Jul
21
2016

Natural Speed: Three Step Program

unlocking martial speed I won’t keep you in suspense about what the three step is, so here’s the saying: “Slow is fluid, and fluid is fast.” On at least one level, pretty much everyone might agree with this. And, as your Kung Fu skills increase, that border between fluid and fast will start to wash away.

The hard part is not fluid to fast; the real difficulty comes from nursing fluidity out of slowness. This concept is just weird to those born into a digital culture where every question is answered with too many hits and not enough solitude.

Read more →

Jul
10
2016

There Are No Secrets

Are there secrets in the martial arts? I often read of well-meaning martial instructors using this phrase, inferring that hard work is the guarantee to progress, and that long-held and closely-kept secrets are the stuff of legend. Whenever I hear this statement applied to martial arts or, for that matter, any other pursuit, I try to avert my gaze so my eye-rolling will only be apparent on the inside; in other words, a secret.

Secrecy is a volatile topic, in or out of martial training. I know the subject is way too big for a simple article like this but it might at least stir up some thoughts.

First, I believe that secrets are everywhere. They are natural to our species; they come with the territory of being human and expand with our envy. Anyone with sisters knows that they keep secrets (thank God!) Parents, teachers, bosses…even that supposed universal public activity— science—is a long chain of one secret after another, from A-bombs to bickering mathematicians to infectious disease research held close until notoriety comes knocking. Our world—from the billions spent each year on industrial espionage to the billions supporting finance—could not even exist without secrets.

In the world of martial arts, secrets often start with teachers. Read more →

Jul
3
2016

Adam Hsu’s Bajiquan Trilogy: Volumes 2 & 3 Are Here!

Bajiquan Thunder Volumes 2 and 3 with Adam HsuAt Last!

After more than one year’s anticipation, not just the second installment of Adam Hsu’s magnificent Bajiquan trilogy, but the fabulous third and final volume have both arrived.

There is so much in this series of Baji DVDs that we’re just going to suggest that you either look at the descriptions on the sale page, or click to the Table of Contents for the whole series components. We sincerely consider this video presentation of Bajiquan to be the best, at present (and, most likely, the best that ever will be.)

See for yourself.

Jul
1
2016

Thinking in Circles? Try Bagua!

BaguaAlready wondering what you are going to do with those lazy days of summer?

For those in our area (Santa Cruz, California) how about joining us for 4 classes on Bagua Zhang (Saturday, July 9 – 30, 11:00 – 12:30)? This course will focus on the core movements, routines, and principles of this great and beloved martial art. Ted Mancuso, director of Plum and author of several works on the subject, will teach this introductory seminar.

Put your feet where your thoughts are, and do some circle-walking at the Academy in July. Hope to see you there.

For more on this and other classes at our Santa Cruz studio, click here.

Jun
26
2016

Wong Fei Hung’s Five Animal Fist

Wong Fei Hung style Five Animal Fist Kung FuWe’ve been seeing a lot of books on the Hung Kung Fu system lately. Now here is one of Hung’s great forms; the Five Animal Boxing. Presented by Frank Yee with hundred of color photographs, this world-famous fist captures the essence and the shape of each of the original Shaolin animals: dragon, tiger, snake, leopard and crane. Some books, like this one, also act as significant contributions to a styles history and self-perception. If you are a Hung practitioner, a Southern Fist aficionado, expert on Shaolin or just a fan of this great style, you will find this hardback, glossy, well-photographed book a worthy addition.

Jun
16
2016

Fifty

Today I celebrate fifty years in the martial arts.50_3b

It has been long enough now to seem natural that it became my fate or, at least, a “way of life,” as everyone calls it. People ask me what could possibly be the attraction. I have to tell the truth and admit that I always believed that some human activities are as linked to us as the appetites 50_2band emotions we consider define a human being. It is true that, through historical changes, the aliens among us have warped some of these foundational approaches. But activities like dance, story-telling, religion, philosophy, love and celebration are all “arts” in ways that pre-date the commodity market we presently call society.50_1b

It is true that all too often “the winners write history” suggesting to us that the answers lie in understanding what came before written history. The next great empire will be built on the sands of still unexploited cultures where ancient insights (that really are insights) may be bulldozed beneath the machinery of necessity. It is in times like these we need tend to those things that the future may see as “useless,” things like kindness, contemplation, harmony.

Fifty years is a blink compared to these timeless pursuits.

Jun
13
2016

Bajiquan Celebration in Taiwan

We were delighted to see this clip from a recent Liu Yun Chiao memorial held in Taipei.

Sifu Adam Hsu leads the whole room in a simple exercise that GM Liu reported he performed over 200 times a day; he recommended this two-move loop for improving all Kung Fu training.

Note the esteemed teachers of the Wutan Baji Community in the front row, among them Sifu Su Yu Chang, Sifu Tony Yang, and many others.

Jun
10
2016

Remarkable Adam Hsu

Adam Hsu Baji thunder Volumes 2 and 3Not for the first time, Sifu Adam Hsu is doing something remarkable. And, as with many projects that fall into the ‘remarkable’ category, it is also different enough that a few words of explanation are not mis-spent. In fact, he is producing something completely new based on one of the most traditional methods for teaching martial arts.

He will soon release, through Plum, the second and third volumes in his masterful series, Baji Thunder. Volume 1, which contains 7 DVDs, was titled, simply, “Foundations.” The forthcoming Volume 2 is entitled “Development,” and the third, to follow shortly after, is called “Advanced.” Foundations centers on Xiao Baji; Volume Two’s “Development” constellates Da Baji; and the third, “Advanced,” is a 4 DVD set teaching the rare Liu Da Kai, along with Ba Da Shi.

Just issuing a series with this much depth (three DVD sets, comprised of 14 disks) is a remarkable achievement. In them, Hsu Sifu turns the whole form instruction structure on its head. In a sense he is declaring that the forms are only a small part of the system itself. “Of course,” you would say, “a system is much greater than its forms.” But, typically, we still approach our learning by form instruction first, then the other stuff later. Sifu Hsu—in this series, especially—contends this backwards. Read more →

Jun
9
2016

A Walk in the Young Forest: Northern Shaolin vol. 1

Young Forest, Traditional Skill Northern ShaolinThis is the first volume, by Sifu Wing Lam,  of a proposed series on Northern Shaolin containing history and development of the art. It outlines the shape of that branch associated with Iron Palm master Gu Ru Zhang. In the background section there are a lot of stories and facts about the temple and some famous teachers.

This book is like a tour, more than a lesson. It walks us past history, physical requirements, proper hand and leg action and more. Then we are shown excerpts from some famous hand and weapons forms including the complete name lists of these routines, general information on weapons play and descriptions of common errors.

Many records from the Shaolin Temple have been destroyed forever. Forms, herbal cures, historical events: all have been scattered by the storms of time. Reconstructing the history of this world-famous temple and its sister style is a task that will be around for decades to come. Books like this will help us, eventually, to tell the whole story.

And for more English language books on Shaolin click here.

Shaolin Kung Fu Praying Mantis style

Jun
5
2016

Practical Qin Na: Second volume arrives

Qin Na Kung FuWe’ve just received the second volume in Zhao Da Yuan’s big series on Qin Na (Chin Na).

This new text reveals dead-hand training, live-hand loops, counters, and even anti-weapon work. An entire curriculum on Qin Na; not just a few moves as so many others do it. This valuable multi-volume set is projected for at least one more book.

Balancing this with  Tim Cartmell’s older version, and our extensive notes on the comparison between the two new translations, coupled with the in-depth reviews of all three, our product notes will help expand your knowledge of this essential part of Kung Fu fight training.

Take a look and see for yourself.

May
31
2016

Instructor’s Notebook #29: Metaphorically Speaking

martial arts teacher toolsTeachers have tools, great teachers make tools. But that’s not all. Students also make tools, in their minds. And the persistent teacher will go inside those active minds too, creating new ideas and ways to view things. All, of course, to the student’s benefit.

martial arts teacher toolsEveryone who teaches the martial arts can fall victim to micro-management where endless corrections swamp all real promise of the student’s advancement. The patient teacher gets his student through this period as gently or corrosively as needed, with a definite prejudice to do as little damage as possible.

Critic5There are lots of ways to approach this, but one of the most valuable uses tools that are aimed at changing the way the student thinks about something, more than relying on repetitions and just chugging along.

You want to go inside and change the story in the student’s mind—just a little. So we use the brilliance of the language itself. To accomplish this, I want to review two powerhouse techniques of the English language: Metaphor and Simile. Even if you have bumped into this pair in English class and never did understand what they were about, stick with me and it will be easy, like rolling off a log (simile.) Read more →

May
29
2016

Adam Hsu Linking Form in Santa Cruz

Linking Form

Santa Cruz, California

Start the summer off with this new/traditional Kung Fu Linking Form. PLUM is sponsoring a 6 class seminar at our sister school, the Academy of Martial & Internal Arts. You’ll learn the first Linking Form created by world-famous instructor Adam Hsu. He developed this Kung Fu form almost 50 years ago, and it is practiced to this day by students in places like Taiwan, Japan, United States, Italy and Germany as a foundational routine for any Long-Fist training. The form itself offers a huge amount of Kung Fu information, highlighting the very foundations of this great art.

Plum’s director, Ted Mancuso, will teach the class Monday evenings from 6:00 – 7:30, starting June 6, ending July 18 (no class on July 4.) The first half hour will be open warm up, with form instruction starting at 6:30.

For much more information on this, along with other seminars and classes at our studio, click here.

And for those interested in the form itself, check out Adam Hsu’s book on the subject

May
26
2016

Kong Han Ngo Cho: Five Ancestors of Kung Fu

Kong Han Ngo Cho Five Ancestors FistWhat a great book! If you have any interest in Five Ancestors Fist (Ngo Cho Kun) or Southern Boxing in general, this large, well-illustrated volume is a must-have for your library.

The Five Ancestors is one style that combines five forms of Kung Fu fighting. Its core style is TaiZu, named after an Emperor of China who was himself a martial artist. Here we have a blend of Emperor, Monkey, Luohan (Shaolin), White Crane and Bodhidharma style. There is much emphasis on some unusual hand positions, strong blocks and body angling. This book includes much in the realm of the empty-hand fighting and weapons tailored to the style, such as the staff and the Bandit Knife.

What do I like most about the style? I think those small, southern partner sets made up of only four or so moves, but which can be grown into any shape and length. Ngo Cho is a fighting style with the ability to seek new combinations of usage, form, and training all its own. While it looks like the individual movements are relatively easy to learn, they open a lot of acreage when it comes to adapting to attacks. After all, Ngo Cho has been through a number of rough centuries (looking at the review table will testify to that.)

Another recommended book on southern boxing techniques (where, incidentally, many Kenpo practitioners will find their own ancestors.)

May
16
2016

Snap of a Sleeve: Training for Martial Speed

training for martial speedWhen he was covering sports and at the top of his form, Hemingway wrote about things like the squeak of the boxer’s shoes as they rotated on the canvas. Just a poignant little detail like something Roger Angell might use in a baseball piece.

The martial arts is loaded with such details. Some are so distinguished that they are hard to forget. The snap of your sleeve—just as you lock out a punch—is just such a one. It’s a sound that becomes associated with generating a little power but—more important/essential—is its wider halo of hints about how stiff your back leg is,  if you’ve fully retracted the other hand, if your pelvis is pushed forward, if you’ve kept your spine lengthened, and more. So much told with a single action, a single snap.

I saw a movie where an older Clint Eastwood plays a baseball scout with failing eyes yet, when on the bench can analyze the potential of a rookie by the sound of his bat swinging. This, to me, resembles a typical day’s teaching.

Training for Martial Speed

training for martial speedIn some systems it doesn’t take long for the snap of the sleeve to spread throughout the body with checking hands, double slapping, and enough different methods that someone might think you are playing spoons. I remember from my early Kenpo training that people would criticize the style as “slap happy.” And in many cases they were right.  Read more →

May
8
2016

Li Tianji’s Xing Yi Legacy; Andrea Falk’s Dictionary

Plum is adding another text by Andrea Falk, a translation of significance to Xing Yi practitioners: Li TianJi’s The Skills of XingYiQuan;  311 pages, with hundreds of illustrations. This is a thorough text on the style handed down to Li Tianji from his father, Li Yulin. It’s very well laid out with sections covering basic hands and feet, physical requirements and more. The bonus here is that this is one of the most complete descriptions of Xing Yi including all the basic concepts of Chinese martial arts seen from a Xing Yi viewpoint. Many forms, clear translation, a barrel full of detailed observations and hints.

While I reviewed this XingYi book I had cause to refer again to  Andrea Falk’s Martial Arts Dictionary. Going back to it for some information, I realized that I had not fully represented it. Now I’m talking to the scholars out there. When Plum initially added Sifu Falk’s big Chinese/English dictionary of martial terms, I thought that since I have a fine translation application, this book might not be that helpful to me.

But Chinese is a funny language, mono-syllabic at foundation but bi-syllabic in use. It is crucial when you learn the language to understand that the “buddy system” of word next to word gives the important variations in meaning. A bi-syllabic dictionary like this will  include a lot of these specialized words that you could not find in a normal translation application. They are customized to martial training; having different meanings from every day speech. If you want to work with translating martial material, or just expanding your knowledge of Kung Fu, you will find yourself browsing this big book over and over and thanking Ms. Falk that she compiled it before you had to.

Here’s a book where you are going to find the Chinese characters, the pin yin and the English translation all in groups of related words. It’s these related woods that really give you an idea of the meaning in Chinese. Sample here:

Quan Fist: Bare-handed training. Also used for martial arts in general.
Quan bei: Fist’s back surface.
Quan fa: Bare handed methods. Also term for fist techniques to separate from palm or forearm techniques.
Quan feng: Fist’s peak edge.
Quan gen: Fist’s meaty part, the heel of the fist.
Quan jue: Martial formula; short, pithy, usually rhyming explanations of martial theory, to aid understanding and memory.
Quan li: Salute. Right fist in left open hand is a common salute, In China the salute is given at attention, not bowing.
Quan li: Martial theory: the theoretical foundation behind a system or style of martial art.
Quan lun: the meaty part of the fist
Quan men: A style, or type, of martial art.
Quan mian: Fist “face”, first finger segments surface, the normal punching surface of the muscles.

 Get the idea? …

May
1
2016

Your Future in Bajiquan

AH23We’ve returned from our vacation and, guess what! Not one but TWO new volumes in Sifu Adam Hsu’s Baji Thunder DVD series are on the horizon. Volume Two should be available in the next month, and Volume Three will follow shortly after that.

It just gets better.

More on this very soon.

Apr
23
2016

Tong Bei, Loose and Powerful

Here is a pretty advanced Kung Fu puzzle: along with Bagua Zhang, Xing Yi Quan and Taijiquan, what do all of the following styles have in common:  Liu He Ba Fa (Six Harmonies, Eight Methods,) Mi Zong (Lost Track,) BaFa Quan (Eight Methods,) Liu He Quan (Six Harmonies Boxing) and Tong Bei Quan (Through the Back Boxing?) They are all candidates for membership in the newly minted category of “internal style.” What makes Tong Bei a candidate is that it specializes in loose and relaxed arm movements, a great deal of waist work, and special angular attacks which emphasize relaxation as a source of power.

From the start, Tong Bei limb training makes Tai Chi look stiff. As in Hop Gar, the extended arm positions are almost boneless, delivering power—at least during the training stage—through ropey and exceptionally fast cutting arm movements. Even in the Long Fist Kung Fu community Tong Bei is a Longer Fist art. Let me give an example: in Choy Lai Fut, a southern Long Fist style, the arms are whipped into any number of orbits but the stances, though fluid, are still strong and firm: mountains and clouds. Read more →

Apr
21
2016

The Happiness of Wushu

Here is a new/old article I wrote for the organ of Adam Hsu’s Traditional Wushu Association. It discusses some of those “hidden little” pleasures harvested from years of practicing martial arts.

Enjoy!

Apr
15
2016

Ever Heard of Shaman Kung Fu?

6 Harmony Tan Tui

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even if you have only visited PLUM a couple of times, you will note that we have a huge selection of materials: DVDs, English language books, VCDs, Chinese texts, en face books and more.

At present we have one of the largest collections online, and growing. When we started Plum we wanted to do two things: promote the Chinese martial arts and create a resource for all the various study projects out there. We’ve helped people compiling information on their style, their teachers and even their own family. From the beginning, this site has been the start of many translation projects that would never have happened without uncovering some out-of-print text. So, if you wonder at just the plain bulk of our project,  look at our predicament; we don’t grab everything out there and some things are world class, famous texts. But there are also some pretty obscure texts which we can’t ignore; someone out there might need them! For instance, this new batch of books has a style we’ve never even heard of—”Shaman Kung Fu”—and even then it is not what you might think.

To see each style, click on the images: Shaman Kung FuBaji, Lan Shou (like Baji),  Shaolin6 Harmony Tan Tui

Apr
4
2016

Li Deyin & 100 years of Taijiquan

Li Deyin shows his Taijiquan
One of the largest and most complete books on Yang style Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) to come out of mainland.

Many teachers promote the “official” version of Taijiquan, but few with the consistent quality of Li DeYin. His movements are polished and clear. This book makes a distinction between personal practice forms for both empty hand and straight sword and forms constructed to use in competition.

This family commitment and multi-generational artistry bring us a 400+ page book, a good DVD reference and five forms including two sword sets. To my mind, Teacher Li occupies a place something like Chen Zhen Lei or Zhu Tian Cai as a model for a certain type of Taijiquan and the appropriate standard.