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


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.)


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 →


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 →


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? …


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.


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 →


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.



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


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.


Twin Roads to Mastery

Things go better if we’re clear at the outset.

This is a meditation on mastery—not a claim to it. I’m still trying to spell it correctly. But, after watching and judging many, many practitioners for more time than I want to admit, I’ve come to the conclusion that mastery has two paths.

If you find that there are more, go right ahead with my blessing, see what happens, then report back.

The First Path
My first martial style, though technically not a Kung Fu style (even though, in those days, we were calling it “Chinese Kenpo”) is a perfect example. It consisted—theoretically at least—of, literally, hundreds of precise movements. Onto these movements were then heaped more and more variations and alterations until something inside your mind shifted. This path follows the idea that layers upon layers of technical precision will push you to a moment of realization—seeing in an unexpected flash, like the chill that comes when you solve a puzzle—and shift you towards new methods of moving. From that point on, you react more spontaneously, mixing and matching movements freely and wildly, but never again poorly. Read more →


Northern, Southern, Inside and Out

A few restocks for your reading pleasure—click images for more info

Hung Kuen Fundamentals: Gung Gee Fook Fu (English/Chinese)
This exceptional first volume of the Lam family Hung Kuen series is back in stock!

We cannot say enough good things about this beautiful and comprehensive treatment on Hung Gar Fundamentals. We are so pleased to be representing this fine text.

Chuo Jiao Compendium (Chinese)
Difficult to find good (any) information on Chuo Jiao, Kung Fu’s fine kicking and leg art. Just got this back in, in a new paperback edition. This book comes and goes too quickly…

Mind Intent Six Harmony Boxing (Chinese)
In our opinion, there can not be enough material issued by the world-famous George Xu. Here is his master manual on Liu He Xin Yi (and yes, you sharp-eyed customers: it is a new cover design.) Perfect companion to some of his DVDs of the same subject.


Reprint: Stillness in the Martial Arts

stillp_4croppedHere is a piece I wrote for the now defunct Journal of Asian Martial Arts. A number of people have asked about the “myth” at the front of the piece. I believe it hints at the dialog between stillness and movement that can—and must— be found at the heart of martial practice. If nothing else, I hope that it offers some of our newer brothers and sisters an idea of why one would want to study this aspect of the arts. At the same time, it might work to dispel the idea that optimal practice is when you are thinking of nothing. Not quite true in this case.


Another Modest Proposal

art_formsproposal2Through my entire martial career I have been listening to everyone’s questions and problems with traditional forms. For most people, it all centers on practicality. For some people, the answer lies in detailed analysis of the forms and what self defense and fighting treasures are hidden therein. For still others, it’s a lost cause and the forms are considered great performances for the tournament circuit, little more. Whether traditional or contemporary, they are pretty much show items and therefore as variable as whim commands.

There is a long stretch of twilight zone between these two outposts.

For instance, some instructors say that forms do contain practical information, but only at the most basic level—punch and kick and such. Others say that the contents of forms are the secret stuff that will only burst into fire when you’ve spent enough time blowing on the embers. Read more →


Two Very Different Books in English

These two different books show a pair of positive paths for martial arts: Warrior Guards the Mountain, and Lien Bu Chuan.

On the one side, the technical aspects and descriptions have matured to a degree where, in Lien Bu Chuan, they really convey a lot of instructional fine points. On the other hand are books like Warrior, describing a life loving martial arts and spiritual matters. This is the kind of personal log that inspires people regardless of styles. I encourage my own students to keep a record of their progress and discoveries, reminding them that they are a new generation of modern people being exposed to this great art. Whether technical or personal, we see a deepening interest and standard found in these two volumes.


MORE Video Glimpses of Shifu Jou

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 9.28.48 AMWe have been so inspired while reviewing videos from the newest addition to the Plum cast—that is, Shifu PouFu Jou—that we are preparing excerpts from each of his DVDs for you to take a look.

We have now posted three clips, with more to come: on Northern Praying Mantis LanJie and Lipi Quan, plus his  wonderful Q&A series on Kung Fu Principles, called Hall of Kung Fu. The entire playlist is available here.

We’ll update this post as we add more.

And to see all of Shifu Jou’s DVDs, click HERE


Second Look: Quick Whip Stick

In re-reviewing a DVD from one of our favorite teachers (Deng Fu Ming) we noticed something we had missed the first time around: his DVD on  Sun Taiji Partner Practice contains an added clip at the end, a beautiful and somewhat sophisticated whip stick form. It is a complete demonstration, but without instruction.

This is not world-shattering news, but the interest in short-stick routines among Plum customers is so high that we thought we would let you know.



3 Worthy Additions from Shifu Jou

Mantis Kung FuPraying Mantis style Kung FuShifu Jou’s series of instructional and lecture DVDs has definitely attracted some attention.

There is a tendency right now to emphasize the mainland, but people should not forget what a treasure trove of skill Taiwan is—at least for a little while longer. For instance, the first of the new ones presents an in-depth discussion/lecture on core principles in Kung Fu.

These DVDs also confirm this view as Shifu Jou demonstrates, in his two new Mantis DVDs (among other styles,) a hard-edged, powerful and yet unpredictable mantis. That’s one of the great things about the style: that you can have a Paul Eng with his elegance and moving quietude, and a teacher like Jou with powerful, deceptive and unusual actions.

This lives up to a lively instruction I received when I attended a seminar with teacher Su Yu Chang. He said, “Even if your opponent dies, he will be happy to have seen the real mantis!”

We’re getting great reviews of Shifu Jou’s work, such as: “I would purchase anything the man puts out…” We’ve posted some reactions from early viewers, so take a look.



Just a Handful of Books

We have SO many new texts in Chinese to offer that we are just picking some at random. Some are on rare material like Shi style Bagua, others are those classic collectibles taken at the beginning of the last century with dodgy photos and famous masters still young men. We picked a few subjects at random like

Bagua (2 new) Tai Chi Muslim Kung Fu Xin/Xing Yi (2 new)



Martial Qigong: Just What the Sifu Ordered

GTFeb16ccAn announcement from our school in Santa Cruz, CA. If you are in the area and would like to attend, we would LOVE to see you!

Qigong is gaining in popularity, especially with martial enthusiasts. As a matter of fact, martial practitioners are often in the vanguard when exploring this ancient study.

Unfortunately Qigong, randomly picked, ignores the most fundamental tradition: that every martial style has its own special approach tailored to its mother system.

Academy Head Instructor, Ted Mancuso, will give a first-time-ever seminar using famous Chinese martial arts practices such as Tai Chi, Shaolin, Xing Yi, Bagua, PiGua and Baji to demonstrate, through example, the power of Qigong when it matches its style.

Qigong training is a kind of code and, once decoded, it can be applied to any martial practice with no deleterious effects. This seminar will not only show you some key martial qigong routines, but will also let you develop a Qigong for your own style, instead of “taking one off the rack.”

Martial experience not required, but suggested. This will benefit martial artists from ANY style.

Join us.

Click here to register