Shifu Shi Yan-Ming defected to the US in 1992 while on the first-ever Shaolin Temple Monks tour of the United States. After the last show was over in San Francisco, he slipped out of his hotel in the middle of the night and escaped to the new world.
Speaking no English he got into a cab and directed the driver using hand signals to an unknown destination. Frustrated, the driver dropped him off where they were, in the middle of nowhere, and called the police immediately. Shifu showed the police a copy of his passport and some newspaper articles that featured him. The police requested that the driver drop him off at a Chinese restaurant where they thought he might find someone to assist him. However, at the Chinese restaurant, not a single person spoke Mandarin, they all spoke Cantonese dialect, so that all communication had to be written down since Cantonese and Mandarin share the same characters. Once the people at the Chinese restaurant understood, they helped Shifu phone NYC where he had a friend. This friend in NYC, having learned of Shifu’s arrival, called to have someone pick him up at the restaurant. For one week, Shifu hid in a basement, with only bread and cereal to eat. The newspapers and TV were constantly announcing that a Shaolin Monk had escaped. It was after that first week that Shifu decided to come to New York City, “the capital of the world.”
In December of 1994 in New York, Shifu founded the USA Shaolin Temple and currently teaches authentic Shaolin martial arts or Chan Buddhism. The USA Shaolin Temple has six satellite branches internationally in Austria, South Africa, Trinidad, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico.
Shi Yan Ming has been featured in over one hundred publications, more than fifty nationally and internationally broadcast TV shows, and several documentaries and movies including:
- History Channel: Stan Lee’s Superhumans and How Bruce Lee Changed the World
- “Kung Fu Monk” documentary on the National Geographic channel,
- Discovery Channel: Secret of the Warrior’s Power and One Step Beyond
- BBC: Physical Feats and Beyond Human Endurance
- TLC’s “Top Ten Martial Arts”,
- The covers of Qigong Wushu Magazine twice, Inside Kung Fu Magazine, and Black Belt Magazine,
- The cover of Shaolin Taiji magazine, Wulin, and Wuhun (martial arts) magazines in China,
- The CNBC, Fox News, CBC, ABC Morning Show, and PBS,
- MTV USA, MTV Europe, MTV Canada, MTV Japan
- BET US, BET Japan
- “Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai” directed by Jim Jarmusch,
- “King of the Jungle” directed by Seth Rosenthal with John Leguizamo, Rosie Perez, and Annabella Sciorra
Additionally, he has been in commercials for Nike Shoes Asia, two for IBM, HP computers, Hallmark, Chase Bank, Gaiam, and many more. Students of Shi Yan Ming include members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Bokeem Woodbine, Tricky, Kadeem Hardison, Michelle Forbes, Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo, Bjork, Wesley Snipes, and many others.
Shi Yan-Ming is a 34th Generation Shaolin Temple Warrior Monk.
Read about what it was like growing up in the Shaolin Temple