/ NEW ARTICLE: Arno's Back!..... Learning How to Fall

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Michael Ryan - on 30 Apr 2008
The Master Warrior shares his wisdom once again..............

"In order to learn how to fall you need to develop the ability to take a fall and still remain relaxed in your body. By taking your body through experiences you learn. Your body creates schemas to embody knowledge. If you take a long fall first and tense up, then you learn to tense up. This is exactly the opposite of what you want to learn in falling. Instead, you need to learn in smaller increments. You know you've learned something when you're comfortable doing it. You know you're comfortable falling when your body responds in four specific ways"

Learn more: http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=874
Paz - on 30 Apr 2008
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com:

OK advice but he's still writing as if he knows it all.

"Many climbers say that the actual falling isn't the scary part, “it's that letting go part that is scary.” If this is where stress arises in you, then find ways to be present during that transition rather than getting it over with. "

Yes Aano, great, thanks for the practical tips on how to do this. I think I'll stick to jumping off.
nikinko - on 01 May 2008
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com:

How far is he planning on falling to keep breathing throughout? For me it's usually over by the time I've finished the breath I was on. (generally in some kind of pathetic yelp!)
Ben Griffiths on 01 May 2008
What is this cushioned catch?
Morgan Woods - on 01 May 2008
In reply to Ben Griffiths:

Dynamic belay.
mikekeswick - on 01 May 2008
In reply to Paz: To be fair that sounds like your ego talking,what's wrong with somebody else knowing more than you do on a subject?Arno DOES know what he is talking about,his book demonstrates that quite well.Try reading it and then putting it into practise(with an open mind) and i'm sure virtually every climber would benefit,it has certainly helped me
nikinko - on 01 May 2008
In reply to mikekeswick:


genuine question, unless you think you're going to deck and want to see what steer towards a safe(er) landing place, why is it necessary to look down?
gingerkate - on 01 May 2008
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com:
Wow, what an absolutely fantastic article. Reading that I now understand why all my try try try try trying to get braver about falling has got me not much further than nowhere. I've just been screwing up my courage and getting it over with each time, I've never done any of that notice what you're feeling and face it head on stuff.

And I love the photo of the woman with the bashed knee and the smile...
gingerkate - on 01 May 2008
In reply to nikinko:
Even if you're not decking, you're going to be making contact with rock, and maybe with quite a lot of speed, so you need to be looking and thinking where to plant your feet etc, so that you don't end up with a jug clunking you in the mouth like me. Also it's part of embracing the experience, facing it head on, instead of screwing everything inside you up and mentally running away from it.
jkarran - on 01 May 2008
In reply to nikinko:

> genuine question, unless you think you're going to deck and want to see what steer towards a safe(er) landing place, why is it necessary to look down?

To see where you're going
jk
mikekeswick - on 01 May 2008
In reply to nikinko: He doesn't explain his thinking but second guessing him i'd say it's about seeing what you are about to hit when the rope comes tight so you can react to it,also i'd say that watching what is happening to you means that you are embracing what's happening rather than looking away/closing your eyes which would suggest that you aren't totally happy with where you are
niggle - on 01 May 2008
It is an interesting idea and I can certainly see that it would have merit from a certain very limited point of view. It all sounds thrilling being in the moment and committing to the fall but I doubt it would be a very good idea to pursue this, let alone practice it, unless you're only ever climbing on really well spaced, totally solid bolts - I'm not sure anyone in their right mind would recommend repeatedly lobbing on anything except the very best gear placements just to get comfortable with it!!!!
nikinko - on 01 May 2008
In reply to mikekeswick:
> (In reply to nikinko) He doesn't explain his thinking but second guessing him i'd say it's about seeing what you are about to hit when the rope comes tight so you can react to it,

which is all very well, but all the leader falls I've taken, one second I've been on the rock, and the next, well, back on the rock (or in mid air at the wall) various numbers of feet below where i've started.

Where do you find time to think about your breathing, think about where you're going to land and do a couple of relaxation excercises before hitting the rock again?

When actually 'practicing' in spite of doing all the building up to it- letting go on a top rope, letting go level with the bolt etc, I find it really hard to climb to the next bolt then just let go. I'm more relaxed when I fall unexpectedly coz I'm concentrating on the move which didn't happen, than when I have to make myself fall. anyone else fin dthis?
gingerkate - on 01 May 2008
In reply to nikinko:
> (In reply to mikekeswick)
> [...]
>
> which is all very well, but all the leader falls I've taken, one second I've been on the rock, and the next, well, back on the rock (or in mid air at the wall)

Goodness, don't people vary a lot? It's really not like that for me, it takes an age, it's like time slows down or something... I always feel like one of those cartoon critters who doesn't fall until he notices there's no ground.

I'm the same about practise falls, but that's why I think he's onto something. I'm trying to get it over with, not being honest and facing it head on.
arno - on 01 May 2008
Hi Everyone,
Got some nice dialogue going here. Below are a few points based on the posted comments.
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First, when under stress, like when taking a fall, we will revert to our level of proficiency with that skill. Practice allows us to embody (create engrams) a skill--to learn it. Learning it means we have a certain level of comfort with it. By being comfortable when falling we can stay relaxed and keep attention focused on responding to it. If we haven't practiced then we'll tend to tense up and resist it. Tensing up tends to hurt us and resisting distracts attention from what is happening.
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Second, there is no need to think about breathing, where you will land, or doing relaxation exercises when you take a fall during a redpoint effort. This is not the time to practice. There are other times to practice where you can set up a more controlled environment and engage it a little at a time. Practice will allow you to not think but rather allow your body to respond (breathe, relax) according to how you've practiced.
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Third, some have said that it is more difficult letting go than it is to fall unexpectedly. That's the whole point. Climbing and falling are stressful. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. So, the question to ask ourselves is this: Just because climbing and falling are stressful, does that mean I shouldn't do it? Stress mean we haven't learned that skill, that level of difficulty, that type of route, or that fall. In order to learn a skill, climb that level, respond to a fall, etc we need to find ways to make what is stressful a bit more comfortable. This is accomplished through practice.
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Fourth, I don't believe practicing falling interferes with climbing on runout or dangerous routes. I've found the skills I learn when pushing myself and falling on sport climb AND not pushing myself to the point of falling on runout, dangerous routes helps me know where that line is for me...so I don't cross over it when I'm in no-fall situations.
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Fifth, you look down because attention goes where your eyes are looking. When you are falling you need to be attentive to what is happening. If your eyes are closed or you are looking straight ahead at the rock, you won't be attentive to responding to the fall.
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Check it out yourself. Go somewhere to practice and see if you are more/less fearful, more/less effective when looking down or not looking down.
I don't expect anyone to believe what I teach or write about. But, if you have a question about it...test it out for yourself.
Arno
gingerkate - on 01 May 2008
In reply to arno:
I wish I could get on and try your suggestions immediately... childcare is making this impossible!
What you say makes so much sense to me, because I have been doing so precisely the opposite... I've been screwing up my courage to make a practise fall ... and failing to let go. When I do accidentally fall I scream... so I sure as heck am not breathing naturally.

I think I'll reel it right back to taking small falls on a top rope, because the only 'fall' I'm truly comfortable with at present is the sinking onto a tight toprope sort.

Paz - on 02 May 2008
In reply to mikekeswick:

Save me the A-level Psychology.
Jon_Warner - on 03 May 2008
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com:

hmm... interesting article with some good points, especially about being relaxed, but i'm not so sure about breathing etc & am firmly of opinion that mentality before falling is much more important than during, which is what this seems to concentrate on. Not much time to get your head straight once your off!!

Also: Your belayer should end up about five feet off the ground when your fall is ended. If he isn't, then he will need to push off as the rope becomes taut. Not so sure about this!! Surely a much better controlled dynamic belay is to let out some slack, or walk in depending on the situation and how your climber is falling, as opposed to trying to time a jump or leaving it down to gravity!

Serpico on 03 May 2008 - 82-70-37-198.dsl.in-addr.zen.co.uk
In reply to John_Warner:
If you can walk in you're stood too far out and will probably unzip most of your leaders runners. Letting 5' of slack slip through will give you rope burns. Pushing off as your leader comes tight is by fay the easiest option.
Paz - on 03 May 2008
In reply to John_Warner:

The mentality during falling thing is to train your brain so it's in a better state before falling, so you're then less likely to fall because you're not scared of it and so climb better. I think if you relax you're not absorbing the shock with your muscles, but you can use the general content of your body, which is water. They use water bags to absorb the impact of explosions in demolitions and stuff, so it's surprisingly effective.

But yes, it all seems like so much advice to sport climbers and wall bunnies, and they should have linked to planet fear's article on dynamic belaying:

http://www.planetfear.com/article_detail.asp?a_id=476

I don't think my mate the other day was thinking `Ooh I'm not scared' when he tried to down climb and grab a nut and it moved. He actually managed to get down cleanly because he was so scared. And me falling off wouldn't have been a terrbily good idea at certain points last night either.

But bizarrely, sort of like when you're pissed and don't break anything, if you are going to deck out, I think you should still relax, bend your knees, crumple your whole body and try to roll into it (I haven't worked out how to roll and protect my spine because thankfully I haven't had to do it very often, I don';t think this is that easy to do in a climbig situation). Even then in general you should probablu pick your landing - landing in a tree at Buoux saved Lynn Hill's life once.

So in order to achieve this end, rather than concentrating on all this breathing in and learning, when it does happen, if I'm gonna fall from moderate heights soloing (e.g. because my hand's pinged) I've even been able to jump into the fall and control the trajectory - i.e. you don't want to be spinning wildly, let alone landing on your head (though I take massive spannerign oens like this bouldering, even thogh i've not tried L'helicopter). I usually just accept it, resign myself to my fate because I know there's nothing I can do to stop it, maybe breath then just drop and collapse into the fall. And like I said, Arno doesn't say specifically how to do this deliberately.

This will be subject to change after I break the first bone in my body.
ads.ukclimbing.com
arno - on 05 May 2008
I think the practice tip at the end of the article outlines how to practice deliberately. The progression of learning a skill like falling works like this:
First, with little or no falling experience, we are stress and tense when we take a fall.
Second, to have learned a skill means we have gained comfort when doing it. So, with falling we can fall and stay relaxed when doing it.
Third, it is our body that demonstrates that we are comfortable. So, when we take a fall, if we are breathing (not holding our breath), relaxed (not tense), looking down (not closing our eyes or looking straight ahead), and arms out at the ready (instead of grabbing the rope) then we are comfortable. These four aspects that our body is doing demonstrates the level of comfort we have developed with a skill.
Fourth, we enough practice our body automatically does these four things without our mind having to remember or "tell" our body to do it.
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Just remember any skill you learned, like driving a car or riding a bike. At first there was tension and discomfort. With practice your body learned the skill and now your body can do all those four things demonstrating that it is comfortable while driving a car or riding a bike.
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What more would one need to know to practically and deliberately practice this?
Arno
Anonymous on 05 May 2008 - mail.digitalface.co.uk
In reply to arno:

> Just remember any skill you learned, like driving a car or riding a bike.

If climbing is analogous to driving or riding a bike then falling is analogous to crashing your car or being run over.
Serpico on 05 May 2008 - 78.148.113.77 whois?
In reply to Anonymous:
> (In reply to arno)
>
> [...]
>
> If climbing is analogous to driving or riding a bike then falling is analogous to crashing your car or being run over.

More like skid pan training.
arno - on 06 May 2008
"falling like crashing your car or bike?"
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Well, you bring up an interesting point. Everything we do has a consequence. In climbing it is falling. What is it for riding a bike or driving a car? In the beginning of learning a skill we make sure the consequence is low. For learning to ride a bike, for instance, we might begin slowly and we will probably crash many times. We don't go full bore down a hill at first. By taking a small risk we can learn and diminish how much we may get injured. Same in falling. I teach to begin on toprope because the consequence is low.
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Also, once you've learned the skill of riding a bike or driving a car, crashing isn't the consequence really. It is how to recover from a skid. BMX and mountain bike riders get better and better at this skill. Race car drivers get better and better also responding to situations when things are "falling apart."
Arno
gingerkate - on 06 May 2008
In reply to Serpico:
Will this 'push off as the rope comes tight' still work when the belayer is much heavier than the climber?
climbingpixie - on 06 May 2008
In reply to gingerkate:

> Wow, what an absolutely fantastic article. Reading that I now understand why all my try try try try trying to get braver about falling has got me not much further than nowhere. I've just been screwing up my courage and getting it over with each time, I've never done any of that notice what you're feeling and face it head on stuff.

I completely agree with how you feel about the article. I've been doing the same thing when I've tried to practice falling and all it's done is mean I associate falling with feeling tense. I'll be putting this article into practice the next time I'm at the wall.
Paz - on 06 May 2008
In reply to arno:

> I think the practice tip at the end of the article outlines how to practice deliberately.

Yes OK. But I'd have said `this is one way how to over come your fear of falling'.

> What more would one need to know to practically and deliberately practice this?

The missing ingredient I'm referring to was that weird moment during fall practise when you first let go/ jump off. I don't know there's any way of overcoming that transition other than just doing it. Perhaps you're saying repeated gradual exposure to this can help you get used to it. I know we should all try to climb in a more fluid way, but for some moves you need a certain amount of tension, e.g. to hang on or even keep your feet on. This just dissappears with me anyway when I popp or ping off.

When I'm saying you sould keep your fear of falling to drive you upwards I'm probably talking about fear of landing. But I'm not sure distinguishing betwen the two in a careful risk assessment is so easy in the heat of battle, or even worthwhile (as opposed to just getting on with it, be that climbing up or down). The two feel similar to me, the difference is a conscience perception, which I might use to over rule the fear when it's safe.
arno - on 06 May 2008
In reply to Paz:
Hi Paz,
Your comment: "that weird moment during fall practise when you first let go/ jump off. I don't know there's any way of overcoming that transition other than just doing it. Perhaps you're saying repeated gradual exposure to this can help you get used to it."
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Yes, you are correct. There isn't just one way to practice or learn something. We all need to approach risk or something uncomfortable from where we are in our understanding of it and skill with it. I guess my point is that doing it is critical for learning. And, in doing it we need to find ways to be right there where the stress comes up, like when we let go, so we can re-write, so to speak, our relationship with that stress.
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I teach something called "catch release" to help with this transition. I have students let go and quickly grab again, several times while breathing. Then after about ten of these "catch/releases" they let go and go into a short toprope fall. Doing this puts them right in that space where anxiety comes up. Staying there and breathing forces the body and mind to rewrite its perception of it. We then tend not to see that letting go as losing control but rather as transitioning from one kind of control to another. Before letting go we are in control by what we do with our body (breathe, relax, proper posture); after letting go we are in control by what we do with our body (breathe, stay relaxed, look down, arms out). Control has just changed from a more static type to a dynamic type.
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The point is that we keep attention on what we can do (what our body is doing) and not on what we can do nothing about (length of fall, where to land, etc). We cannot control these things once engaged in the fall. And, focusing on where to land will interfere with where we actually end up. Again, our mind is interfering with allowing our body to respond to the fall as it unfolds.
Arno
Paz - on 06 May 2008
In reply to arno:

The catch release sounds like an interesting idea. Better than dynoing for nothing or holding on forever.

The choosing your landing is more of an instinctive reaction than a conscious choice, in the heat of the moment, that I and others have done. It's probably more important to focus on relaxation and crumpling (bending your knees and rolling on impact) if you're going to train a reaction or response.

I think learning to fall and relax when falling is a fine skill, or overcoming you but I think I'm just trying to discourage climbers from applying it to every situation, though it's me who's second guessing that some would do this.
Serpico on 06 May 2008 - 89.240.147.194 whois?
In reply to gingerkate:
> (In reply to Serpico)
> Will this 'push off as the rope comes tight' still work when the belayer is much heavier than the climber?

That's when it's most important. I'm just over 9st, most people I climb with are heavier than me, if they don't jump I get smacked back into the wall. The problem for most people is that it's not an intuitive thing to do. I've taken, and held, hundreds of falls, if you don't practice it regularly your not going to be confident, or inspire confidence whilst belaying.

gingerkate - on 07 May 2008
In reply to Serpico:
Cheers. Will see what my big belayers think of the suggestion.
Michael Ryan - on 09 May 2008
This looks like a good example of someone who is happy with falling - shoulders back, looking down, very relexed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7LvpE_AhF0
gingerkate - on 22 May 2008
In reply to arno and the thread:
Having read this article and thread I fully intended practising immediately, but then we got good weather (hurrah) and so I've not been down the wall till yesterday. Anyway, I reckoned that going off what arno said I had to peel my 'getting used to falling' attempts right back to taking falls on a toprope. I knew I was happy with falling on a tight toprope, so I tried taking falls on an increasingly slack one, and I took some quite big ones without getting in a state, easily as big as a maximal indoor lead fall... I thought about it, let go quite deliberately, rather than screwing up my courage, forgot all about paying attention to my breathing but remembered the 'look down' bit ... and it worked well. Actually I enjoyed it. My belayer had to tell me to stop, ho ho.... but I'm still apprehensive about moving on from that to taking falls on the lead because I'm scared of the swing and I'm not sure about my belayer leaping in teh air. I mean I'm not sure they'll find that easy.

Anyway, next time I get there I'll try some lead falls on steep stuff, and see how they go.

Quite pleased with my progress so far
francoisecall - on 22 May 2008
In reply to arno:
I can relate to the idea of looking down when you fall. It is very similar when you ski down very steep slopes. You have to keep looking down and actually turn your body towards the slope to embrace it. Psychologically it means that you are not refusing it, you are accepting it totally and therefore are able to deal with it mentally and skiingwise.

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