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Mental Training for Rock Climbing

An Introduction to the Rock Warrior’s Way

Adam Mitchell owns Rock-About Climbing Adventures in Texas, where he teaches clinics to improve climbing performance based on the Warrior’s Way philosophy. Adam has been climbing for over 15 years and has been certified in the Warrior’s Way since 2014.

Climbing became a focus in my life about 15 years ago. I had just finished college and needed an outlet to focus energy. In a previous life, I rode bareback horses in the rodeo,  and needed a form of exercise that had a risk component. Enter climbing. Quite a few years later, I found myself owning a climbing guide service with a focus on instruction and on climbing the Rock Warrior Way.

My initial introduction to the seminal book The Rock Warrior’s Way was a brief interaction with the author, Arno Ilgner, at a 2014 event in Colorado. I immediately bought the book and read it, hoping to find mental training tips with the intention of giving better instruction to my clients. At the time, I thought I had a strong mind for climbing—but I didn’t realize how little I knew. After reading the book, I was intrigued and contacted Arno to get more involved with the program. After a few months of in-depth training with him personally, I became certified as a Warrior’s Way Trainer.

The Warrior’s Way is based on the mindset of Samurai warriors, who train their minds to stay in the moment during duels, and focus on calm rather than fear. Fear and frustration in climbing impedes your focus on the climb itself, so this method teaches you to separate the body and the mind. When fear occurs, focus your attention on the climb.

Frustration—in life and in climbing—can be debilitating. The Warrior’s Way teaches you to honor your stressors and use frustrations as opportunities for learning. If you’re frustrated or scared on a rock climb, focus on enjoying the struggle and the journey instead of thinking about quitting in order to find comfort. 

Warrior’s Way Key Values

If you’ve never read The Rock Warrior’s Way or taken a Warrior’s Way class, there are three values that stand out to me that I would like to pass along:

  1. Engage stress instead of shying away from it.
  2. Commit your attention to the physical aspect of the climb.
  3. Direct your focus on being in the moment.

Of those three values, directing your focus to the moment is the most important lesson for any climber. Think of two Samurai warriors in a deadly duel. Their motivation should be in the moment so they can focus their mental resources on applying their extensive training, not on the fear or stress of fighting. 

The Warrior’s Way is an important tool for all climbers, but those just getting into climbing can benefit most from this training. The beginner can start climbing with the Warrior’s Way tools, and also integrate this philosophy into daily life. Learning to honor stressors and treat them as learning opportunities has value in all aspects of life from relationships to work interactions. 

Though I have taught the Warrior’s Way for years, I learn from every clinic I teach, and I’m honored to continue practicing these mental training techniques to improve my own climbing. 

Interested in strengthening your mind for rock climbing? Get The Rock Warrior’s Way here, or sign up for a Warrior’s Way course.