The World’s Most Challenging Sport . . . Rock Climbing?

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Individuals are driven to participate in sports for many reasons. An athlete may have family ties to a sport, or even grow up in an area where a particular sport is most often played. The main determining factor of what sport an athlete commits the majority of their energy to is the initial feeling they got when they first played that sport.

Every level of athlete, from professional to amateur, can most likely pinpoint the time or even exact moment when they decided, “this is it, I’m gonna stick with this”.  For professional female rock climber, Ashima Shiraishi, that moment came when she was six years old in Central Park.  One day she saw some people climbing ‘Easy Overhang’ and decided that she wanted to try. She failed the next six days, but something inside of her told her that she needed to keep trying. On the seventh day, her parents decided to buy her low grade climbing shoes and she managed to make it up the rock easily.
Fast forward nine years, Ashima is now one of the most decorated female climbers in the country and she is only 15 years old.  With many awards and accolades under her belt she wanted to go to Japan and become the second ever person to ascend ‘Horizon’, a V15 (very, very hard). The first trip took to tackle the ‘problem’ (climber lingo for boulder) was not successful. She made it most of the way up, had one more hand movement to go and fell. She was so tired that she could not keep going and with her
departure to the U.S. the next day, she had to call it quits on the climb.

She returned to the U.S. and went on with her every day activities, not letting the problem bother her.  When Ashima returned later in the spring she gave herself 12 days to climb Horizon.  The first two days she was back where she started. The third day, however, she described the climb as, “something just clicked. I felt a perfect sense of nothingness as I worked my way through the problem.”

The thing about rock climbing that makes it so challenging is that in order to scale a problem, one’s body must be in perfect balance.  You can’t let your arms take too much of the weight because then they get tired too quickly and you have to either wait or you fall.  You can’t let your legs take too much of the weight because then you will most likely mess with your footing and fall due to fatigue.  The trick to climbing is allowing for each body part to exert as much force necessary while allowing the other parts to contribute as well so the whole body is in constant unison.  If you are not able to maintain balance and climb up the wall with all body parts working as one, falling is eminent.

For this reason alone, I think that climbing takes the crown for the world’s most challenging sport. I also think it most nearly resembles the world’s most challenging adventure – life.  People often preach that certain, singular things in life will make you happy. Work a lot, find something you’re good at and stick to it. That is almost certain to make you happy.  Make a lot of money so that you never have to worry about any challenges you could ever face.  The problem with this ideology of a single thing being the answer to happiness is that there is no single thing.  Just as in climbing, happiness can only be found through the perfect balance of all the interior and exterior things that have an impact on a person’s life.

The idea that balance needs to be met in order to obtain happiness in life is understandable, but how does one accomplish this? What do I need to do in order to achieve balance? The answer to that question is not usually what people want to hear.  Everyone is different. Just like in climbing, there is no uniform way to climb a problem since people come in different shapes and sizes. We all like and dislike certain things. We all have different goals and aspirations, desires and motivating factors in our lives.  The only way to find balance for yourself is to realize that it is a journey. Just like Ashima climbing that ‘problem’ when she was six years old, when you try to climb life and find that balance you are going to fall. You are going to fall many times. The way you find that balance in life is through the times when you don’t fall. When you make it through that problem and find the answer, you can then begin to implement that in your life and figure out how to achieve a balance.

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