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  #1  
Unread 05-18-2011, 12:43 AM
blacklotus blacklotus is offline
Jiri Jammer
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
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bouldering & climbing culture in Korea

I have noticed that most climbers in Korea train by route climbing on horizontally long, but vertically short walls. Doing what we in English sometimes call circuit training. Only the routes are maybe longer than a typical endurance circuit, with some including 40 - 50 hand movements. So they are more like simulation of a relatively long route.

I have also noticed that Korean climbers tend to have outstanding endurance and efficiency of movement, but comparatively less power (which is no surprise, given the usual mode of training).

I mostly practice bouldering, since it's essential to training, and also since I've historically found most enjoyment in climbing sequences that are powerful and technical. Despite the tendency here to train on longer routes, when I vist a Korean gym and mention bouldering, everyone seems eager to practice it.

So I'm unsure why route (esp. sport) climbing seems to have such greater popularity here. Any ideas?
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  #2  
Unread 05-18-2011, 01:21 PM
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skinsk skinsk is offline
peace
 
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I think a lot of the training has to do with available space. While large showcase gyms have sprung up in recent years, and outdoor walls (with very steep surfaces!) have popped up everywhere, most gyms are doing their best to efficiently use a one-story room (especially the more rural gyms). Gyms generally depend on fees from a relatively small group of climbers to cover their operational costs.

Sport climbing has ruled here since the early 1990s, with the development of Seonunsan, Kanhyeon, Munsusan . . . and steep, overhanging routes are what Koreans were drawn to on the weekends. Gyms for training made the best use of what they had, space-wise. As the X-games and international comps moved towards a bouldering focus, this has been reinforced (10-15 years ago, bouldering comps were unheard of here!)

I'd guess the 50 move circuits are just the best way to train for endurance, as you've mentioned-- but the moves often require tremendous power. When I watch Koreans climb, I am awed by their power (and forearms!!)-- so I'd disagree there. I think it kinda helps them make up for shorter stature and limbs then westerners in general. Note the campus boards and weights in many gyms.

Korean climbers are big into training, as you've noticed. I've definitely seen changes over the last decade+ (like outdoor bouldering-- though this is still largely developed by foreigners-- and the aforementioned showcase gyms, and even the explosion in public and private artificial walls-- much of which can be attibuted to the doubling of per-capita income at this time, and the explosion in sport-climbing in general among the population).

Another "answer" to your last question can maybe be found in the longer history of mountain climbing in Korea. This is a mountain culture-- one needs only to look to traditional art and legends. The Korean Alpine Federation is a powerful entity with political roots. Koreans have been mountaineering since "Hermit Kingdom" times and trad routes here date back to the '50s and '60s. They have all this rock, so why not use it? Like in the USA and Europe, sport climbing grew from traditions of mountaineering and trad climbing! And bouldering is certainly on it's way! (When I started climbing in the 1980s, there was "no such thing" as bouldering . . . and very little sport so to speak! And that was in America!)
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  #3  
Unread 05-18-2011, 01:40 PM
danger danger is offline
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blacklotus i totally agree. There is rarely such a thing as the 5-10 move highly technical boulder problems that are becoming in american gyms.

I started out bouldering in gyms in america and when I got here I could barely do any of the sport climbing routes. After climbing the long routes in the gyms here over the winter I've improved my endurance but lost some power and technical ability.

There's been an explosion in bouldering's popularity in the US the last few years. I was in New York City climbing at Brooklyn Boulders before i came here and some absolutely sick stuff was being done by relatively new climbers there.

Some of the gyms are starting to do bouldering routes though, ask around and your gym may have some. I goto Seojunguk in Dangsan and they got some decent bouldering routes going on there, as well as some very hard sport routes to pump you up.
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  #4  
Unread 05-20-2011, 12:14 AM
blacklotus blacklotus is offline
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skinsk: I think you're right about the mountain culture in Korea. Rock climbing historically developed (in practically everywhere with mountains) as an offshoot of mountain walking, or as most people say nowadays, hiking. Bouldering (for its own sake) developed prior to the emergence of indoor, commercial gyms. But like you suggest, the emergence of commercial gyms in metropolitan areas (especially in the US) has been a massive impetus for the discipline.

I personally took up bouldering because a) I had a hard time trusting belayers, and b) I began climbing in Missouri, where the rocks are short and the gyms are like those in Korea (small bouldering rooms).

---

I'm not going to move into a discussion purely on optimal ways of training, but the indoor bouldering routes here are particularly long to me. On rope I'm used to performing 15 - 30 hand movements. Here, a 50-move route with open feet seems ordinary for training.

I think you misinterpreted my statement about ability for power moves. Comparatively, I meant. That brings me to the second point...

danger: Over the course of my move here I only got to climb (boulder indoors) about 6 times in four weeks. I lost a lot of fitness, especially endurance. In Korea I've only managed to train 2 - 3 days a week, compared to my usual 4 - 5 days.

When I get on one of these 40+ move endurance routes, the muscles fail on an overhanging 5.11 after about 40 moves. I see a Korean woman 20 years my senior smoothly redpoint the route, all 50 moves. No it wasn't a flash, but still I've never seen any display like that in the US.

After almost succeeding to redpoint a 5.12- (?) but failing, I take a rest and then explain that I like to boulder. We begin, and quickly the other climbers realize that my endurance and strength don't match. I don't intend to brag, but they're not used to seeing someone perform bouldering moves of that difficulty.

What struck me and inspired my original post is that they enjoyed bouldering, but I could tell from their conversations that it wasn't something they did often, that it was a little unusual.

I grew up in Missouri, where the rocks were short and no one knew what rock climbing is. My first gym was a simple overhanging bouldering wall. No one trained for endurance on it, including myself. We all bouldered. So I think there's much to be said about geography's influence on the climbing culture. Like skinsk suggests, it's not the only factor, but I think it's an important one.

---

Why do I like to boulder for training? Strength is ultimately one's limiting factor on a route. If a route has a V4 crux, and you cannot boulder V4, then you simply can't climb the route. Second, strength increases at a comparatively much slower rate than endurance. To progress from climbing 5.11 routes to bouldering V8 generally takes many years. But if your endurance is poor, to progress from bouldering V8 to redpointing a long route of 5.13 requires much dedication, but reasonably over a matter of months.
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  #5  
Unread 05-20-2011, 12:25 AM
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skinsk skinsk is offline
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Hey, I grew up in NEW ORLEANS (aka 6 feet below) so I hear ya! Obviously lack of rocks or mountains is not the problem here. . . but inability to get there except for the weekends is! as this country has become a city-culture! So they compensate with 50-60 move boulder problems (and at my gym, they often link two of these or back-climb them. . . yeah. . . you can build endurance at the "bouldering" gym here for sure!

(In my first few months in Korea, when "Anyang Stadium" WAS THE climbing wall, we use to do laps on the vertical routes. . , unclipping on the downclimbs!) I thought everything they did here was weird (like pushing me on the route that I was falling off of at the gym) but damn I got strong!
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