Special Kung Fu Training Equipment

Here’s another in our series of inexpensive, mobile, customized kung fu training equipment.

kung fu trainingHere’s the pic of the “training pole”. I use it for staff, sticky hands and punching through the rings, left low, right high and right low left high. It’s ABS 3″ pipe concreted into the bucket with a threaded connection (for removal) and an ABS 2″ pipe for the body and rings.  About 7′ high.   
Regards, John


Great! And I assume those are garden pot holders? Versatile and portable, nice combination.

Click on the picture to see it enlarged, and HERE to see a previous contribution from Jed in Australia. And we would love to see any additional ideas! Homemade training tools and rigs are as traditional as the practice that uses them.


Random Circles—The Synergy of Taiji Quan

by Jason Tsou and Art Schonfeld

By necessity, there are many levels of martial arts training. A person must develop foundational work before he can go on to more advanced work.

One essential training method often overlooked today is that of Random Circle training. While this is not the highest level of training, it provides the necessary underpinnings to reach the higher levels of skill. Random Circles teaches strategy, teaches us how to use Ting Jin (listening energy to sense your opponent), Hwa Jin to divert and avoid your opponent’s sensing, and it allows you to collect and connect the techniques contained in forms in order to get a taste of usage in those techniques. Random Circle Exercises is one step beyond the Tui Shou (Push Hands) exercises most people practice. Often, we see Tui Shou limited to the movements of Grasping Bird’s Tail. While it is important to understand Peng Lu Ji An, being able to use all of the other moves in the push hands process is also crucial. In addition, Random Circles Exercises introduces combat footwork and begins to train the student in how to use momentum when issuing Fa Jin.

The term “Random Circles” traces back to Yang Ban Hou, the uncle of Yang Chen Fu. In a poem attributed to him, the phrase “trap your opponent within the Random Circle and four ounces of energy will move a thousand pounds of force” appears. Much of the same idea can also be found in writings attributed to Wang Zhong Yue, who also talks about the four ounces of energy moving a thousand pounds of force. The Random Circle allows one to find the point at which the four ounces can be applied. Random Circles can be easily incorporated into the framework of the Taiji Quan forms and can be used as Da Fa (combat training). Read more →


Mizong Jia: Shaolin Mizong Kung Fu style

Here’s a pop quiz (Mizong Jia Kung Funo cheating!)

What style is the inspiration for the two films, “The Chinese Connection” (with Bruce Lee) and “Legend” (with Jet Lee)? Want a hint? This style is associated with Kung Fu Master Huo YuanJia, Head Instructor of the famous Ching Woo Association.

Ok, so the title of this post gives it away. Of course, you might not have known this because it is rare to see a new book and DVD in English on Mizong Quan (Lost Track Boxing), and even less common to have such a work on the important Jia, or Structure, form.

Which is why Plum is proud to announce that we are publishing a new work on Mizong by Sifu Lu Junhai—a full-color instructional text packaged with a 50 minute DVD. This is one of the few books and DVDs on Mizong published in English (the DVD is in Chinese, but well-subtitled). The text is clear, and the DVD contains at least 30 minutes of applications, another rarity these days in martial literature.

You can click HERE, or on the image, to go to the book page and read more about this work, and why the Jia Form is such a crucial form for Mizong practitioners.


Plum ♥︎ Mantis (and here’s some proof)

Wong Han Fun MantisGuess who’s back! Wong Han Fun Mantis

OK, the book covers probably give it away, but in case you want a name, it’s Wong Han Fun (Huang Han Hsun). We have restocked, FINALLY, 13 nicely-done reprints of some of his hard-to-find titles. And when we say “nicely done”, what we mean is some of the clearest, crispest photos that we have seen in decades.

Click the books to go to the newly revised page, and see what we have.


The Hidden Power of Kung Fu Slapping

Can you explain the reason some styles like Tong Bei Quan and Kenpo use so much slapping? A fellow martial artist recently asked me about this. Little did he know was that I used to lecture obsessively on this subject to black belts and teachers. Even now, I still incorporate some of this technique in my Kung Fu. I’ve been grilled by many a fellow practitioner who thinks that slapping is a little silly. In cases of performance beating out function, I agree; but when executed, with proper understanding, this can refine a valuable skill.


1. To create swing power instead of opposition power.
There are two basic striking patterns in any Martial Art, oppositional and complementary. We were all taught that if you throw a chop you can increase its power by pulling back your other hand in the opposite direction. However, you can also augment force by moving both hands in the same direction, as in the Double Swing shown. Swinging the slapping hand in the same direction as the chop can create power at close quarters. Slapping assures that both hands are tied together.

Read more →


One Good Return Deserves Another

This addition (or should I say re-addition) contains a few books that have been unavailable for years. We know that our cutomers are loyal, but even so, we’ve been surprised that people who’ve had these on their want list for more than five years (!) still want them the moment they become available again.

Mantis, Ziran and Chin Na booksThese first three—returned after years—are from noted master Gao Tao Sheng. These include the valuable Long Fist training that is still a part of Praying Mantis mastery.  We are also reinstating a Chin Na book containing a two-person set, a lot of ground fighting and endless locks and counter-locks.


Next comes Tai Tzu Boxing (Tai Tzu means Great Ancestor, referring to the soldier who founded the Song dynasty).  Though said to be a rough-and-tumble style, we have our doubts. The techniques in this book are well-executed, all for fighting, but suspiciously like so many applications from other styles We’ll let you judge for yourself.

We also have a nicely done book on ZiRan (Tzu Ran) or Naturalness Boxing. This was a breakthrough style (also linked to the Six Harmonies Boxing) that encouraged a kind of revelation approach as well as strong and unusual training. Among others, this style was a favorite of Wan Lai Sheng, a famous boxing teacher—in fact, the full title of this new volume is Wan Lai Sheng Ziran Men Studies.


Coloring in the Picture: Bubishi and Hakka styles

The Colorful Bubishi…
We now carry both the Bubishi and the new Lion Books, General Tian’s Wubeizhi, with painted figures. This special copy is unlike all other copies presently known. In an amazing confluence of facts, we just happened to read the following footnote in Patrick McCarthy’s Book on Bubishi:

… According to Mr. Yoza [one of the people interviewed], there was a colored facsimile made from the Bubishi owned by his uncle Go Kenki. Originally, the picture of the Busaganashi [Protective Deity] is said to have been colored. Since Mr. Yoza’s painting [of one of the door Gods] is very similar to the Busaganashi found in the Bubishi, it is presumed that the original (edition of the Bubishi) was brought to Okinawa together with Go Kenki’s edition from which the facsimile was made.

Read more →


The Hakka Testimonial

Hakka Kung Fu book300 Years of Hakka Kung Fu is definitely a gift book for a martial collector/scholar.

Last year Hong Kong, after having erected a statue of Bruce Lee, sponsored an exhibition of 300 years of Hakka Kung Fu. This was a good decision because the cluster of Kung Fu styles that make up the constellation of Hakka WuShu is gradually dimming, and may even blink out of existence.

There are no techniques, forms, or sparring sessions in this text. It is a book about a certain people—the “vagabonds” of China—their culture, and a connecting chain of love for Kung Fu. The book is extra-sized, hard backed and beautiful. Some great photos, mostly of teachers and beautiful landscapes, printed on excellent paper.

The book covers the Hakka history, then moves to individual portraits and expositions of specific masters, their backgrounds, thought and hopes for Kung Fu’s future. This is a book about families, blood-bonded or not. They are family because they share the same ideas. Hakka Kung Fu







Year of the Fire Rooster–January 28, 2017

Year after year, Narrye Caldwell’s annual Chinese Astrological analysis has been one of Plum’s most popular and requested topics. We are happy to once again offer it here.

Fire RoosterAll Chinese wisdom traditions, including medicine, divination, astrology, and feng shui, are systems of pattern identification that guide us in adapting gracefully to change. A world in flux is assumed; it is the one constant feature of life. Astrology is best viewed as a tool to discern where we are in the shifting cycles of time so we can adjust our expectations accordingly and therefore, from the Chinese point of view, cultivate longevity by not wasting our qi trying to swim against the current.

Last year’s current schooled us all in crisis management as the Fire Monkey’s erratic impulsiveness and dramatic flare produced an unprecedented bit of theater in American politics. Read more →


Three Texts: New, Old, Reborn

Our storms are done here (we hope). It seems like during the time we holed up and watched the wind change the landscape, we also acquired a host of new products and long unavailable reprints. We have just added three of these books, each in a different phase of the publishing process.

kung fu booksNEW: First is a new Xing Yi text by Song Zhi Yong and Tom Bisio. A solid offering with multiple breakdown photos and a layered text. Also some pages devoted to a deeper understanding of those two crucial XY forms, 5 Elements and Linked Fist.


REISSUED, is the popular Eight Step Praying Mantis Boxing book. This new edition is almost FOUR TIMES as large as the original book, covering applications, forms, theory, family and more. A huge re-structuring with good photos and some clear instructions on forms. In Chinese.

RESTOCKED: En face edition (in English and Chinese). This book on the Tiger Swallow Praying Mantis form by Gao Tao Sheng was certainly one of the most popular Lion Books we carried before it was pulled. Now, after years, it is back. Big photos, clear text, English.


Stillness & Movement: Part Three

stillness and movementDynamic Balance

There’s a very old martial arts saying that we should “find stillness in movement, and movement in stillness.” It’s not just an old saw. For instance, say someone punches at you. You move out of the way extremely rapidly, but not so hurried that you resemble a bad example of the startle response; different limbs moving at different speed, confused actions, etc.

In the heart of movement you must remain still inside because you need to marshal your forces and you have to adapt to the situation. You cannot let mind or body erupt.

On the other hand, what about the reverse: movement coming from stillness?  Probably the classic image would be of two Japanese swordsmen staring at one another, eyes unblinking, absolutely frozen, seemingly immobile. Suddenly, they both explode forward—and one of them drops.

A situation like this calls for maximum speed. But you cannot reach maximum speed—speed beyond the normal human range— unless you have enough stillness to check and incorporate all the parts of your body, even though they may not be connected until the moment you execute. It’s only through complete integration that you can reach your maximum speed.

It is obvious that this type of thing cannot be done while your opponent waits for you to line up all your ducks. This is why a high level of training requires dropping into, then climbing out of, stillness. You might call it punctuated explosions. You move fast, then stop, then explode again. When you stop, you take inventory. And, with enough practice, the stopping can actually hide and even build the power for the next needed execution.

At first you set—like a bow and arrow—each shoulder, then each leg, then each… In the old days, the Chinese called these the Five Bows: four in the limbs and one through the back. This is a great example because, with the bow strung, at the moment needed to ready yourself, you can immediately start stringing arrows. This is just as stillness has taught us. When energy finally does manifest in your actions, it comes not from what you do, but from the release that stillness had created. This is true speed, and when it comes it does so without the slightest hint, or hitch, or prelude.


Stillness & Movement: Part Two

martial footworkThinking About Movement

Learning movement—and therefore footwork—is a progression through four modes of stepping. First, when the beginner has just walked in off the street and you ask him to punch,  he will shoot arm first, before stepping. Envision tense shoulders, chest out and arm fully extended as he steps/falls awkwardly. Here’s the first, or “untutored,” way to move.

The second method is basic training. In this, the student first steps, plants his weight on the advanced foot, then issues the power of his punch. Such a firm step forms a bi-pedal base that helps tremendously with waist rotation and power creation.  It may be a little slow compared to other methods, but it yields a firm foundation—literally. This is the step-and-punch of Karate.

The third level is more like Xing Yi. Here the step and the punch are simultaneous, both arriving at the same moment. At first this is a difficult one to pick up. But when applied, it creates a technique that is fast and, since everything is moving in unison, very firm.

Finally, the fourth way, which is quite advanced . This is where you start by throwing your fist—or weapon—first, then following with a step. Sound familiar? Isn’t this similar to the untrained way? Ah, but he difference this time is that you have been trained, so now you know exactly how to do this step in the most appropiate way. For instance, you will use this crucial method in weapon practice, such as Kung Fu fencing, where it is a good idea to lead with your weapon instead of your face.

Any good martial artist can mix these methods. But, to really master movement, we keep them separate and practice each, individually. We must understand the time and place for each one. Even the “untrained” one can be useful if exploited at the right moment. For example, employed as a “drunken” style action, it can be a confusing delivery for your enemy to oppose.

Ultimately, we all practice movement by moving. Change the step as you will, but be scrupulous about form. Your footwork will naturally improve. Remember, though: beyond simply executing, movement really starts in the mind where it entwines with stillness (as I talk about in the next piece).


Stillness & Movement: Part One

We’re having the storm of the century here in Santa Cruz. I see the trees in my yard bending to breaking, under a malicious, pushing wind that is nothing but movement one second, then still as a vanished squirrel the next.  I think of stillness and movement, my mind chasing them both down into the next three levels. Here’ s the first. . .

A Tour of Stillness

stillness and movement

If you are lucky enough to have a martial practice containing stillness training, you may find some new ideas a little hard to grasp. You’re able to stand still for a while, but you’re not sure what it’s all about.

Don’t worry about the metaphysics. Start learning at the muscle level (I know this will surprise some practitioners). Treat your muscles correctly and you’ll progress. The first rule here is “Melt the ice, don’t crack it.” If you find your shoulder tensed and lifted as high as your ear, you should not suddenly drop it. Instead, just relax and wait a while. Allow for self-correction, and it will come.

Next, you have the breathing itself. You may be asked to bring it in through your chest, lower it into your stomach, then allow it to rise back through the chest and exhale. This kind of control will be expected of you throughout the training. Keep asking, is this the LEAST effort needed to accomplish this breath? If you barrel your chest, tighten up and squat, then expel breath like spitting gum, you are probably forcing too much.

What do we mean by “too much?” I had an ex-student who was an emergency care unit doc. He had a patient come in with, everyone thought, third degree burns. They soon discovered that he had been doing breathing exercises in Karate, and just burst a bunch of veins in his face. It’s better to start soft.

On a higher level there will be training both internal and external, demanding entirel new skills. You may be asked to lift  the stomach at the bottom of the rib cage,  pulling the muscles under the rib cage upward and, at the same time, tuck in your tailbone. These internal instructions will create an external effect, holding it in a bean-shaped torso. When it all comes together, you’ll notice that you can hold this position for a very long time; you may even find you don’t want to leave it.

So the first goal of stillness training is to find positions, movements and techniques that are calm enough and integral enough that you actually want to stay there. At this point you have entered the door to a whole new set of experiences.

Next, movement.


The Karate/Kung Fu Connection: Bubishi

Just arrived, TWO books: the premier translation of the martial-world famous Bubishi by Patrick McCarthy; AND more stock on the gorgeous hardcover edition of The General Tian Wubeizhi: The Bubishi in Chinese Martial Arts. The convergence of these two—the translation (Bubishi) and the commentary (General Tian’s Wubeizhi)—mirror the revelations contained in these two texts concerning the special creation of Karate (and Kenpo), and the often-neglected Chinese part in that. This is the story of Okinawan martial arts such as Naha Te, Okinawa Te, Shorin Ryu and others:  how they developed, and how they were influenced martially, medically and morally by the importation of this so-called “Bible of Karate.”

bubishi and wubeizhiThe creators of this 300 year old book are anonymous, the compilations diverse, with each copy differing from all others. And yet, the text boasts many secrets from the Chinese original, such as specific information on Dim Mak and herbs for violent injury.  We are able to read this story of translation and an expansion of its principles to fit most Okinawan fighting styles. In the sister book (General Tian) we have a new, in-depth hardbound collector’s edition with a major essay on the hidden influences of Chinese Kung Fu, medicine, ancestor worship, White Crane practice, and much more, along with a never-seen painted series of ancient warriors executing techniques and two-man routines.

Read about the weird circumstances that brought these two books to Plum.


A Tale of Two Texts

So here’s how the story goes. It’s just a small anecdote about Bruce Lee (off stage) and Jimmy Lee (right in the middle). It’s also about keeping secrets and paying odd debts, with just a bit of rectifying humor in the bargain.

It starts with one of the first English language books about Kung Fu, authored by a noted west coast Sifu of the Southern style, T. Y. Wong. He wrote “Chinese Karate Kung Fu Original Sil Lum System for Health and Self Defence” in 1961. He also ran a school—called Kin Mon— located at 880 Sacramento St. in San Francisco, in the fifties and sixties.

Wong was traditional, at least in some sense of the word. He taught a southern Shaolin style of relatively little fame. He taught forms and basics. His school uniform was a version of the famous Jing Mo style with black satin and white piping. His uniform coat was distinct, with the hem cut in zigzag sections.

Among his students was a young Jimmy Lee. This was before Bruce was on the scene and Jimmy studied diligently for a few years. From Sifu Wong he learned the basics of Iron Palm training and is actually shown in Wong’s book demonstrating the general form, and assisting with some self defense techniques. Read more →


The Bible of Karate

What is the Bubishi? It is many things, but it’s most common attribution is “the Bible of Karate.”

Why should Chinese stylists take an interest in a book that is fundamental to an Okinawan art? Because a closer look at this remarkable text opens up a widely different estimation, one that is both more expansive, less secular, and most certainly pertinent to traditional Chinese Wushu.

It’s true that the word ‘bible’ might imply a proscribed code, the basis—in this case—for a style that traveled from Okinawa to Japan, and elsewhere. But a ‘bible’ can be more than that: a multi-authored text, a compilation of different voices, records and accounts, and not necessarily the same compilation in every edition.

This Bubishi closely resembles this collection of texts. Historically, it had no single name, sometimes going by The White Crane Records, or The Bubishi or, in the case of this newly discovered version, the General Tian Wubeizhi. Although we don’t know its common nickname, we do know that it was born in China and raised in Okinawa—in Ryukyu, to be exact, the center for Chinese learning on this island. It was originally written in classical Chinese, and contained simple but wonderful pen-and-ink illustrations of figures practicing martial arts techniques, two-person routines and, perhaps most importantly, medical information in the form of Chinese anatomical charts and hand-drawn herbal lists and identifiers. Read more →


A Wire of Iron

What a year the monkey has been!

Now, we have so much good stuff coming in we can act like the Rooster Year is already here, and can start to crow a bit. In the next couple of months, we’re looking forward to adding more and more top quality books and DVDs, often in English. 

For instance, we have scheduled a beautiful book on Hakka masters; an original english translation of a new history and analysis of the Bubishi (Wubeizhi), plus a never-before-seen color edition of the essential text; an entirely new English language book and DVD on the Lost Track style and its key form; our own text in the Grandfather weapons series, this one on the Kung Fu Saber; not to mention recently posted items like Sifu Adam Hsu’s DVD course on Bagua Zhang. The Year of the Rooster is a good time for concentration and getting some important things done and that will be our goal and focus from this point on: more top-notch material on this great art, and more in-depth discussion about the core of the arts and each teacher’s response to it.

Another event enhanced this past month: we finally met one of our most popular instructors, Terry Dunn, after all these years. In four hours of non-stop talk we discussed everything martial, from our mutual Kenpo experiences to LiuHeBaFa; the skills of the Cheng Man Qing teachers; the proliferation of pseudo-Qi Gong; and much more. Known for his clarity of presentation on the subjects of Tai Chi and Qigong, you may expect more new materials onPlum, from Terry, in the coming months.

Hung Gar Iron WireAnother project just coming to publication is a rare event indeed: the Lam Family Hung Gar (Hung Kuen) version of the famous Iron Wire form, one of the pinnacles of Southern Kung Fu. This is the Lam family’s first presentation—in book and on DVD—of the knowledge locked in this exceptional form. Just to whet your appetite, take a look at the Table of Contents (you are the first to see this): Read more →


A Welcome Guest: The Hakka Fist

hakka kung fuI have a friend, Tek Young Lin, who is a born storyteller. He can weave a tale with every nuance—the smell, the expressions, the details—all brought to life. He can twist a yarn about anything or nothing. In fact, he tells a wonderful Daoist story about collecting holes, and how his best friend almost tumbled down one that they were capturing and throwing onto a truck.

Tek’s storytelling follows in the footsteps of his tradition. He is a Hakka. Many people have never heard the name. It refers to a nation of nomads, a so-called “Guest People” composed traditionally of mathematicians, storytellers, astrologers, and doctors. The Hakkas are a great example of how social conditions affect martial reality. Through millennia, they have been pushed, squeezed and bumped ever southward. Huge revolutions and natural disasters drove them out of their traditional habitats. It made them clannish, too, even creating  “one-name-villages,” with everyone in a given town sharing the same family name. Typically Hakka—what they were forced to do actually became their method of self-protection. They kept all marriages inside their clan, developing a ritual to—occasionally—accept a non-clan member to the inner circle. This practice still lingers in the secretive inclusion ceremonies for some Southern styles of Kung Fu. Read more →


International Shipping Rates Drop

birdsshippingWe’ve spent 20 years building a catalogue of hand-picked, traditional, rare books and videos. But every year the post office makes it a little harder to ship these fine products, at a reasonable rate, to our many international customers. The rise in prices has been so extreme that we’ve actually been subsidizing the costs. We also started on a long and winding road to find a cheaper rates.

And we have.

We found a shipping consolidator that provides, on average, about 20-30% lower prices than previous rates. And for larger, heavier orders, we can once again send packages surface mail, which is about 50% less expensive than any rates we have seen for a long time. Even FEDEX—2-5 days to most countries—is now affordable if you need it quickly. Read more →


Bubishi Classic, Like You Have Never Seen Before (Updated)


Plum treasures our close affiliation with Lionbooks in Taiwan, both for their extensive library of authentic, hard-to-find martial arts literature, and the exceptional job they do of making these books beautiful.

So, we are excited to announce their new english language study of the Bubishi, the foundational text of  Karate, including two Bubishi manuals, both in Chinese. The translator writes: “The first has been published before (in Japanese publications) but the second (which is in color) has never been published before. In fact, no one even knew it existed.”

And, of course, Plum will have copies!

When can I get them?

We expect these to land in about a week, and are accepting pre-orders right now. And we will post more information about the book and its heritage. International customers, this would be a great time to check out our new, less expensive postage rates!

UPDATE: First shipment completely sold out! That went fast. Second helping should be here around Dec 26.

How do I order?

Click the image above, or the link below to order. It may take a couple of seconds to load.