Daoism, Sleeping Meditation & Beyond the Battleground

DaoismTom Bisio, Founder of Internal Arts International, offers us two texts dedicated to the study of two extreme opposites, both seen through the eyes of Daoism.

A Daoist Nap:
The first, Chen Tuan’s Daoist Sleeping Meditation,  is concerned with the relatively unknown practice combining meditation with sleep.

Battleground: The book on principles of warfare, Beyond the Battleground, Classic Strategies from the Yijing and Baguazhang for managing Crisis Situations,  uses both western and Asian sources to try and untie the knot that is war. Click images for fuller descriptions and Plum’s nicely discounted prices.

Friends! We have been posting a little less because we are working on new improvements to the site which—it is our hope—will make browsing, reading and buying just that much faster and more accurate. Just bear with us. 


Four Things Hard to Believe

martial arts principles At the start of your training, if you’d asked: “What do I need to be a good martial artist?” you might have gotten a list which included strength, endurance, patience, humility, Ben-Gay, and a good pair of shoes. What would probably have been missing is the word “faith.” But anyone who’s done any kind of long-term training knows that that pinch of faith can often be all you have to guide you forward. You can’t check out every situation or problem that your chosen endeavor might involve—sometimes you just have to rely on those well-tested “rules of the road.” 

Martial arts training creates dozens of these moments: whether the actual technique is functional and tested, or just a vague hunk of indigestible advice; when the move defies logic, physics, or just plain gravity; where that grain of truth is obscured by wrong usage, tall telling, or the attrition of time.

I’ve had my own concepts that—though now resolved in my mind—were troublesome and doubtful for the longest time. I realized one reason it took so long, was that my teachers didn’t always explain the concepts behind these counter-intuitive ideas. I’m all for tradition, but in my own teaching I vowed to reverse that. So here are four of my favorite puzzlers. In each one, I’ve ended with the solution, no matter how improbable. Read more →


Spring Into Summer with New Classes in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Tai Chi

Tai Chi For Health

Santa Cruz Tai Chi

Tai Chi: Deepen Your Practice

Just a quick announcement for those in the Santa Cruz area: New 6 week and 13 week classes starting at our Academy in April and May. Here is a great opportunity to train with Narrye Caldwell in Tai Chi Chuan, and Ted Mancuso in Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua Zhang, and Adam Hsu’s Kung Fu Linking Fist. Click each image for more information.

Authentic Kung Fu

Santa Cruz Bagua Zhang

Bagua’s Eight Animals



Tutorial: Steps to Tai Chi Stepping

If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes at Plum, you know how highly we prize basics as the foundation of good movement. ‘Stepping’ in Tai Chi, is one of those fundamentals that you might learn on the first day of class, and which you might be refining well into your advanced practice.

We prepared a short, 3-part tutorial on just this subject, with a special section for those players who may need to compensate as a result of injury or physical limitation. It’s not just getting older that affects our stride—Debbie’s 5 month recovery from a fractured tibia is testament to that. Tai Chi, as an aid in that recovery, had to be modified to her condition, and the first step was in the stepping.

For those just starting, you might find a few tips to set you on the path; for those already knowledgeable, maybe a reminder or two to keep you there.


LiuHe Tanglang: The Short Strike Form

LiuHeDuan ChuiWe’ve added a new DVD to our collection: LiuHe Duan Chui, the second installment from Teacher Jian Gao, exhibiting one of the rarer styles of Praying Mantis—Six Harmony Praying Mantis—or what some might call a mantis variation of Liu He Quan (Six Harmonies Boxing).

This style incorporates key points from many others, such as Monkey, Tong Bei and Liu He Quan. It is, what you might call a highly tactical style, with San Ti movement, whipping hands and, as in this case, strong Xing Yi-like movement.



The Yi Bone’s Connected to the Qi Bone

Tai chi intentQ: I started reading a book which examines the 5 major Tai Chi styles and uses quotes from the classics to show what they all have in common, and what is unique to each style. Anyway, lots of repetition of “yi leads the chi” and “chi leads the body”. I kind of always thought that, in general, it meant don’t let your mind wander when doing a form, but I’d like to hear your take.


A: This is a key strategy for Tai Chi.

Imagine two people given the task of hitting different targets, and the first person is a boxer. What he feels when he gets ready, among other things, are the muscles of his arm and his torso.

Next to him is the other fighter, an archer. As he gets ready to shoot at the target, what he feels is the projection of the tip of the arrow; and his string hand building energy as it stores explosive jing by pulling back.

When the crucial time comes and the judge shouts “Fire!” the fighter activates and launches his body toward the target. And the archer does nothing, just releases everything, letting his Yi aim the arrow.


What’s Old is New: 3 Traditional DVDs

Despite the fact that Plum has built a catalogue containing almost ma shen wu4000 books, dvds and vcds (!) we are actually quite picky about our products. We review a lot of material, choosing only what we believe will add to the martial conversation. So imagine how pleased we are when we are able to offer three new additions from the same series. Ma Shen Wu

These new DVDs all derive from some of the surveys conducted during the 70’s in China, a time before the contemporary wushu wave washed over the traditional. The first two present a teacher whose performance awed many of us when we first saw him, Ma Shen ma shen wuWu. His lithe, expressive performances always thrilled; these two new DVDs—an Arhat routine containing a catalogue of twisting movements; and a wonderful Traveller’s staff set with unusual legs—are great examples of his abilities as both a traditional and tong beimaster performer.

Finally, a fast Tong Bei routine from Sifu XuKuiSheng. This is quite a long set with great variation, and fast ‘tangling’ hands.


C.S.Tang Tells the Story of XingYiQuan

xingyiquanPlum has worked with CS Tang for a long while. And after meeting and spending time with him a few years ago, our admiration deepened when we found that his breadth of information was made that much better by the thoughtful depth he brought to his subjects.

His recent and new-to-Plum book, “The Mysterious Power of Xingyiquan: A Complete Guide to History, Weapons and Fighting Skills” is a perfect example of this. It is ambitious in scope, yet does not suffer from being a shallow survey; it includes Tang’s insights plus much source material to support its claim of being “complete.” Its language is clear, and its photos are many. We recommend it highly.

And, for a limited time, we’ve discounted it 20%, to encourage you to add it to your martial library (right next to his essential book on Yiquan).



Some Long-Awaited Restocks

It’s been a few months since we have been fully stocked on our “En Face Books” (the books in this series have English text ‘facing’ Chinese text). They are among our customer favorites, because they have so much to offer: A book and accompanying VCD showing complete routines in both Chinese and English. What more could you ask for?

The ever-popular titles shown below are now available again—as a matter of fact, the entire series is in stock as of this posting. They are scattered around the site, relative to their styles, so you can find them when you are checking out your favorite sections.

An even easier way to find them all is to check out our comprehensive list HERE, which is worth visiting on the off-chance you missed any of these great titles first time around. Enjoy!


kung fu books


kung fu books

Fan Zi

kung fu books

Wu Song

kung fu books

Tai Yi

kung fu book

Tong Bei


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.



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.


Verses & Thoughts

Geometrymartial thoughts

The shortest distance
straight spine

– Peter Thelin




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 →


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 →


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).


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.


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 →


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 →


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.


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.


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.