“This video is based entirely on my personal experience at Shaolin Temple and I only used my own footage. I always wanted to do this video and now felt like a good time. I guess you could call this the ‘Origin Story’. I hope you enjoy.” ~ Ranton (Blogger and Shaolin Warrior @RealRanton)

The following transcript below is from the videoMy Life At Shaolin Temple” by Ranton.

Narrator:

Whoa! How do we get here?”

Narrator:

Well, that’s a long story. Sit back and relax . This is my life at Shaolin Temple.

Narrator:

After I graduated from high school, I started an apprenticeship at a German bank because I knew I’d earn good money and who wouldn’t want to have a stable job. I had a very high GPA, so I had the freedom to do anything but I didn’t want to go to university right away because I was sick of studying. I wanted to make some money first. Unfortunately, the bank sent me to an office pretty far from home and I didn’t-and still don’t- have my driver’s license, so I had to make a one and a half hour train trip back and forth to work everyday which didn’t help my motivation. So I requested to be relocated into a more central bank. They did and things became even clearer. This wasn’t what I wanted to do with me life. So I quite and now I was lost. I still didn’t want to go to college but I also can’t just do nothing, so I went to china for half a year to spend time with my family and improve my Chinese. I always loved china but after that time it became my second home. To this day Beijing is one of my favorite cities in the world and I have nothing but great memories of that place. Six months passed and I went back home. Even though I had a great time I fell back into my old way of thinking. When I returned. I was lost again. This was around May, 2013. I learned so much in china yet I was still not ready to get back to my old life in Germany. This depressed me. After wasting my time for three more months wondering what I shoud do, something came to my mind. Since I was about 13 years old, I’ve always had this thought of living in a monastery. Maybe you could call it a dream. It was never anything really concrete though. Just a distant Idea, but now things were different. I had to do something and I knew I didn’t want to stay here. My options were limited. Is there even a monastery where I can find peace and quite and at the same time keep fit. And of course there was only one possibility. The ancient and mythical Shaolin temple. I wrestled with that thought for a while. I thought it was outrageous. Like many of you, I’ve heard many stories about Shaolin monks and watched some you tube documentaries. How will I be able to survive there? Would they even take me in? I’m sure there are tons of people who would like to join them. But at that point, I was obsessed. I had to know for sure and there was only one way of doing that. I had to give it a try. And so it began my three year long adventure at Shaolin temple.

Narrator:

Getting there was no cakewalk. First I flew to Bejing then I took the fast train to Gyeongju, the capital of Honan. Then, took a long distance bus to dong fong then take another small bus to the shaolin scenic area and then get picked up by one of the shaolin monks which my dad had gotten in touch with before through his contacts. What was my first impression? It was midsummer. It was at least 40 degrees Celsius and extremely humid. I wish someone would had told me at this point my western sophisticated standards weren’t going to matter to anybody here. And why should they? I was a spoiled unsuspecting nineteen year old guy from Germany who thought he could just join the shaolin monks and that would be the end of it. Obviously, things went very differently. My first day was a night mare. I was trained by one of the lead warrior monk together with a Chinese teenager who would come to shaolin temple every year during the summer holiday. It was just the two of us. I had no friends. I was in the middle of nowhere. I was alone. It sucked. But during these rare and quite moments when I was able to take in the scenery and think about the history of this place, it was magical ; almost overwhelming. The shaolin temple lies in a valley of the holy songshan mountains. If you walk 10 to 15 minutes up a street in front of the temple, you’ll arrive in a small village called danjiangkou. This is a tiny place filled with people, mostly children and teenagers. By my estimation, maybe around 1,500 people, in total. What do they do there? Train Kung-Fu all day, every day. Nothing but Kung-Fu. From 4:30 Am to 9:00 PM. This is their life. They are divided into more than a dozen schools with their masters being former or even current shaolin monks. Maybe I should better go to one of these was my thought. And as I was walking through the packbell streets of von drogo, it didn’t take long to see the first western faces and that was like a gift from god. A western face meant home. I quickly approached them and was brought to a school exclusively for foreigners and that is where I decided to stay, for now. This was supposed to be my transition period, getting used to the life there, while being able to spend time with people that I could relate to more easily. I stayed here for one month and I met some wonderful people. Still, each morning when we warmed up for training , I saw the actual shaolin temple staring at me from a distance. I knew that that is where I needed to go. I wasn’t here just to learn Kung-Fu. I wanted to learn about the Buddhist and Shaolin cultures. So eventually, I came in touch with the, I guess, spokesperson of the Shaolin temple who’s in charge of foreigners- sorry, I’m still not quite sure of his actual job description. He wasn’t a monk. He was a businessman ,which confused me a little. But, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise since the Shaoline temple is a UNISCO world heritage and had become a million dollar industry over the past years, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists every month, just among chinese people alone. It was by far not the place I had pictured when I left Germany, but I had come so far to see this legendary place and I wasn’t about to give up now. So, I made a deal with this man, which brought me a lot closer to my goal. I was still going to live in danjiangkou but I was going to train, eat and pray in the shaolin temple. This was huge for me. Ultimately, my goal was training side by side with the monks, but those guys have been doing Kung fu since they are little six year old kids, in some cases even earlier. How was I ever going to catch up? It seemed impossible . I did some Judo when I was 12, but that’s about it. I left the school for foreigners and started training in Shaolin temple under guidance of a senior Shaolin warrior monk and I stuck to it every day, training about 6 to 7 hours daily. It was exhausting. I was still training together with foreigners and most of the time I was still the only person who would speak Chinese, so I also acted as a translator, which would help me a lot along the way. But, it wasn’t only an issue of language. The shaolin temple is and probably always has been a turbulent place. Over the past years, it’s grown vastly in popularity and fame but also criticism. Now this video isn’t going to address those because they are mostly uttered by people who are neither familiar with the Chinese culture nor has they ever stepped foot into shaolin temple as anything other than a tourist. Shaolin temple has become very careful and wry of who they allow to get close to them. I guess this is a normal and natural way of thinking when you got so many eyes on you, constantly. Why do I mention this? Because I was lucky. I was lucky that I looked Chinese. That I had a Chinese family who visited me several times and that I could speak Chinese. I was a lot easier for them to relate to me and to see me as one of them. Even during my first two years of training, I had the honor and the privilege to train among the warrior monks man times. In western countries, we always expect regulation, clarity and bureaucracy. People often struggle to understand how my daily routine was. I wasn’t a monk. Every day was different. I got up in the morning and didn’t know what to expect . Sometimes training was canceled due to a Buddhist ceremony that I had to take part in. Sometimes I was called on short notice to run down to the temple quickly because the German ambassador from Beijing was here and I should introduce myself and perform. There was a lot of drinking tea, cleaning up, talking and being young. I was here indefinitely and it was hard for people to understand that.

Narrator:

Two year passed and I had made many friends. Sometimes my master wouldn’t even show on training but call me up and tell me I should fill up for him. This happened fairly frequently and even I was sick of teaching basics to foreign newcomers who would go home again after 3 weeks anyways. I felt that it was finally time to take the next step. So, one morning I walked up to my master, I looked him in the eye and I was sweating like crazy and I asked: can I join the warrior monks? Looking back, I don’t know why I was that nervous. He knew that I spent a lot of time with them already. Training, performing and going to the city together. He didn’t even hesitate. He said: yes, sure, but don’t mess it up. He trusted in me and he believed in me. That felt amazing; like a new beginning , which it was. My last year was by far the most fun and the most painful. Before, I got beaten up by my master only on rare occasions, only if I really messed something up. Now it was almost a daily occurrence and ten times harder because I was a familiar face by now . I think most of the time I got preferential treatment. I wasn’t hit as hard as the others because I was still a half foreigner. They know that in the west we aren’t big fans of using violence to teach. But, my god there were some masters who didn’t care , which I loved. It made me feel even more integrated. Although, while you are getting hit with a stick, it’s still not that great. It was a learning experience and I went thought a lot of ups and downs. The living conditions would drastically change at times, going a week without running water or electricity turns out to be quite the challenge. But, winter is where things got really tough. Having to go into splits early in the morning at minus 20 Celsius makes you rethink your life choices, but of course it wasn’t all bad. On the contrary, we also had a lot of fun goofing around. And, since I was shifted around different warrior monk training groups, I got to meet some of the best martial artists in the world. These monks had no interest in fame. It’s hard to see into the heart of the myth, through the fog of mystery what shaolin really is ,but I’m sure of it; some of these monks carried the true legendary skill and ancient wisdom of a shaolin warrior. And their teaching methods were insane but undoubtedly effective. Some trains we would have train until at least somebody throws up and thank god I never did. We learned in two weeks what people in the west would learn in two years because it was literally beaten into us. I was instructed in several traditional and modern fist forms, swords, whips, chain whips, double chain whips and of course the most iconic weapon: the staff. It was important to be ready to perform in front of a large audience at a moment’s notice, which happened plenty of times. Of course, shaolin isn’t merely the name of the monastic order, but it’s also a culture that is often reduced to the sport, but it ‘s much more than that. I don’t want to get into it as a terrorism and chen doctrine but I will never forget what one of the meditating monks once told me: “spirituality that is expressed is not spirituality.” This really made me think, but I want to conclude this with a different note. In my experience, behind shaolin lies a very contradictory philosophy. You can ask the same question to two masters and you;ll get two completely different answers. This frustrates to this very day but I’m still young , so maybe I’m not supposed to understand it yet .

Narrator:

It wouldn’t feel right to make this video without at least mentioning one of my best friends that I made at shaolin and that’s Bruce. I don’t know who gave him that name but he was the kindest and most loving dog I’ve ever met in my life. He’d even join us on training and by joining I mean napping in the shadows while we were training under the scalding hot sun. Sometimes he’d even run up the mountain with me. Bruce was the best but because he didn’t have a real owner and was sort of a half wild dog who would also hunt on his own, one day he disappeared. That kinda broke my heart, I really loved him. I have this suspicion that he was hit by a car since he loved going out after dark. I just hope that it was a painless and quick death. Rest in peace Bruce. I know it’s important to be humble but If I may just say what I’m most proud of ,it’s not the Kung-Fu that I learned. It’s about the inside look I was granted into the lives of my closest friends at Shaolin temple. The friendships that I had made and the togetherness that I experienced though blood, sweat and tears. Literally, I don’t regret a second of it. Finally, having a better understanding of the Chinese mentality and the Chinese way of thinking, I want to thank all the masters for their patience with me. I a forever I your debt. You opened my eyes to so many things. It’s almost impossible to put this into words ;everything you guys have done for me. Without you I’d still feel lost to this very day. It was probably the greatest adventure of my life and I’m honored to be apart of Shaolin temple.

Narrator:

Thanks for Listening

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