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Apr
11
2019

Hit Medicine Revealed

martial hit medicineThere is a whole branch of Chinese medicine associated with the martial arts, and to say that much of the information is secret would be an understatement.

But now, author Tom Bisio hands us an invaluable text, A Pearl From the Dragon’s Neck, comprehensively detailing revival methods, using vital points, cupping, moxibustion, massage, and pressure. He also includes herbal remedies to increase vitality and other approaches toward treating illness. As Bisio says, you can flip through the book and satisfy your own needs or curiosity—it’s that easy to use this text, and to apply it.

This book should be included in every martial first aid kit.

Apr
2
2019

Where is Bruce?

bruce lee

The curious distortion of Lee’s airbrushed body says something about his cinematic popularity.

Is he still with us? Should we light an incense stick to his memory? Why not?

Bruce changed the world. He revised the image of the downtrodden who re-emerges and makes his way to victory. He brought a pair of cultures together—internally and externally—at just the perfect moment in history. And, some will say, he made a significant leap forward when he introduced the yellow jump suit into costumery.

Bruce brought humor, galantry, wit, physical excellence, tactical intelligence and more to his screen image and to his public presentation. In short, he crushed just about every “old man of Asia” image he could. As in the Chinese Connection, he took on so many opponents that,even as it exceeded cinematic plausibility, he nonetheless made it all somehow believable.

He was such a force of nature that it was difficult to define him or his message. Was he the “bad boy?” Superman? Robin Hood? Little trashy books, like this “Big Book of Karate—Best Issue Yet,” came into existence entirely to spotlight him.

Just reading the Table of Contents shows the strands of modernity beginning to entangle themselves to create the Blade Runner street market culture that is even now rolling itself out with steamed buns at midnight. Read more →

Mar
29
2019

Two Passings

Liang Zhen PuBack in February, the martial world lost two of its pillars.

Vince Black died on February 26 at the age of 68. A practitioner of Chinese martial arts as well as Chinese medicine, Sifu Black had a lifelong relation with his studies, students and teachers. Among other well known instructors he studied with Li Zi Ming, Hsu Hong-Chi, Liao WuChang, Fu Shu Yun,  and Wang Shu Sheng. He was deeply involved in Xing Yi, KajuKenBo, Bagua and other arts such as Monkey Boxing. He left many students along with a wide range of material passed to new generations, such as bone setting, martial skills and internal practices. One of the gifts that Sifu Black gave to the martial world was his compilation, in English, of his teacher Li Zi Ming’s writings, a book entitled Liang Zhen Pu. This book has been out of print for a long while, but Plum is bringing it back within the next couple of months.

The day before Sifu Black’s death, on February 25, the esteemed Ralph Castro, one of the world’s top KenpoRalph Castro practitioners, passed away. He was 87 years old.

He was friend and student of such martial artists as Ed Parker, James Lee, Wally Jay, Jhoon Rhee and Bruce Lee (Sifu Castro being the only man to block Bruce’s back fist).

Born in Hawaii, he moved to the mainland in 1958 and opened the first Kenpo Karate studio in Northern California. He was a devoted family man, including his children in his lifelong love and practice of Shaolin Kenpo Karate.

May their memories be blessings.

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Mar
27
2019

Framed!

What is “frame?” If the answer doesn’t come immediately, don’t worry—this is a concept that confuses a good segment of the martial student body. At first glance, it simply consists of standing a certain way and holding your limbs in an agreed upon configuration. Of course, people assume different shapes—but sometimes what they think of as an impenetrable en garde really leaks like a hovel made from discarded pallettes. A good frame doesn’t leak.

There are said to be three main frames in the art and science of Kung Fu: large, medium and small. These divisions correspond to the foundational concept of heaven, mankind and earth. These are thought to be the universal levels of martial reality, whether coin small or galaxy large.

Although this gives us a fair beginning, a frame is more than a tri-sected “frozen” position—it is not just a stance, but a personal space in which to take that stance, to move around in, and to claim.

Some martial instructors designate this as an “envelope.” I disagree, because envelopes are mainly about  protective zones. Practicing your ‘frame’ also involves topics such as release of power, internal training and more. It is the shape of the entire body and how it relates to itself. A “small” frame, popular in some southern styles, is practiced with abbreviated movements, while Yang style Tai Chi is known for a large and rather elegant frame.

Frames are not straitjackets. They can be adjusted at will. You may adjust your frame for fighting, for multi-opponent attacks, for Qigong, for conditioning, for distance. Not only MAY you make this adjustment, but you SHOULD.

A good frame is a theme that brings together thought and actions. A frame integrates the elements of posture, stance, and intent within its shape. Unlike an envelope, which defensively limits fighting space, frame dynamically secures or even exceeds the space. It is responsive, not only to the opponent but to the action inside it.

Frames are not arbitrary, but they are flexible. The idea of a frame is really understandable when you consider weapons. In a knife-carrying frame you want to keep your limbs inside the frame. Facing someone with a knife, for instance, requires a different frame than going against a long stick.

Frame teaches boundaries; just let that tennis ball go out of bounds or that hooking punch take the big, inefficient path toward your pate. Recognizing your opponent’s frame is like knowing his private code. It encourages all the proportions and numbers like the painter holding up his out-stretched arm and thumb to measure a subject’s distance in space, or the gauging jab of western boxing.

One of the major achievements of Chinese martial arts lies in the genius of layered information. For instance, putting yourself into the right frame, correcting any inequities in posture and alignment, not to mention practicing that ever-present intention to explode out of your position—these all can be coordinated into a single frame exercise, a perfect example of deep layers of information: the data.

kung fu frame

Example of proper Kung Fu frame.

Taking the frame into your studio allows you to fine tune what you see in the mirror, work with partners, use equipment. Can you generate power from this position? Can you conceal the source of this power? Is your frame appropriate, considering your imagined opponent?

I don’t want to dishearten any practitioners’ efforts, but over the years I’ve seen many people obsessed with speed, power and balance (all good topics in themselves) yet almost oblivious when it comes to posture and frame.

The need for frames pops up everywhere. Eliminating couch slouch, ignoring instructions from your teacher, messing around with classical moves so they seem to FEEL more power, pushing yourself to distraction; in all sorts of ways frame training can have a positive effect correcting life’s bad habits no matter which corner of the mat you start with.

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Mar
24
2019

How to Make Friends With 60:40 Stance

Kung Fu Stance  60:40We have been practicing and discussing how to make friends with 60:40 stance in our recent community classes. This is where 60% of the weight is on the back leg, and 40% is on the front leg. Often the most uncomfortable or difficult to understand stance, where many students are just bearing it until they can pop out of it at the first opportunity. Yet it is of utmost importance because we move through this stance all the time. Going from 50:50 Horse Stance to Bow Stance, or Horse Stance to Empty stance and most places in between, we must move through 60:40. So it teaches us about how to maintain full engagement through transitions. All stances done correctly, feel alive, not inanimate like a stone. Taiji is moving meditation where there is stillness in motion, and motion in stillness. It should dynamically balance the 6 directions, heaviness and lightness, fullness and emptiness. Transitions are agile and adaptable according to what presents from moment to moment.

60:40 is not very far from 50:50. It’s only a 10% differential!

One thing that seems to turn a light on for students is noticing that 60:40 is not very far from 50:50. It’s only a 10% differential! Read more →

Mar
18
2019

Teach Your Students Well

sifu adam hsuAs we previously mentioned, we are working on the production of Sifu Adam Hsu’s newest book in English—we hope to have it out by mid-year.

Since Hsu Shifu is in Taipei and we are in California, a lot of our communication over the fine details happens through email, so we were particularly happy to get a nice long voice recording from him last week, talking a good deal about his motivations  for this volume in the first place—that is, an ever-increasing concern over the current state of martial study and practice. Hsu has spent the better part of his long martial career on this very subject, what constitutes authentic, traditional practice, and how to keep real martial arts healthy and adaptable in the future.

What inspires this short post, though, came partway through the recording; it was his imperative, his plea to just teach our students the basics, teach our students well.

We remain inspired to do just that, at our studio and on Plum.

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Mar
16
2019

New Arrivals: Tai Chi Staff, Shaolin Fists

Trying to keep up with the tower of material stacked high here at Plum, waiting to be catalogued and madeTai Chi Staff available to you!

Today’s newest additions start off with the Yang Tai Chi 68 Staff DVD (2 parts) demonstrated by the popular Jiang Jiang Ye. This 68 move form is one of the longest sets we’ve ever seen, especially considering the low percentage of repeat movements.

The other welcome newcomers are in our ever-increasing series of en face (dual language—English/Chinese) books, each with a companion VCD (also in Chinese with English subtitles). This series offers nice color photo breakdowns with dual-language instruction, and then the VCD, with demo and instruction. For those of you learning to read Chinese, this is a great learning aid.

The first of these is the famous Shaolin Small Red Boxing (Xiao Hong Quan). This short and easily learned (we said easily learned, not perfected) tao lu shows the handed-down postures and actions of this strong and definite Middle Boxing. This is an example of the core forms of Shaolin.

The next book/vcd presentation teaches a Shaolin Baji Quan form. Over time, Shaolin has married many styles with its own system—Baji, Pigua, Tong Bei, Mantis—archiving the deeper reserves of each style to include its forms, herbals, fighting and Qigong.

Mar
12
2019

Peasant Master

Chen ZhengleiAs promised last week, we are happy to announce the addition of a new biography of Chen style Tai Chi Chuan master Chen Zhenglei.

This book has something for everybody interested in the topic of Tai Chi Chuan—this includes the martial artist seeking Tai Chi’s principles; the person interested in Tai chi as a health regimen; the teacher studying his master’s personal approach; or an enthusiast investigating the general growth of Tai Chi. This dual story—that of a teacher along with the history of his famous style—is well-written and -translated into English, and is a fine accompaniment to the many other representations (books and dvds) we offer from Chen Zhenglei.

And if you want to see the Master move, check out our earlier post HERE.

Mar
12
2019

A Demonstration of the Rare Rabbit Style

Mar
3
2019

A Chen Routine by Chen Zheng Lei

Master Chen Zheng Lei was in our area, co-sponsored by our favorite Chinese martial arts magazine, and they generously posted this 5 1/2 minute piece of performance—a beautiful and meaningful demonstration.

This comes just in time (almost) for our announcement of a new recommendable biography of Chen that will come in next week to Plum. We’ll keep you posted on its arrival and availability.

In the meantime, enjoy the clip below. I’m also including links to the wide range of material Plum currently represents from Chen Sifu.

Chen Zheng Lei’s 5 part book series (translated into English by the estimable Sifu Jack Yan)

Chen Zheng Lei’s Instructional DVDs (in Chinese/English subtitles)

Chen Zheng Lei’s Instructional VCDs (in Chinese)

Chen Zheng Lei’s 6 part DVD series on Tai Chi theory and principles (in Chinese/English subtitles)

Feb
13
2019

The Righteous Blade

kuan daoINTRODUCTION
You grip the Kuan Dao but you haven’t lifted it yet. Something is different here. The blade is thicker than a saber and yours may have more edges; at the butt end, the metal or wood shaft may be capped with bronze. Your Kuan Dao looks fierce as well as heavy, the kind of thing you would not want to drop on your toe. The bright tassel, at a point on a vertex, resembles a lone swallow in a deserted tree. You try to put that all aside now, hefting the weapon, starting its inevitable dance, barely under your control as it acquires momentum.

KUAN YU
Wooden shaft, huge blade, hand guard, tassel (often) and metal butt contribute to one formidable whole that has been wielded throughout much of China’s military history. The “dao,” or saber, is called “master of all weapons,” and it’s this blade that claims a prominent share of the Kuan’s length.  Its most famous practitioner is, without a doubt, General Kuan Yu, an esteemed military figure of the Eastern Han dynasty. Read more →

Feb
7
2019

More from the Kong Han Goh Cho Kun Archives

5 Ancester's FistFive Ancestors Fist is a famous and powerful style combining major techniques from the system. This second volume from Sifu Kun, Kong Han Goh Cho Kun continues archiving the important aspects of its no-nonsense training. Representative forms include Open Hands (Three Battle Cross), Short Dagger and Sai. In both cases of the weapons there are numerous applications as well as forms.

This text is everything we like to see in a martial arts book: numerous, well-defined photos; clear and generous instruction, and a decided committment of contribution to a style. Combined with Sifu Kun’s first volume on Five Ancestors, a student could be well along the path of this great Southern style.

Feb
3
2019

(Almost) Hot Off the Press

Long Fist SecretsThe Spring 2019 issue of Kung Fu Tai Chi magazine is dedicated to Shaolin, and will feature, among many other fine articles, a new piece on Long Fist Secrets Revealed by Plum’s director, Sifu Ted Mancuso.

We received our advanced copies, but if you would like a copy for yourself they will be available soon at Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine. As a matter of fact, if you don’t know this magazine it might be a good time to subscribe—they’re running a 50% discount off yearly subscriptions at the moment.

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Jan
24
2019

Change Is Good: Sifu Jack Yan’s Book/DVD Packages

Eight Immortals SwordChinese Whip Stick Kung FuTong Bei QuanPlum has represented Sifu Jack Yan’s book and DVDs on Tong Bei Quan, Whip Stick, and Eight Immortals Sword for several years. Sifu Yan’s excellent instruction is clear, his English text well-written, and his teaching generous. Initially, there was one book containing 3 forms, pointing to 3 separate DVDs.

Now Sifu Yan has re-packaged each DVD with its own 64-page booklet, preserving the quality of the original production, but making it easier (and less expensive) for practitioners to collect ’em all. You can find all three: Tong Bei 36 Essential Moves, Chinese Ash Whip Stick, and Eight Immortals Sword in both the English-language books AND the DVD sections of Plum. And if you order two or more, you get a 10% discount.

Jan
21
2019

Year of the Earth Pig: Feb. 5, 2019-Jan. 24, 2020

Plum’s resident Chinese Astrologer, Narrye Caldwell, once again graces our site with her annual post on the upcoming New Year—this year’s party is hosted by the Earth Pig.

Chinese paper cutting-Pig

Made by Fanghong

The year of the Earth Pig arrives on February 5, 2019. If you’re feeling a bit, well, dog-eared, after last year, I’m happy to tell you that the Pig Year will usher in a return to civility. Enough of this junk yard brawling and posturing with everyone’s hackles up. The Pig is all about conviviality, grace, and harmony. So let’s break this down.

First, there are always one or more elements to consider in every year. Last year (Earth Dog) was double Earth. The earth element can provide nourishment and stability. But too much, without any balancing influences, can cause stagnation and obstruction. That, combined with the Dog’s uncompromising defensive attitude (read stubbornness) can create an environment of intractable hostility and anxiety. Witness the January stand off between Congress and the White House, the culmination of a year of this sort of thing.

With the upcoming Earth Pig Year, we have an Earth/Water combination. Water brings in the possibility of flow, movement, ease. In Chinese culture, water is a symbol of prosperity. It also signals the end of a cycle, a time when things dissolve and return to a state of incubation so that a new cycle can begin. Water can flow gently, or it can sweep you off your feet like a tidal wave. Much depends on other elemental influences. In this case, we have Earth combining with Water. Think of this like the banks of a river, or the land forms around a sparkling lake. Earth contains the water, gently guiding it along, so we benefit from flow and circulation, but are protected from torrential rain and floods.

Now, about that Pig. Pigs, like the water element, are at the end of a cycle. In this case, the 12 branch zodiac cycle. So the Pig is related to that auspicious moment when an old cycle is going to ground while a new cycle is being seeded. Now, don’t expect the sudden appearance of a progressive and enlightened new age. This process takes time, and careful management of the qi. I’m going to take a risk here and predict that the dissolution of this current cycle of corruption and divisiveness will unfold over a period of 2-3 years. Yes, we’ll see some welcome endings in 2019. But then in 2020 we’ll need to show patience and attention to detail so the Rat can continue to incubate the seeds of change with careful data collection and analysis. Then we’ve got the Ox year in 2021 to put noses to the grindstone and do the required work to stabilize new foundations, before a courageous leap into a progressive new era can be launched with the Tiger qi in 2022. All I can say is, we better do things with scrupulous integrity over the next couple of years. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Read more →

Jan
19
2019

Speed and…uh…Timing

I tell my students over and over to “go fast, but don’t hurry.” In the martial world, too early can be as bad as too late. After all, how long do you want to wait for the plane to land? On the other hand, who wants it to arrive maddeningly early?

Timing is a necessity. Your practiced movement truly timed can reroute the heaviest of punches., dissolve the fiercest attacks. On the other hand, confusing your opponent’s timing is like striking him blind.

After you recognize the two most physical and assumable goals in martial arts—power and speed—there is a next level to explore—impact and timing. Timing makes sure things arrive when they should; impact helps determine how much of that power is beneficially transferred. Read more →

Jan
12
2019

Stand Still, Be Fit

The CDC released some disturbing data on falls for the year 2017. More than one in four seniors experienced falls. Among Americans, falls were the number one cause of injury and death from injury. The CDC recorded 29 million falls, 3 million emergency room visits, resulting in $31 billion in medicare costs. Most alarming was the fact that two thirds of those who fell, fell again within six months.

Fall prevention remains a major focus in the home care environment. I had some trepidation when I first transitioned from hospital work to home care. I had to learn to think on my feet when home safety and fall prevention were issues. There was no exercise equipment or additional personnel to rely on. What could I do for a patient who couldn’t walk because of weakness and poor balance? I posed this question to my supervisor. She told me that the most effective thing that I could do with such a patient,
was to wheel him/her to the kitchen sink, and assist them to stand.

At this stage of my career I didn’t know why this simple intervention would be beneficial. My supervisor was very experienced, so I had no reason to doubt her. Somehow, intuitively, I knew that she was right. I also knew that many martial artists supple-mented there training by holding static postures/stances up to thirty minutes at a time. Anecdotally, they reported increased leg strength, balance, and improved body usage as a result of this practice.

I told my patients that the sink was their “ballet bar”; a place for them to build a solid foundation. They would use the sink to stand, and keep holding on to it if their balance was too poor. Standing time would be gradually lengthened, and trials of unsupported (grip free) standing would be added in order to stimulate the body’s own reflexive balance reactions. Read more →

Jan
2
2019

The Passing of Wong Jackman

Wong Jack ManWe are sad to announce the passing of Northern Shaolin Sifu Wong Jack Man. Known long before his famous fight with Bruce Lee, Wong Sifu had become a major proponent of Bak Sil Lum, Iron Body, and Golden Bell skills. With the death last year of Kwong Wing Lam, Gu Ru Zhang’s lineage has lost two of its aficionados.

Our thoughts go out to his friends, family, students and colleagues. May his memory be a blessing.

 

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Dec
30
2018

Lean Into Wu

wu style taichichuan

One of our most popular books has just returned:

Wu Style TaiChiChuan: Forms, Concepts and Application of the Original Style, by Wu Ying-Hua and Ma Yueh-Liang. This book, along with its companion, Wu Style Tui Shou (Push Hands) book by the same author are two contemporary classics in the Tai Chi Library. Both are now back in stock.

Dec
28
2018

Five of Five: New Books

We welcome five new texts, three of them in both Chinese and English. Among the lot we have a nicely done 5 Animals routine. We also have something very unusual: a duet set where spear battles…another spear. Do not try this at home.

Happy New Year to all of you from all of us—Ted, Linda and Debbie

 


Hua Tuo’s Five Animal Frolics

Short Blades and Bayonets

Shaolin Dueling spears (Six Harmony)

Hong Style Long Fist, Yan Qing branch

Great Spirit Five Elements Boxing