Selasa, 04 Juni 2013

The Science Of Stretching

At the Shaolin Temple we never stretch first, we always start with a gentle warm up and when the muscles feel warm and loose we stretch. We do two types of stretching: static and dynamic. The Shaolin dynamic stretching we do is the five basic kicks, and the five stances which open the hips and warm up the leg muscles. We believe that it's only by doing these stretches that we can get truly flexible. We've stretched this way and warmed up our muscles like this for thousands of years, and if you train with my DVDs then you'll be doing it this way. In fact, I didn't know there was another way until I came to the UK. 

Yesterday, a student showed me a book about the science of exercise, which has a chapter on stretching. Latest research shows that the way Shaolin Disciples warm up and stretch is the way to get maximum performance from our workout. There's a belief in the West that stretching before a warm up is good but research has shown that it has no benefit and doesn't bolster performance. The other myth is the only way to flexibility is through static stretching. To quote from the book: "Dynamic stretching may be the most important element of a warm up... it involves moving and waking the tissues that will be called upon during the subsequent exercise." It's also the way to become more flexible. 

This way of preparing for a workout is not just for martial artists but all athletes.

For more information on Shaolin Training please visit

Senin, 13 Mei 2013

The Goalless Goal

Shaolin Training doesn't underestimate a person's strength of body and mind. The masters knew how much we could achieve and they wouldn't let us get away with anything less. The first goal young disciples have when they come to the Shaolin Temple is "Never Give Up." This means the thought of quitting is not a seed in our mind therefore it can never grow into a tree.

While holding this goal, we follow the philosophy of Zen, which is to train just to train. We're told the importance of aimlessness and letting go.
"The harder you try to grab something, the further away it goes," my master told me.

So how does aimlessness and the goal of Never Give Up sit comfortably together? Maybe the word goal should be changed to intention. "It's my intention to never give up." And once that statement is made then it's like sitting on a plane and knowing the destination is Beijing. We don't need to think anymore about where we're heading. Our mind is no longer caught up thinking maybe I should head to Chicago or London instead. There's no way we can get off the plane, so we let go and focus on the journey. The goalless goal is another way of simplifying our life.

For more information visit

Selasa, 30 April 2013

Circuit Of Change

Some people call circuit training a shortcut to fitness. It burns up to 30% more fat than a typical workout, while rapidly elevating fitness levels. If you're a runner and you mix in circuit training, you'll find an improvement in your long distance times. 

Many people ask me if I do weight training. I don't. My Shaolin Circuit Training DVDs are the main workout I do on a daily basis. These DVDs are designed for fit busy people who want results fast. Combining push ups with punches while keeping the heart rate elevated means the muscle are being constantly challenged.  If you're pushed for time then you'll achieve more from circuit training than any other type of exercise

Shaolin Circuit Training combines cardio and strength training into 9 tough interval circuits.  The level of intensity depends on how hard you push yourself but you should be working at an uncomfortable level of exertion the entire time. How many punches can you do in round one? How many kicks can you do in round five? How about the final round? It's a good idea to make a note of this so you can track your improvement.

Alternate between the Circuit Training Volume 1 and 2 on different days so you're focusing on building the strength of your arms or legs and improving the skill of your punches and kicks. I recommend you alternate these two DVDs twice a week and then, if your doing 5 or 6 workouts a week, do any volume from Shaolin Bootcamp or Shaolin Workout. If you've more time then you don't need to follow the Qigong at the end of the DVD but can do your favourite Qigong followed with the Instant Health Massage. And remember, even though you're out of breath, it's still the breath of Qi. Training in Shaolin means everything we do is a meditation. Even circuit training.

Shaolin Circuit Training is not suitable for beginners.
 Shifu Yan Lei teaches a graded path to Shaolin. Click for more details

Selasa, 23 April 2013

Shifu Yan Lei talks about his daily workout, diet, and meditation

What's your daily workout like?

My training day usually starts with either a 10 or 12k jog or interval running, sprinting 800 meters then resting for 800 meters and doing this 4 times or varying my runs like I show in my youtube video. I then do some circuit training, the same as on my DVD though I mix the punches and kicks together. I think it's important to sweat when you're training, only this is true training. In the afternoon I do bag work, and pad work if there's someone at the temple to hold pads. I finish off with Iron Shirt Qigong and combine Iron Shirt conditioning with Instant Health Massage using a metal brush.

Can the average person hack Shaolin training?

Shaolin is for everybody. Of course the average person doesn't have 4 hours a day to train but a lot can be accomplished in one hour five days a week. This is enough to be healthy and fit. If you're not close to a school and train from my DVDs then you need to make a program. The best DVDs for fitness are the Bootcamp and Circuit TrainingDVDs but you need a level of fitness before you can embark on them. Like all things, take one step at a time. Most people have no desire to do hard Qigong but they  have a desire to have more energy and increase their longevity so they do Eight Treasures.

You've talked about the Shaolin Monk's diet in another post, but how important is diet to you?

The more you do Shaolin martial arts, the more you tune into your body and the harder it is to eat badly. If you're craving unhealthy food, don't worry about it, start working out the Shaolin way and the cravings will go away of their own accord. Before I train I eat a lot of noodle and vegetable with some meat then a banana, which is a great thing to eat before training as it helps to keep sugar levels up. We don't use ovens in China but something new I've discovered in the West is roasted sweet potato. Very healthy and a better carbohydrate than potato. I eat fruit and nuts through out the day. I tend to cook two days food in advance so when I come home and I'm hungry my food is already prepared.

How focused are you on Buddhism and Zen meditation?

I'm a simple person. I feel that many Western people read too many books and this makes their mind complicated. My master gave me one sutra, The Hui Neng Sutra, and he told me not to sit in meditation but to make training my meditation. Zen is about experience, not knowledge. When people do kung fu or Qigong forms, they get a taste of this Zen experience and then there are no questions. The important thing is not to look outside, but work with where we are and what we have here and now. There's no need to go to the temple, the temple is right here and now

Shifu Yan Lei teaches a graded path in Shaolin Kung Fu and Qigong, click here for more information. 

Sabtu, 06 April 2013

How To Let Go And Why It Makes You Feel Good

The aim of the physical training we do at the Shaolin Temple is to lead us to Zen.  In our hectic lives, our minds become hectic and the best way to cut the circle of thought is through Shaolin Kung Fu and Qigong.

Before you start to play my DVD or follow my book, take a couple of  breaths and tell yourself to let go. Let go of your name, and who you think you are, and what's occupying your mind. Letting go is itself belief.

Your body is wise. When it was a baby, it knew how much milk it needed to drink and how much sleep it needed in order to grow. When you train, don't do anything, let the training train you.

My latest DVDs are an at home workout which is as close to having me as a personal trainer as possible. I didn't shoot them in a beautiful location in China because I wanted to demonstrate that wherever you are, whatever situation you are in, that is the perfect place to practice.

Whenever I feel worried or under pressure I go and workout. This doesn't mean I'm not taking care of my worries but I know that a worried mind cannot think clearly. If I'm very worried than I will do circuit training so that my body is challenged to the limit. I finish off with some Qigong and I'm centered again. My energy flowing freely like water and no longer blocked by my discouraging thoughts.

Letting go is underrated.  Only when we let go can things come to us. A closed hand receives nothing. A worried mind is like a person running a hundred miles but it not amounting to one step, an Urban Warrior covers a thousand miles with one step.

I make my DVDs in the hope you can access this awakened mind. I hope that through hard training you can learn to rest deeply. Whether you use one of my DVDs or all of them, the practice is the same; keep it calm, steady and sincere.

How To Master The Shaolin Forms And Why You Should

Shaolin Forms. What's the point of them?  Haven't they had their day? Aren't there more efficient ways to exercise the body? Not if you want to awaken every cell in their body.

Awaken The Body

Shaolin Forms teach the many muscle groups in our body to work together. They are the only exercise I've come across where every muscle is engaged and you're simultaneously building flexibility, strength, endurance, balance, and power. These ancient forms come from nature, they awaken the body, helping us to let go of our small self and experience a connection with the very fabric of the Universe. They then teach us how to move in our modern life, whether that's carrying our groceries home or climbing the stairs to the subway. Everything becomes part of our training: total mind-body wellness

Circuit training in the gym consists of squats with weights, press ups, and lunges.  There's nothing wrong with this kind of training but it looks monotonous and doesn't have the gracefulness of the Shaolin forms. Shaolin forms work the legs as hard as any squat or lunge and there's a purpose to it, both self-defence, strength and for the health of the mind and body.

Realize Your True Potential 

Shaolin challenges us physically and mentally to prepare us for the physical and mental challenges that arise as we go through our life. They help us deal with the challenges of modern life, benefiting us mentally and physically from realizing our body’s true, natural potential.

Shaolin Forms need to be practiced thousands of times for them to become really yours. They need to feel almost like you own the form, it's then that you've mastered it. Break the form down, practice a bit of it, slow it down, speed it up, do it with your eyes closed and see how it feels. Work on the stances, check them in the mirror. Listen to your breathing and forget about the movement, when you're standing in a queue, can you still remember the form?

Health is your Birthright

I've seen my students transform into alert, confident, strong, grounded people with the confidence to go after what they want.  Shaolin forms re-align the body, mind and spirit. Your new normal becomes healthy, flexible, strong and centered. This, I believe, is your birthright. 

Two Minute Health Tricks From The Shaolin Temple Of Zen

Training in Shaolin Martial Arts is a lifestyle that involves eating well, working out at least an hour five times a week as well as practicing Qigong. But if you're finding that you're busier than usual and can't fit in your regular training, one of these quick practices can still keep you on the Shaolin path.

 Green Tea

Green tea is the best food source of a group called catechins. In test tubes, catechins are more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting oxidative damage to cells and appear to have other disease-fighting properties. Want to find out more about the health properties of drinking green tea? click here 

Qigong Workout Press Ups

Just doing ten Qigong press ups from my Qigong Workout every day will increase your upper body strength, and increase the flexibility of your back. A strong back is the foundation of a fit and healthy body. These press ups work the triceps hard so when you do regular press ups you'll find them easier.

Instant Health Massage

Don't have time to do Qigong? Five minutes of the Instant Health Massage after you've stepped out of the shower will increases circulation, stimulate the lymphatic system, open the meridian lines and act as a natural battery charger. To find out more click here:

 Five minute Form

Speed up a Qigong form or slow down a Kung Fu form. Moving through these ancient Shaolin forms helps us to tap into our inner flow and access a peace that can easily be lost in the midst of our busy life. 

Eating Meditation

Don't have time to meditate? Have time to eat? Turn that into your meditation. Tune into your breath and the awareness of the food you're eating. Being aware of the food you're eating, automatically slows down your eating, aids digestion and helps reduce stress. By the end of your meal you'll feel calm and connected. You can also do a tea meditation

What's In A Shaolin Monk's Refrigerator?

Food is Medicine

Shaolin Monks alongside the majority of Chinese people see food as medicine and eat in accordance with traditional Chinese Medicine. Foods have Yin and Yang qualities and we alter what we eat in accordance with how our health is that day. For example, if we have a cold then we'll make chicken soup with dried red plums,  Goji berries and ginger, an excellent tonic soup.

Inside the Shaolin Temple we eat vegetarian food but outside the temple, the fighting monks are allowed to eat meat. In this article I'm not going to go into the pros and cons of being a vegetarian but I'm going to give you an insight into our daily diet.

Shaolin Monk's focus on eating foods in their natural state. We don't eat energy bars or cereal, we don't drink coca cola,  protein shakes,  alcohol, or water with ice. We eat a diet which is rich in fruit, vegetables, and good quality protein. For carbohydrate we eat white rice, steamed buns or noodles. We drink water at room temperature, and lots of green tea. For snacks we eat nuts and fruits.

Carbohydrate - The Difference Between East & West

Before I came to the West I'd never seen brown rice before. I, along with the majority of Chinese people don't like the taste of it so it's not something we eat. There seems to be a backlash against refined carbohydrates or even carbohydrates in general in the West. But anyone who trains hard needs to eat carbohydrates. ( I eat about three times the amount of carbohydrate the average person eats because I train so much.)White rice is a source of dietary fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive system, it contains vitamin B1 and is low in fat.

Our daily food is stir fried vegetables and protein with carbohydrate, the most common protein being lamb, chicken, pork or tofu (now that I'm in the West I eat turkey and Quorn , which is a good source of lean protein).  Lamb is usually grass fed which is better than grain fed, it's Yang and is good to eat if people are low in energy. We rarely eat beef. We eat protein with every meal because it helps us to sustain energy during our training.  For our evening meal we don't eat any carbohydrate unless we're going to train that evening.

Timing Is Important

Shaolin Monks believe that the time they eat is as important as what they eat. We eat our heaviest food at breakfast because we need this energy for training, a slightly lighter lunch then less food in the evening. Studies have shown that eating breakfast aids weight loss. Eating within an hour of exercise burns a little more fat and helps to promote leanness. Eating before exercise enhances performance and increases the amount of calories burnt.

Chinese food  - excluding Chinese food in Western restaurants which is usually not authentic Chinese - combines food in such a way that not only is it  packed with nutrition but it's also an immune booster.

5 Vegetable Immune Booster 

 A good example of this and a dish to eat in the evening is  five vegetable stir fry with ginger. Take five vegetables, preferably five different colours, cut them thinly then stir fry them with ginger, garlic and chili. I suggest that one of your vegetables is red pepper which has a high vitamin C content,  and shitake mushroom which enhances immunity . Ginger aids digestion, chili contains capsicum which has anti-bacterial qualities and garlic is one of the most powerful healing foods that you can include in your daily diet to boost immunity. This simple dish not only tastes great but helps to prevent cancer, the common cold,  gives you your five a day, and cannot make you fat.

Although our diet is Chinese,  you don't need to start eating Chinese food to change your diet to healthy, you just need to make sure that you're eating fresh fruit and vegetables with good quality protein and carbohydrate. Food in its natural state has all the nutritional benefits you need.  Avoid processed food. Live simply and keep your diet simple. That way your mind and body will be in balance. 

Shifu Yan Lei teaches a graded path to health and fitness, for more information click here

Rabu, 27 Februari 2013

How To Avoid Hitting A Martial Arts Plateau

Martial Artists are no different from other athletes and if you're not careful you can easily hit a plateau. Plateaus must be avoided because it means your martial arts skill and fitness levels aren't improving. Here's The Shaolin Temple's Five Steps to avoid hitting a plateau.

1) Change Your Martial Arts Routine

Our bodies are efficient machines which adapt to whatever we throw at it including our workout. When you first start to train you'll make gains in your training but after a few months these gains will level off because your body has learnt to adapt. To avoid hitting a plateau you need to change your martial arts workout every couple of weeks.  Combining  my Workout, Bootcamp and newly released Circuit Training DVDs will give your body the constant change  it needs so it never reaches a plateau.

2) Do High Intensity Circuit Training

If you're fit and you can run 5k without any problem then you're ready to do circuit training. Though not suitable for everyone, this is the best way to torch fat, build lean muscle and boost your metabolism. Fighting Fit is a saying which we all know means optimal fitness. Fighters need to combine circuit training with cardio runs and if you're serious about your martial arts, alongside training with my DVDs you also need to run.

3) Mind Body Connection

Shaolin is all about the mind body connection. It's the way that Shaolin Monks understand Zen. You may have no desire to understand Zen but do you have desire to be more focused? Centered? At peace with yourself? If you're following Shaolin correctly then this is what you'll gain.

4) Make A Plan

It's not enough to put the time in, you need  a plan and a destination. After you've done your martial art's workout , take a pen and write down how you did. Tracking your progress can help  keep you motivated. Plan ahead as to what DVDs  you'll be working out to on what days. Give your training the respect it deserves.

5) Train the Yin as well as the Yang

Rest is an important factor in our martial arts so you don't burn out. As well as taking one or two days of a week from your training, you also need to do Qigong to regenerate your body from the inside out. And it's important to get a good nights sleep. Research is showing just how important sleep is for the body to regenerate itself.  If you find it hard to sleep then do some of the movement from Qigong Volume 2 before you go to bed at night.

The beauty of Shaolin is that we can shape it around our fitness level, energy levels and lifestyle by constantly adapting the workouts. Listen to your body and work with it.

For more information on Shifu's DVDs please click here

Minggu, 17 Februari 2013

My journey with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

My journey with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long way. When I was a teenager, about 14 or 15, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). This is not something that made me change my habits and my lifestyle at the time. Finally, I was still a teenager. I was more interested in boys than in the days of my health care.

Of course, my bad days, when I just felt sluggish, my body ached, and I was very moody. I just wrote it to the "girl" and as much sleep as I could. I still did everything as usual ... in high school, talked with friends, and talk on the phone constantly (which drove my parents crazy).

But, I realized that I was older (and had more children), I was always tired, I'm always in pain, and my "bad day" is far from the number of my "good day." However, I did not do anything, except to catch off guard with my child if I could go, so let their children go to bed early when I wake up, and as late as possible, hoping for missed "catching up" to sleep and rest well . I thought I was completely amazed and overwhelmed because I have three children under the age of three years, I've worked, and I went to school full time.

Then, about 6 months after my last daughter I have with dizziness, and was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and then about 6 months after that I was cancer of the uterus (only a year after I was diagnosed with cervical cancer) diagnosis. It was time. It was time to start to really take care of myself. If someone has CFS them much more susceptible to other infections and diseases because their immune system is not working quite right, it is harder for your body to fight with everything that happens in it, and open the door for other diseases and illnesses in which they want to anchor.

I decided to lose weight, start eating healthy and give me some time, "I" (if I could get to the bathroom or bedroom and back again young children behind me and knocked on the door to get my attention.) My "I" started later and later into the evening, leaving less time for sleep. But I'm working more, and I did eat healthy, so I started to feel a little better. I threw a ton of weight in a few months, and I was very pleased with the results that I've seen.

Since there is no cure for CFS, doctors decided my mask on drugs, just about my symptoms. They put me on Antivert for my vertigo. I think it may have taken two doses before I threw the bottle. I can not work on this drug, so I'll take it. I will fight with vertigo. Then they sent me to a neurologist for MS, where they rode 24CC drain cerebrospinal fluid from the spinal column, and then immediately sent me home. I had a spinal migraine for at least a week - and that's no joke! Then they wanted to take me to the boat for my medication MS. Thanks, but no thanks. If I can not work, then I do not take it. They made me a round of something-or-other to cancer. It was a once in-a-lifetime thing.

I worked on a regular basis (as regularly as the mother of five children, but can I have it sometimes), eating healthy (I have no red meat is almost 8 years old), with my vitamins and (TRY) less busy (it's not too well disguised). But, I have a commitment that I was a healthy person in general. More services and charitable activities. Stuff like that. Prayer had a lot to do with my recovery process as well.

Since then I have tested without cancer and my MS symptoms are rare these days. But CFS remains at the forefront of everything I do. I know that if I have a "big" day (that is, all day long meeting at work or if I move or make a big project in my house) I need at least a "down time" in the day to plan, where I do nothing but relax and fall asleep. If I do not, I will be absolutely useless to everyone, including me, the next day. I really need to listen to your body to make sure I do not overdo my activities. Some days I feel absolutely great, energetic and motivated to do anything, motivated, stay for another 30 minutes in the gym. On other days, and usually for no apparent reason, I'm just exhausted, unmotivated, and it takes everything I've just started the day with a bed. For me, I have to keep a positive attitude and remember that I am doing everything to go to work, clothes for my children. It really helps me every day.

Once I was with all the complaints I made a vow to myself that the best diagnosis quality of life for their children to do anything. That's why I get up every day and decides to push me through the "good" until the next day to come.

Sabtu, 19 Januari 2013

Never Give Up - The 3 Stages Of Zen

It's not necessary to be a Buddhist to practice Shaolin. But it is necessary to understand why you practice. Martial Arts is not a sport but an art, and like all art, it changes your internal makeup. If it's not working the mind as hard as the body then your training need to be adjusted.

Martial Arts is not for the feint hearted because it's not an easy skill to master. I started studying when I was thirteen years old and I'm still a beginner. But one thing I understand is that our training goes through three vital stages. They are similar to traffic lights: red, amber, green. But the green is when we are stationery and can sit peacefully with ourselves because we know ourself.

The Three Stages Of Zen Training In Martial Arts

1st Stage: Jian Chi - Never Give Up

You need willpower, belief and knowledge of your goal so you don't give up. Having a goal means we know which direction our training is going and we have something to work towards. This helps us to Never Give up.

2nd Stage: Dong Jing - Balance

This is a special word for martial arts which is difficult to translate. Dong means to move, Jing means to be still. When your martial arts comes to the second stage, it's very important that you don't lose your balance. It is like the two wings of a bird. You need to do Qi Gong and Kung Fu but not only that, when you do Kung Fu you need to have stillness in your movement.

3rd Stage: Ch'an / Zen

The Chinese writing says “Ch’an”, which is the highest of the martial arts. Martial Arts training is there to help you understand yourself, the result is to know yourself and be yourself. This is the final stage of your training. Sometimes it can be tough to accept who you are but in order to find peace with yourself you need to do this.

I designed these T-shirts which I've trailed for myself for three months before making them available on my website. Made from bamboo cotton, they are exceptionally soft and perfect to train. I hope they will inspire you and act as a daily reminder, helping you to train with the correct attitude of mind as well as body.  For more info or to buy click here.