What's Good at Plum ? Caveat Emptor.

We've seen a lot of good Kung Fu in our lives. That means, by definition, we've seen tons of bad Kung Fu. How many spear sets have we watched? 400 ? 600 ? 900? And in all that a handful of greats. But we wouldn't have "unseen" any one of them for even bad artwork tells a story. If you've only tasted good wine in your life you really don't know wine. The point is, you need breadth to build a strong foundation in anything and part of developing breadth is observation.

As teachers and owners of Plum, we get questions from Kung Fu students throughout the world. We try to answer them as best we can. But often the best answer is simply more exposure. So, yeah, we know that not every one of the teachers on our VCDs are great. Some of them are pretty old; some are faking it; and some were strictly "C" students. It's like the old joke, "What do they call the bottom 10% of a graduating medical school? Answer: 'Doctor'." Not every one of them is even authentic. That's ok. We all need the exposure.

One of our Tai Chi students mentioned watching our Tour Tape recently. She said, she was watching the performance of a renown Yang style teacher on the tape- a world famous name that you would definitely recognize. She kind of winced as she said she wasn't particularly impressed. We told her that was ok because neither were we. Too "formal" and "official" for our tastes. Yet watching it was still a worthwhile experience. And of course we can be wrong. But to have a reaction is not sacrilege if it's a reasonable critique. Believe us, Kung Fu teachers are far
more critical than they let on.

These VCDs, for example, offer an opportunity to see style you've only read or dreamed about. Will every performer or teacher be the quintessential Master of that style? Definitely not. But just the viewing will enrich your knowledge, your appreciation and your critical abilities.

We at Plum stand behind each product we sell. This does not mean that we would recommend each teacher for lifelong study but we feel the product is a fair representation of what it purports to be. There are many products we reject using exactly this criterion. Another big issue is authenticity. Take a case, style X which was practiced in the Song dynasty. A number of styles claim ancient lineage: Tai Tzu, Chuo Jiao, Tong Bei, Tzu Ran. Though there modern representations are often very good there are real historical questions about their unbroken heritage. In many cases people are reviving names that were famous centuries ago. This is a common part of Chinese culture: someone writes a novel and the next person re-writes it. To the Western mind it may seem ms-representational (that's if we forget how recently we stopped doing the same thing in Western history). The point is that just because it appears in a Robert Smith book that doesn't mean it's still extant. People write to us constantly trying to get their hands on the original, authentic Secret Tai Chi or Tai Tzu. Good Luck. Hope you speak Chinese and have about three decades to do research. The vcds are still worth the viewing but complete suspension of belief isn't necessary.

Then there are going to be the ones that are "different" from what you learned.
"My Mantis teacher did that set a little differently." Welcome to the world of Flamenco guitar. Contrary to what some preach it is not only acceptable to vary forms it is what the whole art is about. How much variance is allowed?
To answer that question you have to have experience.

So, if you find a style among our VCDs that intrigues you, try a survey or get one of the disks of that style that offers, say, applications. For very little money you will expand your martial horizon. That's why we're here. There are some treasures out there but we all need to raise our critical standards first.

As far as some of our opinions, O.K. — honestly —here are some:

We like the Tai Chi Wu Xing TongBei , also the Chi Family Tong Bei
We are impressed with some of the Mantis particularly Liu He
The Shuai Jiao exercises VCD is a winner

Regrettably the White Ape Tong Bei is weak, the teacher old, the students uninspired
The Lost Track is far from the best we've seen
We understand the principles and concepts of I Chuan but we've been relatively unimpressed where the foot meets the pedal
BaShan Fan, Sun Bin, Cottom Palm: we would say one each unless you're "caught"

Fundamentals for Tzu Ran is very interesting with a few real "moments"
The BaGua Ball VCD for Choy Lai Fut shows a shamanistic side of the art
The Dim Mak VCDs are worth a look just for entertainment if nothing else .