Martial Arts has always been a huge part of my life. I started training in Judo when I was 8 and my love for training grew from there. I moved around a lot as a child so never got to stick at one place for a great deal of time, so my training was a little lack luster but then when I was 15 I started taking my training seriously and joined the Shotokan karate club at my school.
I came to the Rising Dragon School when I was 18 for my gap year in 2009 for 6 months. Since I was 15 I had trained in various styles from Muay Thai to BJJ, from Kali to Wing Chun and I decided that what I really wanted to do was to go to the birthplace of Martial arts and train in China. Needless to say that I got in contact with Scott and I arrived at the school on the 2nd January 2009.
When I arrived, the White Crane teacher Master Yan was the only teacher at the school with the other teachers having taken time to visit their families for Chinese New Year. I had originally wanted to train in Northern Shaolin Fist but thought that training under Yan Shifu would be a great way to adjust to the school and the way of life out there. I never switched to Shaolin. I found in Yan Shifu a teacher beyond anything that I had expected. It would be hard for me to describe the way that Yan Shifu trains you because he makes you feel like when he trains you, he is training only you.
Though the group size changed over the 6 months that I was there I never felt that master Yan gave any one person more attention than anyone else, he watched you like a hawk, helping smiling encouraging. The thing about Yan Shifu is this, he loves what he does, he loves teaching White Crane and he will give you what you put in. The best piece of advice I can give anyone who wants to train at the school, regardless of which style you train in whilst there is this, don't come with a full cup, learn take in what the Masters are saying, believe me you save yourself a lot of hassle you will learn far more.
In terms of living at the school I was there in the winter, spring and early summer and believe me you want to pack for the weather. In the heat, sun tan lotion is a must, being so high up in the mountains you burn very quickly. Make sure that you always stay hydrated; water out there can be purchased from the school shop at very reasonable prices a long with pretty much anything that you may need. Also bring plenty of deodorant, cause you will not find it in the local stores and its really expensive in the big cities. In the winter make sure that you dress really warm and wear plenty of layers, don't worry the Masters will make you sweat. Apart from that just watch out for spiders and stay clean, not just for your sake but for the sake of your training partners.
On the weekends you will just want to chill out so there is plenty of opportunity to do that but if you want to be active the countryside is beautiful and you will not be short of things to see. The local village, is just round the corner and there are regular buses to Taining, the local town, so take full advantage and explore. China has a very different culture from ours so don't be put off by things you may see, just have an open mind.
Being at the school was the best experience of my life and I learnt so much about myself and I learnt what hard training is. By the time I left I had leant 5 fist forms, 1 weapon form and had reached a reasonable level of hard body and soft Qi Gong, I also came back two and a half stone lighter. The school from the time I arrive to the time that I left went from strength to strength and developed greatly with the renovation of the student's accommodation and the construction of the Sanda Gym and I'm sure it will continue to do so.
So anyway, Good luck to all the prospective students and remember, train hard, train safe and respect your Masters and the tradition that they represent.