Shaolin Temple Sprouts – NY Daily News

November 2, 2010

By James Fanelli

A Shaolin monk whose SoHo kung fu classes have drawn rappers from the Wu-Tang Clan, actor Wesley Snipes and singer Bjork hopes to bring his kicks to the Catskills.

Shi Yan Ming bought 81 acres of upstate land on Sept. 3 to create the first authentic Shaolin training ground in the United States, where students will learn the ancient religion’s mixture of Zen Buddhism and martial arts.

The Manhattan holy man plans to build a temple like the one in China where, as a young grasshopper, he studied the deadly art of kung fu.

“We wanted to bring an authentic Shaolin temple to the 21st century,” Ming told the Daily News.

The sprawling property in Fleischmanns was formerly a camp. Ming, 46, and his disciples are turning its cabins into dorms for hundreds of students. There will be 72 chambers and pagodas dedicated to lessons in meditation, sword fighting and stretching. The project has been a life-long dream for Ming.

“We were looking for many years for a place to put a temple,” he said. “I wanted to have it in the woods and mountains, like where I trained.”

When Ming was 5, his impoverished parents took him to the 1,500-year-old Shaolin temple at Mount Song in central China and asked the monks to care for him.

Ming trained there for more than 20 years – mastering feats such as breaking bricks over his head and stopping a spear with his neck.

While touring with a group of monks in 1992, Ming defected to the United States. He set up a Manhattan studio and since has acted in kung fu flicks and written a book.

His students include celebreties such as the RZA, the mastermind behind the Wu-Tang Clan. Hobnobbing with rappers has rubbed off. He wears monks’ robes during training, but dons a Kangol hat and Timberlands the rest of the time.

Ming says the authentic temple will offer a modern twist on enlightenment and not just cross-legged meditation and chanting.

“In the modern world, you don’t have to stay still to meditate. You can play tennis, golf, basketball – whatever makes you happy,” Ming said. “You can find your own way to meditate.”