Philosophy of climbing inspired by old martial philosophies. Some wacky ideas, but enough good ideas that I’ve read it twice so far.

Basic tenets:

Power - ability to act effectively in the world.

Warrior’s way - hunting personal power. Learning through engaging with risk.

Risk-taking process:


Witness position - step back and observe thought processes.

Ego/achievement based mindset makes you a slave to performance, rewarded by success and punished by failure, but many aspects of performance are out of your control.

Self-image can be limiting eg “I’m a trad climber so I can’t get used to falling”.

Instead, attach self-worth to love of learning and treat every challenge as an opportunity to learn something new. Success/failure are irrelevant.

Power sinks - actively drain attention.

Power leaks - waste attention on ineffective habits.

“I wish this hold was more positive” has no action quality to it. By wishing, you try to decrease your discomfort by escaping into a fantasy. This is a dreadful waste of power. Not only do you have power going into passive behavior, but you also cloud reality, impairing your ability to problem-solve. Remember that learning is the warrior’s goal. The holds are what they are. You need to think actively so that deliberate, effective actions follow. Instead of wasting power by wishing the hold was more positive, use that power to determine how to use the hold in the best way possible.



Delay and disassociate. Eg feel like falling, want to grab pro -> stop and breathe for a few seconds (delay) -> do anything that isn’t grabbing pro eg lunge for a hold, jump off (disassociate).

Record yourself climbing, observe posture and expression, recall self-talk.


Subtle details matter. The tiniest changes to balance, tension, grip orientation etc can make the difference between falling and comfortably making a move.

Maintain good posture. Avoid grimacing - keep your face relaxed. Soft eyes - pay attention to the whole visual field rather than putting on blinkers.

Practice belly breathing throughout the climb.

Talk in terms of possibility, not limits eg this route is too hard for me -> there’s lots for me to learn on this route.


Phantom fear - fear of the unknown. Fight it by obtaining information. Knowledge is power.

Analyze the route, the fall consequences at each point and your own abilities.

Be objective eg it’s not a good crimp or a bad crimp, it’s a 1cm crimp with a slight incut. Subjective descriptions allow your hopes and fears to color reality, obstructing the problem-solving process.

Avoid self-deception eg don’t lie to yourself about the quality of your pro to quell your fear. You have to be honest with yourself about the risk to be able to be able to prepare for it, and to decide when the risk is too great.

Accept reality as it is rather than wishing it were easier.

Accept responsibility for your own abilities and performance rather than looking for excuses. Blaming performance on things that are out of your control robs you of the ability to improve. Focus on the things you can control. Eg if your belayer shorts you, think about how you could have communicated better or been better prepared for the short, rather than blaming your fall on them.


Avoid entitlement/receiving mindset eg I should have been able to climb this. Focus instead on what you bring to the challenge - your existing skills and conditioning, the quality of your effort and attention.

Avoid deficiency motivation eg I don’t know how to use finger cracks. Focus instead on existing abilities eg I do know how to use hand cracks, how can I modify that technique to work here.

Create room to believe - if you believe a challenge or skill is beyond you then you have already failed. Focus on the possibility of learning and growing.


The safety, comfort, and security we crave aren’t objective states. They are subjective feelings that come through increasing our understanding of our world and our capabilities. In short, we gain comfort and security by expanding our comfort zones, and we expand our comfort zones by venturing into the risk zone. We make ourselves uncomfortable and insecure for a short time in order to learn what we’re capable of.

Having assessed the risk, either back off or commit 100% and embrace the risk falling. Both are acceptable responses, and both are better than the middle ground of climbing fearfully and reluctantly.

Make specific commitments eg I’ll climb to that ledge and then reassess the risk of the next section.

Having accepted the possibility of falling, you can now climb without worrying about it. Don’t second-guess yourself while climbing.

Practice falling. It’s going to happen anyway. Structured practice lets you learn to react to falls in a gradual progression so you can manage the risk.

Unbending intent.

Not fight-or-flight. Committing is focused and engaged, not driven by adrenaline and fear. Backing-off is consciously and rationally disengaging, not fleeing in panic.

Practice dynos on lead to experience commitment.


Don’t stick to a rigid plan based on old information. Be flexible and open to new information. The route and the holds may turn out to be different from how they looked from the ground. New holds might appear that were invisible before.

Being in control vs being controlling. Don’t waste energy trying to control things that cannot be controlled. Don’t cling to security when you have to leave it to climb on. Trust in the process.

Practice climbing until failure, rather than letting go.

Practice climbing continuously without time to think.


Enjoy the journey rather than escaping to comforting thoughts about the finish. You came here for this climb. Enjoy it.

Practice climbing as your partner sets a route, so you don’t even have an end destination to think about.