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The following is part 2 of Arno Ilgner’s “Overcome Your Fear of Falling” series. View the full series here.
Falling is a skill you can learn. Do you agree? If so, why? Or do you disagree, and feel more that when you fall you can’t do anything to influence the situation—and thus there’s nothing to practice? This is an important point to clarify. Your practice will not be effective until you decide that you have agency in the falling process.
When we practice falling, we’re practicing a physical skill, but we’re also addressing fear and how the mind uses attention, which are mental-training issues. The mind thinks and then the body acts. Thus, we need to be very wary of how the mind thinks so we can engage the body well and fall skillfully, diminishing the chances of injury. It’s just like any other skill in climbing that needs to be practiced and learned.
For example, it makes sense to us as climbers to focus on regimented drills and the quality of effort when doing hang-board or campus-board training. For such physical drills, we approach them systematically, break them down into smaller parts, and pay attention to the quality of our efforts. We practice each part and then slowly build them back together into a unified whole. The focus while training has little to do with actual climbing. Instead, it’s to dig deeper into the skill, to its essential elements, in order to improve them and be ready to put them back together again into something that can then be applied in actual climbing situations.
This is what we do with falling. We look for the constituent parts, including what we’re doing with the body, such as our breath, body posture, and eye focus. By knowing the specifics of what we do with each part, we can pay attention to and refine each part in order to unite them later into a streamlined whole—that is, falling skillfully.
Another important aspect of practicing falling is the belayer. Years ago, I was teaching two young girls from Canada at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. They were both about 15 years old, and did great together, falling and catching each other’s falls. Then they went back home to Toronto, excited to continue their practice. However, one girl partnered with another climber, fell, and broke her ankle. Her belayer was heavier and didn’t give her the necessary amount of cushion to ease her impact into the wall. This accident happened because she focused only on what she was doing to fall well, and had failed to consider just how critical the belayer’s role is.
Climbing is a team effort. Especially in falling, we practice as a team and learn together. Learning how to train your belayer is critically important for keeping you safe during falling practice and during climbing itself. You’ll be climbing with a number of partners, and it’ll be important to train each one of them before trusting that they know what they’re doing. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t trust them. They hold your life in their hands. Test them and train them, then trust them.
In the next lesson, we’ll dig into understanding your fear.
- Risk: Nothing, not even instruction from a coach or this online course, can eliminate the risks associated with practicing falling. Accept responsibility for any information you utilize for practicing.
- Experiential knowledge: It’s important to realize that you know how to fall when you experience falling properly. This can only be gained from proper instruction.
- Motivation: Your mind’s achievement motivation can get you into trouble, pushing you to take risks that aren’t appropriate. So, you need to be wary.
- Best option: Get a coach to help guide your practice. We have a network of Warrior’s Way trainers across the USA and abroad who are experts on teaching falling.
- Next best option: Utilize my online course, which outlines the process thoroughly with videos, photos, text, interviews, homework, Q&As, and more.
- Worst option: Practice yourself without these resources. If you do, then do it in small increments.
To learn how to incorporate falling as an essential skill, take our new online course Overcome Your Fear of Falling taught by Arno Ilgner, founder of The Warrior’s Way mental-training program and author of The Rock Warrior’s Way.