Callum Nicklin blogging at TribeofC wrote recently on body awareness and what this means to him, I had discussed with Callum the idea of body awareness in relation to climbing many times and yet had never really considered what it really meant to me and how I would describe it to a group of students if or when the time came.
After reading his article it occurred to me that I did not agree 100% with Callum’s description of body awareness, I used to, but on reading and deliberating more I realised I was changing my opinion.
I have come to the conclusion that what I deemed to be mindfulness was closer to Callum’s, and perhaps many others, description of body awareness and vice versa.
For me, when I really wanted to describe and break down these terms while finding them similar I realised that they also had very different meanings, It also occurred to me that they each would have very different effects in relation to climbing. That got me thinking… Which one would I choose as the most important trait to have as a climber, mindfulness or body awareness.
Firstly it is important to define the 2 words.
What is Mindfulness in climbing.
Mindfulness is the ability to think totally about one subject or movement, throughout its entire range and action time. It is to think solely about the action you are taking while also (contradictorily) considering almost everything at once, the feel of the hold, the angle, the strength needed, how tired you are, how strong you will need to be and so on.
It is the ability to consider/feel/be aware of/become one with nothing outside of the climb and also everything inside of it and at every stage of every movement.
What is Body Awareness in climbing.
If true multitasking were possible Body Awareness would be it at the forefront. Body Awareness is to know where and when each of your body parts (in active use or not) is moving and moving to where. However it is not only to know where it is also know what they can be used for and if this will be a benefit you and when.
For climbing it obviously a great deal of experience for the climb itself is needed but also the ability to command the body to move effectively.
Body Awareness is your mind making 1000’s of checks a second to calculate where your body is and feeding back what is possible for the next move or set of moves.
An example of this in climbing would be to ‘flick’ or ‘dyno’ for a hold while taking note of your trailing foot to use or catch an arête at the same time as catching the hold with your hand.
Mindfulness vs Body Awareness
What Mindfulness achieves in climbing
Being mindful of ones climbing and body is to enjoy climbing in its purest format, that alone can be the change a climbers often negative attitude to a positive one, even if grade improvements are not seen immediately. Being mindful it slows you down, it allows you to breath, to take stock of your ability and allows you to notice a mistake either before they happen or as they are happening allowing you a much clearer picture of how to correct this on the next attempt.
By aiming to be mindful while climbing, nothing else, simply aiming to be mindful you cannot help but become it.
The benefits of Body Awareness in climbing
Being able to judge moves and situations as they arise in a incredible short space of time can guide you through some tricky situations and more often than not can become the difference between success and failure on a climb.
Making mistakes on a climb, finding yourself swinging from a hold or perhaps you enjoy climbing that way can work well, but it only works if you can bring it all together, bring the whole body into play all at once. Being able to know where you body/limbs are can decrease the difficulty of moves be reducing errors and over compensation of swinging limbs.
If I had to pick one
Unfortunately even during writing this post I still cannot decided on which trait I would rather have in my bag of tricks.
Mindfulness would allow me to enjoy my climbing and all the movements at any level for hopefully a long life span, while improving on or having a high level of body awareness would lead me to climb harder grades and in an easier way.
Maybe they are inseparable, maybe they are simply one, similar to mountains and valleys, troughs and peaks or dare I say yin and yang.