Question and Answer, PLUM style…

It would be difficult to admit that we’ve been contemplating such a page for SO LONG and have only and finally gotten to it. We at PLUM are lucky to have such stimulating customers with such great questions so we’ve been saving the salvos for a little spare time to post them. Such time has never come but here we go anyway.

It’s important to know that these opinions, right or wrong, are informed with over forty years of teaching experience. In some ways they are so much my opinions as my students cumulative experiences shaped into an opinion. They may well fly in the face of some of your experiences. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Kung Fu from teaching thousands of people and spending years considering the art, it is not a “common sense” sort of venture. There’s a wonderful bit of narration in Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” where the voice over talks about how counter-intuitive boxing is. And that same applies here. (And by the by, my mother bore the name Regan and often called me “macushla”.)

It’s a complex art because it’s the intersection of culture, battlefield experiences of life-threatening reality, philosophy and history, not to mention the word no one thinks about : the “art” in martial arts. SO take what you can away from what has been, over the years, a very intriguing conversation…

(By the way, if you are the writer of any of the questions here and want us to include your name and locations, just send us an email. We just didn’t want to assume…)



Dear Ted and Debbie,
It may appear that I annoy you a lot asking so many questions on the topic of animal kung fu styles, but I must say that I am pretty confused because I know that the ‘real’-traditional-application-based styles of kung  still exist today, but are hard to find in the books, dvds, etc. The catch is that something like southern eagle style that uses only three fingers when clawing or grabbing does exist. Moreover, there actually exist styles like crab, toad, chicken, turtle, goose, duck and scorpion as self-standing systems which are traditionally applicable, but are rarely (if ever) heard of. I don’t know why it is so. I think these styles are gems of Chinese tradition and it is a shame that even mainlanders (the Chinese) convert or adapt them to modern contemporary wushu expectations which is all circus and opera-stuff and nothing else. …

One more question: How many southern tiger styles are there in China? I have heard of Fujian tiger fist, but in Canada, there is Toisan Hak fu Pai (black tiger from Toisan area) which claims to be traditional. What would you say?
Many thanks.
Regards, Alex

P.S. Your book on southern Snake kung fu (English translation) which I recently bought from you is great. – does such a system really exist in southern China? I have searched for it for a very long time, but found none. Where do you think do they practise it?


Dear Alex,
No one knows how many tiger styles there are in China, no one, simply because there could STILL be a number that have not come to light yet. I very much agree with you on the loss of Chinese cultural heritage but, we must understand, the chance of finding a lot of pure information (though at PLUM we try out best) is relatively small. There is, for instance, a Mandarin Duck style among our VCDs. It is authentic and complete and, probably, has no more than two or three forms. Many similar styles are in this position especially among Southern fists. The Lau Gar Boxing, for instance, exists more in as a part of the Hung style than it does as the original style itself. Actually the life and death of individual styles has very little to do with the name of the style. Tai Xing Pi gua is also Monkey style, Hop Gar is White Crane, etc. The Snake style is indeed practiced in Southern China mostly, as I understand it, around the Guang Zhou area. Often the details of these things, once you actually get your hands on these styles, are very minor.



Mrs. Debbie,
Hello, I am wanting to learn the early Southern Shaolin Five Animals Fist sets, I guess it is usually represented today by the Hung Gar style. … If there is any advice you could give me on this matter I would much appreciate it. 
Thank You Very Much,


Dear Scott,
You are correct, Hung is the style which most often offers the complete five animals in one group, except for the Ha Sei Fu branch of the family .As far as separate and more specialized forms of these animals, such as crane or tiger, you will find them among our Southern fists but not in any one style. I am quite familiar with Kwong Wing Lam’s and can tell you his five separate Hung sets are accurate and strongly represented. You might check out one of our more interesting Southern Fists, Mei Shan. At least for Tiger…
Yours in the arts,



Dear Ted,
Would you be able to tell me which series is the lineage of Wang Shu Jin?


Dear Kevin,
That’s a bit tough because there are opposing stories. Basically, since Wang Shu Jin’s people claim Chen Pan Ling as a grand teacher, you could look to the Chen material and theoretically skip a generation. On the other hand some stories claim that Wang TAUGHT Chen some material. I practiced the Chang I Chung Tai Chi set for a while and it came from Wang Shu jin and incorporated more Bagua and Xing Yi but one would think that the Chen Pan Ling lineage would be at least a start to capture Wang’s idiosyncratic style
Hope this helps,
Yours in the arts,



Dear Plum,
Thank you! By any chance, do you have any idea where I can further research of the more exotic animal styles of Kung Fu? I’ve heard there’s everything from scorpion to python to bear styles, and for my own intellectual fulfillment I’d like to learn more about them.


Dear Chris,
… Actually, though Kung Fu has indeed developed many martial styles over the last 5000 years, to be honest many of the styles that people have heard about were mostly created by novelists during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Also the development of commercial Kung Fu texts, which really only began in the nineteenth century, gave some players the idea of, shall we say, making their arts sound more exotic. Scorpion and python, for example, exist mostly as moves in other styles. Bagua has  some python movements.I can’t say that there never was a scorpion style. Who knows? But they are definitely on the periphery of Kung Fu. For instance, in 40 years in the arts I’ve never seen them . Since you mentioned your intellectual fulfillment I thought it might be helpful to get started in your research with the most probable goals.
Yours in the arts,
Ted Mancuso



I read on your website that your school does not have a belt or sash system. I am curious as to why. I come from a school with a sash tradition but prefer to go “sashless”. I never really got anything out of wearing one or attaining a new one. Can you tell me why this is your school’s way of doing things. Thanks!

Dear Kevin Roy Krauter,
I am not, as many people are nowadays, opposed to the belt system. In fact, until Western instructors completely devalued the system by awarding belts to under-aged students, I believe it had value. On the other hand the simplest answer to your question is that Chinese schools never had belt systems. It’s a little like asking why Germans don’t drink Sake, because they’ve never heard of such a thing. I know, nowadays, that many assume that all martial systems with are “for or against” belt systems; but it isn’t so. Belt systems are so completely alien to Kung Fu tradition that they are besides the point. Now why they haven’t been adopted…? that’s another question entirely.
Yours in the arts, 
Ted Mancuso



Hi Debbie,
Since I have you as a contact now, I can ask you questions J :  I was wondering if you know which of your many Bagua Zhang DVDs goes most into the applications of Bagua Zhang?
I am already familiar with the basics and forms and would like to learn more about the applications.
It is my belief (IMHO (In My Humble Opinion)) the best health benefits of Bagua Zhang come about from the martial practice. Without the martial applications it is difficult to replicate the conditions under which the liveliness, for which Bagua Zhang is known and practiced. By training in this way that one can maximize the health benefits of Bagua Zang practice. Martial applications are a way of testing our physical relaxation and skeletal alignment, thus it becomes a form of progressive mental and structural training.  And learning to relax under these conditions is translated into our daily lives.
And I am interested in learning Bagua Zhang for self defense.
Which of the Bagua Zhang DVDs do you think are the most application oriented?


Hi John,
Good question, one that we get asked often.

First of all, we are in agreement as to the importance of usage in learning the art (any martial art, including Tai Chi). The usage contains the structure of the form, and without it, even if you do not want to engage with another person, you lose the structure and therefore the health benefits as well.

We are beginning work on our own Bagua Applications DVD, but it usually takes us a while with so much else on our plate. But until then…
#1020 on this page is decent:
dvd #29962 on this page:
and also #12005 on the same page as above.

Joanna Zorya went to GREAT ENDs to make her practice martial, and she was a true believer in usage and applications. You will find that all of her DVDs will encompass applications.

I hope this helps. It is still rather thin, considering the greatness of the Art. I think there is just a lot more good stuff to come!

By the way, we do have some applications on our second DVD (same page as above) and if you don’t have our two published DVDs on Bagua, you might consider them. We do not like to ‘toot our own horn’, but we feel very confident in recommending these DVDs to anyone interested in learning BaGua. They have been highly reviewed, and we just think they contain some core teachings on the art.
Hope this helps!

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