As we continue our coverage on “Monks of the City,” we visit a Shaolin monk in Manhattan who has made a name for himself teaching Buddhism through the martial arts. NY1’s Roger Clark paid a visit to the temple in SoHo and filed the following report.
It's an intense workout. Students of Shifu Shi Yan-Ming practice Kung Fu inside the USA Shaolin Temple. It all started at the original Shaolin Temple in Henan Province in China, where it is believed a form of Buddhism known as Chan Buddhism originated.
"Shaolin Temple was the first place to combine all the martial arts together, Shaolin Temple martial arts, and that's the beginning of the Song Dynasty, that's 13 centuries ago,” said Shifu Shi Yan-Ming, abbot and founder of USA Shaolin Temple.
The "shifu," which means master, started studying Chan Buddhism and martial arts at the Shaolin Templein China at the age of 5. He came to the United States in 1992 as part of a tour of Shaolin monks: that's when he decided he wanted to stay in America, specifically, New York City.
"Spreading the knowledge of Shaolin Temple martial arts to the world,” he said.
The shifu left a performance and never looked back, hiding out in a basement in San Francisco for a week before making his way to New York.
A few years later, he opened USA Shaolin Temple in Chinatown, eventually moving to the current location in SoHo. Since then, countless disciples have learned from him, including well known students, like hip hop's Wu-Tang Clan, members like RZA learned about Shaolin from old Kung Fu movies, even referring to their native Staten Island as Shaolin.
"You know RZA heard, that a Shaolin Temple monk walked away from a performance and he was looking for me in Chinatown,” he said.
Shifu also teaches a Chan Buddhism class at the temple, a bit quieter than the Kung Fu sessions. That's the mental and spiritual part, martial arts is no doubt the physical aspect for students.
"Life is exercising. You don't exercise, the life becomes rusty,” he said.
The shifu said every moment of the day is a beautiful gift. If you help yourself, make yourself strong, you can help other people. If you can help yourself, you can help the world.