Friday, 27 February 2009
Learning Days 2 & 3 : Subtlety
Aside from the mighty gritstone, the UK has perhaps two favoured Laboratories Of Movement. Both in relatively grim urban locations, both focused on pure movement, both dear to the hearts of locals and bemusing to offcomers, both strict teachers in their own respective way. One is Pex Hill, and the other is Dumbarton. Having visited Dumby a few times now, I'm starting to understand it's occasional nickname "The Black Font". The setting - graffiti drenched estuary-side urban wasteland vs. soothing and welcoming dappled sandy forest - could scarcely be more different. And the climbing initially seems equally different: ugly, brutal, chaotic, raw. BUT once one starts pushing and progressing, there is a core similarity: that of the subtleties needed for success. Subtleties of hold usage, finger placement, body position, core tension. This was what I learnt recently...
Day 2, Lesson 2:
A little while ago I tried Slap Happy with a fair hope I could do it okay. Good conditions and a vaguely strong feeling. I got shut down totally, before I could even think about tickling the crux edge. Hmmm. Recently I came back to it and learnt... Learnt a lot for a two move problem that's pulling on obvious holds!! Learnt to crimp my left hand to get my right hand on the slimper in better control, learnt the exact placement for the right hand (forefinger nestling against a perhaps 1/4 mm seam for extra purchase....did I mention "subtle"??), learnt to dig my left toe in precisely, and most importantly, learnt to suck my body right into the wall and drag my right toe as part of the movement. Thus less of a slap and more of a glide, thus success.
Day 3, Lesson 3:
On the same day I got shut down by Slap Happy, I got similarly shut down by Mugsy, another classic testpiece. Again a deceptively simple problem: Jump for a sloper, heel on, grab an undercling, turn heel to toe, launch for jug. But if it's so simple, what does it feel so hard?? Apart from the usual Dumby brutality, of course ;). Well, the crucial position is before the launch, and I discovered it was full of contradictions and competing motions:
Right hand hold is on an angled sloper, either open-handed low down on the larger bit, half-crimped in the middle, or crimped on the smallest bit. Left hand hold is a good undercling that faces left and is keeping you on and keeping your weight left. So you need your left to pull you in and make the right hand work, but the left also pulls you downwards and then you need to release it to move. At the same time, your left foot is on a good ledge, and is good to try to squat onto to get your weight upwards but this pushes you off the right hand hold. And your right leg is under the roof, this keeps your weight in on the right hand sloper but also inhibits your upwards movement. Each limb has a role in the position but then a different role in the movement, and changing the role of one limb changes the roles of the others (usually from the role of "holding you on" to the role of "pinging off and dumping you on the mat" ;)).
I can't recall quite such a contrary problem, but again, a good learning experience: Learning the ideal position for the left foot to get squatted, learning again to suck my body into the rock, learning that that turned it from less of a full body lunge into a quick snake-like strike with my left hand, learning that with this method I needed my right hand crimped for locking security rather than open-handed for freedom of movement, learning about precision and speed rather than just power. Learning how to do it and then doing it...
Educate and execute...