On the future directions for more rock climbers and less ninjas warriors in climbing competitions – a direct comment to Udo Neumann’s “Bouldering Competitions Today” [Work in progress]

11 04 2018

Source: https://www.innsbruck2018.com/en/detail/artikel/udo-neumann-bouldering-competitions-today.html , (04/10/2018)

U.N. -“The major rule change for 2018 is that the number of zones (prev. “bonus”) is now more important than the number of attempts for Tops. This rule change had no influence on the podium for either men or women at this event.”

R.F.B. – This will probably benefit more the strongest athletes (who can do more hard moves), than the better or luckier climbers (who can find a successful beta more quickly). I’m not sure how I stand here! But maybe this new concept is closer to what boulder is all about, i.e. doing really hard moves and will be more understandable for the viewers.

U.N. – “The spectators enjoyed an exciting and fair bouldering competition. Fair because of many volumes, where every athlete could find their own best position. Unfair “morpho” situations have largely disappeared. Exciting because of the many different wall angles and the accordingly diverse physical, and more importantly, intellectual challenges.”

R.F.B. – First the author recognizes, indirectly, that competitions can be unfair and second he praises the ‘intellectual challenge’ component. As I see it now, we have two ways to go further in the right direction. One is to have height categories and a second (concomitant or not) is to explicitly have more options, of comparable difficulty (e.g. more holds) that make on-sighting boulders a key component for success. Imagine 3 possible betas, simultaneously set in the same wall, from which climbers have to find one that fits them. This would be even more fair and more pleasant for the viewers, since it is more likely to provide variety in the “same” bloc! I don’t know about you, but my favorite moments in viewing climbing are not when someone is the first to do a jump, but rather when one is able to find a different beta, that no one else saw (i.e. intellectual challenge).

U.N. – Several times, the routesetters managed to create problems that required moves outside some of the athletes’ repertoire, resulting in confusion that could either not be resolved, or only after numerous tries. The requirements in regards to mental and physical quickness have had an impact on the typical body type as well: athletic and strong athletes have largely replaced the more emaciated type. This is a very positive development for Bouldering!

R.F.B. – Regarding the confusion of unseen solutions, specially those which lead climbers to just stare at the boulders without actually trying to climb them, I don’t see how this is positive development. More options, like suggested above, are a better bet to have greater display of intellectual and physical diversity within the time constrains of a climbing competition. The fact that the author appears to value more athletic than climbing bodies… It is just probably a personal preference, but if it leads to purposely routesetted boulders… this can make rock climbers increasingly more apart from bouldering. That is, depending on the route setting dominant style, almost any specific type of body may be the ultimate body for competitions. However, this does not change the fact that more athletic bodies usually struggle more on rock climbing than more emaciated types.

U.N. –  As the distance between contact points increases, risk assessment and complex coordination of movement become more important. All of our relatives (i.e. all monkeys) use combinations of running and jumping to reach the next contact point. Jumps of gibbons are light years ahead of what we are capable of!  From an evolutionary point of view, combinations of running and jumping were always a requirement to be able to climb. I view combinations of running and jumping in bouldering as something natural, as the obviously optimal method to cross large distances between contact points!

R.F.B. – Others things are natural and these do not need to be included in a bouldering competition. Are we claiming territory from our rival specimens, the Parkour athletes? About these individuals, in Wikipedia one can read “Practitioners aim to get from one point to another in a complex environment, without assistive equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible”. We should strive for identity, we should like that the best rock climbers want to participate and/or watch climbing competitions! Rather than discarding rock climbers in the greater interest of reaching a population of viewers that is becoming interested in ninja warrior type of competitions. As a rock climber I get interested about rock faces and climbing these rock faces! Not because of an unconscious evolutionary need to go from the ground to the top, but because I like to imagine myself there, in the middle of the rock face. In fact it is not very common that the most efficient way to get to the top of the rock face is by climbing that route! We are not monkeys (any more)! Monkeys don’t crimp! Rock climbing is a specialization of movement in the context of rocks (all of which are three dimensional, although some more than others), higher order reasons such as intellectual stimulation and aesthetics are key here! Let us not try no capture all movement and all climbing, lets just stay rock climbers who also like to display/watch these skills in competitive events!

[Work in progress] [leave any comments and, if I can, I will incorporate them as I go]

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