On the 5th we talked about the value of climbing and the how it is ignored in most movement disciplines especially the climbing of trees which seems to be a universal part of childrens play where trees are available. Today challenge is going to be climbing but I wanted to share some more observations about climbing I have noticed anecdotally that having had access to climbing trees as a kid is big correlate of movement ability.
WhenI first started coaching gymnastics I noticed a trend that kids who could do pull ups often talked about climbing trees and I started asking any kid who could do a pull up if they had a tree to climb that answer was always yes. I was not yet a good enough scientist to ask the kids who couldn’t do pull ups about their tree climbing experience so can’t say for sure which direction the causality ran. I suspect though that the trees were the cause of pulling strength, that gymnastics program was in rural area with lots of trees, about 40 percent of the kids who came in could do a pull up on day one, on rare occasions we had kids who showed up that could do muscle ups on their first day, children as young as 6 years old.
When I moved to Seattle and started the parkour visions teaching program I was shocked that less then 10 percent of the kids who came into the program could do pull ups on the first day and in the 5 years I taught at parkour visions we never had kid who could do a muscle up on day one. My speculation is that this is due to far lower amount of free play time the kids in the city are getting and the diminished access to trees and woodlands.
Another example of the benefits of early exposure to tree climbing is Justin Sweeney. Justin was one of my first adult students in the Parkour Visions program and has gone on to become one of the most successful speed competitors in the parkour world. He never played team sports or was successful in athletics as a kid what he did do was climb trees allot. When I first started training him, while he was one of the more talented students in the class but he wasn’t one of the students who shock you with their abilities. At least not until the first time we climbed trees together and he effortlessly jumped gaps between trees, thirty feet of the ground. Justin has developed many top level abilities in parkour since then, but one area he had early on, where he has continued to stand out is his ability to sequence climbing challenges and move quickly up vertical environments. For inspiration check out his highlights from the 2012
Lately I have been exploring ways to find more challenging routes in climbing trees, borrowing ideas from the rock climbing world in this video you see a couple challenges I set in a series of rhodendron trees where I could only use specific hand and foot holds and similar challenge using cracks and knobs in cedar tree trunk plus a bonus of the last of 5 attempts an new course we created tuesday.
Today challenges is once again find some climbing in the environment around you and don’t just climb, find ways to create challenges in your climbing.