Part Two – Adding a Rope to your Fitness Gym
Though it may not seem like a martial arts tactic, a climbing rope is (in my opinion) essential for any fitness gym. Climbing up a rope will develop your arms, back, and abdominals. They are easy to set up, fun to climb and you can get very creative with them.
I had mine high in the tree wrapped around a strong branch.
I originally used it with a grappling hook to practice throwing up in the tree and catching onto a large branch. I eventually left it there after one of my climbs. I remember when Eye on LA (a TV show) was shooting the video and I was about to climb the rope. I asked them how they would like me to climb it – with or without feet. They were perplexed, so I climbed it without feet and remember the bottom of the rope bouncing around near the camera. Lucky for me I was on the wrestling team where access to ropes was a daily part of our routine.
Yes, there is a pretty big difference when it comes to climbing a rope with or without your feet. The latter being far more challenging. Both require some instruction and practice. Climbing the rope itself will develop the grip and strength needed to climb higher. However, you might want to use some grip training tools that you can practice with at the office or in front of the TV.
The bottom of the rope was about head height which was great as I could use it for other training too. For example, I would hang any manner of fruit (lemons, oranges etc) and then cut them to pieces with my swords and even kama.
A rope is not only for vertical climbs. It is also a lot of fun if you tie them from tree to tree horizontally. Almost every camp we have organized that included an obstacle course has included both the horizontal and vertical climbing rope. If you have a lot of rope, you can get very creative and come up with something challenging and fun to play on.
The rope I used as a teenager was the brown hemp rope. Mine wasn’t very thick (about 1-2 inches) so I tied knots in it to make it easier to grip and if you are barefoot you can step on the knots. Note that when you put a knot in a rope you are making it weaker, so be sure to use a very strong rope. Now I only use very thick rope (like something you would find on a ship) that is about 3-5 inches thick. These offer an amazing grip.
Static climbing or rappelling rope can be used too, but often they are too skinny to grip, so knots are usually a must. Best if you can double (fold) this type of rope so there is more security and more to grip.
A general rule for a good climbing rope is to have whatever you are grabbing to be about at least (thicker is easier to climb) the same width as a pull-up bar, but never larger than what the hand can grasp.
I recently set up another large rope (about 3 inches thick) at our camp in Thailand (it was previously used to anchor a large boat). Climbing this monster, I was reminded of how great of a workout you can get – especially on the upper abs.
Rope Climb Obstacle Course Ideas
Be sure to find a rope that inspires you to climb and swing like Tarzan. All the playing you do on a rope will pay off with biceps, back muscles, improved ab strength and an amazing grip to list a few.
DO NOT use nylon ropes or anything similar unless you want to burn the skin on your hands and feet if you tie them horizontally.
If you have a small target to kick or punch, I suggest that you hang these on the end of your rope, but leave the rope hanging about head height so you have to jump up to it and so you can swing on it. If you do hang a punching bag or something to strike to the bottom, be sure that it isn’t a lot of weight and that you have your rope securely connected to a tree or other anchor.
It is also important that you check the rope regularly to ensure that it is safely connected to the tree and not wearing down from weather or general wear and tear. Never have your ropes rubbing against or along another object or they will slowly be cut. Best to replace your ropes on a regular basis if you suspect anything to be wrong with your rope.
Connecting your rope will require some experience with knots unless you are using a different system. Either way, be sure to have an expert set up your gear or do your research so you ensure that you are playing it safe.
You could wear a climbing harness and connect yourself to a smaller climbing rope if you are going to be climbing high enough for it to be considered dangerous. Either way, use common sense and be prepared to take responsibility should you fail to play it safe.
Rope Climb Obstacle Course at NinjaGym Martial Arts Camp Thailand