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February 03, 2017

Coaching. Climbing. Grappling?

Coaching. Climbing. Grappling?

Coaching. Climbing. Grappling?

11.35 am. I’m parked outside Straight Blast Gym on the Naas road. Only a hermit would be unaware of standards of excellence that have been achieved inside its walls. I’m a little nervous. I’m unsure what to expect in terms of the atmosphere inside. Will it be cliquey or insular? Overly macho perhaps?

11.40 am. I’m not here to take up MMA or try to get fitter. Albeit if I were, then this would be the place I would do it. I’m immediately impressed. Its an amazing facility and I cant get over how big the octagon is in real life. I cant imagine it feels as big when the gate closes and you’re inside.

My friend Cian coaches grappling at SBG and Ive asked can I drop by and observe him coaching. I’m constantly trying to improve as a coach myself. To find new ways to teach or relay a point, or see how others manage groups.

I’m constantly trying to improve my own climbing standard too. It goes without saying that being able to refine and hone skills personally is crucial in being able to relay those skills to others. But it also goes without saying that just being proficient at something doesn’t make you a  good coach.

11.55 am. I cant remember why I felt nerves outside. The signs say it and atmosphere portrays it, there are no egos in here. The welcome is warm and the people I meet are friendly. The underlying mood is one of calm, not aggression and I’m looking forward to watching the session.

12.00 pm. I’m wearing a pair of borrowed shorts and warming up alongside the others in the session. Cian has decided immersion is the best training and I should just get amongst it. He didn’t have to offer twice. The curious side of me is dying to try it out. The cautious side not so.

1.10 pm. Where has the time gone? I’m buzzing with energy and immediately see how grappling or Jiu Jitsu could become addictive. The coaching has been superb. Complicated movement patterns are broken down and Ive had plenty of chances to practice.

The parallels to climbing are many. They are both so deeply rooted in efficient and subtle movements skills, they could be siblings in sport. Yes, strength might help, but power without precision is useless. There’s all ages, genders and body sizes here and its obvious that skill outweighs all.

The physical workout alone is unreal and I can feel all-ready tomorrow is going to be a sore legs day. But its in the movement skills that my mind feels both muddled and sharpened. Ive struggled to execute a lot of the moves with fluidity, attempting to work them out in the static fashion that my mind is used to using. Just like climbing however, the answer isn’t always static. Speed and momentum can be as effective.

The precision of movement and the subtlety of body weight distribution for grappling would understandably take years to master. If I didn’t all ready have a passion in life, I’m pretty sure I’d have found a new one today.

Did today make me a better climber? probably not. Will it make me a better coach. Definitely yes. Ive learned some new tricks and tips for coaching. But most importantly its reminded me as a coach to always have empathy for those you’re teaching. Its good to be in the beginners role again. Feeling like a rookie and lowest on the food chain.

Empathy was shown to me, by the coach and by the others in the session. To learn well, its crucially important to have a positive learning environment. There are so many aspects to learning and assimilation, its often easy to forget some of the most basic.


Coaching. Climbing. Grappling?

Coaching. Climbing. Grappling?

Coaching. Climbing. Grappling?

Coaching. Climbing. Grappling. Coaching. Climbing. Grappling. Coaching. Climbing. Grappling. Coaching. Climbing. Grappling.