J.T. Erickson

Age 31 from USA

 

I went to China to spend 6 months at the Rising Dragon school after only a decade of life in the real world. I had been working in Business Intelligence for a couple of Internet companies, and was burning out. I had been looking around for something a little better out of life, and at some point found Scott's school on a Facebook ad (of all places).

After a few emails back and forth, an opportunity presented itself and I was off! Prior to this, my only martial arts experience had been the 2-3x per week after work prior to the MMA craze (Krav Maga, Ninjutsu) and some work during my University years (Judo, which easily ended up being the most useful once I arrived). I had spent some number of years as an amateur power lifter, which had destroyed my flexibility (and some of my joints), but ended up leaving a lasting impression on my strength (also a bonus in China).

In the two months leading up to my trip, I had been doing yoga a few times a week, but it was really too little, too late (probably could have used a couple of years of it, really). If you have the time / resources to learn some of the language in advance, it will be exceptionally useful. It is not vital, but you will get a lot more out of the trip if you can speak directly to your teachers (there are translators provided) and the locals in town. You do not need to be fluent, but knowing a few hundred words (not so bad as it sounds at first) will take you a long, long way. You can pick up good chunks of the language if you are at the school for any appreciable length of time, which will make it easier to get around, but coming in with some language would be so much better.

I'm not sure that anything in the US could have prepared me for the lifestyle I walked into at 4am that morning. It was freezing (don't arrive in Feb/Mar from Cali, it's... rough), and training began just a couple of short hours later. It took a few days to acclimate, but once I was able to sink into what I was doing, it turned out that there was very little I'd rather have been working for. My lack of flexibility was an issue, but not one, which could not be overcome (had I gone the Shaolin route, it may have been problematic...).


Once you're there, it's VERY important to remember why it is you came. Get to know your teacher, spend extra time training, and show them that you are serious. They will appreciate it, and they will respect your hard work. Wake up early, meditate, and train hard. During the week, nothing can be more important than your training. Your time at Rising Dragon can be life defining if you are willing to make the effort.

As far as supplies, between the shop at the school and the town on weekends, you should be able to obtain about everything you need. I had been concerned about toothpaste, etc, but the diet at the school is based on natural foods, and you may come back healthier than you left (my dentist was confused). Of course, the students will all love you if you bring good quality chocolate. If you'll be there for the colder months, bring a heavy coat, and hooded sweatshirts in layers will be your greatest assets when training outside on chilly mornings. One piece of advice, which I didn't take, make time at the end of your stay to travel. You're going to be in one of the most beautiful areas of China, and who knows how many times you'll be able to get back. It sounds silly, but those things can wait.

Finally, something to note, regardless of how much work it is, almost every student I've spoken with speaks of a desire to return to the school. The experience, and the friends you can make, is second to none. It's impossible to overstate the job that Scott has done in creating this school.