The Beard Obstacle Course Masterclass

I had the privilege of spending time with The Beard as he is so well known in the industry. This was specifically to improve some of my obstacle skills and find out exactly where I was lacking in my training and how I could improve my efficiency in getting over obstacles quicker and easier.


What makes Doug so good? His level of perception, for some who don’t know The Beard with his self aware facial hair it wont mean much. For those who have had training with him will just get it. There are a number of well known people within the OCR scene who have had training with him and all have come away with vast improvements in their OCR skills.

Lets go back to basics.  Definition of a masterclass is tuition given by an expert to students in a particular discipline. Our discipline is getting over obstacle quickly and easily. What makes Doug en expert? He builds the bloody things, needless to say he knows what people need to do to get over them. His understanding of creating an obstacle and how people need to get over them is in depth.

The other thing that does make him an expert is he does climbing or comes from a climbing background, he has a thorough understanding of body mechanics. His involvement in sport and awareness of how a body has to work to make an obstacle irrelevant is where is skill lies.  He is also very aware of balance, weight distribution and a persons personal comfort zone and how to get past that without being harsh.

Doug also has something which you dont often find he cares and he has a big heart and listens but his teaching is so subtle and effective that I never felt like I was out of my depth or that I couldn’t do anything. His teaching method is easy and natural and that is a rare thing to find.

For those who don’t know or who haven’t listened to my podcast I have a couple of injuries I carry. I have torn hamstrings in my glute and have significant weakness in my left leg/glute, I also dislocated my right shoulder which means I have to be mindful of hanging techniques or pressure on my shoulder.

I work hard to make sure I can do OCR reasonably well, Doug’s class has just made that easier. Its not the big things he does, its the 101 little things that made such a massive improvements in scaling his walls and helped me become a better rope climber. I didn’t really know how to do that and mostly used my arms which is inefficient, it worked but burned calories.

The Obstacles

4 Walls

This was the first part on how to climb up and over a wall easily, it sounds obvious but there are many little things that we covered which made this sublimely easier by the time I finished. The first wall was a 5 ft one which I learned how to jump high enough to get into a static position once on top of the wall which meant I was balanced and was using as little energy as possible to hold and maintain a position until I got to the next stage of moving over the wall.

When going from the hold to having a foot placed on top of the wall Doug took me through foot placement and how to move over the wall with ease and comfort and how to dismount and land lightly and with comfort. He also helped me understand how my body would react and should react normally to make the dismount easy. In this part my secondary leg control was highlighted to ensure that when I dismounted I would land correctly.

We also covered how to land correctly to ensure maximum weight distribution is transferred from your landing and using your foot placement and how to relax to ensure cat like landing. It sounds weird but go and watch a cat land and learn from that.

These skills that I learned on the 5 ft wall were done on the 6, 7 and 10 ft walls. the principle is the same. With the 10 ft wall you have to use the heel hook method and here once more Doug’s understanding of weight displacement and the subtlety of his technique came to the fore.

It will be difficult to explain weight distribution and how to use a flat wall to get traction to climb over it when there is no side supports you can use and even if the wall is muddy. The principle of transitioning from seated position on the wall to dismount and staying secure and prevent injury during dismount is what struck me that he is somebody that truly knows his stuff.

Inverted wall

The first inverted wall I came across was on a Tough Mudder, i struggled to get over it and it was only a 7 ft wall. Doug’s was a 10ft inverted wall, I have never been able to get over them easily until Doug showed me how to do any inverted wall with ease. It starts off with where to position yourself to use the supporting beams to press against to provide leverage to get my heel over the edge and use that to act as a hook to then work my body over.

Inverted wall heel hook

Inverted wall heel hook

Again in this obstacle there were about 15 little things to do that are obvious once you know them but when they are done together transforms it from a challenge to just an obstacle. this can range from body position to weight distribution to making sure your elbow is in the right position to make it easier to get your body over the wall.

obstacle course wall climb

Body transition

You are also taken through the process of holding your body position correctly when transitioning from sitting to dismounting right down to how to hold your body to prevent shoulder injury and how to land to reduce impact on joints and muscles.

Rope Climb

Needless to say I admitted I didn’t really know how to rope climb, efficiently. Doug first took me through the mechanics of how to use my feet and lower legs to act as vice grips to hold the rope and where to squeeze the rope between your knees to ensure strong vice like grip on the rope to make the climb easier.

The next stage was how to hold the rope and place my leg with the rope draping over my foot for the next stage of getting the rope clamped between my feet and knees to climb up.

I went through a couple of climbs and was starting to get the hang of it. The last challenge was to see if I could match The Beard’s climb of getting from the bottom of the rope to the top in the least amount of movements. He did it in 2 and a half motions, I did it in 3 and a bit. For those that don’t know I am 6  foot 2, Doug is about 5 foot 10 his technique is so good and efficient he did it in less climbing motions than I did, faster as well.

Time Trial

After the wall tutorials Doug tested my skill on the 4 walls to see how efficiently I was working and how well I learned all the skills that he taught me. This was a timed event where I had to get over all 4 walls in the fastest time and doing it correctly. I was able to do them in 16.08 seconds and The Beard did it in just under 16 seconds. To drive home the lesson he took his time and his approach of paying attention to his technique and relaxing meant he was more efficient in getting over all of the walls.

When I meant The Beard took his time, he literally took his time! He didn’t rush and just sailed over the walls. It was a pleasure to watch and it still sticks in my mind that moment when he came sailing over the wall just easily and patiently doing his thing.

To book time with The Beard use this link.

The Beard Masterclass

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