Feb
13
2018

Randy’s Back and Plum Has Got Him

randy williams wing chunFor many years, Plum has represented the entire line of Randy Williams DVDs. But over the last year, some titles became scarce or went out of print.

Good news! We are once again stocked on the ever-effervescent Sifu Williams and his valuable commentary and instruction on Wing Chun. We have glowed over the years about Sifu Williams’ techniques, not to mention the engaging way he presents his information, so no need to go there again. But YOU can now gorandy williams wing chun to the two pages we devote to his work and pick up some DVDs that are on your want list, or that just pique your interest.

And that’s not all! We have also dropped the price on ALL of his DVDs, from $29.95 to $24.95, while still maintaining the 10% discount for buying two or more from his series.

Feb
5
2018

206 B.C.E.: THE DANCING ASSASSIN

spring autumn kung fuJust a short excerpt from Professor Kang Ge-Wu’s martial history, The Spring and Autumn of Chinese Martial Arts. If you are interested in the broader view of Chinese Kung Fu, this is a must have. It is the first—and only— book issued in English on the 5000 year history of Chinese Martial Arts, and Plum’s first published book. It is one of our perennial sellers.

Liu Bang destroyed the Chin Dynasty and went to HongMen to meet with Xing Yu. At the banquet Xing Zhuang said, “We have no entertainers in the army. May I perform a sword dance?” And Xing Zhuang drew his sword and began dancing. He intended to strike Liu Bang. Xing Yu followed suit, shielding with his body so that Xing Zhuang could not strike Liu Bang.” (From the Records of the Historian). At that time wearing swords became the fashion. On the one hand the sword could be used in sword dancing. On the other hand it could be a defense weapon. Later, wearing a sword became part of ritual. The Book of Chin records, “The etiquttee of Han Dynasty stipulated that the Emperor and all officials wore swords. Later they wore swords only when they went to court.

Rubbing of Xing Yu defending Liu Bang

 

COMMENT: So popular did the sword become that Confucius is said to have worn one despite not knowing how to use it. He reported that it made him feel like a gentleman. One of China’s most famous and beloved poets, generally known as Li Po, was an accomplished swordsman and his great colleague, Tu Fu, wrote a few pieces about the art of swordplay. Women entertainers were so excellent at the sword that they actually inspired movements for combat. For many centuries this weapon that balances beauty and skill has been a favorite of the Chinese people in general and Kung Fu practitioners particularly.

Jan
31
2018

Verses & Thoughts

Geometrymartial thoughts

The shortest distance
between
heaven
and
earth
is
a
straight spine

– Peter Thelin

 


 

               Swordtip  

Sticking simply to the point,
the sharpened sense which in us moves,
that subtle probing of the blade
might flick aside this dunce’s crown

– Simon Cowper

Read more →

Jan
28
2018

Review: Essence of Lien Bu Chuan

Lien Bu ChuanWe want to congratulate Artie Aviles, James Man Chin and Nelson Tsou on two excellent reviews they have received for their book “The Essence of Lien Bu Chuan.”

We are especially grateful to both Nick Scrima at The Journal of Chinese Martial Arts, and Nancy Fiano, from the Xinyi Dao Academy and the World Fighting Martial Arts Federation, for graciously allowing us to reprint their reviews below. 

From the Journal of Chinese Martial Arts:

It is refreshing to see a workbook on Chinese martial arts such as the Essence of Lien Bu Chuan. It is obvious that the authors, Artie Aviles, James Man Chin and Nelson Tsou, have given a lot of thought as to how to present the manual to the public. Their approach demonstrates a deep understanding of both the historical and technical aspects of this traditional routine, “Lien Bu Chuan.” Read more →

Jan
25
2018

Tony Yang & Bajiquan: A Repeat Appearance

bajiquanJust a quick note to say we are now stocked, once again, on Sifu Tony Yang’s elusive 2 part DVD on Bajiquan. Yang Sifu studied Bajiquan in the Wutan tradition with Grandmaster Liu Yun Chiao, in Taiwan, and has been teaching this for many years.

If you’ve been waiting, get them while they are here! And we also have stock on his other DVDs: Bagua Kaimen, Liu Yun Chiao’s Chen Abstracted Form, and Liu Yun Chiao’s Yang Abstracted Form (all taught by Yang Sifu).

Jan
22
2018

Play Ball! No, Really, It’s Good for Your Martial Practice

martial ball exercisesIf I’ve learned anything in my martial career it is that knowledge never walks in a straight line; while wandering through a labryinth, things like to leap out from behind the next hedge.

We just acquired a new text, Ball Playing for Health, Illustrated (Nongwan Chienshen Tushu), a partial inspiration for Caylor Adkins text on martial structure. Even as Adkins focuses on several approaches, the martial ball exercises he discusses stand out in a box full of methods and practices. He tells us that he developed many of his ball exercises from this old Taiwanese book from the 20’s or 30’s, designed to improve health.

The old text looked classic—containing many early records of these movements—with directional line drawings that resembled a man playing with a laser light in the dark.

We did some research, hunted around, and found that a reprint of this original book exists so, of course, we had to have it. And here it is: Ball Playing for Health, Illustrated. Click on the image in the selling page, to see a few snap shots of what might as well be an astronomical display of juggling.

Jan
17
2018

Chinese Year of the Earth Dog

Every January, we look forward to the New Year post from Narrye Caldwell, Plum’s resident Chinese astrologer. She describes this one as “quirky and irreverent.”

This year, we add something extra: A colorful PDF version you can download to your computer, or even print out and give to friends. Click link above for PDF.earth dog

The inevitability of change is a fundamental principle in Chinese astrology. And the ability to skillfully adjust to continually shifting cycles, is considered to be a longevity art. Wisdom tells us, that no matter what difficulties you are facing, no matter how hopeless or frightening the situation seems, if you wait it out, a turning point will come. The important thing is to maintain your composure, and recognize the moment when appropriate action will be effective. That turning point is now. Welcome to the Year of the Earth Dog.

Characteristics of Earth element

Let me begin with the element (Earth) that rules this year. Earth has the qualities of stability, nourishment, consistency, balance and harmony. Earth is related to the digestive system in Chinese medicine, and its function of selecting, through our appetite, the correct foods for our condition. When working well, our earth element effortlessly transforms food and thought, (everything we take in), into substance and vitality. When depleted we can get stuck, exhausted, lose our way, become obsessive worriers. Read more →

Jan
15
2018

Being Off Balance, For All It’s Worth

martial balance When you lose your balance, you can also lose orientation. When you don’t know which direction to turn, can’t determine the ceiling from floor, feel as though your are on a mile-long fall, you are disoriented.

We are told, from the earliest lessons, to keep our balance and preserve our orientation. We do forms that start with simple foot patterns, like the Chinese character signifying a tree. From there we learn forms that are more challenging, asking us to move like a snake, twist like a bear, glide like an eagle.

Throughout all this practice we are expected to keep our orientation and balance. Read more →

Jan
7
2018

Gary Shapiro: Looking Back

In the past, I’ve written some articles for Plum detailing my Tai Chi adventures on cruise vacations. After nearly 40 years of work as a physical therapist, I decided that it was the right time to take a permanent vacation.

On Aug 4, 2017, I made my last patient visit, went to the “big” office, handed in my laptop, cell phone, ID badge and did the obligatory farewells and hugs. A week later, my wife and I flew to our new home, in the “ land of enchantment” or as the late fashion icon Millicent Rogers described it–”The last stop before infinity”–Taos, New Mexico.

I’m slowly phasing out of wearing a watch . The only event that leaves me with any calendar awareness is the regularly scheduled trash pickup every Thursday. This new sense of peace and calm has afforded me the opportunity to reflect back on my career and to examine the role that Tai Chi played in shaping it.

Over the years I worked in a variety of settings. The most satisfying was home care. I eventually specialized treating patients who underwent hip and knee joint replacement surgeries. Through a variety of circumstances, IE trauma, faulty body mechanics and repetitive stress injuries, the cushion (cartilage) between joint surfaces wears away, resulting in a bone on bone condition. This often causes severe pain and immobility. Surgery is performed, implanting an artificial joint to restore mobility and decrease pain.

Unfortunately, in some instances patients experience more pain and less mobility post-operatively. Although surgery is supposed to be corrective, it can often further traumatize an already compromised system. The brain is hardwired for protection. Pain causes the brain to go on high alert. Nerve impulses(messages) are sent to the muscles that surround the joint to limit motion in order to protect the area. The physical trauma of surgery may cause the hyper sensitized system to assume an even higher state of alert.

I had to figure out how to restore mobility and decrease pain without causing the brain to go “code red”.

Early on I thought that mobility problems were “hardware” malfunctions. Like most of my peers I employed a “Shaolin” approach. If a muscles were “tight” they had to be vigorously stretched. Patients were told to do the best to endure the subsequent pain and to make sure they took their pain medications an hour before the therapy session.

I began practicing Tai Chi at the same time I started physical therapy school. It took a while after graduation, but the practice began to exert a subtle influence on the way I interacted with patients. I started to understand that mobility problems were “software” malfunctions. If the unconscious part of the brain was trying to protect the joint, it made little sense to threaten and further traumatize the area with aggressive handling.

My form practice and push hands began to change the way I moved and heightened my tactile Tai Chi Chuansensitivity. My touch was no longer perceived as a threat. The alert level was lowered. When I moved limbs there was far less muscle guarding. Obeying the Tai Chi dictum, “The arms don’t move”, I began to use my center to move limbs, rather than employing my arms. If I lost focus on my center, I often felt a heightened sense of resistance. The patients nervous system perceived this inefficient handing as a greater threat.

This approach resulted in greater joint mobility and interestingly improved weight bearing capacity. Patients felt that their limbs were stronger, without having done any strengthening exercises. This can be explained by the brain’s ability to “rewire” itself, often referred to as “neuroplasticity”. The gentle handing provided a safe environment for the brain to come out of the “protection” mode, and begin to send normal impulses to the muscles.

My patients were very satisfied with their results. They progressed rapidly. Within a week after hospital discharge they were able to discard their walkers and ambulate comfortably with a cane. Prior to surgery they were told to expect a grueling/painful rehabilitation course, which did not prove to be the case.

I evolved into an “internal” therapist. The “Shaolin” approach became very foreign to me. Prof Cheng Man Ching was asked if he thought that Tai Chi changed his disposition. His reply was that he couldn’t be sure, but he liked to think so. My patients often remarked that I had a very calming presence that put them at ease, and instilled more confidence and trust in me. Like Prof Cheng, I’d like to think that Tai Chi was responsible.

Dec
31
2017

From Us to You

Happy New Year to all of our dear customers. We treasure and appreciate all of your correspondence, contributions, friendship and patronage. We would not be here without you.

In this last year we have taken some major steps in reducing the price of international shipping. In the coming year, we have big plans to further improve that system plus, if everything goes well, we will complete a major reformatting of our entire site to be more user friendly and, let’s face it, more 21st century. This should allow you better and faster access to our articles, products and tutorials. This has been a long time coming. Traditional martial arts does not require traditional technology.

We close out this year with a small gift, a performance by Sifu Linda Darrigo, Plum’s resident expert on Six Harmony Praying Mantis and a vital third of our company. We filmed her performance during a class in Taiwan.

We at Plum—Ted, Debbie and Linda—all send our warmest wishes to you and yours, for great peace, health and happiness in the New Year.

Dec
29
2017

Three Long Arm Styles: BGZ, MZY and LHTL

Kung Fu Books

LiuHe TangLang

As the legend goes, one of the authors in our three new offerings is the only person to have come out on top when sparring with the famous Taiwanese instructor, Liu Yun Chiao. Do you know which one?

Kung Fu Books

Mizong Quan

First, we add a rare addition to the legacy of Praying Mantis texts by Zhang Xiang San (a tongue-twister for most westerners). This book shows a key form from the LiuHe TangLang (Six Harmonies Praying Mantis) style.

Next, we feature a new edition of a book on Mizong Quan by Jiang Rong Qiao, famous for his “New Bagua” style. We’ve had this text before, in one of Joseph Crandall’s English translations. MiZong Quan, or Lost Track Boxing,  could properly be called a style with internal and external skills combined. MiZong is a huge style with many forms and fighting techniques. This new edition is in traditional Chinese characters.

Kung Fu BooksFor an English language offering we have a full-color exposition of the Bagua Zhang style developed by Chen Pan Ling, a notable figure in 20th century martial studies. This text shows forms and applications of Chen’s Bagua represented by his son (Chen Yun Ching) and his top instructor, (James Sumarac). All eight Palm Changes are covered, along with some basic applications.

Keep an eye out for more of our tutorials and helpful guides.

Dec
22
2017

Come To The Party

Right before the end of the year, we welcome back a few old friends, Chinese Kung Fu books that are always welcome at Plum. We’ve got a lot of new material coming, too, in the next little while, so keep an eye on this spot. (Click each book to get more info, and to purchase).

Chinese Kung Fu books

Complete Baji Quan

Wing Chun

Luo Han Short Hand Boxing

Wing Chun

Nobleman’s Sword

Bagua Hands & Weapons

Wu Meng Xia Tai Chi Chuan

Jiang Rong Qiao, Tiger Tail Whip

 

 

 

Dec
18
2017

Allen Ginsberg on Tai Chi

In my kitchen in New Yorktai chi
by Allen Ginsberg
(for Bataan Faigao
)

 

 

 

Bend knees, shift weight
Picasso’s blue deathhead self portrait
tacked on refrigerator door

This is the only space in the apartment
big enough to do t’ai chi

Straighten right foot & rise–I wonder
if I should have set aside that garbage
pail

Raise up my hands & bring them back to
shoulders–The towels and pyjama
laundry’s hanging on a rope in the hall

Push down & grasp the sparrow’s tail
Those paper boxes of grocery bags are
blocking the closed door

Turn north–I should hang up all
those pots on the stovetop
Am I holding the world right? That
Hopi picture on the wall shows
rain & lightning bolt

Turn right again–thru the door, God
my office space is a mess of
pictures & unanswered letters

Left on my hips–Thank God Arthur Rimbaud’s
watching me from over the sink

Single whip–piano’s in the room, well
Steven & Maria finally’ll move to their
own apartment next week! His pants’re
still here & Julius in his bed

This gesture’s the opposite of St. Francis
in Ecstasy by Bellini–hands
down for me

I better concentrate on what I’m doing
weight in belly, move by hips
No, that was the single whip–that apron’s
hanging on the North wall a year
I haven’t used it once
Except to wipe my hands–the Crane
spreads its wings have I paid
the electric bill?

Playing the guitar do I have enough $
to leave the rent paid while I’m
in China?

Brush knee–that was good
halavah, pounded sesame seed,
in the icebox a week

Withdraw & push–I should
get a loft or giant living room
The land speculators bought up all
the sqaure feet in Manhattan,
beginning with the Indians

Cross hands–I should write
a letter to the Times saying
it’s unethical

Come to rest hands down knees
straight–I wonder how
my liver’s doing. O.K. I guess
tonite, I quit smoking last
week. I wonder if they’ll blow
up an H Bomb? Probably not.

-Manhattan Midnite, September 5, 1984

 

Dec
11
2017

The Passing of Porf Jou (Jou Po Fu)

porf jou It is with great sadness that we belatedly report the passing of Shifu Porf Jou, who died back in October.

Jou Shifu was well-known in at least two areas: as a martial artist and teacher, and also as a  writer. From a martial perspective, his training was traditional, but he brought an original eye and unique interpretation to his performance.

He will be missed by us here at Plum, as well as by the greater martial community. We are grateful that his work will live on in his DVDs and, most importantly, in his students.

Nov
29
2017

The Teacher’s Teacher

Last Sunday, I got a double-treat: my teacher, Adam Hsu, is in town for a couple of weeks and I had the opportunity to not only see and spend time with him, but to make his Long Fist Kung Fu class available to my own students, most of whom had never met him. Of course, there is always a bit of trepidation presenting your students to your teacher: will they look good to another and more experienced eye? Will my teacher take me aside and, without sarcasm, ask what the hell I have been teaching them? Will my students look at my teacher’s instruction and wonder what the hell I have been teaching them? Will they like him more than me? OK, admittedly, not all of these are mature concerns, but, even after 50 years, it would be a lie to say they don’t exist.

I won’t keep you in suspense: my students filled me with pride as I watched them working out with vigor, trying new things while applying themselves even more intently to the familiar ones. They followed routines they had never seen, exercises they had never attempted, angles they had never considered and, of course, lots of training we practice weekly at our Academy. Each was beaming at the end of the two hours. Read more →

Nov
27
2017

Caylor Adkin’s Iron Ball, Wooden Staff, Empty Hands Training

kung fu iron ball Caylor Adkins is a well-known instructor, recognized even outside his art of Shotokan. His contribution, “Iron Ball, Wooden Staff, Empty Hands: Understanding Structure, Flow and Maneuver is Martial Arts,” is a well laid-out book of methods utilizing these traditionally used kung fu training aides.

More and more we see cross-training and instrument exercise as important contributions from the martial arts to normal exercise methods for health, not to mention special methods for improved martial skills. With just these three instruments he introduces his own research of 50 years, including numerous resources which he has assimilated in his dedicated and long study.

In a related note, and, coming soon, is a long out-of-print Chinese text on Iron Ball Training Exercises (referenced by Adkins in his book) by Lu Wen Wei. Stay tuned for this and more!

Nov
20
2017

Evolution of Wing Chun Kicking Techniques

wing chun kickingHappy to announce the arrival of an important new text in the Wing Chun canon: The Evolution of Wing Chun Kung Fu Kicking Techniques.  Osmond Lam’s beautiful book not only shows us some of the principles behind Wing Chun’s special and only sporadically known kicking methods, but adds a good portion of background technique on the famous Yip Man and his disciples, many of them well-known teachers. As an added benefit, there is a well-illustrated section from the author’s teacher, Stephen TK Chan, showing the Shortened 13 Legs with body shifting and appropriate hand positions.

This full color, oversized and fully English edition comes right out of Hong Kong. Color photographs break down the movements and—something unusual—almost every one of the photos taken over many years is individually dated for reference freaks.

Why wait to discover more about Wing Chun kicking techniques? Click here, or the link above to see more information on the book, and to order.

 

Nov
15
2017

10,000 Times Answers All

The Real Meaning of 10,000 Repetitions and What You Can Do While You Are Doing Them and Whether or Not You Need to Do 10,000 repetitions Before You Are An Expert.

10,000 repetitionsThis is a piece about the old saying that it takes 10,000 repetitions to really master anything and the huge number of people who believe this because they were told it. And this calls on people, including myself, who have actually done 10,000 repetitions of something or even of more things.

And not just done the repetitions over a long period of time and then they decide that they already deserve credit for 10,000 unconscious repetitions even though they did not actually count those many repetitions like one, two, three counting…

But some people—who do not mind repeating a thing or an act—set themselves to do 10,000 repetitions in a row, without any practices that were not 10,000 repetitions of the same movement or sequence. Just a kind of repeating and drowsing at the same time without distinction. Read more →

Nov
6
2017

A Little Bit of Hakka Boxing, A Few More Restocks

Hakka Unicorn Boxing DVD
by Tyler R. Rea

hakka boxingHakka Boxing style Kei Lun Kune (Unicorn Boxing) is a famous form not only in Chinese Kung Fu, but also in boxing styles from other countries, such as Malaysia. This DVD offers a rare presentation of this form, aided by some innovative breakdowns and demonstrations. Every action is “do-able” but the transition of practice to mastery will take some time. A very straightforward, and relatively clear execution, with some quizzical points, especially in the Yee Sei Wooden Dummy segment.

 

Some Restocked Goodies

Always happy when we are able to restock our Chinese editions. Top-quality Chinese source material is becoming a little more difficult to find, and definitely harder to hold on to. We’ve got a slate of new arrivals, and some old friends, returning over the next few months; here are some of our favorites. Click images to go to their sale pages.

Yang Style Tai Chi True Narrative-ever popular

Feng Mo Staff:  Chinese/English with a VCD!

Xin Yi Fighting Secrets

Wow, Never thought we’d see Southern Mantis Fighting Forms again!

Oct
31
2017

George Xu: Pioneer

Normally we reserve these weblog spots for a quick teaser, and designate the product pages for fuller reviews. However, since the works of George Xu often attract our special attention, we thought that this time, with his new DVD on Reeling Silk Energy, we would post our more in-depth interview along with our usual product information, here in kaimen.

 

“…and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

reeling silk energyWith few exceptions, I can see a very small group of people in these last  decades who have contributed as much to the spread and development of classical Chinese martial arts as George Xu (Xu Guo Ming).

His new double DVD, Tai Chi Silk Reeling and Martial Applications, shows a fuller face to the architecture he is designing. Everything about his approach over the last few years has been like a great painter opening another route of exploration; like Picasso’s blue period or Kandinsky’s dancing colors. That’s probably the reason he felt compelled to create his new style. (See last Xu post.)

Are you talking about traditional martial arts, or what?

Contrary to what so many think, following the old masters can be a source of tremendous knowledge. But you must be willing to own and change what they began, a task not many want to take up. None of this bothers teacher Xu at all. Tradition, in his case is, reborn fresh. Read more →