18 June 2009

The Sharma scream

It’s funny how quickly and readily fashions spread through climbing. Lycra, slang terms like ‘Send it dude!’ and... 


Screaming.


In the eighties, when the French really were the kings of ‘French Style’ climbing, as sport climbing was then known, their ideal was to climb like a ballet dancer, with effortless panache in the movements, a totally straight face and not a sound coming from your lips. 


Now, thanks to films such as the Dosage series, the fashion tends to be to slap your way up that granite boulder like a wild animal screaming at the top of your voice.


The obvious question is, which is best (for performance, not looking cool). The answer comes in two parts. Firstly, somewhere in between is best. Secondly, where you should be on the continuum between straight faced ballet dancer and screaming bull terrier depends largely on who you are.


Chris Sharma, being the most famous (and possibly loudest) exponent of the psyche scream has made screaming while climbing a talking point, and I’m sure, more fashionable. He does it, so it must be good, right? Well, listen to Chris talking off the rock, and you’ll see he is a pretty chilled out type of guy. When asked about his screaming, he says it helps him raise the necessary level of aggression to unleash his full power on the holds. 


When I observe others taking up this deliberately aggressive climbing style, it sometimes has poor results - poor timing, overly basic movements, not much weight on the feet and inefficient use of energy on a route/problem.


What’s going on here? In a nutshell, for those who are inherently calm and make clear, calculated and efficient movement decisions in their climbing, some extra psyching up can help them get more out of their physical capability, but just on the hardest moves. In other words, in small doses.


For those who can very easily deliver a lot of focused aggression in their climbing, more psyching will yield little more power output but incur a big drop in efficiency of movement.


The great skill of climbing is to be able to switch from moment to moment between screaming to get maximum power on a very powerful, but technically basic move, and calm focus the next instant to perfectly aim for a tiny foot of handhold.


The climber that most influenced me was Fred Nicole with a quote (from memory of a magazine article) that “it’s not so much the level of strength but the timing of it” Fred went on to explain that the climber that could use is strength at the exactly correct moment would be the best.

11 comments:

nick said...

someone asked him about it at the manchester talk of his that I went to. His reply was great - a real zen-esque response. Typically though, I can't remember it exactly. However, it was something along the lines of if you are going to scream you are better off doing it before you come off when it might actually help than doing after the event when it will do nothing. Would be great if someone can remember what he actually said!

Anonymous said...

Usually, when I scream, i do it to shut up the the doubts in my head.

The feet are on smears and you are setting up for a long reach from already bad holds to something worse. Your head is telling you "the next hold is too bad it wont hold", "my feet will pop off, i get ready to jump", "i am so pumped. It is impossible to go on, even if i get the next one" ...

... then I scream. To be louder than my doubts, filling my senses with white noise and just let my body do it.

Dave Redpath said...

I'd second that comment, for me talking/screaming or whatever seems to break the connection between sub/self concious and helps to let go of nerves/negativity. How many times have you hung below that crux 'thinking' - come on this time; whats for tea; f&^king belayer is making a sandwich...

Anonymous said...

At first, I swung wildly and with abandon, often missing or careening even bending them. Practice made for huge powerful strikes, very many nails driven. After many years, now as bad joints in hands severely limit how many I can drive, I hit very hard, very slowly, never miss, each one is artfully driven. My son says that I've mastered Zen nailing. Confidence comes from self-knowledge, and much practice, then attitude rules the day, confident that even when you screw up that you'll be creative and aware enough to prevail.

ポテト said...

ポテトと人参と人参と、ポテトを作れば出来上がり。会員証です。よろしくおねがいしますです。本日は北あかりがあるのでその内ポテトサラダというところです。

kt said...

Cool that you used that Fred Nicole quote. I have a document in which I collect quotes that relate to climbing and training, and I'd plucked that one as well. Here's what I have for it, "Absolute strength is less important than the ability to unleash your strength at the right time." --Nicole, Climbing magazine Feb 2001

Other favorites:

“If you can pull on the holds you have and get to the next one,
do it.” --Scott Milton, Gripped August 2000

"I don't boulder" --Maurizio "Manolo" Zanolla after sending Bimbaluna 9a/9a+ for his 50th birthday, PlanetMountain.com Jan 22 2008

"With every grade higher you get, it becomes clearer that you are only limited by your desire to see if you can go further." --Dave MacLeod, blog Feb 09 2007

"There are no secrets to becoming strong. It's all about hard work. Beer and women will be the ruin of you." --Ben Moon, FreakClimbing.com, Nov 28 2004

"I don’t like the cave. There aren’t any toys in here." --Kid's birthday party guest at my local climbing gym, July 2006

Anonymous said...

I've taken it to the next level in my own climbing - with scientific proof for beating the burn.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/jul/12/swearing-pain-scientific-research-keele
Don't hold back.
Andy Sharpe

Anonymous said...

@kt
Great quotes! Especially that last one :o)

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