Every professional martial artist star has a story telling how they first got involved in martial arts, and China’s “Rock Man” Chen Lei is no different.
For Chen, learning martial arts wasn’t for competition, or to help him break out of a bad behavioural pattern. He took up martial arts as a form of self-defence.
Chen was bullied constantly as a youngster. A small, skinny youth, he took up the art of sanda to help give him practical skills to both defend himself and stand up for himself in face-to-face situations.
And while Chen may have started out learning martial arts as a means of self-defence, he soon became obsessed with the training, and it eventually became a way of life. But initially, he had to deal with the misgivings of his parents, who were less than impressed with their son’s decision to take up martial arts.
“In the beginning, my parents were worried that I would get injured,” he explains.
“They thought that because I am older than other opponents, that I would not be able to compete with them, physically. They really did not approve of me doing this.
“My parents wanted me to have a normal job. I come from the countryside, and my parents wanted me to do something they are proud of. To them, sitting in the office and facing the computer screen fits their expectations.
“But I knew what I wanted. Even though the road is tough to walk, I will still go on.”
Known to his legion of fans as “Rock Man”, Chen is one of the most engaging personalities on the ONE Championship roster. His moniker comes from his mental and physical strength, and that mental strength has proved crucial as he has progressed through his martial arts journey.
“I have been through a lot of hard times, pain, and failure, but that only made me stronger. When the time passed by, my parents also changed their minds,” he says.
“I did not really try to change anybody’s mind. I am doing my own thing, and I proved it with my results.”
Chen captured the Shanghai Open BJJ title, and went on to have success as a mixed martial artist. He currently stands with a perfect professional record of eight bouts, eight wins, and will bid to secure a ninth career win on 8 September when he faces “Jungle Cat” Muhammad Aiman at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON in Shanghai.
His training camp has been a punishing one, but Chen says he won’t slow down as he looks to take his career to the next level in ONE Championship.
“Sometimes, I feel very tired — especially when I train alone,” he says.
“But I never give up. You need to have gone through all of those hard times to get what you deserve.
“I want to thank my girlfriend, especially. She supported me and encouraged me from the beginning. We have been through many tough times.”
Now, things appear to be on the up for “Rock Man”. His ONE Championship career continues apace and with the organisation returning to China for an event, Chen now has the opportunity to showcase his skills on the big stage on home soil for the first time.
He puts his success so far down to his never-say-die attitude, and says that putting his mind to the task at hand and never giving up is the secret of success.
“You have to know what you want,” he says.
“Martial arts is a tough road to walk, and you will face many difficulties. You need to ask yourself if you are ready for that.”
His next challenge comes on 8 September against Aiman, and you can be sure that he will throw himself into the contest with the same gusto we have seen from his previous bouts.