Yamel was twelve years old when he first saw any form of Martial Arts. This was through two movies: the Chinese Connection and Five Fingers of Death. From that moment on, he knew that his path in life would be held together by Martial Arts.
In 1974-75, Yamel’s father (Sixto Solis Torres) registered his son for Martial Art lessons at a school located on Argyle Street in ChicaGo, Illinois (New Chinatown). This was the school of Master Ly (Ming Loy). Some time passed and Master Ly moved to Canada. Yamel continued his studies under Donald Moy, who was a student of Master Ly. Mr. Moy taught Yamel all the basic horse stances, as well as the first basic form. In the back of his father’s restaurant, Mr. Moy would drill Yamel over and over again on kung fu (hard work). Mr. Moy also offered Yamel insight into other styles. Through his push on kung fu and his sharing of philosophy, Mr. Moy left an imprint on Yamel and marked the beginning of his training.
In 1979, Master Ly returned to Chicago, closed the Argyle school, but continued to teach privately. He would, however, open up again. Yamel followed Master Ly to pick up where he had left off, and helped with the opening of the new school. The school was located at 6054 N. Broadway in Chicago, Illinois. This is where Yamel learned the core of Seven-Star Praying Mantis and would rise to become one of Master Ly’s students. Yamel later ended up taking a break due to personal and financial difficulties. Other students blossomed and developed under Master Ly.
When Yamel returned after his time off, he continued his training and helped with the relocation of the school to Evanston, Illinois. There, Yamel once again assisted Master Ly in teaching as he continued his studies. Yamel attended DeVry Institute of Technology while he was going through his kung fu training. In 1986, Yamel graduated from DeVry and began his career in electronics.
Master Ly’s final move of the school was to Chinatown, where Yamel once again followed Master Ly to continue his training and assist in teaching. At this point, Yamel was the only student that continued and followed Master Ly since his first school on Argyle. It is in Chinatown that on May 23, 1988, Master Ly finished teaching Yamel the 18 Lo Han and promoted him to the First Degree of Ninth Level “Man of Arrival” Black Sash. With this, Master Ly asked Sifu Yamel to open up a school and promote the Seven-Star Praying Mantis System.
Sifu Yamel agreed, but only if his sifu, Master Ly, taught alongside him. Sifu Yamel asked Antoinette Nava (at the time a student of Master Ly) if she would join in the opening up of the school. Consequently, Sifu Yamel, Master Ly and Antoinette Nava opened up a school at 6805-07 W. Belmont in Chicago, Illinois. There, Sifu Yamel taught alongside Master Ly and continued learning from him as he had always done. Sifu Yamel and Antoinette Nava eventually closed the school and Sifu Yamel finished his studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.
Sifu Yamel continued to teach privately and Master Ly retired, though continuing to teach Sifu Yamel privately. Master Ly has always encouraged Sifu Yamel to study other Martial Arts and understand similar and dissimilar views between various styles. Sifu Yamel, like Master Ly, has studied other styles. Sifu Yamel has attended seminars, read many different books, taken private lessons from other teachers, and engaged in video correspondence work—but always continues with mantis fist styles. Sifu Yamel believes that one should attempt to approach the limit of comprehension in one style, and then study other styles, rather than simply becoming a jack-of-all-trades, with understanding of none.
Currently, Sifu Yamel is teaching at his school in Chicago, Illinois.