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The new tome on climbing by German legend Udo Neumann raises some interesting questions on training for climbing. Not so much in its content but in its delivery.
You see there are a large number of climbers out there looking for a proscriptive training book that steps them through the process of improvement in micro managed steps. In a way they are looking for somebody else to do the thinking for them, to structure their progression as a climber and possibly even to pass on the blame to if their training fails to raise them to the lofty heights of achievement they envisage.
Udo isn’t looking to give you this in a book. Instead through his new book The Art & Science Of Bouldering he is inviting you to understand the processes involved in a climbers personal evolution as an athlete. For surely having a comprehensive understanding of the principals of climbing advancement will be equip any climber to make educated choices about their own progression.
Please note this is not knocking the other style of training books, the simple truth is people learn in different fashions so as they progress in climbing and for a lot of climbers this free thinking, free flowing style of book will be a godsend!
From the first pages of this mammoth ebook Udo’s unique presentation style and personality shine through. Visually very strong the content drags you from page to page stimulating your mind though a choice selection of photos taken over the many years of Udo’s career. The photography is excellent and visually dynamic with great frame by frame breakdowns of movement and positioning taken from video stills mixed with standalone shots that reinforce the story. Indeed seeing many of today’s top climbers in their younger years gives an interesting insight into the physiological changes they have gone through on their journey to where they are today.
For some Udo’s presentation style may come across as too “loud” with lots happening on many of the pages. The trick for me is not to try and read each page like you would a traditional book but instead to let your eyes flow over the content and allow the context to dictate the flow. Indeed in some ways, and definitely supported by its interactive format, this book is more like a super PowerPoint presentation than a traditional text. And Udo himself in the introduction advises that the book is not only designed to be read from cover to cover but can be picked up at any point to focus on specifics.
Going back to the interactive aspects of the book, on the attached photos you can see clearly the highlighted text sections. All of these will either skip you ahead to a section directly dealing with the highlighted subject or will take you to another resource be it website or video where you can see what is discussed covered in more detail.
Udo’s approach to The Art & Science is uniquely his own and it works fantastically in the digital medium. While some may shy from the €26 price tag it is worth noting that the content included in this ebook is the culmination of thousands of hours of work by Udo over more than 20 years as a top climbing coach and philosopher. As any of you who have read his interview in The Circuit will understand Udo pours his heart and soul into climbing and in particular bouldering. The quality of this publication reflects that dedication.
The Art & Science Of Bouldering may not make you a better climber, only you can do that, but it is an invaluable tool in your arsenal as the knowledge it imparts could and would take years and years to puzzle out if you were to go it alone.
The Art & Science Of Bouldering is available to purchase now at http://artofbouldering.com/ and remember if you want to learn more about Udo and his philosophies and to hear from some of his top athletes on the IFSC World Cup circuit there is a feature length interview with him in issue 1 of The Circuit, available now at http://www.thecircuitclimbing.com/Buy
German star Juliane Wurm has been tearing it up lately on her very successful trip to the USA.
After winning last weekend’s Hueco Rock Rodeo in Texas against a packed field including pros Mina Leslie-Wujastyk, Courtney Woods and Nina Williams, Jule is looking like one of the favorites when she makes a guest appearance at the ABS Nationals in Colorado Springs starting this Friday.
The event will be streamed live by the Louder Than 11 crew and features a stellar line up in both the Womens and Mens fields. Check the trailer here for streaming details.
Dedicating herself to full time climbing for a several months by taking a semesters break from her studies is paying dividends for Jule. Click on the link below to read a short interview from The Circuit for an insight into what drives this talented athlete.
The Circuit Climbing Magazine Jule
The Circuit is available to order on-line now from The Circuit website and will be available climbing gyms very shortly!
So sometimes you are working hard, making inroads on a huge project then you just get blindsided by life.
This blog was supposed to be a regularly updated ‘Making Of’ for the first issue of The Circuit but as life has gotten progressively more topsy turvy and intense the last few months something had to fall by the wayside and blogging was it.
I guess it stands to reason that when you are transcribing then editing down over 40,000 words of interviews, recreational writing is low on the list of priorities. Normally however I do enjoy pontificating on subjects, making people think about topical issues, and occasionally just baiting the trolls. You see this sort of fluid, off the cuff writing is so different to interviewing that it’s almost like taking a break… Almost.
So here I am again to discuss The Circuit, to talk about where we’re up to and what has caused so many of the delays that led to the blog being shunted to the periphery.
The good news is that issue 1 is printed, it is bound and it is to the best of my knowledge waiting to be freighted to the corners of the globe where I have worked hard to establish a team able to post the magazine out to purchasers. Working out postage and distribution turned out to be the single most difficult element of the whole process as I wanted to keep the magazine affordable yet living down here in Australia I was quoted $14 per copy to send it to purchasers around the world… Needless to say, that couldn’t happen! The solution has been to ship the magazine in bulk from the printers to separate hubs where orders can be mailed out at local rates. A logistical nightmare in some ways but a necessary evil to ensure worldwide retail of $20 AUD delivered. Of course now we are just waiting on the ships.
Apart from the logistics the other main factor delaying the release of the magazine was the fading health of my father. While in Europe this year following the World Cups I got the news my folks had left the secluded area they were living in and had travelled to Auckland (New Zealand). This was unusual as my parents had left the rat race years earlier to a semi-retirement looking after remote area camps in the New Zealand wilderness.
On the day of my return home from Europe I found out that my dad had pancreatic cancer and soon enough our worst fears were confirmed and we were told he had months to live. I worked my butt off to ensure that he got to see the magazine but in many ways the stress and emotion pulled me back and I had to go back and rewrite parts of the magazine several times to get them where I wanted them to be. That combined with time lost to trips to New Zealand to spend time with my father really started to put me on the back foot and there were times I questioned my ability to complete the Magazine at all.
It was during this time, indeed, the whole time I’ve been back from Europe that my friendship with the irrepressible John Ellison of Climbers Against Cancer (CAC) was cemented. In the midst of his own battle with cancer John was able to give me great insight into the battle he was facing which I could relate directly to that of my father. John was also an amazingly inspirational figure as how could I be considering giving up when someone in John’s position could do so much.
I talked at length with my father over the last months and we decided to donate $1 per copy sold to CAC to help in the battle against cancer. After all every little bit helps!
In late November I finally got the magazine finished and the proof back from the printers. I was able to get it to my father as soon as I had checked it for colour accuracy and he had the chance to read it in his final days.
At 6.20am on the 12th of December my father, Tony Fowke, passed from this earth. He was cremated that same day holding the magazine.
Now here we are a couple of weeks later, still deeply grieving but getting on with things, getting the word out about the magazine and getting ready for it’s release.
Pre-orders are doing well and the first customers should have it in their hands mid to late January. Unfortunately with the length of time it takes the ship to reach Europe and the UK they will be waiting for a bit longer than the rest of the world but everyone who pre-orders will get theirs well before the rest as we will be sending a few boxes by air to make sure their faith in pre-ordering is rewarded.
For all the hardship I’ve been through making this happen I still believe it’s been totally worth it. To bring a new magazine to the market based on the high performance climbers, the stars of the sport both in competition and on rock, is well overdue. 100% pure inspiration for both the aspiring superstars and the armchair supporters of the sport! (Pre-orders are still available at http://www.thecircuitclimbing.com/Buy)
Climbing competitions. On a good day with ideal conditions climbing competitions can feel great. As a competitor you can push and push, holding horrible holds that feel at the limit of friction and punching through move after move. In my years of competition few things felt as good as pulling down hard on a day with great conditions.
This weekend at the Australian Bouldering Nationals it was not a good day. With the mercury hovering over 30c the athletes had to battle conditions as much as they had to battle the problems. Clear signs of fatigue masked the climbers faces as they walked back into isolation, sweat shining on their arm’s and brows.
This however is part of competition. Short of holding all competitions in climate controlled halls athletes often have to deal with less than ideal conditions in competition. And in Australia this spring with unseasonably high temperatures hitting us week after week it was no surprise that nationals were held on a scorcher.
The Australian Bouldering Nationals are a highlight of the national calendar bringing in a field of crushers from around the nation. This year was no exception with World Cup athletes James Kassay and Thomas Farrell heading up the strong mens field and the likes of Andrea Hah and Kumari Barry making an appearance in the womans.
The competition itself was held in the rough neighborhood of Villawood in Sydney’s south west. I always joke that I need to put on my bullet proof vest and be prepared to have my car stolen when I venture down there and sadly on the weekend Villawood lived up to its reputation. The howls of police sirens hurtling down the road caught our attention and after counting 8 cars and a helicopter coming past we found out that a shop keeper had been shot dead just down the road from the venue. This was a stark reminder that we were very much on the wrong side of the tracks that Sydney is more than clear blue skies and sun warmed sandstone. Still I guess the real estate is cheap out there!
Qualifications at the Nationals started early with all the competitors having to complete 2 rounds of 4 problems. From these 8 problems a finals field of 6 men and 6 women would be chosen.
The mens qualifiers had a great selection of problems expertly set by Christian and Scotty from Villawood who put their knowledge of the walls and a great selection of holds to good use. The problems varied greatly in style and succeeded in splitting the field to give us a fairly expected finals line up. The omission of French visitor Edouard Guis was unfortunate as he had instinctively stabilised himself on the top of the wall with his left hand on men’s problem 5 as he caught the finish hold with his right. Several of the young strong climbers showed great promise but it was only Queenland’s Sam Bowman who really looked ready to crack the upper echelon.
In the Woman’s field it was a much closer affair with about 10 or 12 girls all capable of securing a finals berth on their day. The first big shock of the day was Sydney powerhouse Sheila Binegas missing a finals berth. The problems were predominantly reachy and this ended up costing Shiela who had to fly between holds to get up some problems. On the flip side a couple of the strong juniors put on a fantastic display with Sydney’s Sophie King easily making finals and backing up the form that’s seen her up V10 on Sydney bloc’s this year. Likewise Tasmania’s pocket rocket Roxy Perry climbed fantastically, just missing a finals berth but impressing all with her dynamic strength.
So the finals were set. The men’s field of James Kassay, Sam Bowman, Thomas Farrell, Callum Hyland, Daniel Fisher and Mitchell Breheny would be joined by some of Australia’s best female climbers with Andrea Hah, Kumari Barry, Sophie King, Emma Horan, Claire Langmore and Laelia Douglas-Brown all in the finals.
The finals were a fantastic show. A large crowd packed around the bouldering wall adding to the already warm atmosphere. Tightly packed they filled the area behind the mats and probably got more than a little annoyed at the paparazzi running around in front of them.
Sam Bowman got off to an impressive start being the only male to unlock the Men’s first problem while James and Thomas both got heartbreakingly close. Sam was looking super strong, would the two World Cup seasoned athletes be able to reel him in?
From the second problem the answer began to become clear, it was close comp and Sam was climbing superbly but James was displaying more resistance and used his skill set to succeed in the only top on the second problem in majestic style. Where Sam had come close and then fought and fought James just flipped his hand down and pressed out the move. One all to Sam and James with Thomas still looking strong in third.
The third problem was shut down central and only James was able to even reach the bonus. But even in control there was no way he could find a sequence through. Still it was looking good for the defending champion going into the last problem.
In the end all the acrobatics of the men’s fourth and final problem didn’t reflect in difficulty. James cruised to an imperious win with Sam coming an impressive second and Thomas solidly in third. So no change at the top of the ladder in domestic competition but young Sam has definitely positioned himself as a star of the future.
In the women’s field the first problem stumped all the competitors except Andrea. Laelia came closest of the rest of the pack but Ku and Sophie both had tough opening climbs with Sophie unable to even jump to the second hold that the taller competitors like Emma could just reach to.
The second problem was a long slabby traverse which proved easy takings for most of the girls, Claire started the send train and although several girls were unfortunately called back for unintentional dabs while flagging to close to the mats the problem ending up being the least challenging of the finals.
The third problem of the finals was a pumper. Arching out through the roof it wasn’t surprising that the two most successful lead climbers Ku and Andrea made easy work of the problem. The other girls all made solid progress but would finish their attempts slumped on the mats, arms blazing.
Going into the last problem it was all decided. Andrea had showed the way all comp and once again her class shone through with a dominant send of the problem that had been shutting down girl after girl. Ku had done enough to secure her second consecutive second place and young Sophie exceeded her own expectations with a superb third place in what proved to be, after Andrea, a very close competition.
In closing the Bouldering Nationals were once again a great success and a huge thank you has to go out to all the judges and officials but most importantly to Scotty and Christian who toiled through the night preparing routes for the competition and were completely wiped out on the day yet had to suck it up and push though another nights setting for the Junior classes and Masters the next day.
As Rock climbers you would’ve had to have lived under a rock for the last year not to see Climbers against Cancer, or CAC as it is more commonly known spring onto the climbing scene.
CAC tee shirts, hoodies and patches have invaded the internet in unprecedented numbers. Watch a world cup you’ll see it, watch your favorite climbers new clip on vimeo and chances are there it is again. Go to the climbing gym to escape the internet and guess what that girl sitting on the bench is wearing? That’s right, yet another CAC tee shirt!
So what is CAC and why the hype? CAC is the brain child of Englishman John Ellison. Last year John was told that, still in his 40’s, he had been diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer. Now I’m sure most of us at some stage have wondered what we would do if we were confronted with our own mortality? Indeed as climbers many of us have been in the position to confront that mortality, but always on our own terms, by our own choice.
John never got given that choice.
John had a teenaged daughter that was going to lose her father, he had friends all over the climbing world, he had lived his life as a popular well-known figure in the British climbing community. Yet now, in his hour of need he was told there was no cure, it was cancer, it was one of those things and “sorry Mr Ellison, there’s nothing we can do…”
So when confronted by his mortality John stepped up and chose to confront cancer, chose to make a difference. So it came to pass that Climbers against Cancer was born as a charity. The money raised through the charity is being donated directly to research facilities around the world. Every item purchased through CAC raising money to battle the insidious evil which is cancer.
John has worked tirelessly for the charity since it’s inception. Spreading the word about the fight against cancer, sharing the message that although it can be a death sentence cancer is not an excuse to stop living.
Many times I will get messages from John working on some initiative or another, up all hours of the night, unable to sleep from the pain and so carrying on working through it. Knowing I’m working on the magazine and that I’ll be wide awake on this side of the world John will drop me a message, checking how I’m going with the magazine and sharing new initiatives he’s involved in with CAC. One of those has just been announced and I’m here today spreading the word on behalf of CAC.
What people may not realise is that CAC is more than just John. One of the trustees is the young British climbing star Shauna Coxey. Shauna was asked by American Pro Alex Johnson if she would take part in a fun, 50’s pin up style photo shoot. Straight away Shauna was excited about the idea and thought about doing a calendar for CAC, something fresh and original that would get people’s attention.
Working with the photographer Caroline Treadway and the designer Ben Jones the CAC 2014 calendar is the realization of that vision. The result of many, many hours shooting some of the world’s top female climbers the CAC 2014 calendar reflects the beauty and diversity of the climbing culture. The athletes have come together from different countries, representing different sponsors yet all sharing a belief in CAC.
The CAC 2014 Calendar has been announced today and will be available to purchase soon. For more details click through to the CAC website and read about it there. Each of the 12 monthly photos is a work of art in its own right capturing the athletes as you’ve never seen them before.
A huge congratulations to Shauna, Alex, John and all the others who have poured so much of their time into bringing this project to where it is today. Fantastic work guys!
So it might seem to some that all gone quiet with the production of the circuit. The truth of the matter is quite the opposite, the last few weeks have been super busy and although primarily rewarding there has been some obstacles to overcome.
Starting with the good news I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon climbing with the German rising star Alex Megos. Already having photographed him in the Grampians I was excited to catch up and get his thoughts for the magazine. While he was in the Blue Mountains he took the opportunity to come down and sample Sydney bouldering which gave me the perfect opportunity to sit down and have a chat. Alex’s achievements in the sport over the last couple of years have really gotten the attention of the climbing community and seeing him in action all I can say is that he lives up to the hype. Chatting to him though you really get the feeling theres more on offer and I’m comfortable saying that along with Adam Ondra, Alex will rewrite our understanding of human potential in climbing.
Every generation there are a couple of climbers who push the boundaries of the possible and in both hard roped climbing and hard bouldering Alex and Adam are leading the way.
Also in the good news section is that I had the opportunity to sit down with the legendary Chris Sharma for an interview on his philosophies and his aspirations for the Psicobloc comp circuit he is so heavily involved with. Unfortunately there were a bunch of aspects of the Psicobloc comp he was unable to discuss but talking to him and seeing the enthusiasm light his face when he is outlining his plans you know something big is on the way.
Chris was in Australia at the invite of ICP and he gave slideshows in most of the main cities. It’s great to see the industry in Australia getting behind top level climbers and making them available like this, seeing the adoration and excitement it generated in the young climbers who managed to attend is extremely rewarding and if they take away that psyche and turn it into results the future of climbing here will be in good hands. A huge thanks needs to go out to the team at ICP who made this rare event (for Australia) happen.
On the flip side there have been some definite logistical hurdles that have risen up in front of us over the last few weeks. As we get closer to publication I’ve been working hard on finding a viable delivery method for people who purchase the magazine.
From the outset the goal has been to have a high quality, bi-annual magazine in print form that is collectible and will capture where the sport is at the top end currently. This means in the future subscribers and collectors will be able to look back at a snapshot in history, similar to when you pick up the iconic Heinz Zak book Rockstars which captures the sport in the mid 90’s and gives insight into the major players and their achievements and aspirations.
For those wondering we will make a softcopy pdf version available to all who purchase the magazine online as well so they can put it on tablets and laptops to have some portable psyche when the magazine is safely stored at home.
The hurdle that has risen in front of us is that of freight. Domestically the price is reasonable but to ship from Australia internationally costs more per unit than the magazine will retail for. Therefore we need to explore different distribution channels to ensure that the cost of postage doesn’t overwhelm the magazine. At this stage we are looking at freighting stock to the U.K and U.S as well as Australia to distribute but there are still logistical barriers doing things that way. If anyone reading this has a background in freight or publishing and has any advice drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This issue may delay the release of the first issue but not by much, we were initially hoping to go to print in September but it is now delayed till October for other reasons and the distribution is just another bugbear.
Some hurdles are to be expected when working on a project of this magnitude and the end result will be worth all the frustration of getting the magazine out, now it’s just a case of chasing up loose ends to get everything together for issue 1!
Second in the series of interview excerpts is this segment of The Circuit’s interview with German Coach Udo Neumann. Here at The Circuit we are flat chat getting the first issue lay out completed and all the content balanced out. This is just a short excerpt from the full length interview appearing in the magazine.
In any sport there are figures who stand out from the crowd. They are the people who, knowingly or not, molded the sport into what it is today. Often the most recognized of these are the athletes, the Tony Hawk’s, the Matt Hoffman’s, the Kelly Slater’s of the sporting world. Innovators and shapers they are recognized for the progression they bring to their respective sports.
Those who follow sport (like anyone reading this book) will know that behind the scenes there are also figures who stand out from the crowd, their legacies decided not but their own victories or accomplishments but by those of the sports people they work with. In running there was the legendary coach Arthur Lydiard whose philosophy on middle distance running revolutionized training for the sport. In Formula 1 it was the designer and team owner Colin Chapman who’s mid-engined car designs, using the engine as a structural element changed the sport forever, signaling the end to the front engined roadsters of the 50’s and early 60’s.
Climbing has its own visionaries who have pushed the sport over the years, from Wolfgang Gullich and Jerry Moffat in sport climbing to Lynn Hill with her visionary free ascent of the Nose in Yosemite. But behind the scenes there had been visionaries as well. One of the true visionaries of climbing for over 20 years now is the German Udo Neumann. Now the German team manager, Udo has been climbing since the early 80’s and has always been a passionate advocate of the sports progression. 20 years ago this year Udo and Dale Goddard published Performance Rock Climbing, considered the bible of climbing training manuals. Copies of it will be found on the shelves of the vast majority of today’s top climbers.
Sitting down to discuss the evolution of competition climbing with Udo the first thing you notice is his enthusiasm and energy. Under a shaggy mop of greying hair his eyes dart to and fro, following the antics of the German Bouldering team who are in the playground behind us, traversing trees and pulling stunts off the swings. He is very much the mad scientist of the climbing world, fast talking and full of ideas and opinions. It is clear that he is an observational genius, taking in what is happening around him and analyzing the performance of his athletes even on a playground swing. Indeed at one point he interrupts the flow of the interview to point out to me the difference between the swinging skills of the German athletes versus that of the support staff. Truly a unique talent.
Udo and I were discussing the ideal body type for climbing and quickly the conversation evolved into a discussion on the evolution of movement and the changes in the application of force that have occurred over the last 20 years. As well as a discussion about the crossover of talents from other sports and what coaches need to be looking for.
As Udo talks as much with his hands as his words I have included bracketed sections on his body language as often the descriptiveness of this completed his sentences.
So Udo, how important is body type in climbing today? I mean if you look at Jonas Baumann and Jan Hojer theres a huge difference in physique.
If Jonas would be 90kg like myself, he would still be the better climber. And the main reason is now days, especially in bouldering, flexibility is so important, and Jonas mind just goes into any position and this is important for all. This is a fairly new development that we didn’t see coming 10 years ago. For example it is not at all in Performance Rock Climbing as flexibility only legs, as it used to be. The frog position, Patrick Edlinger and so on.
Now days, especially since the volumes, you know you have to be able to apply force to the wall in super weird body positions. So you’ve got this (Udo starts mimicking moves), and over cross compression moves and so on, but those guys like Jonas, they can bring their body into positions that I can’t, and I can’t apply force like they do.
So you think it’s not just the strength then, it’s the flexibility that allows them to apply the strength.
Yeah yeah, absolutely, absolutely. I mean it’s obvious if you pull over roofs that we always knew this. If you see how their spine makes an S and so on and you know we couldn’t go into those positions to save our lives!
So you manage the German team, when you are looking at young climbers, do you look for the same things that you did 10 years ago? If you meet a young climber…
No, no no no. We still, even in the alpine club that pays my bills, we still have a controversy on how to look for talent. And it is still, as we are talking, an ongoing process because I was very unhappy how the youth, we have separate youth coaches, and they really know a lot about climber and climbing, but how they did the selection for the team I was pretty unhappy with.
You know we really have to do things a different way because they really cared a lot about force and physical factors where I would place much more emphasis the coordination and also flexibility… And also of injuries, a history of injuries is very important. You know and in the future we want to deal much more with recognising talent for climbing and what is a talent you know? What should be there with 8 years, what should be there with 10 years you know?
So like what they are looking for in Gymnasts from a young age?
Yeah, (Talking about gymnasts) I would’ve thought that gymnasts would do much better in climbing but now days I think they are missing a certain… You see that they’re too rigid and that is their understanding of body tension… If you look at the very good climbers you don’t see the body tension because the body tension just switches on very briefly and only for the muscles that are absolutely needed. For example look at a gymnast playing basketball you know, they’d look so ridiculous. Just the way they bounce the ball…
It’s always there, body tension is their second nature and I think you can not afford this in climbing, so I’m very interested how well it really goes for them. At the beginning we all had this idea, he’s a ballet dancer, or she’s a ballet dancer, look at what positions she can go she must be such a good climber but then she also has this thing of beauty and looking weightless so deeply ingrained in all her moves that she can not do moves that are ugly, you know and things like this (mimics compression move).
This is what makes performance sport such an interesting field, the transfer is not the way you would expect it. It’s much more subtle.
And you’ve got junior coaches that are still touting the power, the force and things like that?
Yeah they did that for this time but also we need to establish some qualities, what do you call it? We don’t need to look only at quantity. Of course the things that you can count are easily measured but there are things that you have to perceive or that you just see…
So it’s very easy to have a tick list but you need to look beyond the tick list.
Exactly. And for that you need to have a really good eye for the activity and then in every country there are not so many people that can really do the job… Without sounding (shrugs) … But if you really look at all the people that hang out at all the World Cups they know lots about climbing, obviously enough. But if you talk to people that think they know shitloads about climbing but don’t have this experience (Udo shakes his head dismissively)… You need to look at World class climbers on a daily basis basically to know what they’re capable of, and these people are hard to find.