Better With Age

After class the other day my student Harvey, who has studied with me for more than 15 years, asked me a pointed question: “How and why does a longtime practitioner maintain his or her interest in studying Tai Chi?” This caught my attention immediately, because he asked me to consider it from the advanced study point of view, not the more common basic level.

wu tu nan

Wu Tu Nan

After 50 years practicing Tai Chi, I admit that the shoe may be old, but it still fits. 

I went home and wrote this question at the top of a page of wide-ruled yellow paper: “What is the attractive secret of Tai Chi that encourages people to play the game without getting bored?”

I immediately filled the page with notes outlining all the remarkable qualities of Tai Chi; for example, how the slow pace encourages curative postures and uniformity of movement, and how this allows us to craft our life instead of violating it. Tai Chi adjusts you to rhythms of action rarely seen in daily life. Conforming to an attack also teaches you to conform to terrain, timing, other classmates—a rainbow of patterns. Read more →


Heads & Tails: Adam Hsu on Martial Marketing

Plum’s new series, Heads & Tails, presents the thoughts, experiences and points of view from top martial teachers and practitioners (CMA). It is not meant to be a passive offering—these are ideas to wrangle, consider, argue for and against. This first excerpt comes from Sifu Adam Hsu’s newest book, “Life Is Too Short For Bad Kung Fu.”

“In the old days, there was a market for martial arts novels, but not for martial arts. Then, there was a market for Kung Fu movies, but not for martial arts. Now there is a market for Kung Fu video games but still not for martial arts. No one can be blamed except the martial arts themselves. It’s a shame that martial arts has to rely on novels, movies and video games to survive. Martial arts have never been able to find a market on their own. But there is, clearly, a huge and excellent market in health and fitness, which has been waiting for martial arts to take over. Moreover there are competitors from other countries who will fight with us and take the money away from our hand. Martial arts are too weak to take advantage of such good opportunities. It is so odd!”

We want to hear from you, so please send your responses and revelations on the topic at hand in the form below. We welcome the heat.

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NOTE: Please leave your comments on the form below. They are important to us.


Bear Bones

Thanks to our student, John, for sending this to us. And as one keen observer on youtube noted, those are three-sectioned sticks, not nunchakus. Not that the bear cares…


Wang ShuJin’s Swimming Body DVD

Wang Shu Jin Bagua Kent HowardSome things take a long time to materialize, but when they finally show up, they are worth the wait. Such is the case with Kent Howard’s Bagua Swimming Body Palms DVD, companion to his excellent and popular book of the same title.

Howard’s style is clear and clean, and one realizes that he sincerely intends viewers to be able to learn the material. We recommend his work (we also offer his video and DVD on Wang ShuJin’s style of Bagua Linking Palms) with great pleasure.


Chang Gong

Whether you are the ancient hermit of the Dark Forest or a week-in week-out practitioner, martial training always rewards perseverance with increased skills you have gathered and accumulated like rain. Skills like these come mostly from just hanging in there and that’s the reason they stay in the shadows, unnoticed.

The results of CHANG GONG, or “Long Practice,” signify skills that comes as messages through time. Its ceaseless evolution allows practitioners to keep track of their progress, even if just stockpiling. But maybe there is a better way to say this: Chang Gong is NOT a method you seek, but an unexpected outcome of continuous attention. This unhurried yet rewarding quest for skill is unequalled in its effectiveness. Nowadays it is called a superpower, moving forward but not yet peaking.

A friend of mine asked his brother—a Juilliard graduate who played flute, professionally—how long it would take to lay a decent foundation with the instrument. The musician looked skyward—a moment of contemplation was all that was needed—the answer: 15 years.

Although Chang Gong is evident when watching great teachers or world-class competitors, in this article I concentrate NOT on the master or soon-to-be master, but on those people who receive, at most, a pat on the back for their own skills. In those, too, we discover the alchemical development of Chang Gong, what Daoist practitioners call “bringing the extraordinary out of the ordinary.” It is here, near you and all around you: ordinary abilities coupled with the phenomenal, coming out of the mere pedestrian. Read more →


Three Clean Quarters

We have three new books for you, all in Chinese and well presented.

The first book, Wu Jin, starts us off with an historical and cultural text so old we have no knowledge of its author. Among unnumbered pages is presented authentic military strategy, along with close hand combat. This is a general’s text with battlefield formations, down to the blood soaked soil, and with illustrations that probably helped win the world in its time.

The next text on Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan adds another volume written by and photographed with the famous Ma Hong, one of the top Chen Tai Chi masters of the last and probably present century. This book is beautifully laid out; unfortunately we only have a couple of them, so it may go quickly.

Finally comes a text frone of Dong Haichuan’s disciples, Liu Fengchun. This book demonstrates postures and palm changes with great photos, apparently salvaged from the original edition.

Wu Jin (Book of Heraldry)

Ma Hong Chen Style Taijiquan

Liu Fengchun’s Bagua Palms


Li Deyin VCDs

During the quarantine, we have been doing some cleanup around Plum and are finding some interesting items that, for one reason or another, we never catalogued.

The items below are a great example: out of print VCDs from famous Tai Chi Sifu Li Deyin. We have EXTREMELY limited quantity on these: in many cases, only one copy. We’ll try our best to remove those that sell out, but it’s possible that we will get simultaneous orders…we’ll do what we can.

Click image(s) to ADD to the shopping cart.
All VCDs are in Chinese only, and the price is $7.95 each. They are all brand new and unwatched.
If you are ordering a two part set, and only want it if BOTH parts are available, please put that in the notes!

And you can expect to see more “one-offs” coming in the near future.

TC Sword

Tai Chi 32 Part 1

Tai Chi 32 Part 2

Tai Chi Part 1

Tai Chi Part 2

Xing Yi Part 1

Xing Yi Part 2



Stretching For The Art

 You’ve finished your workout and the idea comes to you: why not stretch a little? It can only help, right? But immediately your brain floods with questions: How important is it to stretch? If I have just worked out, is stretching necessary? Which is the best for me and, even more importantly, which should I avoid? And, as a martial artist, which stretches best fit my style?

Any stretching related to Chinese martial practice could be associated with more than 300 different martial branches, consequently presenting a tremendous range of stretching and pliability options, along with related foundational interpretations. Add in gyms, fencing schools, and physical therapies and you can see that guidelines could help in this explosion of choices. Read more →



Happy to report the return of three unlikely roommates today.
Click each image for more information and to purchase.

Hao Wu Style Taijiquan

Hao Style Tai Ji Quan Developed by Master Liu Jishun

Pak Mei Kung Fu

Pak Mei Kung Fu Developed by Master Thomas Cheng

Cai Haikang Bagua Legs

Master Cai Haikang Leg Techniques of Ba Gua Zhang Succeeded from Jiang Rongqiao


Adam Hsu on Chen Style Taijiquan

It is no secret that we at Plum greatly admire Adam Hsu (Hsu Ji) and his teachings. We have published some of his books and DVDs, excerpted and reprinted articles, and referenced his many principles and theories. He is also our teacher.

Although many have read his works and seen his videos, it’s not exactly the same as being able to take a class with Master Hsu. So it is with happiness that we are able to share this (free) excellent video of him giving a short lesson at his regular location in Taiwan, on Chen Tai Chi Chuan applications practice.



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Taijiquan Books & DVD, Spiced with a Touch of Xingyiquan

At Plum, we are always seeking the best of the best and rejecting those that really don’t have all that much to offer. Sadly, there are more than a few from that batch. But today’s offerings are already classics in their field—solid, innovative, in some cases path-defining. Click each image for much more information about each item and, of course, to order.

wu style tai chi chuan

Dr Wen Zee’s insights into Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan

Taiji Sword

Chen WeiMing’s classic treatise on Yang Style Taiji Sword


Liang Shou Yu and Dr Yang JwingMing’s comprehensive approach to Xingyiquan

George Xu

George Xu’s exhaustive Basic and Advanced Training Exercises DVD


Sanshou: Partner Practice in the Age of Quarantine

sanshouWhy is partner practice so different from solo practice? In my daily Taijiquan practice in a time of sheltering-in-place, the answer of course is quite obvious. As a martial artist, I find I am missing the feedback I feel, the energy from a partner’s response, and our discussion as we explore via push hands, partner forms, and apply specific applications taken from our Yang and Chen Taijiquan sets. But on the other hand, practicing by myself for many years, I have learned to use my imagination as I focus my Yi, my intent, on how my spiraling energy wraps around an imaginary arm, leg, or body, and how I am potentially responding to an opponent’s approach.

Have I been practicing by myself in my backyard? Yes. And as such, my imagination runs wild! But I must confess, twice a week during this time of sheltering at home I have been meeting with a friend to connect, practice, and learn from each other. I have to say that being outside, physically distancing while practicing different forms and weapon sets has been safe and beneficial. I still can watch and learn, ask questions, and discuss a move’s application and meaning. But honestly, partner practice has intrigued me the most when we meet. Read more →


Practiced Intent

Internal martial practice is an important step to deepening and improving your kung fu.

In this video, Sifu Ted Mancuso demonstrates and teaches a short exercise learned decades earlier from Sifu Wing Lam, for developing and incorporating intent into movement. Following the instruction is an interview with Ted, where he further elbaorates on these concepts.



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This guy has a huge jaw! A damned big jaw. By far, the largest jaw I’ve ever seen.

At least, that’s what twirling around my brain as I face my sparring partner. Of course, the truth is that his jaw—in real life—is just average size; but in my imagination, his jaw has an appetite of its own.

There’s a well-known phenom that comes into play when conflict exists, whether you are sparring with an individual partner or dealing with a global virus. Some people call this “telescopic vision,” which is a pretty accurate description of the actual conflict between one’s eyesight and the “vision” or impression one thinks one sees. 

Martial artists deal with “telescopic vision” in a unique way, and not just as a special skill. It can be truly frightening to see your opponent—or significant parts of him—enlarge while just standing there. But one can learn, with some practice, how to shift this vision from scary picture back to a reasonable, approachable image. Martial experts have developed stratagems over the centuries, battling not just their opponents but also their own vulnerabilities. Here are a few strategies, to encourage the ballooning picture to shrink a little.  Read more →


Xingyi Sheltering

Guo Yunshen

Practicing in isolation due to Shelter in Place orders has me reflecting on the time-honored tales of incarcerated Kung Fu masters. There is a story of when Xingyi Grandmaster Guo Yunshen (1829–1898 郭雲深) was imprisoned for accidentally killing an opponent in a duel. By some accounts, he was shackled in handcuffs and leg irons, limiting his ability to practice. He resolved to focus on a short Xingyi technique that his fetters would allow, a powerful basic attack called Beng Quan or crushing fist (崩拳). He allegedly used a half step to accommodate his leg shackles. After three years, he was sprung from jail, and in that time, he had mastered Beng Quan so consummately that he built his reputation on it. It was said that his “half-step Beng Quan could strike anyone under heaven (ban bu beng quan da yu tian xia 半步崩拳打天下).” 

Grandmaster Guo’s tale inspired a Jet Li movie, his 2001 sleeper, The One. This was a Sci-Fi flick about multiple incarnations across multiple dimensions, casting Jet multiple roles setting him up to fight his ultimate opponent – himself. This Hollywood production that was panned by American critics, but for martial artists, The One worked on a deeper level.  Jet’s evil incarnation, Gabriel Yulaw, used the linear attacking methods of Xingyi. Jet’s good incarnation, Gabe Law, deploys the circular strategies of Bagua. Xingyi and Bagua are the dominant soft styles of Chinese martial arts other than Tai Chi and they are frequently coupled together as complimentary practices. On May 1st, 2020, California posted an official non-exhaustive list of permitted outdoor recreational activities, including ‘Soft Martial Arts – Tai Chi, Chi Kung (not in groups)’. Xingyi and Bagua are both ‘soft’ too, so we’re good. Read more →


Stocks and Restocks, From Bagua to Xing Yi

A literal stack of books for you, the five (in Chinese) newly posted, the two (in English) are returnees. Click each to see more information and, perchance, to order. We only have a couple copies of some of these…

Tong Bei

Tong Bei 24 Powers

Wang ZiPing Bagua

Jiang Rong Qiao Xing Yi Mixed Eight Powers

Zheng Man Ching's Tai Chi

Zheng Man Jing’s Tai Chi

Chen Wei Ming’s Tai Chi Sword

Chen Style Taijiquan

Wu Style Taijiquan


Reflections of a Changeling

We wanted to share this thoughtful article written by one of our longtime students for our studio in Santa Cruz, California.

As I sit in reflection over the last two months I am impressed by the power exchanged through change and adaptation. Surfing during this time has also informed my impressions on these subjects. Many of these lessons are also transferable to martial arts but I will let your imaginations fill the martial aspect as I respectfully leave that to my more senior practitioners.

First, as noted by the length of existence and reverence of the I Ching, the study of change offers insight and power to those adept at aligning with the patterns of the changes of nature. The I Ching is a tool of such study. The Chinese zodiac reveals discernable cyclical patterns of change. There are others. Change often happens in pattern. Change also directly correlates to movement. There cannot be movement without change and there cannot be change without movement. So both beget one another. The universe sets forth the ultimate movement. In my interpretation, it is our job as sentient beings (if we wish to thrive) to follow the discernable patterns of that change through our own aligned movement of mind, body and spirit in further alignment with the greater forces that surround and inform our lives. Read more →


Staying on the Path During Quarantine

kung fu quarantineDuring the great Coronavirus Lockdown of 2020 through which we are all now living, we find ourselves reluctantly gifted with a different perception of time. Amid the constant anxiety and uncertainty over employment, insurance, imminent death and the dreaded disruption of the supply chain, a certain opportunity may at least be found in chaos (though it is not one that we would have wished for). For the first time for many of us, we find that our days and nights are no longer bound by an external schedule

As weeks roll past in the eternal now, we begin to see our formerly-precious schedule as an imaginary construct made to serve a lifestyle that no longer exists. Read more →


Why I Like Bagua

Everything is spinning crazily. The fact that facts are scarce does not prevent them from flying at us, relentlessly.  We spend our hours looping and diving, just to keep upright. In times like this, Bagua sounds just about right.

It is no wonder that people recognize that Bagua is the truth-speaker of a relatively untruthful world. Some acknowledge Bagua as the last of a breed of ancient Chinese Kung Fu styles, each containing its special face and unusual skills.  Others see it from a historical angle—after being out-stripped and out-run by the advance of the Western powers, Bagua developed a powerful set of its own solutions and its unique point of view. However you look at it, one quality is unavoidable: Bagua is about change and takes that quest seriously in every direction.

Bagua Starts With Change
Bagua is the kind of martial art you want to tell other people about but find it difficult to describe.  It is a definitional example of something that is greater than the sum of its parts: You observe Bagua’s most basic circle-walking, and maybe think it is for sneaking around an opponent or outwitting him by running circles around him. But you might not understand it as concretizing the idea of 360° awareness, or displaying its bodyguard capabilities against multiple opponents. Not only is Bagua ‘external’ but it is ‘internal’ in unexpected ways: when you grab a Bagua practitioner’s arm it should be similar to grabbing a furniture leg turning on a lathe—the unfinished piece may look perfectly still but its rotational movement will tell you otherwise, and may send you flying.

The twisty stationary postures might mislead you, until you notice that nature itself provides examples of standing steadfastness in Eucaplytus tree trunks and the gentle rotation of bones. There is so much twisting that even people in the arts who have no experience with the “internal” can at least feel what they see when the “dragon palm” coils its way through astonishing postures as twisted as a Buddha knot.

It’s not so much that Bagua walks a circle, as that fact that it doesn’t love a straight line. Circular movement—even in Gao Style Bagua, where walking is more linear—ensures that each and every step will be slightly different, and this constant alternation of outside step and inside step means that the internal (twist, focus, intent) is coupled with the external (curvature, angle, combination) in a powerful way.


Below is a simple Bagua ‘gong,’ or looped exercise, that will initiate you into the feeling of Bagua. You can even incorporate this into your main-style practice. The emphasis of Chan Si Jin, or reeling silk energy, should be present in all styles of traditional CMA.


Stand comfortably. Extend both hands like you are in a guard stance. This is for the Single Heaven Palm. As you inhale raise your front hand while twisting your forearm (either CW or CCW). Then exhale, lowering your raised arm while rotating your forearm in the opposite direction. Seem simple? It is, enough to be “mixable” with just about every move, not only in Bagua but in any martial art. In the old days Bagua was only taught to people with a strong foundation. 

Watch the video below for a demonstration of this entire gong, including the single and double hand versions.

No one ever gets bored with practicing Bagua.


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NOTE: There is an annoying glitch in our “comments” section that does not allow for the normal comment process. Please leave your comments on the form below. They are important to us.


Kung Fu Training: You Always Hurt The One You Love

kung fu power trainingOver my years of teaching martial arts, I’ve had quite a good time explaining some of the more obscure switches of Kung Fu’s winding pathway: the splits, front and side; gyrating and rolling children, long past their bedtimes; and the fine art of setting things on small altar stacks, then crushing them. And that is not even considering my favorite: the technique of slamming your own body with your own limbs. Seeing this for the first time may bring the reaction; “Boy, my teacher is so powerful he can hit himself and scare attackers off.”

The art of striking yourself is called “auto-impact” and is generally introduced after students are particularly skilled. The principle is to use your own body to augment its own power; it can also greatly enhance speed. To show how it works, let me take examples from the classical forms. Read more →