Jan
16
2017

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.

Jan
10
2017

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.

Jan
9
2017

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).

Jan
8
2017

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.

Dec
28
2016

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.

Dec
23
2016

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 →

Dec
16
2016

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 →

Dec
16
2016

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 →

Dec
10
2016

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 →

Dec
3
2016

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 →

Dec
2
2016

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

bubishi

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.

 

Dec
1
2016

Hung Gar booklets back in stock

LOTS of exciting new and returning titles coming over the next couple of months!

For right now, these three ever-popular Hung Gar booklets (below) are finally back in stock. Click each picture to go to the page.

Hung Gar Books

Shi Zi Mei Hua Quan

Hu Die Zhang (Butterfly Hands)

Hu Die Zhang (Butterfly Hands)

Liu Family Boxing

Liu Family Boxing

Back with more, soon!

 

Nov
29
2016

You Are Hired: Bodyguard Kung Fu

 art_bodyguartd_3_wuhuiqingPut yourself in the thick of it. What would you do? Your world is split into two—principals and enemies in a constant power struggle. Many hidden factions promote ninja-type fighting skills. You must protect your principal at all costs, yet not every situation requires deadly force so you have to be an expert at making lightning quick decisions. That flash of light may not mean a rifle, but it could mean a deadly weapon, in deadly hands.

Add one more level of strategy and pain: the very act of taking out one assassin might reveal a pathway for the bad guys to capture your principal. You have to keep all balls moving at the same time—your principal’s position, the number of attackers, escape corridors and types of weapons. And, on top of everything else, you may be guarding someone truly important, like the Emperor of China. What do you do? Despite modern scientific methods, many aspects of combat are still squarely resting on human potential and commitment. Read more →

Nov
24
2016

Who’re You Calling Hurt?

Sale priced Chinese Martial Arts booksWe just refreshed our “Hurt” books section and, boy, do we have a great selection of sale-priced gems—there are about 40 of them!

As we’ve said in the past, the title “hurt” is a little misleading, since 99% of these are indistinguishable from new copies of the same title. “Hurts,” in the book industry, are books that stores return to the publisher due to overstocking. Publishers decided a long time back that it was cheaper to sell them to “hurt book dealers” than to examine each one before re-selling them. Their loss is our big gain, since these books are half the price and still looking pretty.

We hand-pick these books like we do every single item at Plum. Our goal is to offer not only the best of breed, but titles we believe are relevant and important for a good martial library. As always, stock is limited on these, so head on over to our hurts book page and see if something delights. We added a few titles not previously represented at this price, in Tai Chi, Bagua, and Taoism, plus the return of some favorites we always run out of.

 

Nov
17
2016

Chen With Your Hands Full

Chen Tai Chi WeaponsA quick announcement of three new book/vcd packages in one of our favorite series; these are on Chen Style Tai Chi Ball, Double Maces, and Eyebrow Staff.

This series, which you will find scattered throughout the Plum site, gives you a book in both Chinese and English (en face) plus a VCD (in Chinese, subtitled in english) with the instructor teaching the routines. Their value is remarkable, and the work itself is above par for contemporary looks at traditional forms.

We’ll try to follow up in a while with an updated list of all those in the series, but in the meantime, check out these new and worthy additions.

Nov
8
2016

Adam Hsu’s Secret Files on Bagua Zhang

Adam Hsu Bagua DVDsThis, our third post on this new 2 Volume set of DVDs (6 dvds in all) on the art of Bagua, is to say that these outstanding DVDs are now available. If you want to read our earlier announcement, click here.

If you would like to read more about the series, and to order, click here.

Exceptional instruction, truly secret material, and enough training to inform any Bagua Zhang practiitoner’s practice for a long time to come.

 

 

Nov
3
2016

Understanding Basics, The Chinese Way

understanding bsicsEverything starts with basics. And when you are young or just beginning a long term study of expertise, or your taste runs to the piano or the basketball hoop, there is always a sentinel line of basics to be crossed before you get to the “good stuff.”

But the surprise—sometimes disappointingly painful or tedious—is that there is no end to the study of basics. When you have learned the most exotic parts of some discipline—let’s say martial arts, for instance—and mastered the strangest weapons, you will put them aside at various points, and return to basics.

People think they hate basics. But what they really hate is the repetition, an assumed implication of lacking skills (“You’re still practicing those moves?”) and the indication that mastery may well out-last your lifetime.

understanding basicsIt’s true. Basics are not always fun, unless you happen to be lucky enough to study Chinese Martial Arts.

Believe it or not, basics of Kung Fu and its sister arts, never get boring. As you learn more about this ancient tradition you realize that you may get bored but basics are not boring.  Basics are a test of consciousness, not of will. Read more →

Nov
1
2016

Fundamentals of Pakua Chang, Restocked

Fundametals of Pakua Chang Volume 1Just a quick note to say that we are now back in stock on the elusive and terrific Volume 1 of Park Bok Nam’s Fundamentals of Pakua Chang.

This book’s reputation from back in the day is still worthy; it was one of the first to detail Pakua Chang’s (Bagua Zhang’s) training, and is still valuable for its insights and methods.

Volume 2 to, hopefully, follow within the next couple of months, but for now, Volume 1 is here.

Oct
20
2016

Three Classic Training Texts Translated

Published anywhere from 50 to over 80 years ago, here are translations of Kung Fu books emphasizing applied technique and training. We now offer Iron Thread from Hung Gar, one of the crowning forms of this style. Then there is the popular text on Shaolin training methods,” which has been reprinted over and over for decades. Published in 1934 there are so many weird and clever skill challenges that at least a few must capture your whimsy. Shaolin Chin Na, among the first major books ever published on this subject (1936), showing a lot of very simple, straightforward locks and holds with great old pictures. And, finally,

Three reprint texts from a crucial period in Chinese and martial history.

Oct
12
2016

Deconstructing Yin and Yang

Deconstructing Yin and YangYou do not need to know anything about Asian philosophy to study Chinese martial arts. But that’s not to say that some understanding might not really enhance your experience. I hope that by deconstructing the parts of the famous Yin Yang diagram, I can show you some fighting principles and patterns of change based on the Yin Yang philosophy.

yy_halves1This school of thought influenced almost all of Chinese life.  Its symbol is recognized worldwide. But most people know next to nothing about it. I tell my students, this is not just a symbol, more like an equation—a picture worth considerably more than 1000 words—showing some essential patterns of change. Read more →