Five-Twelve in Five Months

Have you done any other sports besides climbing?

I’ve always been a pretty active person.

I was into sports, but not too much into the conventional sports, like rugby. I did breakdancing in university, and before university I was doing kung fu, although I wasn’t doing kung fu as seriously as breakdancing or climbing

Where you pretty decent at sports as a kid?

Until I hit 13 or 14 which is why I started trying these other sports. I used to be quite fast in primary school with running and stuff. – obviously good for rugby. However as soon as I graduated from primary school to secondary school, I went from being the big person in the small pond, to being a much smaller person in a massive pond.

Watching you climb you’re quite dynamic. It seems you have good power, a good percentage of fast twitch muscles.

You definitely need fast twitch muscles in breakdancing because you do a lot of power moves, like freezes, where you have to catch your entire bodyweight while moving, into a static position, so that requires some contact strength, some power. And sometimes you go from a static position to moving, which is very similar to launching yourself during a dynamic move in climbing.

Do you think there was good transfer from breakdancing to climbing?

We know what its like to spend months on a project. The moves in breakdancing are just really hard. right. some of them take you months to learn. Understanding that you’re still improving and getting there bit by bit is super important.

Jeff yoy

photo – 莊錦棟

You grow to enjoy the process of learning each move and linking it together . Even a handstand, right. No one goes from not being able to do anything, to doing a handstand. It’s a very coordinated move, so you break it down into parts.

First you might do some basic strength drills. Then you can practice against a door to gradually get your forearms used to the pressure of your bodyweight on your wrists and forearms, and shoulders. After you get used to that feeling,
you start to work on your core, because if you don’t keep that tension in your body, a handstand is ridiculously hard. Almost no one can do a handstand with their body flappin’ about. You start to learn body tension. And you’re STILL not doing a handstand. You’re still on the wall or something like that so you gradually kick off the wall, learn the body tension, learn to coordinate your fingers, balance, your shoulders as well, keeping everything tense, but then you might be tensing too much, you’re stiff as a board, so then you learn to relax, to breathe.

So you go through this process of stages and stages and once you get the basics you start pushing off the wall for 3 seconds, and 4 seconds, and once you’ve got like a 10 second handstand you can pretty much go for a minute. And once you can do it for a minute you can go for 10 minutes and then you can pretty much go as long as you want.

No one just goes into a handstand. but once you realize you can break down a handstand you can breakdown almost any move. If I fall on a route at the same spot, over and over again, I know it’s because of finger strength, shoulder strength, core tension, foot technique, whatever.

Instead of being like ‘Oh this route doesn’t really suit me”, I’ll work on that aspect instead of complaining about it.

If you can do similar level routes but you cant do this route because you’re not suited to it, then obviously, work on that part of your game, get your body suited to it.

When you’re at STONE bouldering gym what do you think you do differently than most of the people there?

I know a lot of people that are really passionate about climbing, but a lot of them get attached to a route when they can’t finish it.

They sit in front of the route staring it down and they’re not gonna move until they do this route, and they don’t think logically about how to conquer this route. They fall off and as soon as they get off the route they start trying the moves again without resting. Or they might give it another go in two minutes, even though they need to give their body five minutes or whatever.

jeffstone - jean

photo – Jean Huang

I think most of the time I give myself enough time to rest and think logically about what I need to do to take down this route. Like did I fall there because I wasn’t strong enough or because I wasn’t balanced, or because I didn’t use that foot hold correctly. I try and break down the moves and think maybe I should have done a different move there or something.

When it comes to breaking a route down, I think everyone knows they  need to do that kind of thing, it’s just about overcoming those emotions . It’s like when you have a problem, you’re not going to be able to think through the problem clearly, unless you’re clearheaded. I think everyone should get emotional and passionate because it will motivate you to climb better, but you need to know when you need to calm down, to  cut that kind of emotion off  and just look at it with cold hard logic and be like alright well, how do i accomplish this now.

I definitely learned a lot about this from poker – in poker you can lose hundreds of dollars in the blink of an eye.

So you played poker? Texas hold em?

Yeah, I played no-limit Texas hold em online, around 2008-2009 , I was in China for 2 months and played basically everyday. I think I was making 2 grand a month. I put in 300 and came out with 5 grand. Loads of money for me then but it just took too much time.

With poker you get these huge emotional swings and you even have a name for it – “Tilt” which is when you lose a lot of money — you’re tilting, not thinking clearly, and you’re not on your game anymore.

That happens all the time in climbing. When a route is really frustrating you – just  walk away man. Sometimes you’re not gonna be able o calm yourself down, you should just walk away.

I think that’s really important since if you do stick around, its gonna hurt your confidence. You’re just getting destroyed over and over again and you’re not getting past it. Its not helping you to stare it down and get emotional. Go do something else, calm down, and come back to it another day.

Thanks to Jeff Lau for the interview and Mai Todo, Yang Chu-Hao, Jean Huang, and JennyCoo Chen for the photos!


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