Jun
28
2017

The Cane, Practical Self Defense

shaolin caneOur Shaolin Cane DVD has engendered more questions and reactions than almost any other DVD we developed. This article focuses on those questions, partially in the hope that this weapon—which some people  actually rely on for self defense—grows in popularity and improves in technique.

Let’s first recognize the diversity of the instrument. It’s more than a short stick. If gripped with both hands, it’s more like a staff. If you use the tip, it’s wielded in the fashion of a sword. And then there’s the hook…

I regard the cane as a fine close in-fighting weapon combining striking ability with grappling and blocking skills. This unthreatening tool can turn savage in a moment. Read more →

Jun
18
2017

Structure and You

martial structure Martial arts comes from a long period in human history when the closest correlate to scientific thinking was pattern identification. This was a time made wondrous with the rules of magic, codes and ciphers, ritual and ceremony. For example, I think this act of pattern recognition is much more significant when talking about the animalistic beginnings of Kung Fu, than the belief in shaping oneself physically to “become” an animal. (Of course the two together probably created the most dynamic transformation).

Patterns are physical and mental manifestations of interlocking elements. In martial arts, we call this structure. Read more →

Jun
14
2017

Daniel Mroz on Tao Lu: Formal Movements from the Martial Arts

 Here is something wonderful. Daniel Mroz, an associate professor in the Theater Department of the University of Ottawa and also a longtime friend, correspondent and Plum customer presented a lecture at last year’s Martial Arts Studies Conference in Wales. The subject of his engaging talk is Tao Lu, the martial art routine we call set or form. In this presentation he explores the unique folk tradition that Tao Lu plays in Kung Fu practice. This intriguing talk takes the folk treasure diamond of Tao Lu and examines its many facets.

FROM DANIEL…

The Martial Arts Studies group has put up a video of my keynote address at the 2016 International Martial Arts Studies Conference that took place in Cardiff this summer. My talk is on the nature  and role of choreographed training routines in the Chinese martial arts, which I discuss from the perspectives of combat, religion and theater.  I hope you find it interesting. I’m particularly pleased with the quality of the questions I received at the end of the presentation.

 

Jun
12
2017

George Xu Declares His System

George XuIn his typical forthright manner, George Xu has declared his own system of martial arts: “Ling Kong Shen Shi Men” (also the name of his new DVD set). The description of this concept is a little too sophisticated to try and squeeze into this post, but suffice it to say that this is a step beyond even such concepts as Fa Jin.

And, in fact, it doesn’t effectively couple with Fa Jin, in the sense that you cannot practice both at the same time. In this two-disk set , Xu shows a bunch of exercises of pure relaxed actions that fill a space but do not restrict the spontaneous upsurge of variation. To my eyes, he looks to be carving out a “qi space” and then occupying it. This all dovetails with the second disk, an hour-plus lecture explaining what he has created which, according to report, is a profound exploration of those states outside the normal skills.

This is not some funny trick of lighting a gum wrapper with your qi. It is more about re-framing the spirit to a very high pitch and point. If anyone in his generation can accomplish this, we think George Xu is one of the best bets.

And while we are on the subject of getting to the heart of real Kung Fu…

We just got notice that Shifu Adam Hsu’s new 4-disk entry in his Bagua series—this one on the Eight Changing Palms—is coming soon! This recent series is as close to having a teacher in your living room as you are likely to see.

The DVD is still about a month out, but check this space for updates. And, of course, if you would like to be notified when it arrives, click here.

Jun
9
2017

Wubeizhi Koujue Translation

wubeizhiFor those scholars out there, working with and admiring the General Tian’s Wubeizhi that we introduced just at the end of last year, we got this exciting email today from the co-author, David Nisan. He writes:

I send today a short discussion on the General Tian Wubeizhi’s illustrated section and a partial translation of the illustrated section’s fighting koujue. I intend to translate all the koujue of that section as an additional service to those who purchased the book. The piece I send today is just the first instalment.

…I will greatly appreciate if you would post it on your website too.

…When it comes to the General Tian Wubeizhi I am a co-author. I say this because I want to emphasize that the English edition of The General Tian Wubeizhi is not simply a translation of the Chinese version but an entirely different book; it is meant to address questions which are of particular interest (and concern) to Westerners.  
Thanks!
David

Click the “Read More” link to see the 7 page pdf. This is something very special. Read more →

Jun
7
2017

Liu Xiao Ling’s Presentation of Wu Tai Chi Sword

wu tai chi swordPound for pound, Liu Xiao Ling is one of the most popular teachers on our site, especially considering the small number of DVDs he has produced from his wide range of styles and systems.

The reasons are simple. His movements are accurate and simultaneously explicit. He contends himself with the “internal” arts such as Qigong, Xing Yi and LiuHeBaFa. And he loses none of that clarity when adding a new form, the Wu Tai Chi Sword, to his repertoire. A good, simple production with multiple camera positions and different filming angles. Almost no verbal instruction in either Chinese or English, the form itself—and its easily accessible presentation—being the teacher.

May
31
2017

Mina at the Kung Fu Tournament

The noise in the Kung Fu tournament hall never lets up. The waves of brass and drumming rolled along the ceiling fabric only to crash against an opposing wave of raucous sound from the opposite direction. To me, it vibrated like someone in leather and beard revving a Harley directly between my ears, but I guessed the same effect was probably felt at every spot covered by the tent.

The crackling, popping and crashing of an anxious sound system blared at the beginning of each performance, like cannons bombarding a citadel. By the time I had covered my ears and shaken the sound stuffing out of my brain, it was gone—almost as large a shock as the initial explosion. Read more →

May
26
2017

Hung Gar Boxing: Clarity and Effectiveness

Here is another fine “workshop” session DVD from Sifu Don Hamby. This time his Hung style takes him to the topic of classical form and fighting. And he responds with sequences taken directly from Hung’s famous forms applied to unarmed combat. As is characteristic of the style, there are some powerful blows and even a few techniques that would be deadly if employed.

Hung Gar

If you keep a close eye, you will not only see the “big moves” performed with precision, power and accuracy, but subtle wrist flicks, angle changes and readjustment that make the big moves work.

A clear and yet sophisticated presentation that echoes the style itself.

May
25
2017

Plum Attends Its First Tournament

kung fu tournamentWell, we had a great weekend at the first tournament/demonstration we’ve attended in years (and our FIRST as PLUM representatives).

Friday started with a nice spread in the patio of the gorgeous and refurbished California Theater in downtown San Jose. The place was a-buzz with so many well-known teachers, such as Lily Lau, David Chin, Chan Pui, Mimi Chan, Yang Jwing Ming, and John Leong, to name only a few. Following the get-together, we all filed to our seats to watch the Grandmasters Live demonstration, starting off with many representative forms of Tai Chi, not to mention intriguing new mixtures such as Tai Chi Bagua. The Northern and Southern section of the program was particularly energetic, with the exhibitions of Hung Gar and Jow Gar being far-too-short measured by the excitement of the audience. A Wah Lum routine performed by Chan Pui (who, we understood, had come out of retirement to do this) was enthusiastically received.

We set up our Plum table on Saturday and, unlike our regular interactions with customers over the internet, we actually got to see each person face to face. Over and over again people passed the table, turned around, back-tracked, then came to our table to squint at us. A few seconds would pass and then they would say “Plumpub!” It was a great experience because, frankly, I wonder, occasionally, if we are just yelling in the forest. The number of people and the friendliness we felt really recharged our battery.  There are not that many times in life where you can feel immediate kinship and talk to a friend you didn’t know you had before. And all this is not to even mention some of the great conversations we had with teachers such as Benny Meng, Don Hamby, Willy Pang, Peter Pena and other sifus about their schools and styles. (We might also have some great new books and DVDs to offer, rooted in these chats.)

On Sunday we met even more teachers and readers. It all reinforced not only a recognition that Plum is doing something in the martial community, but also that there still IS a strong community. The masters demonstration closing the 3 day event showed as high a level of quality as you might see in Taiwan or Mainland China, plus a youthful burst coming from the talent of the next generation.

There is much for us to process from this little excursion, and we are grateful to those of you who came up and said “hello” to us. The state of the traditional arts appears to be fragile, swinging (like the 300 pounds of weight from the “iron crotch” demonstrator) between past and future. We often despair that these arts are disappearing like the rainforest, but weekends like this one, filled with exuberant performance and curiosity, make us feel a little more hopeful when traditional teachers and a new generation of practitioners exchange ideas and touch hands.

May
16
2017

Appreciation: Double Swords, Flying Blades

There is at least one weapon in Kung Fu practice that is generally taught only to women. In fact, I have never—that I recall—taught this to a male practitioner. Leaving aside the irony of a male teaching a “female only” weapon (I’ll discuss how THAT works at the end of this article), I think it might be interesting to consider the character of this weapon.

Start with the single straight sword. True, it is as thin and graceful as those women with flowers in their hair who wield it. Besides the beauty of its design we scrutinize its functions. It is a two-edged weapon. A perfect instrument for embodying yin and yang, the straight sword is as dangerous in the back stroke as it is in normal cutting.

  1. To be so easy to command, forward or back, the sword needs to be relatively light. There are “war swords” of greater weight requiring more strength to execute back and forth, but these are generally wielded by men and rarely doubled.

    Read more →

May
11
2017

Iron Wire Fist Book Has Arrived

iron wire fistFinally. At last. The wait is over.

Lam Chun Fai’s Iron Wire Fist book/DVD, Tid Sin Kuen, has JUST arrived.

The 240 page book is bound in a heavy, textured paper wrapped cover, with both black-and-white and color interior pages. It also contains a bonus 9 minute DVD of Sifu Lam performing key movements from the set, including several of the 12 Bridge Hands. The entire package is beautifully done, and we are so excited to have this for you.

This is an exquisite book on many levels: the attention to aesthetic detail is just the start. The layout is well-considered, with a nice fat color-coded section in the middle where Lam Sifu teaches the form. There are also sections on health benefits of this internal form (no applications, since it is not a fighting form). The photographs are large and clear, and the bonus DVD shows Lam Sifu demonstrating several of the 12 Bridge Hands that make up this important set in the Hung Gar system.

We know you’ve been waiting, so here is your chance! Click here or the book’s image to read more about this fine entry into the literature of Southern Chinese martial arts, and to buy copies.

May
5
2017

Meditation’s Secret Treasure

One person's unexpected journey in an unsuspected world. Meditation’s Secret Treasure, by Steve Strasnick, is the story of someone who was not already indoctrinated with mystical assumptions, who did not bring a cosmology (at least, not a religious one) to the table. Yet, he found himself  “Awakening to the Mystical World,” despite his feeling about himself that he was not “inclined” in that manner. How would it be for you to abruptly find yourself in an “alternate reality” without prior experience?

There is nothing predictable in Strasnick’s experience or studies—he has been a graphic designer and taught political science at Stanford; he has extensively studied psychology and practiced martial arts and dance—that prepared him for this journey. He was simply chosen and this is his story.

Apr
14
2017

Kung Fu Saber: The Tiger Leaps

Kung Fu Saber Book DVDA long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Plum pre-announced our newest book/DVD package by Ted Mancuso on the Kung Fu Saber. Needless to say, it took us just a bit longer to produce these than we expected, but we are thrilled to say, THE SABER IS HERE!

This is the third in the four part series on the Grandfather weapons of Kung Fu: Staff, Spear, Saber and the one still-to-come, Straight Sword. But with all projects at Plum, very little follows the straight commercial path. Although those old standbys of yesteryear, which dutifully exposed a hungry audience to uncommon routines and weapons, served a good purpose, martial literature has actually matured a bit since then. At least, that is what we intend for our own publications.

The Pigua Saber routine is taught on the 80 minute DVD accompanying this text, but the book itself is devoted more to the essence of Saber play. A weapon is always more than a weapon in Kung Fu, especially since its original purpose for fighting is rarely exercised these days. But weapons are also masterful teachers and training devices, for both other weapons and empty-hand practice. And each weapon carries its own real calling—saber play, for instance, is probably the most definitive example of Chan Si Jin. Not the highest, but the most definitive. On another level, the saber offers benefits by maximizing torso involement. And it also strengthens the interconnectedness of the body. These are just a few of the lessons taught by Saber.

As always, Ted includes lengthy passages in both mediums on basics, structure, spirit. This volume also contains an in-depth argument on the differences between usage and application, followed by examples of both. A good part of the book, and some of the DVD, is devoted to explicating these two, especially against the Saber’s famous enemy, the Spear.

The wait is over, so go HERE for more information and to order. Also, Ted will autograph the first 25 we send out.

Apr
8
2017

Who is Your Audience? Martial Consciousness

Martial arts can be a mirror. Like Alice, I stick my hands out and they sink into the loking glass.  The nature of martial arts encourages looking inward, staring outward and trying, somehow, to get audience and self-perception to agree.

It’s important to know just who and what you are looking for. It’s important to know who you are demonstrating for, who is watching your form, who you are trying to impress, or even scare.

 Of course, when you start your martial training you have an audience:  your instructor. You want to show him just how good you can be. You may be a blossoming Bruce Lee or, when you slip and fall, a Jackie Chan in the bud, but you want him to be there witnessing the event.

At home you try to show your parents but it is difficult. They may demonstrate a titanic lack of interest in what you are doing. Sometimes this can hurt, but the thing to remember—when relatives are the audience—you may be doing something they just can’t understand. Breaking a board they can understand. Standing in a peaceful, almost meditative, state might be a bigger stretch. Read more →

Mar
28
2017

Three New Chinese Texts

Three new books added to our Chinese language section, a couple accompanied by video resources.  Today’s emphasis is on intestinal fortitude or, as some people say,  “internal style.”

internal martial arts booksWang Pei Sheng’s Nei Gong Xin Fan Tai Ji Quan
This book, compiled by one of Wang’s students, pictures Wang himself performing his movements with great precision. Diverse sections cover important practices such as the Eight Primary Energies, methods of footwork, etc. The VCD accompanying the text shows the 37 move form of Wu Tai Chi which Wang helped make popular. There is also a pleasantly informal section on Tai Chi Chin Na, with some effective throws and not a little amount of joking.

Chen Family Hong Branch Tai Chi Boxing
This book/DVD package is from that special branch of Chen Tai Chi known as Hong Jun style, a form that emphasizes grace and Chin Na moves. The book is accompanied by a DVD packed with information: complete instruction on a 24 manner set, two person practice in the form of both Push Hands and applications, basic Chi exercises, and a bonus Short Stick set. The book itself offers complete instruction in the 81 move Long Form, with clear photos illustrating each move.

Xing Yi Strong Body Practice (Xing Yi Qiang Shen Gong)
Xing Yi is one of the strongest styles with a unique exploration of the relation between shape and movement. The very name of the style reinforces this idea. This unique book takes this balance quite seriously, adding strength to the mixture. Lin Jian Hua’s approach is to combine action and position, almost like a Qigong, to find exactly the correct posture for each move, and demonstrates this in very clear breakdowns throughout the text.

Mar
25
2017

Site Delight!

I’m watching over you

If you notice any funny warnings on our site over the next few days, pay no mind! We are upgrading our site security to even higher standards, tucking all pages under the security blanket  (even those that do not need it, like sales pages).

Plum has always taken security very seriously, and this will just add one more layer. Rest assured that, even if you see these intermittent warnings, the shopping cart and ALL sensitive material is fully secure. You will notice the closed padlock once you get to the shopping cart, where it really matters.

UPDATE: As of late Saturday night, we think this is resolved. If you find any trouble pages, do let us know.

Mar
23
2017

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.

Mar
19
2017

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 →

Mar
12
2017

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.

Mar
6
2017

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.