“Food was never missing and no toy was ever broken enough to throw away. It was humble, but we were tight.”
Despite this traditional beginning, the 36-year-old holds a level 7 ranking in Shaolin Kung Fu, which bestows upon him the title of Sifu (Master). There are only three other masters teaching in Canada, two in Toronto and one in Vancouver, and they’re all monks! Moreover, Rendinella is the only non-Chinese certified by the Shaolin grandmaster Shi De Yang as a Sifu in Canada.
“Our martial art is synonymous with Zen,” says Rendinella. “Our masters are Buddhist monks or disciples. We work on cultivation of wisdom and ferocious skill simultaneously. The struggle is in the learning. Learning to stay humble, train hard and always be compassionate towards others. I feel very privileged as an ambassador of this way of life in Canada.” This passion was ignited when Rendinella was in kindergarten and a fellow classmate told him about Bruce Lee. That led to a marathon run of Bruce Lee movies.
“That was it,” said Rendinella. “I begged my father for lessons every night. On payday that week, he took me in to my first dojo. I never stopped.” Over the course of the past 20 years, Rendinella has travelled abroad numerous times to compete, train and demonstrate alongside and against some of the best in the Shaolin world.
“I mainly trained in Hungary under the world famous Shi Xing Hong, who was the top man of Shaolin from 1995-1999. I have also been to China for training camps and show tours as a performer.” Despite the gruelling physical toll Shaolin Kung Fu demands of its students, Rendinella said his biggest challenge was the language barrier.
“The struggle is in the learning. Learning to stay humble,
train hard and always be compassionate towards others”
“Shaolin Monks mainly spoke Mandarin at the time, so I had to do everything in my power to learn to speak and communicate.” His journey led him to international titles in both traditional Shaolin and Sanda (Chinese kickboxing) in 2005. He continued competing in combat sports for eight more years, capturing many provincial and national titles.
Massimo, "Max" Rendinella, second from left, is only Shaolin Kung Fu masters teaching in Canada
As Rendinella’s career grew, so did the notoriety of Shaolin Kung Fu in Canada. It gained popularity in1995 when Buddhist martial monks from the Shaolin temple launched a world tour celebrating the Shaolin temple’s 1500th anniversary. Since then, its monks and disciples have settled in countries all over the world to share their art.
Sifu Max is one of those now spreading the word in Canada. He started teaching out of small gyms, helped establish the Canadian Shaolin Chan Wu Federation, and is now leader of the Songshan Chan Wu Canada Academy in Laval (www.chanwu.ca). Part of his journey includes helping his community, and with that goal in mind, he developed a training system called KrossFight.
“It’s everything from preparing for a specific combat sport to realistic self-defence. I collaborate with Senshido International, which is the leader in self-defence programs and we put together anti-bullying seminars for kids, women, and more.” The full-time aircraft electrical assembler says he teaches out of passion and he’s determined to pass on his knowledge. “I have certified students teaching for me, and I strictly teach them. This way, they bring up the next generation to hopefully keep it moving well after my time.”
With about 2000 students across Canada now studying the ancient art form, Rendinella has helped Shaolin Kung Fu grow from the underground art form it was when he started 20 years ago, to the blossoming one it is today.