Gait and Climbing (and DNS): Part 2.  Introducing 14 year old Ashima Shiraishi.

14 year old “sends” V15 , a 30 move roof climb in Hiei, Japan, called “Horizon”.

“the present work showed that human
QL (quadrupedal locomotion) may spontaneously occur in humans with an
unimpaired brain, probably using the ancestral locomotor networks for
the diagonal sequence preserved for about the last 400 million years.”
2005 Shapiro and Raichien

I am flipping the script a little today for DNS’ers (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization). Watch the video if you wish, but the point I will be drawing your attention to is the 2:15 mark when she goes inverted on the roof of this apparently “more simple” V9 route. Note, this is not a video of her historic ~30 move V15 route. Stay tuned for that, it is not available yet.

Look closely. In the video, a then 9 year old Ashima is climbing upside down, a roof climb, defying gravity’s push. Spin this picture 180 and she is crawling, finding points of “fixation” or “punctum fixum”. What is neat about climbing is that you can have one, two, three or four points of fixation, unlike walking (one or two points) and crawling (two, three or four points of fixation). The difference in climbing is that gravity is a bear, wearing you down, little by little. A deep similarity in climbing to any variety of crawling is that both involve pulling and pushing, compressing and extending over fixation points. Other common principles are those of fixation, stability, mobility and neurologic crawling patterns in order to progress.

Ashima just recently, in early 2016, was the first female to complete a V14d (it is said it may even be upgraded to a V15a, maybe even a V16). Not many pros of any gender can say they can complete a V15 so this is a real big deal for a 14 year old. Stay tuned for that video.

DNS, Kolar and Climbing

I took my first DNS course with Prof. Kolar 10 years ago. It was an interesting eye opener and I had just enough clinical experience (9 years at that point) to grasp just enough to take it back to my practice and integrate it. Since that time, it has been fun to see it grow and see young practitioners excited to get their first face palm epiphanies. I have been returning to it often, blending it into my rehab work much of the time. There are few hip, shoulder, spine, breathing or global stabilization exercises I prescribe that do not have a DNS component to them, with my own flare and alterations and amendments as necessary. If you have taken a DNS course you will know why I am bring the topic into climbing. If you have not taking a course, you will be a little lost on the conceptual spill over.

As you can see in the video above, start really paying attention at the 2:15 mark in the video when she goes inverted on the roof. Cross crawl patterns, concepts of fixation, compression, expansion, crossing over, and tremendous feats of shoulder and hip stability on spinal stiffness and rotation.  Now add breathing, oy !  Now add doing all of this by mere finger tip and toe tip fixation ! When you consider all of this, it becomes almost incomprehensible what she and other climbers are doing when they go inverted like this. Amazing stuff, finger pulling/compression and foot pushing to compressively attach the body to the wall and progress forward.

Lucid Dreaming, A climb in the Buttermilks

Last year I wrote a piece on Lucid Dreaming, the name of a rock (another V15 climb) in the Buttermilks of Bishop, California. Here is that blog post. Lucid Dreaming is no ordinary rock.  To summit this rock is
basically only three moves off of three holds, from your fingertips, starting from a sitting position. The
remainder of the climb is sliced bread. If you can do the three, you can get
to the top. The problem is, only a handful of people in the world can accomplish the feat. In the piece I outlined many principles of crawling, quadruped and climbing from a neuro-biomechanical perspective. Here is a excerpt from what i wrote in Gait and Climbing, Part 1:

In climbing there is suspicion of a shift in the central pattern generators because of the extraordinary demand by pseudo-quadrupedal gait climbing due to the demand on the upper limbs and their motorneuron pools to mobilize the organism up the mountain.  We know these quadrupedal circuits exist.
In 2005 Shapiro and Raichien wrote “the present work showed that human
QL (quadrupedal locomotion) may spontaneously occur in humans with an
unimpaired brain, probably using the ancestral locomotor networks for
the diagonal sequence preserved for about the last 400 million years.”

research has determined that in quadrupeds the lower limbs displayed
reduced orientation yet increased ranges of kinematic coordination in
alternative patterns such as diagonal and lateral coordination.  This
was clearly different to the typical kinematics that are employed in
upright bipedal locomotion. Furthermore, in skilled mountain climbers,
these lateral and diagonal patterns are clearly more developed than in
study controls largely due to repeated challenges and subsequent
adaptive changes to these lateral and diagonal patterns.  What this
seems to suggest is that there is a different demand and tax on the
CPG’s and cord mediated neuromechanics moving from bipedal to
quadrupedal locomotion. There seemed to be both advantages and
disadvantages to both locomotion styles. Moving towards a more upright
bipedal style of locomotion shows an increase in the lower spine (sacral
motor pool) activity because of the increased and different demands on
the musculature however at the potential cost to losing some of the
skills and advantages of the lateral and diagonal quadrupedal skills.
Naturally, different CPG reorganization is necessary moving towards
bipedalism because of these different weight bearing demands on the
lower limbs but also due to the change from weight bearing upper limbs
to more mobile upper limbs free to not only optimize the speed of
bipedalism but also to enable the function of carrying objects during

The take home seems to suggest the development of proper early crawling and
progressive quadruped locomotor patterns. Both will tax different motor
pools within the spine and thus different central pattern generators
(CPG). A orchestration of both seems to possibly offer the highest
rewards and thus not only should crawling be a part of rehab and
training but so should forward, lateral and diagonal pattern quadrupedal
movements, on varying inclines for optimal benefits. 

Dancing, Jiu Jitsu and Climbing. Bringing things together.

So, what am I doing with all this information? As some of you may know, I have been expanding my locomotion experiences over the years. First there was three years of ballroom and latin dance, some of the hardest stuff I have ever done, combining complex combined body movements to timing and music at different speeds, each time changing to different rhythms or genres of music. Some of my deepest insights into foot work and hip, pelvis and core stability and spinal mobility originated from my dance experiences, particularly Rumba, Cha Cha, Jive, Waltz and Foxtrot. On a side note, some of my greatest epiphanies about the true function of the peroneal-calf muscle complex came during a private session on a difficult Waltz step concept. It was such an epiphany I sat down and wrote scratch notes on the enlightenment for 20 minutes right there in the ballroom. Next I moved into the very complex martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and after three years it is clear it is an art that you could do for a lifetime and never get to the end of the complex algorithms of defense and offense. This art will stay in my wheelhouse to the end if I am able to keep it there.

Rock climbing, this one is the next on the list. After years of sharing my hands on peoples physical problems I know I already have above average grip and finger strength, so this could either prove to be a blessing or a “career ender” in terms of finally finishing off my hands for good. But it is on the list, and it won’t leave my head, so for me that is the tipping point. Climbing is next. I need to understand and experience this, so I can understand human locomotion better.

I will have the video of Ashima “sending” V15+ when they put it up, stay tuned. I have a feeling it is going to be a jaw dropper, I hear the whole send is inverted which boggles my mind. We will dissect her roof crawling and I will try to have some new research for you.

If you want to come down my rabbit hole, come read some of my other related articles:

Part 1: Gait and Climbing. Lucid Dreaming

and my 3 part series on Uner Tan Syndrome. The people who walk on all fours.

Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys



Shapiro L. J., Raichien D. A. (2005).
Lateral sequence walking in infant papio cynocephalus: implications for
the evolution of diagonal sequence walking in primates. Am. J. Phys.
Anthropol.126, 205–213 10.1002/ajpa.20049

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011 Oct;21(5):688-99. Idiosyncratic control of the center of mass in expert climbers. Zampagni ML , Brigadoi S, Schena F, Tosi P, Ivanenko YP

J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jan;107(1):114-25. Features of hand-foot crawling behavior in human adults. Maclellan MJ, Ivanenko YP, Cappellini G, Sylos Labini F, Lacquaniti F.

This simple screening test becomes a form of exercise.

Last week we explored the “Lean” test to see how your QL and gluteus medius were paired. Today we look at a simple CNS screen for your “central pattern generators” or “CPG’s”. If you do not pass, then the exercise becomes the rehab exercise. If you (or your client) does not have good coordination between the upper and lower extremity, then they will not be that efficient, physiologically or metabolically.

The “cross crawl” or “step test” looks at upper and lower extremity coordination, rather than muscular strength. If performed for a few minutes, it becomes a test that can look at endurance as well.

It is based on the “crossed extensor” response, we looked at last week. That is, when one lower limb flexes, the other extends; the contralateral upper limb also flexes and the ipsilateral upper limb extends. It mimics the way things should move when walking or running.

  • Stand (or have your client stand) in a place where you will not run into anything.
  • Begin marching in place.
  • Observe for a few seconds. When you (or your client) are flexing the right thigh, the left arm should flex as well; then the left thigh and right arm. Are your (their) arms moving? Are they coordinated with the lower extremity?
  • What happens after a few minutes? Is motion good at 1st and then breaks down?
  • Now speed up. What happens? Is the movement smooth and coordinated? Choppy? Discoordinated?
  • now slow back down and try it with your (their) eyes closed

If  movement is smooth and coordinated, you (they) pass

If movement is choppy or discoordinated, there can be many causes, from simple (muscle not firing, injury) to complex (physical or physiological lesion in the CNS).

  • If movement is not smooth and coordinated, try doing the exercise for a few minutes a day. You can even start sitting down, if you (they) cannot perform it standing. If it improves, great; you were able to help “reprogram” the system. If not, then you (they) should seek out a qualified individual for some assistance and to get to the root of the problem.

The Gait Guys. Giving you information you can use and taking you a little deeper down the rabbit hole with each post.

A new twist on an old exercise

Do you know the the “Bird Dog” exercise? It looks like the picture above. The upper and contralateral lower extremities are extended, the the opposite ones are flexed. Seems to make make sense, unless you think about gait and neurology (yes, as you can see, those things seem to always be intertwined).

Think about gait. Your right leg and left arm flex until about midstance, when they start to extend; the left leg and right arm are doing the opposite. At no point are the arm and opposite leg opposing one another. Hmmm.

If you look at it neurologically, it is a crossed extensor reflex (see above); again, flexion of the lower extremity is paired with flexion of the opposite upper extremity. It is very similar to a protective reflex called the “flexor reflex” or “flexor reflex afferent”.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to do a cross crawl pattern? Or maybe like the babies shown above? Seems like if that’s the way the system was programmed, maybe we should try and emulate that. Don’t we want to send the appropriate messages to our nervous system for neurological re patterning? If you are doing the classic “opposite” pattern, what is your reasoning? Can you provide a sound neurological or physiological reason?

Think before you act. Know what you are doing.

The Gait Guys. Bridging the gap between neurology and gait, so you can do a better job.