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.