Flying high, Shifu (master) Shi Yan Lei has raised the bar in perfecting Qigong and Kung Fu by pushing it into mainstream life. His body, described by men’s fitness, as ‘’a physique that has been cut from solid jade’’ is a testament to the power of Shaolin as the ultimate mind –body workout. Top 10 of Asia gets up close and personal with one of the most respected and renowned teachers of authentic Shaolin – Shifu Yan Lei.
A 34th generation fighting disciple from the Shaolin Temple in China, Shifu (Master) Shi Yan Lei began training at the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province, China, at the age of 14. He now lives in London, where he teaches the sacred and sophisticated art of Kung Fu and Qigong. Strangely, it was anger that has inspired Master Shi to become a Shaolin Kung Fu master. “I wanted to be a super hero so that I could get revenge on everyone who had been cruel to my family. It was a difficult time back then; like most people in China, we struggled to eat and this caused a lot of tension between me, my parents and our neighbours. As a 12 year old boy, I couldn’t understand this,” says Shifu Yan Lei. This perfidious environment led him deeper into a struggle to survive.
Already a full-time disciple, Shifu Yan Lei landed in a hospital due to a back injury during training. The doctor’s prognosis dealt a severe blow to his already difficult life. “It announced the end of my martial arts life,” he says. Here is where determination (and destiny) took over. Refusing to accept defeat, Shifu Yan Lei found a way to train himself and recover from his injury. “My flat feet gave me so much pain when I ran but I found mental ways to overcome this.” His anger however, was still getting him into a lot of trouble and his training master sent him away to a Zen Temple to learn from a great a meditation master. “Seeing that I couldn’t do sitting meditation, the meditation master told me to make training my meditation. This is what I’ve dedicated my life to and it has brought me to where I am today,” says Shifu Yan Lei.
“At the age 42 and being able to train as hard as I trained at the age of 14 is a great testament to the value and longevity of this art form,” Shifu Yan Lei says. When asked how he achieves a balance between his professional and personal life, Shifu Yan Lei reveals that martial arts is his life and there is no division. On things that he would have done differently, Shifu Yan Lei has this to say: “I do not look back and there is no ‘if’ – there is only the looking ahead and focussing onwhat I cando today that can improve my tomorrow.”
Being the author of the book, Instant Health : The Shaolin Qigong Workout For Longevity and with a role in the feature film ‘The Turtle & The Sea’ under his belt, Shifu Yan Lei sees limitless possibilities in promoting his craft. “I will continue to help more people exercise their birth right to good health and happiness. I will keep inspiring people to train their bodies to reach its fullest potential.”
“Enter the door and acquire the secret of heaven. Practice diligently!”
– Master Shifu Yan Lei