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.

Quadrupedal gait and tree climbing

Earlier today we posted on quadrupedal perspectives in locomotion. Now we find this to drive home the point.
A University of North Florida study “focused on "proprioceptively dynamic activities,” that is, ones that involved proprioception and a second factor (like locomotion or navigation) at the same time" such as climbing trees.
“All participants had their working memory tested at the start and two hours later (after climbing trees, running barefoot, and walking on a balance beam) and the researchers found that while the control groups showed no change, those who completed the proprioceptively dynamic tasks had a 50% jump in their working memory capacity.”

Quadruped facts.

Do the intimate relationships of the upper limbs and lower limbs suggest that quadrupedal skill sets, if not true quadrupedal gait, were a piece of our past locomotion strategies ? Or is it just representative of the close linkages for gait efficiency? Or maybe both?
Join us on the blog today for a short rewind piece where we discuss beaucoup things … . such as:
“this study’s results provide strong evidence that actively engaging the forelimbs improves hindlimb function and that one likely mechanism underlying these effects is the reorganization and re-engagement of rostrocaudal spinal interneuronal networks. ”

Here is the blog link:

Muscle activity

Does variability in muscle activity reflect a preferred way of moving or just reflect what they’ve always done? In this study it was found that there isn’t always this tight relationship between activity in the muscles and the movement we’re seeing.
“Clearly, locomotion is not as simple as we thought it was,” Foster said. “This decoupling – big changes in movement without corresponding changes in muscle activity – suggests there are other important factors going on and we need to better understand them if we want to reproduce these movements in prosthetics or robotics.”
Hmmmm. thoughts. this makes everything more interesting doesn’t it ?!

“Neural circuits linking activity in anatomically segregated populations of neurons in subcortical structures and the neocortex throughout the human brain regulate complex behaviors such as walking, talking, language comprehension, and other cognitive functions associated with frontal lobes.” 1

We also found this interesting quote from Science Daily on this topic of complex sensory motor behaviors and on the varying information on central pattern generators.

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2012) — “A new finding that motor cortex is a dynamic pattern generator upends existing theory with broad implications for neuroscience.”

“Maybe it is actually easier to understand than we thought. A new paper presents some compelling evidence that the motor cortex, rather than being command central, is more like a part of the machine, sending rhythmic signals down the spinal cord to orchestrate movement.”

"The electrical signal that drives a given movement is therefore an amalgam — a summation — of the rhythms of all the motor neurons firing at a given moment.” This is of course monitored (and modified) by one of our best friends, the cerebellum. 2

The cortex is where movement begins and where it ends; from areas 4, 4s and 6 in the precentral gyrus of the brain’s frontal lobe, down the spinal cord and out to the muscle through the peripheral nerve.   It is also where the information from the body’s receptors feed back,  to give updates on where the body parts are in space (proprioception) and how they are doing functionally (comparing information about length, tension, etc).  It is about sensory and motor function.  Motor function is based on sensory input.  Good motor function is based on good sensory information. It is a subtle, beautiful, intricate symphony.  And when one part goes wrong, the whole system can be thrown off.  

Here is an example we sometimes use in our lectures and with our patients to make this point clear.  Imagine an orchestra playing Beethoven’s beautiful Ode to Joy, a choral symphony for orchestra.  Now imagine one of the musicians begins to play off key. In time, the musicians sitting around that musician who are most locally influenced by that off tune musician, soon become irritated and have troubles playing “in tune”. In time, if not rectified, the whole orchestra could be corrupted and being to take that lead as well.  Hard to believe, but it makes the point that all it takes is one piece not playing well to change the outcome. Similar analogy, all it takes is one weak muscle or one painful joint and the outcome is skewed away from the optimal outcome and in time local dysfunction and compensation becomes an all encompassing compensation. The body’s function and operation, when proper, is an orchestra and orchestration with each piece doing a local job with a more global contribution to the bigger job. When all pieces come together appropriately it creates a symphony of flawless, effortless movement as seen in the video above.

Shawn and Ivo, the gait guys


1. Front Syst Neurosci. 2014 Feb 13;8:16. eCollection 2014. Cognitive motor interactions of the basal ganglia in development .  Leisman G1, Braun-Benjamin O2, Melillo R3.

“Postures must have integrity. Patterns must have economy.”

We love Gray Cook’s memes.

“Postures must have integrity.  Patterns must have economy.”

This one is a keeper…….we would like to add that “patterns must have economy AND capacity”.

We have talked about central fatigue here on FB and our blog, and it has alluded to the fact that neuromuscular motor patterns are driven centrally from the CPG’s (central pattern generators in a few areas of the brain). Metabolic capacity problems can alter motor patterns, so fatigue can come centrally as well as peripherally at the muscle, which we typically think of when we think of fatigue. The brain has a metabolic demand as well, and if it hits a “fuel” limitation (cerebral hypometabolism) the movement driven from that path will be corrupt. Craig Liebenson refers to muscle “amnesia”, perhaps this is what he is alluding to, it is a central fuel capacity fatigue issue to be more precise. Here at The Gait Guys we like to say you better have S.E.S. (skill, endurance, strength). The endurance is a local and a central fuel endurance thing. Thanks Gray ! Move well, move often.

Shawn and Ivo

the gait guys


“Human muscle fatigue does not simply reside in the muscle”.

So you like to “activate” clients muscles huh? Its the big flashy trend right now done by some folks who know very little about what they are doing and perhaps adding risk to athletes right before an event or practice.
How much do you really know what you are doing ?
Have you heard of “central fatigue” and the neural mechanisms underlying it? Do you think that merely “activating” your client will make them safe and perform better on the field ? What if it added even more risk to their system ? If you are only driving the changes at the end organ, the muscles and their receptors, you may not even be half way there. Read on … .

“Muscle fatigue is an exercise-induced reduction in maximal voluntary muscle force. It may arise not only because of peripheral changes at the level of the muscle, but also because the central nervous system fails to drive the motoneurons adequately. Much data suggest that voluntary activation of human motoneurons and muscle fibers is suboptimal and thus maximal voluntary force is commonly less than true maximal force. Hence, maximal voluntary strength can often be below true maximal muscle force. The technique of twitch interpolation has helped to reveal the changes in drive to motoneurons during fatigue. Voluntary activation usually diminishes during maximal voluntary isometric tasks, that is central fatigue develops, and motor unit firing rates decline.Transcranial magnetic stimulation over the motor cortex during fatiguing exercise has revealed focal changes in cortical excitability and inhibitability based on electromyographic (EMG) recordings, and a decline in supraspinal “drive” based on force recordings. Some of the changes in motor cortical behavior can be dissociated from the development of this “supraspinal” fatigue. Central changes also occur at a spinal level due to the altered input from muscle spindle, tendon organ, and group III and IV muscle afferents innervating the fatiguing muscle. Some intrinsic adaptive properties of the motoneurons help to minimize fatigue. A number of other central changes occur during fatigue and affect, for example, proprioception, tremor, and postural control. Human muscle fatigue does not simply reside in the muscle.”

Hopefully stuff like this ruffles some feathers, raises eyebrows and questions, starts deeper meaningful dialogues, forces people to understand their scope and pay grade, and forces us all to ask harder questions especially when things seems easy and too good to be true. There is no finger pointing here dear brethren, so no need to retaliate or raise up arms to defend a position. Just read the research and ask yourself the tough questions…… “am i part of the solution, or part of the problem”? We can all do better, lets all raise up and step up, and elevate the professions together. It can only make it better for those that need it, our clients and patients.

Physiol Rev. 2001 Oct;81(4):1725-89.
Spinal and supraspinal factors in human muscle fatigue.
Gandevia SC


Pod #22: Primates, Limb Synchrony & Motor Patterns

Pod #22: Primates, Limb Synchrony & Motor Patterns

blog link:

iTunes link:

Show notes:

Neurscience piece:

New Study shows primates move in unison as well.

The synchronization between walking partners is more complex than it seems on the surface.  There are two types of synchronization,:
1- in-phase (both person’s right foot move forward at the same time) and
2- out-of-phase synchronization (where the right foot moves forward with the partners left foot).

Ankle-Dorsiflexion Range of Motion and Landing Biomechanics
Chun-Man Fong, Athl Train. 2011 Jan-Feb; 46(1): 5–10.
What comes first ?  Muscle weakness,  Inhibition (muscle) or a Compensated movement pattern ?