Pakua Journal: Vince Black on Li Zi Ming

pa kua chang journalLiang Zhen Pu Li Zi MingOne of the richest resources we represent on Plum is the CD compilation of Dan Miller’s Pakua Journal. This CD contains ALL 38 issues (over 1000 pages) of this extraordinary magazine that ran from 1990 to 1997.

CLICK HERE for a complete article from Volume 5, written by Vince Black, on the remarkable Li Zi Ming, the last living representative of the third generation in Dong Hai Chuan’s lineage.

For those interested, Plum also represents Li Zi Ming’s Liang Zhen Pu Eight Trigram Palm.



kung fu punchI woke up thinking about a property in math: that between any two points on a number line*, there are infinitely many points between them. Now, I know I have used the scary word—“math”—but if you are still with me, let me go on and give you the second part of my morning thought: that this important concept relates strongly to martial training. Read more →


A Take on Adam Hsu’s “Life Is Too Short For Bad Kung Fu”

Adam Hsu Kung FuGrand Master Adam Hsu’s new book, Life Is too Short For Bad Kung Fu, is a call to arms to save Chinese martial arts.  In this book he examines the current path Chinese martial arts is taking.  There may be some ruffled feathers at some of his profound statements on areas of needed improvement to rescue Chinese martial arts away from what today’s society, current practitioners, and teachers perceive as Chinese martial arts. As the book states, kung fu movies, novels, and video games are not the heart and soul of Chinese martial arts.  They glorify heros and personify hollow usage without demonstrating the basics of the art.  As the grandmaster states (paraphrasing here), basics are the foundation upon which the art was built.  And repeated over and over in this book is basics, basics, basics… Read more →


Yue Family SanShou 18 Forms

yue family sanshouA new translation for the New Year by Joseph Crandall, this one on Yue Family SanShou 18 Forms, one of the foundational styles from the ancient Yue Family Boxing.

Yue Style is pretty much the Mixed Martial Art of its time, related to Chuo Jiao, Fanzi, and fundamental Shuai Jiao. Unvarnished.


6 Harmony Mantis DVD Back In Stock


These exceptional Liu He Tang Lang DVDs have returned. All placed orders will ship by Monday, and we are able to accept and ship new orders.

Click image to be taken to more information, and to order; if you see a notice that they are out of stock, pay no attention. It just takes a few hours for the site to re-cache.


How To Change (A Tire)

daily kung fu  Last night, driving home from teaching, my mind filled with ideas, I cut too sharply on a left turn, and bumped over a curb. The mishap arrived with an explosion of sound, followed by a consistent galug-galug-galug as I limped through the last two miles of my trip. My wife, Debbie, and I have a promise of full disclosure, so when I walked in the house, I said, “I think I broke the axle.” Since it was late and dark, we had dinner and decided to look at it in the morning.

The morning light brought some good news: no matter how dire it had sounded the night before, all I had done was blown the left front tire. No big deal: we had a never-used spare in the trunk, and the equipment to change it. The tire iron and the lift had come with the car, which meant they were not top of the line, and I soon found myself struggling with levers that were too short, and tire irons that fit sloppily over the lug nuts. What was a martial artist to do? Read more →


Second Look: Wisdom of the Taiji Masters

Wisdom of the Taiji MastersOur renewed look at Nigel Sutton’s “Wisdom of the Taiji Masters,” was inevitable. Like a good British murder mystery, there is more to the search and intuition than to the closet full of clues. Despite the wealth of time spent by professor Cheng’s and other Tai Chi students on the secrets and questions posed by his practice, the fun is in the continuing pursuit of solutions that claim to point in the right direction.

Cheng Man Ching’s legacy seems, at first glance, to be an indisputably positive assessment of Professor Cheng and his disciples, along with the specific fighting aspects and their relation to the seemingly huge network of practitioners. Opponents and players march a spectrum across the playing field. The book highlights players and teachers who good-heartedly receive their licks with no complaints, although it does not thoroughly reveal how some of the “magic” was performed. We sometimes get the feeling that there are hidden tricks and obscured prestidigitation.

This truly engaging profile of the art highlights the clear belief that, despite opposition from practitioners of some Chinese and non-Chinese styles alike—Tai Chi is not just another style, not just some conglomeration of whatever happens; that Tai Chi embraces a systematic approach to matters martial and exploratory. One of the things we most like about this book, is that we have never read so many descriptions of matches and defeats, such a wide variety of techniques and linked skills.

This book is a testament to that elongated journey, imbued with a deep martial sensitivity, which happens when a whole community—even a scattered community—works with one another to explore a core practice like Push Hands. Professor Cheng’s legacy may arguably lie in his emphasis on a Push Hands curriculum; however, while the many voices in this book speak to that issue, the chorus is not entirely resonant.


Book Review: Adam Hsu’s “Life Is Too Short For Bad Kung Fu”

Adam Hsu kung fu bookTraditional Chinese Kung Fu is dying. When it dies it won’t be a homicide but a suicide. Shifus are peddling tricks to kids. Shifus that are preserving Kung Fu can’t find students to undergo the hardship of practice. Students that are willing to undergo the traditional training can’t find a Shifu to train them. Kung Fu has become the accumulation of forms without meaning. Basics and usage have been discarded in favor of Chinese gymnastics or western floor routines. Sadly, we all know this to be true.

Shifu Adam Hsu has put together a book of a handful of essays that traverse hundreds of aphorisms. It is at once a validating, invigorating and despairing read. Shifu Hsu is clearly distraught about the state of Kung Fu. His main argument for the demise of this cultural gem is the lack of understanding of both the essence of Kung Fu and the path to achieving that essence. We’ve all seen it: practioners and Shifus that have vast knowledge that rings dry since they do not put the time into daily practice. The knowledge is hollow.

And that is the essence: Practice. Shifu Hsu asks us to tear apart the forms, find the basics, understand the usage. Everyday. Twice a day preferably.

“Martial practice is an attitude of life.”

In this book Shifu Hsu lays out a clear path in how to approach both the learning and teaching of Kung Fu, with an emphasis on learning. It is a call for true practioners to continue the refinement of themselves and their art. He gives thoughtful direction on both the purpose of Kung Fu and how to walk its path. He gives detailed instructions on how to approach forms, how to extract basics from the forms and encourages one to figure out the usage. At its best, he delves into how martial practice is meant to better one’s self, to make you a better person.

“Martial technique is to train for better fighting skills. Martial Dao is to become a better person.”

One of the strongest themes in the book is how Kung Fu can solve both physical and mental issues. He calls for more study into using Kung Fu to address mental health issues while at the same time despairing at the state of a technological society that just may well be incapable of daily physical and mental practice. He calls for the modernization of Kung Fu yet doesn’t really seem to get his arms around how that might be done, from ranking systems to tailoring it to this modern society. These sections seem more to push and encourage further research.

I walked away from this book with a smile. It validated my path while giving me new ideas for my daily practice. I’m going to keep it around. There are days that I, like anyone, don’t really feel like standing or doing post work or working the giant spear or running the basics or working forms. It will be days like this when I will pick this book up and refer to some of the many aphorisms I’ve marked. It will give me that needed encouragement to continue on this path of practicing Kung Fu, of growing my inner-depth.

“The training of inner-depth consists of learning to let go of delusion and cultivate persistence. Nothing more.”

Travis Rath has been studying traditional Kung Fu for 25 years and, when conducting classes, can often be heard strongly suggesting to the students: “Basics, people! BASICS!”

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Year of the Metal Rat–Jan. 25, 2020 to Feb. 11, 2021

Once again, we delight in posting Narrye Caldwell’s column on the upcoming year, seen through the perspective of Chinese Astrology. Narrye is a longtime practitioner and teacher of Tai Chi, as well as her other pursuits, and has published two books with Plum, “Blossoms in the Spring: A Perfect Method of Qigong” (co-authored with Ted Mancuso) and her latest from 2019, “Spirit of the Stars: Navigating Your Fate With Pole Star Astrology.”

year of the ratI almost didn’t write this year’s Chinese astrology column. In late December when it was time to buckle down and get to work, I determined that, finding our world in a state of despair and on the brink of apocalypse, there was just nothing to say that would be helpful. So, in true cowardly fashion, I retreated to my cave, dove under the covers and refused to be cajoled. Anyone brave enough to inquire about the state of my writing life risked losing a limb. Of course, it didn’t help that my winter read was a book about the plague years in the middle ages. I know, bad choice on my part. But I bet there are a few of you out there who can relate just a little bit.

Then something happened. I had a recurrence of some excruciating neck pain that I had thought was tamed long ago. That took me to my chiropractor. In the course of our check in she cheerily noted that my “doom bone” was misaligned and I must be feeling a bit gloomy and anxious. My doom bone? What? Well, apparently this particular cervical misalignment often causes people to go emotionally off the rails, feeling as if the world could end at any moment. With a few gentle expert moves, she nudged the errant bone back into place and bam, it felt like the sun had just come out. Upon returning home, I began to peek out of my cave and consider the possibility that what had looked to me like the apocalypse was actually, well, just winter. And I, who should know better, had made the crucial mistake of pushing myself too hard, when the qi of Winter insists that we retreat and rest. Lesson learned. So, with a bow to my chiropractor, let’s get on with it.

General outlook

On January 25, 2020 we welcome in the Chinese Year of the Metal Rat. The transition we can all look forward to, and must negotiate with care, is worth noting. 2019 was the Year of the Earth Pig. The Pig is the last of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. So, it’s been a year of endings, of things coming apart, the end of a 12-year cycle. From my current vantage point in the Ox month, which is the last month of the last year of a 12-year cycle, the unraveling looks complete, and the glimmer of light we all long for, that spark of yang qi that starts a new cycle, is not yet visible. Read more →


Six Harmony Praying Mantis (Liu He Tang Lang)

Six Harmony Praying MantisSeveral months ago, Plum published Sifu Adam Hsu’s significant book, “Life Is Too Short For Bad Kung Fu,” in which he outlined some crucial methods to save traditional Wushu from extinction. He might have had Sifu Tsai Yong Huang’s new DVD on Liu He Tang Lang (Six Harmony Praying Mantis) in mind when he reiterated the dire need for more attention to basics; a ‘graduated’ curriculum; and a serious respect for traditional forms (but not to the exclusion of modernization). So it comes as no surprise that Sifu Hsu, in his lengthy introduction to this 3-disk set, recommends Tsai Sifu’s DVD and his approach to developing and teaching this lesser known soft mantis style.

In this remarkable DVD set, Sifu Tsai presents the six simplified forms he developed based on the traditional principles of Liu He Tang Lang incorporated in the original routines. These routines create step-by-step accessibility for students to bridge the basics of the system and the more advanced forms. He then demonstrates generous usage from each of the new forms, again, maintaining techniques specific to Liu He Tang Lang. Finally, Tsai Sifu honors the traditional by demonstrating the six original forms.

There are many uncommon aspects to this DVD set, not the least of which are the two meaty introductions by both Sifu Hsu and Sifu Tsai. One aspect of the introductions that particularly struck us was the emphasis by both Sifu Hsu and Sifu Tsai that this is an ongoing project—still in developing stages— and that both are actively seeking both contribution and criticism. This refreshing humility is rare these days, and encourages us even further to recommend this DVD.


Everything Old Is New Again

“A guy who can stand for two hours is a guy you don’t want to fight.”
-Sifu Ted Mancuso

cheng man ching post standingTraditional Tai Chi training, back in the day, was markedly different from what is practiced today.  There was considerable emphasis on stance training. Before students were taught a form, they spent countless hours perfecting/holding postures.  It was only after they satisfied the master, that they went on to link the postures.  A story about Yang Cheng Fu is illustrative.  Yang would enter a class with one of his students.  The student assumed the ward off posture. Yang would take off his heavy coat and drape it over over the student’s extended arm.  The student was expected to remain immobile for the duration of the class.

Professor Cheng Man Ching often spoke of his training with Yang. The intense bouts of posture-holding left his legs so fatigued that, at the end of the day, he had to use his hands to lift his legs into bed.  Cheng was initially unsparing with his first student, Benjamin Lo—stance holding with no form training.  It was only when Madame Cheng took pity on Ben, did the Professor relent and start form training.

When Ben came to the U.S. and began to teach, he tried to maintain tradition (no burn, no earn), but realized that he had to adapt.  The stance training became more of a side bar, rather than a core practice. He would have his students pause at various points of the form and hold their positions while he made the rounds adjusting each individual’s posture. Holding time would depend upon the size of the class. 

Prof. Cheng placed little emphasis on posture holding.  Archival film footage shows his students briefly holding postures while his two class seniors, Tam Gibbs and Ed Young, provided the necessary adjustments.

After his death, Cheng was often criticized for holding back “secrets” from his caucasian students.  One might surmise that posture training was one of these secrets.  I tend to give the professor the benefit of the doubt.  Like Ben, the Professor knew his audience.  “Eating bitters” was not in the DNA of his students.

Cheng had to adjust to his new environment.  He considered Tai Chi a precious gift and wanted to share it with the West, and the best way to accomplish this would be to emphasize form training.


In his latest book, Life Is Too Short For Bad Kung Fu,  Sifu Adam Hsu laments the disappearance of true Chinese martial arts.  He states that a good deal of this is due to neglect of training in the basics.  Stance training is definitely part of this.

I recently came across some articles that might serve as a gateway to reviving this valuable practice. The Western mind wants to know why it’s important to hold a horse stance for 30 minutes and beyond.  Character building may not be sufficient a reason.  If it’s a matter of building leg strength, banging out some seated leg presses would make more sense (maybe).

The articles deal with a training method called “extreme isometrics.”  These are bodyweight exercises that involve holding a position, such as a pushup in various ranges, to the point of failure.  The core exercise is the extreme lunge, which is a 70-30 stance on steroids. To add to the agony the subject, while holding the stance, is supposed to isometrically  attempt to bring both legs together in a scissor like fashion.  An accompanying youtube video shows two subjects holding this position to the point of collapse—which is about five minutes.

The articles go on to give anecdotal reports from various athletes that attest to significant performance gains.  One of the conclusions drawn  is that this practice is a superior way to train the nervous system, “because a consistent signal is being sent through the body to hold with maximum intent an extreme position. Furthermore, if the nervous system is enhanced, and it is the body’s control system, doesn’t every other system rise up with it?” 

Perhaps this would be an acceptable rationale for reviving this basic practice.  Enhanced nervous system function might explain the reported superiority of the past masters.  Perhaps the old boys were on to something.



wan lai sheng sanshouToday we offer just a single DVD,  but one that is packed with interest and—even more useful—Usage.

Although this DVD, Original Striking Taiji Sanshou, claims legitimate membership in the Tai Chi camp, it comes from Master Wan Lei Sheng’s lineage, and his specific approach adds techniques that fall outside of the Tai Chi curriculum. Instructor Wu SunXiong is determined for the student to discover the usage of the simplified 10-move routine. Something else we like: he brings out his arsenal of training tools, including heavy rings, conditioning rods, a ball and a gripping jar.

A solid, recommendable presentation for anyone interested in striking technique.



I’ve been going through some boxes, unearthing photos, notebooks, old patches, and all manner of things from my 50+ years in the arts. Here’s a poster from one of Brendan Lai’s famous expos. It was a time.

Kung Fu Masters


Among those present:

Cliff Look, Shek Kin, John Leong, Marc Singer, Mok Poi-On, Lee Koon-Hung, Ping Chow, Brendan Lai, WC Wong, Lai Hung, Adam Hsu, Bow-Sim Mark, Cheuk Fung, Doc-Fai Wong, George Xu, Kwong Wing Lam


(click poster to see it bigger!)



Instructor’s Notebook: Tiger Hook Blades

The life and death of our art depends on the Quality of shared knowledge we maintain. Proper teaching informs the student while educating the teacher.  Confucius told us that “wherever a few are gathered, I have a teacher.” As we see, all faces of Kung Fu offer a deep well to draw from.



Just this side of an electrified lawn chair, the Tiger Hooks are frontrunners for strange weapons. And even centuries of usage (the fancy word for applying skill to fighting) there are few reliable clues to build any intelligible case with arrows and off ramps.

The Tiger Hooks are said to incorporate ten normal weapons, but we’ll do the counting later. The historically accurate “Hu Tou Gou”, or Tiger Head Hook, is said to represent the head-shape of the animal. At present we heft these to find them strangely front-weighted , a characteristic of this weapon’s design,  blades forward. In most cases you would normally compensate for this by hand/grip adjustments. But this special balance of the Hooks limits hand replacement, along with another restraint: every edge on the Hooks is sharp, with the exception of the cloth-wrapped handle. Read more →


Fundamentals of Pakua Chang, Volume 2

fundamentals of pakua chang volume 2For several years, there has been a noticeable hole in Plumpub’s book catalogue, namely Park Bok Nam’s Fundamentals of Pakua Chang, Volume Two.

Although we reprinted Volume One a while back, the manuscript for Volume 2 was in an inaccessible format. Nonetheless, we persisted, and are happy to announce, right before this year’s end, that Volume Two is now available. For the first time in years, all 4 parts of Park Bok Nam’s influential series—2 books and 2 DVDs—are now in print and available on Plum.

We strive to continue to represent THE BEST of Chinese martial literature. Watch this spot for so much more to come.


Iron Palm, Through the Back, To the Mind

Tong Bei Quan

ShanXi Hong Dong Tong Bei Quan

Iron Palm

Iron Sand Palm Secrets

Complete Chinese Martial Arts

Authentic Chinese Wushu Complete

We’ve been so busy that we’ve neglected the great stack of Chinese books we are slowly adding to our collection. Even though in modern format, many of these books detail early styles and histories of this ancient art.

Today’s entries include a book and DVD combination on ShanXi Tong Bei (through-the-back) boxing, a truly long-arm style that is a cousin to Pigua Zhang.

Next up is a curious compendium of material gathered from other books on Iron Palm training. Some collectible photos, although no awards for crystal clarity here. Still, an opportunity to see and compare perspectives from different teachers and masters. (Only get a few copies of this one in our last order, may go quickly).

Finally, we welcome back a tome that appears then disappears too quickly. We have represented at least three different versions of Professor Kang Ge Wu’s masterful compilation on all things Wushu, from ancient adages to basic training and stances. Just lifting this 770 page hardcover requires some strength training (most likely detailed inside)! This cloth-bound edition is one of the nicest versions we have seen so far.

As always, click the images for more information, and to purchase.


Spear Learning

Some of my articles come directly from what is taught at my school that day. One of my favorite spear training exercises is “Ghost Shakes Body” (also called “Lan Na Zha”), and when I saw some students practicing this the other day, it reminded me of the extensive usage catalogue each weapon carries with it. Thus, these few words below.


kung fu weapons trainingAnyone who has trained extensively knows that there are two laws: repeated usage and lots of it. High reps don’t mean much without the bonus of understanding the proper form and usage of your body, your limbs, and your mind. People offer such sage advice as “no pain, no gain,” but in Kung Fu, we should amend this to “no brain, no gain.”

Although the above is true throughout traditional Kung Fu, it is even more meaningful when it comes to weapons, those ancestors of the Art which are so commonly misunderstood that one sometimes imagines all we know sits on a hill of ignorance. Read more →


Plum Fruits on Facebook

Plum may cast a big shadow in the number of products we represent (almost 4000), the articles and tutorials we write (about 1500, and counting), the videos we produce and share here and on our youtube channel …But as many of you know, there are only really three people operating the lights: Ted Mancuso, Linda Darrigo and Debbie Shayne. That’s it. Which means that we are usually stretched (and not in a good way) when we want to incorporate things like out-facing expansions or structural changes (we’re working on a massive project to convert our site to something more searchable, for example).

This is one of the main reasons it took us so long to start a facebook page. Another thing to monitor?  Where would those hours come from, where would we find the time? Close friends nudged and nagged and made fun of us until we finally dipped our toes into the pond and found it to be…not so bad! Even, do-able.

So, drumroll, please: Plum now has a Facebook presence, and we would love to meet up with you there, as well as on Plum. Facebook  allows us to drop occasional coupons and discounts there, in addition to sharing material from others (and we are conscientious curators, so you don’t need to worry about seeing lots of junk). You’ll even be able to keep up with new postings to kaimen, youtube videos, etc.

We hope you’ll visit us on Facebook and, if you have a facebook account, we encourage you to like and follow us. And who knows? There might just be a coupon waiting for you already!


Ferocity and Accuracy

Every Kung Fu style has its Yin and Yang attributes: open/close, light/heavy, soft and hard. But not all complementary pairs are oppositional. A good martial artist can also be both fierce and accurate—how is this accomplished?

Accuracy brings to mind a controlled, almost intellectual state of mind—that is, a state of mind, not of heart. It is cold, impersonal and, in martial arts, something to pursue.

On the other paw, ferocity is a hot emotional state, a single-minded juggernaut of determined destruction. Like that huge boulder rolling toward Indiana Jones, it starts at our source anger, far away from the target, but continues mindlessly, threatening our stable existence. Read more →


Sitting—The New Smoking?

I’m an unabashed fan of old movies, good and bad. The time period between 1930and 1960 holds a particular fascination for me. I enjoy watching the cultural norms as compared to the present day. Men wore wide brimmed hats, married couples slept in separate beds, and cigarette smoking was rampant. Chain-smoking appeared to be the norm.

Thankfully, times have changed. The hats are gone, and married couples sleep together. Read more →