The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior's Way

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9781594864001: The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior's Way
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In his loft in New york City's Greenwich Village, Sifu Shi Yan Ming trains men and women of all ages, body types and backgrounds in the fundamentals of kung fu. A 34th generation Shaolin Warrior monk from China's Shaolin Temple—the birthplace of Chan Buddhism and the mecca of all martial arts—Yan Ming teaches the students at his USA Shaolin Temple that there is no better workout program than his brand of kung fu for getting the body and mind into warrior condition.

Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of four-color photographs, the warrior workout, distills a lifetime of Shaolin training and wisdom into a 28-day workout. The Shaolin Workout is a complete-unto-itself program of both fitness and spiritual lessons can be applied to every aspect of one's life: work, relationships, family.

Kung fu gives a superb aerobic workout at the same time that it dramatically increases flexibility, power, and speed. The ultimate promise of the book is this: stick to the plan for 28 days—for as little as 15 minutes a day—to be transformed inside and out. And the enormous sense of accomplishment that results will radiate through your life, allowing you to tackle the world with a warrior's confidence, calm, and poise.

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About the Author:

SIFU SHI YAN MING, a 34th-generation Shaolin Warrior monk, is respected not only in the martial arts world but also in the entertainment world by stars like Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Wesley Snipes, and the Wu-Tang clan. His kung fu classes have been featured in USA Today, the New York Times, New York Daily News, and Entertainment Weekly. Brian Gray of Inside Kung Fu magazine has called him a "living treasure of China." He lives in New York City.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1. Kung Fu, the Way of the Warrior

Before I was born who was I?

After I am born who am I?

Respect yourself, everybody will respect you.

Understand yourself, everybody will understand you.

There are mirrors all around you, strive to see and understand yourself.

Strive to have the heart of a Buddha.

Stop doing bad things, only do good.

Do whatever you can to help others.

In these ways you help yourself.

Help yourself, and you help the world.

Amituofo!

--Sifu Shi Yan Ming

In a typical loft space in Manhattan's hip Greenwich Village, a not-so- typical New Yorker is warming up. He is Sifu Shi Yan Ming, a 34th- generation warrior monk hailing from China's Shaolin Temple, birthplace of Chan Buddhism 1,500 years ago and mecca of all martial arts. Although he is not tall by American standards, his almost impossibly trim body gives an impression of awesome physical power even when he is simply tying the laces of his white training sneakers. With his shaved head and his sternly chiseled good looks, he is the very ideal of the legendary kung fu warrior.

As he begins to move, the impression is more than confirmed. When he stretches his spine, bending forward from the hips and lowering his torso until he can grip his ankles and touch the ground with the top of his head, he makes folding himself in half like a wallet look effortless. Then he executes a series of dazzling kicks, his feet flashing as though he's about to kick a hole in the antique tin ceiling 8 feet above his head. When he punches the air, his fists explode out and back with blinding speed and what one imagines would be devastating force. Then he leaps, and his entire body corkscrews in midair, as though he had ball bearings in place of a lower spine.

It's an amazing display of strength, precision, lightning speed, and incredible agility. He might even go on to break a stack of bricks with his head, slice a stack of boards with his hand, or lean into the points of three spears with his throat--his throat!--and bend the spears rather than be impaled.

Sifu is a world-renowned master of the martial arts. International action movie stars like Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat, and Michelle Yeoh respectfully address him as "Sifu"--typically translated into English as "Master." So have the thousands of students who have come to this loft space, the U.S.A. Shaolin Temple, to train under him.

A young woman, one of his students, enters the space. Sifu pauses, his body impeccably poised in front of a snarling-dragon mural on the Chinese-red wall. There isn't a dot of perspiration on him. He's not even breathing heavily.

"Amituofo, Sifu!" she calls out.

"Amituofo!" he replies energetically.

Pronounced ah-mee-toh-foh, it is the name of one of the three Paradise Buddhas, Amituo ("fo" signifies Buddha in Chinese). Saying his name is an international greeting for Buddhists. It is said to show respect, and as a blessing and a prayer. Buddhists chant it as an aid to meditation and often use it as a replacement for common utterances like hello and good-bye, excuse me, and thank you, as a way to stay always mindful of their spiritual lives.

"Merry Christmas!" Sifu then adds--even though it's late spring.

The student smiles. "Happy New Year!" she replies.

It's something else Sifu and his students say often, all year round. Even the letter carrier responds with a laughing "Happy New Year!" when he drops off the day's mail. It's one of Sifu's ways of reminding everyone around him that life is a beautiful gift, and we should celebrate it not just on a few special holidays like Christmas and New Year's, but every day, every hour, every minute--"8 days a week," he likes to say, "and 366 days a year."

More students begin to gather in the space, piling out of the small elevator in the front, or bounding up the three flights of narrow stairs in the back. The temple lights up with smiles and laughter, with ringing cries of "Amituofo!" and "Happy New Year!" as they hurry into their training uniforms. Twenty, 30, 40 students appear for this particular class.

They are male and female, of all sizes, shapes, ages, and ethnicities. They come from all over New York City, from the Bronx to Brooklyn and Queens, or travel in from Long Island and New Jersey. Like Sifu, some of them have come to New York from other countries--Switzerland, India, Germany, Brazil, Korea, Italy, Canada, and Austria, among others. Sifu's students include college students and professors, blue-collar and office workers, movie stars and rap stars, business executives and retail salespeople, yoga instructors, a cop, a doorman, a young Italian apprentice chef, an orchestral composer. Children from as young as 3 to 14 also train at the temple, in their own afternoon classes.

For all their diverse backgrounds, Sifu's students act nothing like strangers who have dragged themselves to the typical gym for a routine class. Everyone greets everyone else by name or nickname, and Sifu knows them all. Everyone is happy and excited to be here. It feels like a large family gathering on a holiday, with Sifu as its patriarch. "He's like a father to us," you often hear students say, even though some of them are older than he is.

"I was amazed at the feeling I had just walking in the door," Sifu's student and disciple Shi Heng Xu recalls of her first time at the U.S.A. Shaolin Temple. "There was this feeling of bliss."

Incredibly, the buzz of high spirits is maintained through the next 2 hours of extremely strenuous training in kung fu, or Chan Quan. (Although "kung fu" is the universally recognized term in the West, Chan Quan--pronounced chan chwan--is the proper name for Chan Buddhism or martial arts. In this book we will use "kung fu" and "Chan Quan" interchangeably.) Some of the students in today's class have trained with Sifu for years; some just started today. Some can execute startling leaps and kicks with power and precision; others are just learning. But there is absolutely no sense of competition, showing off, or self-consciousness. In fact, it is just the opposite: Everyone cheers everyone else on, encouraging each student to strive for his or her personal best, which is all Sifu asks of any student.

"Sifu sees everybody's potential," says actor John Leguizamo, who has trained at the temple. "His method is so democratic and fair that way. You only compete with yourself, even though you may see people performing way better than you and way worse than you. It puts your life into perspective in a simple, martial arts kind of way, without words and fancy therapy sessions."

"We all sweat together," Heng Xu explains. "We all go through the pain together. It breaks down your barriers and helps you to be yourself, not just in here but out in the rest of your life."

David, a businessman, makes the 2-hour drive into Manhattan from Long Island three or four times a week to train. In his early forties, he had some 20 years' experience with other exercise and martial arts programs when he first came to the U.S.A. Shaolin Temple.

"I can tell you this is the best workout I've ever had," he says after 8 months of training at the temple. "Nobody ever made me work the way Sifu does." But he stresses that it is far more than just an exercise program. "This is a way to approach your whole life. Sifu has opened my head in all sorts of ways. I've noticed that people who've been coming to the temple for 2, 3 years, or more are all very successful in their lives. I don't just mean that they drive nice cars and have successful careers, although a lot of them do. I mean you can see it in their whole approach to their lives. They respect themselves. People who come to the temple just to get a workout tend not to stick with it. It's as much about the way of living as the physical training. Anybody can show you how to work out. Sifu is about showing you how to live."

Wherever you are, the Shaolin Workout now offers you the same rare opportunity Sifu's New York City students enjoy: the chance to learn the fundamentals of Chan Quan from this Shaolin Temple warrior monk, and the challenge to live the most beautiful life you can. This book is absolutely unique in all the world--just like you are. No book before it, and none that will come after it, is like this book. It is not merely a book of physical exercises, or a book of mental exercises, or a book of spiritual exercises. The Shaolin Workout shows you more than a way of training. It introduces you to the warrior's way of life. The second you picked this book up and started to read these words, you began to transform yourself.

The monks of Shaolin Temple have been teaching students Chan Quan for 15 centuries. The Shaolin Workout draws on this rich heritage of teaching experience. In this book, Sifu has distilled the fundamentals of kung fu into an introductory course of 28 sessions, which incorporate daily lessons in the mental discipline and spiritual principles that are as essential to Shaolin kung fu as the moves. You will not be a kung fu master when you've successfully completed these sessions. You will not learn how to break boards with your hand. Sifu will teach you the basic stretches, stances, hand strikes, and kicks that are the foundations of this ancient yet living martial art. If you choose to continue learning Chan Quan, you will have a solid base on which to build.

If you choose to go no further than this program, you will still find yourself transformed, physically, mentally, and spiritually, by your having committed yourself to the program. Sifu will teach you that kung fu is far more than just another exercise program, and it promotes much more than physical health. It is a comprehensive physical, mental, and spiritual discipline. Kung fu is a way of life--a warrior's life of action. Sifu calls it "action meditation." As he guides you through a step-by-step beginner's course in kung fu, Sifu will share his philosophy of life in lessons you can carry throughout your day. If you apply yourself to all aspects of the Shaolin Workout--the mental and spiritual, as well as the physical--you will begin to transform not just your body but your life. You will develop mental clarity and calm, experience an enhanced sense of self- confidence and respect, and learn to appreciate what a beautiful gift your life is every day, every hour, every second.

No one is too young or too old, too weak or heavy, too short or too tall, to train the Shaolin Workout way. You need no prior knowledge of the martial arts or any other training. At the same time, no one is too fit to benefit from training this way, either. No matter what kind of physical training you do now, you will find that the Shaolin Workout enhances your strength, stamina, balance, and grace while improving your mental outlook.

That's true whether you're male or female. Chan Quan is truly gender blind. Women can be as adept at it as men, and often surpass them in speed, flexibility, and grace. Guys know how cool they look when they practice kung fu. And any guy will tell you how great women look when they do it. There is nothing more attractive than a woman who is in great shape and is as confident and poised in her life as she is in her body. Watch any kung fu movie starring Michelle Yeoh or Zhang Ziyi and you'll see for yourself.

The Shaolin Workout does not teach you how to "beat people up." Even though Chan Quan is a warrior's discipline, the vast majority of people who study with Sifu never expect to get into an actual fight on the street. The essence of being a warrior is not looking for people to beat up and dominate. That's just being a bully. Learning kung fu is not "learning how to fight," and by teaching it that way, some martial arts instructors make a major error in limiting their students' mental and spiritual understanding. If you want to learn how to beat people up, this workout will be of no use to you. At the U.S.A. Shaolin Temple, Sifu tells new applicants, "If you're looking for a master to teach you how to fight, don't come to me. Go see Yoda."

Yes, Sifu wants you to be able to defend yourself or others in case of an assault, and your Shaolin Workout training will help. But it won't be because you learned some fancy ways to fight. It will be because mastering the Shaolin Workout helps you to be confident in your body and mentally relaxed in moments of crisis or stress so that you can react to an attack with speed and power.

The true way of the warrior is not to seek dominance over others but to achieve mastery of yourself. Kung fu helps you do that through training both your body and your mind and promoting mental clarity while it helps you build physical strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility. If you follow this program with dedication, you will find yourself standing taller and straighter, walking more confidently, moving with newfound grace, being less susceptible to aches and pains, and tiring less easily. You will also find that the enormous sense of self-esteem and accomplishment you get from mastering the movements and feeling more physically fit will radiate out through your life, helping you to tackle the world with a warrior's confidence, calm, and poise.

Sifu himself is a living testament to the transformative power of kung fu. Named Gen San by his parents, he was born in 1964 in China's rural Henan Province, not far from Shaolin Temple. He was the seventh of nine children. Seven is, of course, a lucky number. It is also noteworthy that when a highly revered Buddhist monk dies, the other monks build a seven-story pagoda to honor him. Gen San was born not only in the year of the dragon, considered extremely auspicious in Chinese tradition, but on (Chinese) New Year's Day, the luckiest day in the calendar.

At first, though, his life seemed anything but fortunate. His mother and father were both low-level workers in the Communist government. Like everyone else in Henan Province, and most of China, they were desperately poor. Starting in 1958, Chairman Mao's Great Leap Forward--a plan to radically restructure all of China's society and economy from a traditional agrarian base into the world's greatest industrial power--had devastated areas like Henan, uprooting whole communities and making a poor people much, much poorer. Food and medicine were scarce, and many people died.

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