I have fought another human being in a confined space…for fun. I do public speaking every night when I teach to a bunch of people I may not know. I quit my job and followed my dream without really a plan in mind. All of that was not nearly as scary as heights are for me.
My boyfriend loves climbing. He climbs for almost 10 hours a week. He is also the type of person who doesn’t mind trying something new and sucking at it. On the other hand am not that kind of person. I am so scared of heights. I have always been ever since I was a kid. So I just avoided climbing because of it. Why do I need to face my fear when I can just avoid it?
Then I started thinking about how many people don’t try martial arts because of fear. Or don’t come back to class because they were uncomfortable. Or quit because it wasn’t as easy as they thought. How can I help those people if I can’t even understand where they are coming from?
So I started climbing.
For those of you who don’t know anything about climbing, like me, I’m going to use layman’s terms. Bouldering is the shorter wall with no harness and Top Roping is the larger wall with a harness and rope. There are other types of climbing too but I don’t climb well enough to need to explain them for this story.
It was slow at first. Bouldering was easier for me because for some reason I trust my break fall more than the ropes, I know that this is completely irrational. Then I started top roping. It would always start out ok then I would start to have a mini panic attack about 2/3rds up the wall and make my boyfriend lower me. I didn’t know how to make myself trust the equipment.
Next time we were climbing he had an idea that terrified me. “You should just climb something hard so that you’ll fall.” I knew he was right that didn’t make it any less scary. So next time we climbed he put me on a 5.9. I’m a beginner climber so that was out of my skill set at the time. I got on the wall knowing that I was probably going to fall but figured I might as well give it my best shot. What happened next was so surprising. I stopped thinking about how high up it was. It was so hard for me that I just focused on what I was doing. By the time I did fall, which was ¾ of the way up, I was so proud of myself. It was the best I had ever climbed and I had faced my fear of falling from heights. Oh…and I didn’t die.
It’s important for us to remember this as instructors and martial artists. We do want to push our students but not to push them to fear. Then they just avoid it all together all we are looking for is to be outside of our comfort zone. That is where the learning and growing happens. So I will continue to climb and face my fear one day at a time.
If you’re interested in getting started in climbing as well I have provided some links below for gear to get you started. See you on the…wall?