A Martial Stance

Plumpub is a site for traditional Chinese martial arts practitioners, and in this guise it is “not political.” We assume that our customers and readers come from all positions on the political spectrum and are, thankfully, brought together in community by a shared love for the art.

To pointedly decry white supremacism, naziism, and other hateful acts that occur in this country—the most recent being the rally in Charlottesville—is also “not political.” It is a human, not a political reaction. Frankly, the only way to politicize it is to say nothing, thus giving it fearful power over reason.

Although we hope that our actions make it unnecessary to say this, all people are welcome and cherished at Plum. Racism, sexism, religious intolerance…these types of exclusions run counter to martial virtue, as well as Plum’s core values.

And let us take a minute to name and mourn the brave warrior who lost her life in this most recent battle, Heather Heyer. May her memory be a blessing.


Secrets of Bagua Zhang, Volume #3

Superlatives these days, like cliches, are a dime a dozen. Everything is AMAZING!! AWESOME!! ASTONISHING!! ASTOUNDING!! (and that’s only the A’s). So what are we to do if we actually offer something that deserves exclamation marks?

Bagua ZhangAdam Hsu’s Secrets of Bagua Zhang, Volume #3, is just such a product. This 4 disk set, comprising over seven hours of instruction, is an entrance to the temple that you never expected. It is like going behind the scenes to see how the magic is really made, how the end result came about, step-by-step.

Using the Eight Changing Palms (which he teaches in depth) as his base, he takes the student through hours of practice—on the Bagua poles, in partner training, in applications, in discussions of principles—all the while circling back to the core palms (it IS Bagua, after all). He even opens the series with instructions in the 8 Animals Form.

This is truly unique among DVDs; we’ve said it before about this larger series that Hsu Sifu is developing, but the closest equivalent to these courses would be to spend years with a traditional teacher. Hsu’s confidence is evident: he truly believes that a student who applies herself or himself will be able to learn and even master Bagua Zhang.

For a more in-depth look, and to purchase this new set, click here.

It’s just AMAZING!


The Taiji Ruler System

Every once in a while, we at Plum discover, to our embarrassment, that an article that appeared in our old weblog somehow managed to escape the transition to WordPress. This one by Rich Mooney is a classic, not to mention a generous and concise discussion of the Taiji Ruler in practice. We (re)represent it below.

We all expend energy; at home, at work, and at play in the daily activities that make up most of our lives. As Martial Arts and Qigong Practitioners, we understand the inherent need to conserve strength, and replenish energy as well. One answer to the question “How do we replenish energy?” is found in the ancient practice of Tai Ji Ruler (The Chinese term for ruler is Chr).

Ruler is an excellent exercise of Taoist origin, and has been shown to have a healing effect on diseases relating to the digestive system, among others. The exact history of the origin of the Ruler system, a 7 stage system of qigong, is clouded in myth and legend, as are many of the stories concerning things Chinese. Suffice it to say that during the Sung Dynasty (960-1278c.e.), a famous Taoist hermit by the name of Chen Hsi Yi (also known as Fu Yao Tzu and Chen Tu Nan), was asked by his long time friend, the Emperor Chao Kang Yan, to teach him esoteric methods to develop his inner powers, so that he could be a better and wiser ruler of his subjects. The exercises that were taught to the Emperor were passed down as a family treasure, a secret, for many centuries. One of the descendants of Emperor Chou was called Chao Chung Tao, and he brought the Ruler method into the public during the last years of his life.

Master Chao was born in 1844 and died in 1962. He attributed his long life to the practice of the Ruler System. Read more →


Muslim Kung Fu: The Fist of the Bodyguards

Comment: Of the over 700 articles and opinion pieces on the martial arts I’ve published, this one on Muslim Kung Fu has probably gotten the most reactions. Letters and question from all over the world have flooded in. There is a lot of interest there in Jiao Men, Islamic martial arts. Here is the first article of its kind…

(Originally appeared in the September 1999 issue of Inside Kung Fu.)

Practitioners of Muslim Kung Fu have overcome persecution and constant reprisal to carve an important niche in modern day history.

China is a dish spiced by many cultures. There are over 50 minorities among the Chinese besides the Han people themselves. A significant number, over five million of these, are Muslims – known in Chinese as the “Hui” people. In the tenth century large numbers of Persians and Arabs extended the Muslim trade routes deep into China. Many settled and widely dispersed through the country; some living among the general population, some sticking close to concentrated communities of believers.

Known for toughness, courage and high spirit the Muslim population of China has not been passive in its growth. Often exploited and suppressed they maintained a stubborn reliance on their beliefs and fighting skills. Butreprisals often came. In the Ch’ing dynasty (1644-1910), for instance, three Hui people walking together with weapons could be punished. If caught committing a crime they might even had their faces branded Hui Zei (Muslim Rebel). Such was the discriminatory treatment of Muslims throughout the empire. On the other hand, in the 13th century Muslim generals rallied under a new banner and helped establish the Ming dynasty – a high point of Chinese history. Unceasingly, Muslim martial artists adopted and perfected the indigenous arts of China. They developed a number of fists that are still practiced with honor today. But at the base was one particular exercise known as … Read more →


Taiwan’s Kung Fu Heart

Porf Jou Kung FuFew “elders” in the art of Kung Fu give as much to their performance as Porf Jou (Jou Po Fu). We are definitely not talking about a sanitized, overly controlled performance, but one with a little grit and a large dose of character.

We ADD three new offerings to Plum From Sifu Jou, each bearing his inimitable stamp.

First is his very individual approach to Qigong, sectioning the body and directing the Qi in each quadrant. The martial component to this particular Qigong instruction is evident and welcome.

Next, follows a famous Mantis form from the Six Harmony Praying Mantis branch: Hidden Flowers. This is probably one of the more ferocious versions of Mantis you will every see.

Northern Mantis Sparring techniques finishes up this new batch with a systematized approach that incorporates contact, fast hand combination, and an authentically Kung Fu approach to the art of fighting.

Coming soon: much in the over-filled Plum pantry at the moment, but a quick glimpse reveals Sifu Adam Hsu’s newest on Bagua Zhang, a rebinding of two Lionbook classics into one text, TWO books on the use of the Ball in Kung Fu, and an unexpected entry from a late, beloved teacher. This is just a small part, so watch this space.


Who Are You?

tai chi solutionA foundational idea of western culture, a platform for all our perfections and trials, is the Psychological Self (PS). It is constructed of qualities supposedly as solid as building blocks. It is the motivating force behind much of our fiction and all of our worries. Many of us have been conditioned to see the PS (Psychological Self) as the key to our characters. We suffer and overthrow our traumas, appetites and secrets, all of which add up to what we think of as our core soul.

But there is an alternative story, sometimes presented as a knotty puzzle. Read more →


Major New Bagua book

baguazhangI’ll be honest with you: I have not yet finished Andrea Falk’s new book, “A Shadow on Fallen Blossoms: The 36 and 48 Traditional Verses of Baguazhang,” but we were so excited about the book we wanted to announce it as soon as we received copies. I can’t imagine anyone interested in Bagua not wanting to add a copy to their martial library.

This volume of “poems” and essays are supposedly written—recorded is a better word—directly from the teachings of Dong Hai Chuan, the founder of Bagua Zhang, by a follower named Zeng Zengqi. Falk expertly translates the text from the Chinese (included), but also adds her own enlightened English commentary. She preserves the poetic structure where the principles of Bagua are laid out in small, memorable Chinese verses. In former days these “songs” were studied and memorized, allowing even illiterate students to analyze their rich content.

Andrea Falk has the natural reticence of someone who does not want to mess up her sources. In this text, she has written extensively, adding her own commentary on the original texts. Her approach succeeds, creating a running subtext that taps into her teachers’ and her own knowledge of Bagua and Chinese Martial arts, not to mention the re-statement of many sections in terms modern and clear to an English reader.

We highly recommend this generous work.

This  sample will give you some idea of her work…



That Beautiful White Crane

white crane kung fuFrom the Northern reaches of the continent, a White Crane has flown in, bringing a new DVD from Quebec-based Sifu Lorne Bernard. We are always impressed with Sifu Bernard’s skills, along with his presentation of his own teacher’s instruction, so a second volume in his popular DVD series is a welcome event.

This new one goes further into Flying Crane’s many usage routines, with a healthy peppering of talks, both interview and Q&A, between Sifu Bernard and his teacher. Lee Joo Chian. The addition of quality material in a still under-represented style of traditional Kung Fu makes us want to shake our wings (and encourage you to check out this important material).

And if you want a video taste of the wonderful Lorne Bernard, check out this post: click on the picture links, and you will find some great material on him, his school, and the style he teaches.


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 →


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 →


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.


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.



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.


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.  

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


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.


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 →


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.


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.


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 →


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.


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.