“It was a struggle for my parents to look after seven children. I was constantly hungry. I was very naughty as a child, always skipping school and getting into street fights.”
— Shifu Yan Lei

Shifu Yan Lei was born in a traditional family in the Xin Jiang province of China. The son of a fisherman, he is the youngest of seven children.

 He began his martial arts life at the age of fourteen

His Master, the Shaolin Abbot Shi Yong Xin gave him the name Lei – meaning thunder – and he became a 34th generation fighting disciple. When he was eighteen he travelled to different Kung Fu schools to learn additional Kung Fu and Qi Gong skills from famous masters.

His main motivation for studying martial arts at the Shaolin Temple was to learn how to fight, so he began to get into street fights outside the temple gates to see if he could learn how to fight this way. His master – the Shaolin Abbot Shi Yong Xin – soon grew tired of dragging his out of the local police cell and sent him to a Chan temple in the hopes that it would calm him down. At the Chan temple he learnt the essence of Shaolin Gong Fu - that the true purpose of training the body is to train the mind.

When he returned to the Shaolin Temple, he chose one of the seventy-two different Shaolin styles, Shaolin Steel Jacket, and set out to master it. After nine months of intensive Steel Jacket and sanshou training he started competing in sanshou fights with the blessing of his master. Shi Yan Lei was soon to discover that his traditional Shaolin skill could be used very successfully in modern sanshou fights. Shi Yan Lei continued to compete in sanshou fights in China, and also went back to the forms he’d learnt as a boy. Through constant practice he began to unlock them and discover the self-defense, blocking and attack techniques hidden in the forms, and used them to further develop his sanshou fighting style.

Shi Yan Lei came to the UK ten years ago to help his brother Shifu Shi Yanzi set up the first Shaolin Temple in Europe. Together they set about teaching a unique combination of traditional Shaolin skills as well as sanshou skills. Shi Yan Lei has gone on to train many national and international Sanshou and K1 athletes and gold medalists, as well as directing, choreographing and starring in his own instructional DVD courses and a feature length film, The Turtle and the Sea. He has also written very well-received book on traditional Shaolin Qi Gong and gong Fu; Instant Health: The Shaolin Qigong Workout for Longevity, and Instant Fitness: The Shaolin Kung Fu Workout. He can be found at Shaolin Temple UK where he teaches classes.