  nay.  mental fury is something that must be developed, cultivated, and honed.  like Luke on Dagobah, we must learn to stack stones before we can get our X-Wing out of the muck.

and we all know how to get our X-Wing out:

“try not.  do or do not.  there is no try.”

um.  ok.  but how?

1) fluid energy: this is a trick i learned a few years ago and tend to forget in 3 month bursts.  imagine your body is full of fluid ‘crush energy’.  when you are standing still this energy is distributed equally throughout your body.  and while this static state is useful for climbing a consistent overhung route, if you hit a crux section you’re gonna need some serious redistribution.  so, say you run into a hard 3 move problem.  what you need to do is ‘push’ the energy to where it’s needed most; from the right hand crimp, to the long extension, to the left hand snatch.  it’s not simply about focusing on the move at hand, but about the actual flow of energy; a sort of mental inertia if you will.

2) it’s all there: if you can hang on the holds and can reach between them, then you can climb the problem.  this helps tons in generating some confidence to get you past a mental block on sending.  don’t be intimidated by the grade, the history, or the fact that your strongmo friend can’t do it..  just know you can do it and then follow through.

3) breeeeeaaaatttthhhheeee: i apparently fail at this.  not only is it good for your muscles, but it keeps you calm as well.

4) calm in the clutch: if you’re way above your gear or way above the pads, the last thing you want to do is panic.  i’m sure you’ve read/heard this a thousand times, but if the fall is okay and the pro is good then you just need to breathe and focus on the climbing.  seriously, it works….. unless you fall.

of course, the best way to avoid mental failure is to avoid climbing at all.  just make awesome excuses; and trust me – there are a ton of them.

done.  thanks for reading.





4 responses

9 03 2009
peter beal

Fluid energy, public bathrooms, “do or do not”, breeeeaaathe? Are there some other issues or anxieties not being dealt with here?

9 03 2009

you forgot “and we all know how to get our x-wing out”.

10 03 2009

As per usual, an awesome read, i shall apply on my crushing from thereon and will make sure those X wings are out and no one’s watching (i might be confused with the peeing/talking part).
Thanks anyhow, keep it up (the good work, not that other aforementioned thing, though you might want to, but that s certainly none of my business)

13 03 2009

nice. thanks.

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