Apr
14
2017

Kung Fu Saber: The Tiger Leaps

Kung Fu Saber Book DVDA long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Plum pre-announced our newest book/DVD package by Ted Mancuso on the Kung Fu Saber. Needless to say, it took us just a bit longer to produce these than we expected, but we are thrilled to say, THE SABER IS HERE!

This is the third in the four part series on the Grandfather weapons of Kung Fu: Staff, Spear, Saber and the one still-to-come, Straight Sword. But with all projects at Plum, very little follows the straight commercial path. Although those old standbys of yesteryear, which dutifully exposed a hungry audience to uncommon routines and weapons, served a good purpose, martial literature has actually matured a bit since then. At least, that is what we intend for our own publications.

The Pigua Saber routine is taught on the 80 minute DVD accompanying this text, but the book itself is devoted more to the essence of Saber play. A weapon is always more than a weapon in Kung Fu, especially since its original purpose for fighting is rarely exercised these days. But weapons are also masterful teachers and training devices, for both other weapons and empty-hand practice. And each weapon carries its own real calling—saber play, for instance, is probably the most definitive example of Chan Si Jin. Not the highest, but the most definitive. On another level, the saber offers benefits by maximizing torso involement. And it also strengthens the interconnectedness of the body. These are just a few of the lessons taught by Saber.

As always, Ted includes lengthy passages in both mediums on basics, structure, spirit. This volume also contains an in-depth argument on the differences between usage and application, followed by examples of both. A good part of the book, and some of the DVD, is devoted to explicating these two, especially against the Saber’s famous enemy, the Spear.

The wait is over, so go HERE for more information and to order. Also, Ted will autograph the first 25 we send out.

Apr
8
2017

Who is Your Audience? Martial Consciousness

Martial arts can be a mirror. Like Alice, I stick my hands out and they sink into the loking glass.  The nature of martial arts encourages looking inward, staring outward and trying, somehow, to get audience and self-perception to agree.

It’s important to know just who and what you are looking for. It’s important to know who you are demonstrating for, who is watching your form, who you are trying to impress, or even scare.

 Of course, when you start your martial training you have an audience:  your instructor. You want to show him just how good you can be. You may be a blossoming Bruce Lee or, when you slip and fall, a Jackie Chan in the bud, but you want him to be there witnessing the event.

At home you try to show your parents but it is difficult. They may demonstrate a titanic lack of interest in what you are doing. Sometimes this can hurt, but the thing to remember—when relatives are the audience—you may be doing something they just can’t understand. Breaking a board they can understand. Standing in a peaceful, almost meditative, state might be a bigger stretch. Read more →

Mar
28
2017

Three New Chinese Texts

Three new books added to our Chinese language section, a couple accompanied by video resources.  Today’s emphasis is on intestinal fortitude or, as some people say,  “internal style.”

internal martial arts booksWang Pei Sheng’s Nei Gong Xin Fan Tai Ji Quan
This book, compiled by one of Wang’s students, pictures Wang himself performing his movements with great precision. Diverse sections cover important practices such as the Eight Primary Energies, methods of footwork, etc. The VCD accompanying the text shows the 37 move form of Wu Tai Chi which Wang helped make popular. There is also a pleasantly informal section on Tai Chi Chin Na, with some effective throws and not a little amount of joking.

Chen Family Hong Branch Tai Chi Boxing
This book/DVD package is from that special branch of Chen Tai Chi known as Hong Jun style, a form that emphasizes grace and Chin Na moves. The book is accompanied by a DVD packed with information: complete instruction on a 24 manner set, two person practice in the form of both Push Hands and applications, basic Chi exercises, and a bonus Short Stick set. The book itself offers complete instruction in the 81 move Long Form, with clear photos illustrating each move.

Xing Yi Strong Body Practice (Xing Yi Qiang Shen Gong)
Xing Yi is one of the strongest styles with a unique exploration of the relation between shape and movement. The very name of the style reinforces this idea. This unique book takes this balance quite seriously, adding strength to the mixture. Lin Jian Hua’s approach is to combine action and position, almost like a Qigong, to find exactly the correct posture for each move, and demonstrates this in very clear breakdowns throughout the text.

Mar
25
2017

Site Delight!

I’m watching over you

If you notice any funny warnings on our site over the next few days, pay no mind! We are upgrading our site security to even higher standards, tucking all pages under the security blanket  (even those that do not need it, like sales pages).

Plum has always taken security very seriously, and this will just add one more layer. Rest assured that, even if you see these intermittent warnings, the shopping cart and ALL sensitive material is fully secure. You will notice the closed padlock once you get to the shopping cart, where it really matters.

UPDATE: As of late Saturday night, we think this is resolved. If you find any trouble pages, do let us know.

Mar
23
2017

Special Kung Fu Training Equipment

Here’s another in our series of inexpensive, mobile, customized kung fu training equipment.

kung fu trainingHere’s the pic of the “training pole”. I use it for staff, sticky hands and punching through the rings, left low, right high and right low left high. It’s ABS 3″ pipe concreted into the bucket with a threaded connection (for removal) and an ABS 2″ pipe for the body and rings.  About 7′ high.   
Regards, John

 

Great! And I assume those are garden pot holders? Versatile and portable, nice combination.

Click on the picture to see it enlarged, and HERE to see a previous contribution from Jed in Australia. And we would love to see any additional ideas! Homemade training tools and rigs are as traditional as the practice that uses them.

Mar
19
2017

Random Circles—The Synergy of Taiji Quan

by Jason Tsou and Art Schonfeld

By necessity, there are many levels of martial arts training. A person must develop foundational work before he can go on to more advanced work.

One essential training method often overlooked today is that of Random Circle training. While this is not the highest level of training, it provides the necessary underpinnings to reach the higher levels of skill. Random Circles teaches strategy, teaches us how to use Ting Jin (listening energy to sense your opponent), Hwa Jin to divert and avoid your opponent’s sensing, and it allows you to collect and connect the techniques contained in forms in order to get a taste of usage in those techniques. Random Circle Exercises is one step beyond the Tui Shou (Push Hands) exercises most people practice. Often, we see Tui Shou limited to the movements of Grasping Bird’s Tail. While it is important to understand Peng Lu Ji An, being able to use all of the other moves in the push hands process is also crucial. In addition, Random Circles Exercises introduces combat footwork and begins to train the student in how to use momentum when issuing Fa Jin.

The term “Random Circles” traces back to Yang Ban Hou, the uncle of Yang Chen Fu. In a poem attributed to him, the phrase “trap your opponent within the Random Circle and four ounces of energy will move a thousand pounds of force” appears. Much of the same idea can also be found in writings attributed to Wang Zhong Yue, who also talks about the four ounces of energy moving a thousand pounds of force. The Random Circle allows one to find the point at which the four ounces can be applied. Random Circles can be easily incorporated into the framework of the Taiji Quan forms and can be used as Da Fa (combat training). Read more →

Mar
12
2017

Mizong Jia: Shaolin Mizong Kung Fu style

Here’s a pop quiz (Mizong Jia Kung Funo cheating!)

What style is the inspiration for the two films, “The Chinese Connection” (with Bruce Lee) and “Legend” (with Jet Lee)? Want a hint? This style is associated with Kung Fu Master Huo YuanJia, Head Instructor of the famous Ching Woo Association.

Ok, so the title of this post gives it away. Of course, you might not have known this because it is rare to see a new book and DVD in English on Mizong Quan (Lost Track Boxing), and even less common to have such a work on the important Jia, or Structure, form.

Which is why Plum is proud to announce that we are publishing a new work on Mizong by Sifu Lu Junhai—a full-color instructional text packaged with a 50 minute DVD. This is one of the few books and DVDs on Mizong published in English (the DVD is in Chinese, but well-subtitled). The text is clear, and the DVD contains at least 30 minutes of applications, another rarity these days in martial literature.

You can click HERE, or on the image, to go to the book page and read more about this work, and why the Jia Form is such a crucial form for Mizong practitioners.

Mar
6
2017

Plum ♥︎ Mantis (and here’s some proof)

Wong Han Fun MantisGuess who’s back! Wong Han Fun Mantis

OK, the book covers probably give it away, but in case you want a name, it’s Wong Han Fun (Huang Han Hsun). We have restocked, FINALLY, 13 nicely-done reprints of some of his hard-to-find titles. And when we say “nicely done”, what we mean is some of the clearest, crispest photos that we have seen in decades.

Click the books to go to the newly revised page, and see what we have.

Feb
24
2017

The Hidden Power of Kung Fu Slapping

Can you explain the reason some styles like Tong Bei Quan and Kenpo use so much slapping? A fellow martial artist recently asked me about this. Little did he know was that I used to lecture obsessively on this subject to black belts and teachers. Even now, I still incorporate some of this technique in my Kung Fu. I’ve been grilled by many a fellow practitioner who thinks that slapping is a little silly. In cases of performance beating out function, I agree; but when executed, with proper understanding, this can refine a valuable skill.

 


1. To create swing power instead of opposition power.
There are two basic striking patterns in any Martial Art, oppositional and complementary. We were all taught that if you throw a chop you can increase its power by pulling back your other hand in the opposite direction. However, you can also augment force by moving both hands in the same direction, as in the Double Swing shown. Swinging the slapping hand in the same direction as the chop can create power at close quarters. Slapping assures that both hands are tied together.

Read more →

Feb
17
2017

One Good Return Deserves Another

This addition (or should I say re-addition) contains a few books that have been unavailable for years. We know that our cutomers are loyal, but even so, we’ve been surprised that people who’ve had these on their want list for more than five years (!) still want them the moment they become available again.

Mantis, Ziran and Chin Na booksThese first three—returned after years—are from noted master Gao Tao Sheng. These include the valuable Long Fist training that is still a part of Praying Mantis mastery.  We are also reinstating a Chin Na book containing a two-person set, a lot of ground fighting and endless locks and counter-locks.

 

Next comes Tai Tzu Boxing (Tai Tzu means Great Ancestor, referring to the soldier who founded the Song dynasty).  Though said to be a rough-and-tumble style, we have our doubts. The techniques in this book are well-executed, all for fighting, but suspiciously like so many applications from other styles We’ll let you judge for yourself.

We also have a nicely done book on ZiRan (Tzu Ran) or Naturalness Boxing. This was a breakthrough style (also linked to the Six Harmonies Boxing) that encouraged a kind of revelation approach as well as strong and unusual training. Among others, this style was a favorite of Wan Lai Sheng, a famous boxing teacher—in fact, the full title of this new volume is Wan Lai Sheng Ziran Men Studies.

Feb
10
2017

Coloring in the Picture: Bubishi and Hakka styles

The Colorful Bubishi…
We now carry both the Bubishi and the new Lion Books, General Tian’s Wubeizhi, with painted figures. This special copy is unlike all other copies presently known. In an amazing confluence of facts, we just happened to read the following footnote in Patrick McCarthy’s Book on Bubishi:

… According to Mr. Yoza [one of the people interviewed], there was a colored facsimile made from the Bubishi owned by his uncle Go Kenki. Originally, the picture of the Busaganashi [Protective Deity] is said to have been colored. Since Mr. Yoza’s painting [of one of the door Gods] is very similar to the Busaganashi found in the Bubishi, it is presumed that the original (edition of the Bubishi) was brought to Okinawa together with Go Kenki’s edition from which the facsimile was made.

Read more →

Jan
27
2017

The Hakka Testimonial

Hakka Kung Fu book300 Years of Hakka Kung Fu is definitely a gift book for a martial collector/scholar.

Last year Hong Kong, after having erected a statue of Bruce Lee, sponsored an exhibition of 300 years of Hakka Kung Fu. This was a good decision because the cluster of Kung Fu styles that make up the constellation of Hakka WuShu is gradually dimming, and may even blink out of existence.

There are no techniques, forms, or sparring sessions in this text. It is a book about a certain people—the “vagabonds” of China—their culture, and a connecting chain of love for Kung Fu. The book is extra-sized, hard backed and beautiful. Some great photos, mostly of teachers and beautiful landscapes, printed on excellent paper.

The book covers the Hakka history, then moves to individual portraits and expositions of specific masters, their backgrounds, thought and hopes for Kung Fu’s future. This is a book about families, blood-bonded or not. They are family because they share the same ideas. Hakka Kung Fu

 

 

 

 

 

Jan
17
2017

Year of the Fire Rooster–January 28, 2017

Year after year, Narrye Caldwell’s annual Chinese Astrological analysis has been one of Plum’s most popular and requested topics. We are happy to once again offer it here.

Fire RoosterAll Chinese wisdom traditions, including medicine, divination, astrology, and feng shui, are systems of pattern identification that guide us in adapting gracefully to change. A world in flux is assumed; it is the one constant feature of life. Astrology is best viewed as a tool to discern where we are in the shifting cycles of time so we can adjust our expectations accordingly and therefore, from the Chinese point of view, cultivate longevity by not wasting our qi trying to swim against the current.

Last year’s current schooled us all in crisis management as the Fire Monkey’s erratic impulsiveness and dramatic flare produced an unprecedented bit of theater in American politics. Read more →

Jan
16
2017

Three Texts: New, Old, Reborn

Our storms are done here (we hope). It seems like during the time we holed up and watched the wind change the landscape, we also acquired a host of new products and long unavailable reprints. We have just added three of these books, each in a different phase of the publishing process.

kung fu booksNEW: First is a new Xing Yi text by Song Zhi Yong and Tom Bisio. A solid offering with multiple breakdown photos and a layered text. Also some pages devoted to a deeper understanding of those two crucial XY forms, 5 Elements and Linked Fist.

 

REISSUED, is the popular Eight Step Praying Mantis Boxing book. This new edition is almost FOUR TIMES as large as the original book, covering applications, forms, theory, family and more. A huge re-structuring with good photos and some clear instructions on forms. In Chinese.

RESTOCKED: En face edition (in English and Chinese). This book on the Tiger Swallow Praying Mantis form by Gao Tao Sheng was certainly one of the most popular Lion Books we carried before it was pulled. Now, after years, it is back. Big photos, clear text, English.

Jan
10
2017

Stillness & Movement: Part Three

stillness and movementDynamic Balance

There’s a very old martial arts saying that we should “find stillness in movement, and movement in stillness.” It’s not just an old saw. For instance, say someone punches at you. You move out of the way extremely rapidly, but not so hurried that you resemble a bad example of the startle response; different limbs moving at different speed, confused actions, etc.

In the heart of movement you must remain still inside because you need to marshal your forces and you have to adapt to the situation. You cannot let mind or body erupt.

On the other hand, what about the reverse: movement coming from stillness?  Probably the classic image would be of two Japanese swordsmen staring at one another, eyes unblinking, absolutely frozen, seemingly immobile. Suddenly, they both explode forward—and one of them drops.

A situation like this calls for maximum speed. But you cannot reach maximum speed—speed beyond the normal human range— unless you have enough stillness to check and incorporate all the parts of your body, even though they may not be connected until the moment you execute. It’s only through complete integration that you can reach your maximum speed.

It is obvious that this type of thing cannot be done while your opponent waits for you to line up all your ducks. This is why a high level of training requires dropping into, then climbing out of, stillness. You might call it punctuated explosions. You move fast, then stop, then explode again. When you stop, you take inventory. And, with enough practice, the stopping can actually hide and even build the power for the next needed execution.

At first you set—like a bow and arrow—each shoulder, then each leg, then each… In the old days, the Chinese called these the Five Bows: four in the limbs and one through the back. This is a great example because, with the bow strung, at the moment needed to ready yourself, you can immediately start stringing arrows. This is just as stillness has taught us. When energy finally does manifest in your actions, it comes not from what you do, but from the release that stillness had created. This is true speed, and when it comes it does so without the slightest hint, or hitch, or prelude.

Jan
9
2017

Stillness & Movement: Part Two

martial footworkThinking About Movement

Learning movement—and therefore footwork—is a progression through four modes of stepping. First, when the beginner has just walked in off the street and you ask him to punch,  he will shoot arm first, before stepping. Envision tense shoulders, chest out and arm fully extended as he steps/falls awkwardly. Here’s the first, or “untutored,” way to move.

The second method is basic training. In this, the student first steps, plants his weight on the advanced foot, then issues the power of his punch. Such a firm step forms a bi-pedal base that helps tremendously with waist rotation and power creation.  It may be a little slow compared to other methods, but it yields a firm foundation—literally. This is the step-and-punch of Karate.

The third level is more like Xing Yi. Here the step and the punch are simultaneous, both arriving at the same moment. At first this is a difficult one to pick up. But when applied, it creates a technique that is fast and, since everything is moving in unison, very firm.

Finally, the fourth way, which is quite advanced . This is where you start by throwing your fist—or weapon—first, then following with a step. Sound familiar? Isn’t this similar to the untrained way? Ah, but he difference this time is that you have been trained, so now you know exactly how to do this step in the most appropiate way. For instance, you will use this crucial method in weapon practice, such as Kung Fu fencing, where it is a good idea to lead with your weapon instead of your face.

Any good martial artist can mix these methods. But, to really master movement, we keep them separate and practice each, individually. We must understand the time and place for each one. Even the “untrained” one can be useful if exploited at the right moment. For example, employed as a “drunken” style action, it can be a confusing delivery for your enemy to oppose.

Ultimately, we all practice movement by moving. Change the step as you will, but be scrupulous about form. Your footwork will naturally improve. Remember, though: beyond simply executing, movement really starts in the mind where it entwines with stillness (as I talk about in the next piece).

Jan
8
2017

Stillness & Movement: Part One

We’re having the storm of the century here in Santa Cruz. I see the trees in my yard bending to breaking, under a malicious, pushing wind that is nothing but movement one second, then still as a vanished squirrel the next.  I think of stillness and movement, my mind chasing them both down into the next three levels. Here’ s the first. . .

A Tour of Stillness

stillness and movement

If you are lucky enough to have a martial practice containing stillness training, you may find some new ideas a little hard to grasp. You’re able to stand still for a while, but you’re not sure what it’s all about.

Don’t worry about the metaphysics. Start learning at the muscle level (I know this will surprise some practitioners). Treat your muscles correctly and you’ll progress. The first rule here is “Melt the ice, don’t crack it.” If you find your shoulder tensed and lifted as high as your ear, you should not suddenly drop it. Instead, just relax and wait a while. Allow for self-correction, and it will come.

Next, you have the breathing itself. You may be asked to bring it in through your chest, lower it into your stomach, then allow it to rise back through the chest and exhale. This kind of control will be expected of you throughout the training. Keep asking, is this the LEAST effort needed to accomplish this breath? If you barrel your chest, tighten up and squat, then expel breath like spitting gum, you are probably forcing too much.

What do we mean by “too much?” I had an ex-student who was an emergency care unit doc. He had a patient come in with, everyone thought, third degree burns. They soon discovered that he had been doing breathing exercises in Karate, and just burst a bunch of veins in his face. It’s better to start soft.

On a higher level there will be training both internal and external, demanding entirel new skills. You may be asked to lift  the stomach at the bottom of the rib cage,  pulling the muscles under the rib cage upward and, at the same time, tuck in your tailbone. These internal instructions will create an external effect, holding it in a bean-shaped torso. When it all comes together, you’ll notice that you can hold this position for a very long time; you may even find you don’t want to leave it.

So the first goal of stillness training is to find positions, movements and techniques that are calm enough and integral enough that you actually want to stay there. At this point you have entered the door to a whole new set of experiences.

Next, movement.

Dec
28
2016

The Karate/Kung Fu Connection: Bubishi

Just arrived, TWO books: the premier translation of the martial-world famous Bubishi by Patrick McCarthy; AND more stock on the gorgeous hardcover edition of The General Tian Wubeizhi: The Bubishi in Chinese Martial Arts. The convergence of these two—the translation (Bubishi) and the commentary (General Tian’s Wubeizhi)—mirror the revelations contained in these two texts concerning the special creation of Karate (and Kenpo), and the often-neglected Chinese part in that. This is the story of Okinawan martial arts such as Naha Te, Okinawa Te, Shorin Ryu and others:  how they developed, and how they were influenced martially, medically and morally by the importation of this so-called “Bible of Karate.”

bubishi and wubeizhiThe creators of this 300 year old book are anonymous, the compilations diverse, with each copy differing from all others. And yet, the text boasts many secrets from the Chinese original, such as specific information on Dim Mak and herbs for violent injury.  We are able to read this story of translation and an expansion of its principles to fit most Okinawan fighting styles. In the sister book (General Tian) we have a new, in-depth hardbound collector’s edition with a major essay on the hidden influences of Chinese Kung Fu, medicine, ancestor worship, White Crane practice, and much more, along with a never-seen painted series of ancient warriors executing techniques and two-man routines.

Read about the weird circumstances that brought these two books to Plum.

Dec
23
2016

A Tale of Two Texts

So here’s how the story goes. It’s just a small anecdote about Bruce Lee (off stage) and Jimmy Lee (right in the middle). It’s also about keeping secrets and paying odd debts, with just a bit of rectifying humor in the bargain.

It starts with one of the first English language books about Kung Fu, authored by a noted west coast Sifu of the Southern style, T. Y. Wong. He wrote “Chinese Karate Kung Fu Original Sil Lum System for Health and Self Defence” in 1961. He also ran a school—called Kin Mon— located at 880 Sacramento St. in San Francisco, in the fifties and sixties.

Wong was traditional, at least in some sense of the word. He taught a southern Shaolin style of relatively little fame. He taught forms and basics. His school uniform was a version of the famous Jing Mo style with black satin and white piping. His uniform coat was distinct, with the hem cut in zigzag sections.

Among his students was a young Jimmy Lee. This was before Bruce was on the scene and Jimmy studied diligently for a few years. From Sifu Wong he learned the basics of Iron Palm training and is actually shown in Wong’s book demonstrating the general form, and assisting with some self defense techniques. Read more →

Dec
16
2016

The Bible of Karate

What is the Bubishi? It is many things, but it’s most common attribution is “the Bible of Karate.”

Why should Chinese stylists take an interest in a book that is fundamental to an Okinawan art? Because a closer look at this remarkable text opens up a widely different estimation, one that is both more expansive, less secular, and most certainly pertinent to traditional Chinese Wushu.

It’s true that the word ‘bible’ might imply a proscribed code, the basis—in this case—for a style that traveled from Okinawa to Japan, and elsewhere. But a ‘bible’ can be more than that: a multi-authored text, a compilation of different voices, records and accounts, and not necessarily the same compilation in every edition.

This Bubishi closely resembles this collection of texts. Historically, it had no single name, sometimes going by The White Crane Records, or The Bubishi or, in the case of this newly discovered version, the General Tian Wubeizhi. Although we don’t know its common nickname, we do know that it was born in China and raised in Okinawa—in Ryukyu, to be exact, the center for Chinese learning on this island. It was originally written in classical Chinese, and contained simple but wonderful pen-and-ink illustrations of figures practicing martial arts techniques, two-person routines and, perhaps most importantly, medical information in the form of Chinese anatomical charts and hand-drawn herbal lists and identifiers. Read more →