Climb Like an Animal

Takuan Soho, a 16th Century master, gave this advice to a young samurai:

“Try not to localize the mind anywhere, but let it fill up the whole body, let it flow throughout the totality of your being. When this happens you use the hands where they are needed, you use the legs where they are needed, and no time or energy will go to waste.”

I thought this quote was quite descriptive of what it feels like to climb well: whether that’s flowing up an onsight or flowing up a redpoint. That moment of flow and perfection, when you are not thinking. You are climbing instinctively, with full focus and commitment, and no hesitation. You climb like a wild animal.

The quote is descriptive of that awesome moment … But it is not prescriptive of how to attain it. In my experience, these moments are rare. I might have only entered this heightened animalistic state a handful of times on the rock. Most of the time, I feel heavy and burdened both by my body’s weight, and the weight of heavy thoughts: over-thinking; not present; doubting.

That said, I do know that these heightened moments of flow aren’t just random gifts from the universe. They come to us after periods of intense and purposeful practice. Whether that means projecting a route, and actually wanting very badly to send it. Or even periods of training through the long winter. The experience of entering this heightened abstract state, and feeling like a weightless animal on the rock, is the real reward waiting at the end this cycle of suffering.


About The Photo

Daily Stoke Caption: Joe Kinder. Acephale. Bow Valley. Canada.

Photo by: Keith Ladzinski of 3 Strings Productions

Joe Kinder

  • Daniel B.

    Do elite climbers experience this state more often? Have they found a more reliable way into it and are they climbing better because of it? Or are they experiencing it more often because they climb better? What do you think?

    • That’s a good question, and if I had to make an educated guess, I would say that, yes, they do … And the reason why is already found in the article itself: because they practice so much more. The most elite climbers are also the ones who climb the most, practice the most, and have the most desire to improve. The result of that hard work is more moments of flow