Feb
2
2022

A Lucky Red Envelope From Plum

Happy Year of the Water Tiger!

You are probably all setting off firecrackers and slurping up your Longevity Noodles, so we won’t keep you.

Just wanted to invite you all to stop by, visit Plum and place an order anytime from Thursday, Feb 3 through Monday, Feb 7, and we’ll send you a Lucky Red Envelope containing a coupon for $10 off your next order of choice*. No restrictions on products, no expiration date, no strings. Just our small way of thanking you —our amazing community — and celebrating the turning of a new year.

Be healthy, be prosperous, and practice well!
Ted, Debbie and Linda

 

* The Fine Print: Only one coupon per customer!

 

Jan
28
2022

All of a Sudden: A Brief Lesson on Speed

Initial Speed is an endless topic. It is a transformation of a moment. Initial Speed leaves your opponent still reacting to what is past. There are endless ways to acquire Initial Speed by eliminating the useless. Initial Speed is a marriage of the extremes. External keypoints may include posture, an alignment of the structure, the task to be performed, and trained tendons. The Internal fine points end up being a series of precise adjustments. Once they are acquired, they become nearly invisible and yet intensely personal to your unique needs. All training tips and feedback finalize, with hints and alignments necessitating a good deal of analysis. Expect to be surprised.

Initial Speed, in its most perfected form just…disappears, leaving the opponent trying to assemble what is already a lost opportunity. Speed is a marriage of all elements and, at this level, Initial Speed demands everything to be simultaneous.                      

External attention gives you posture, goal, balance, positioning. Internal attention adds your anticipation of the initial explosion, then the absence of presence. It’s a little like Lucky Luciano telling one of his disfavored henchmen to, “Be missing.” Internal and External, everything is connected with every thing, each checking each other.

Initial Speed is not a “sneaky” method. It is, ultimately, pure mechanics and balanced interior.

It’s like searching for the perfect golf swing, except rather than a few variations there are many, each waiting its turn. This is the difference between practice and performance. The training methods for this skill, too, are fulsome.  One of my favorites — accessing your own inherent speed — is what I call Reversing. It is easy to learn (though hard to perfect), and is based firmly on the fact that muscles contract.

In this training, extend your hand, palm down and about neck height, to a normal end position. Relax. Imagine a partner grabbing your arm.  Now pull your arm back to your chest, to a cocked position.

This is the movement. Now do it again, but this time, from the extended arm position, snatch the arm to cocked position as rapidly as possible. Relax, try to pull back lightly and precisely, but with maximum speed. Although you are pulling back the extended arm and hand, imagine the retraction is that of a of a rubber band, or something stretched, returning to its natural shape. Do again. Lift. Hold. Pull back. It’s not as easy as it looks. Repetitions will bestow more speed.

Don’t smack yourself — the landing should be swift but soft; anywhere on the torso is fine. This pull-back retraction speed is the natural programing of our species with the wisdom to FLEE whenever the opportunity presents itself.  With this approach, the almost immediate (retraction) speed increase will augment your actual initial speed.

Again: get ready, extend, then go like the wind. Get used to this because you will find that retraction speed often beats almost any other technique. This survival method keeps us safe from car doors smashing our hands, hot stoves burning our fingers, and tree limbs smashing our faces. It is so instinctive that you might not even SEE that branch until after you have recoiled from it.

At this point, perform a little consciousness magic. Take a relaxed stance. Bring your intent to your relaxed arm, maybe hanging at your side. Now imagine the danger — say, the car door about to slam — that demands you shoot your arm out and away from your body, with exactly the action contained in the earlier stage of retraction. You are literally linking your imagination to your explosive moment. Don’t hurry. Wait until you feel like it wants to strike. It will come.

Your body may be startled by this exercise and even cramp a muscle.  Just wait for a few seconds each time, then strike out with the same altered speed.

It is an old secret that, for ultimate performance, the brain needs to take a back seat to our older and wiser natural programming. In the early stages of mastering a move, the brain should analyze. Once action starts, critique is suspended. Opinions can be disasters, hesitation unfixable.  

 

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Jan
10
2022

Gao Style Baguazhang

Gao Style Bagua Zhang

We have been receiving some exceptional Bagua material lately, so if you think we’ve been a little tilted toward the Bagua circle, you would be correct.

Bagua Rubbing Bagua linked Palms Compiled, at least of this writing, is the last for a while, but it is a mighty nice offering on which to pause. Lionbooks, which has always incorporated class and beauty in their martial arts offerings, has delivered another stunning book: a thorough compilation of material on the Cheng branch of Gao Style Bagua Zhang, in the tradition of Gao YiSheng (Gao YiZheng). This book delivers rare texts as well as current teachers, and there is something here for everyone interested in this lineage, which includes Liu FengCai as well.

If you want to read more about it, or order, click the image to take you to the page.

 

Northern Style Monkey Fist

A quick restock note: A good customer wrote to ask us about a long-gone book on Monkey Boxing, and we were able to find a few more copies for him. There are still three copies left. Click the picture to take you to it. It’s not likely to last long on our shelves.

Jan
1
2022

QA: The Benefit of Reeling Silk in Bagua

A little while back, we published a short video tutorial on Reeling Silk exercise in Bagua Zhang. We just received a nice comment on it from Lyn, plus a couple of questions…

Q: Very interesting little video. The informal style of it made it easy to watch–& a disappointment when it ended! I always tend to enjoy (and find useful) little asides such as comments that the circle-size isn’t too prescriptive.

One question–what’s the main benefit of reeling silk, and must it be done exclusively whilst circle-walking?

A: Interesting question – and fundamental, but not necessarily difficult.

Let’s go back to the nature of Chinese martial arts which, indubitably, is one of naturalness. We may start with artificial punches but our fervent hope is to make them more natural. Well, there are lots of aspects of naturalism — one of the key aspects being rotation. You know, plants don’t come out of the ground in a straight line; things in the world aren’t actually straight.

So, what we’re trying to do is get our movements ultimately and, essentially, true and correct. That also means, as Taoist principles would say, that the forms and the ideas are picked from nature. Reeling silk movement is a natural movement; it could be you pulling a plant out of the ground, you could be turning the doorknob, it’s all over the place. In fact, if we examine it, we see that linear movement is the fake. There is no such thing as purely linear movement. That Wing Chun punch in front of the nose may look straight, but if you examine more closely, the elbows actually spiral as it happens.

To address purpose from this angle is simple, because there are almost no good martial arts moves of any style that are linear compared to circular. Circularity exists in every style, even Japanese styles. As some of my friends from Shotokan would tell me, “We have this, too; they just don’t say it.”

So, we find Reeling Silk energy everywhere. From the scientific aspect, historically, Chinese used pattern identification, and that’s what we have here. Rotation is one of the key patterns — and not just of martial arts moves. Look at the turn of the Big Dipper, for instance. That’s why Tai chi was originally called polestar boxing; it was the idea of “Look, this is everywhere.”

Well, where does that leave us? Using Reeling Silk energy while walking the circle is not mandatory. In fact, I tell my students at the beginning, “Don’t get into that. Just walk a circle for a couple of minutes.” But once you’ve walked that circle a few hundred times, my answer changes. Then, it’s like asking “Should I do weightlifting without the weights?” That’s why you’re there, and that’s why you’re making a circle. What else rotates your entire body? This is a complete body rotation; that means multiple and opposed rotations.

 

Watching my new kittens, I see that when they wrestle (that’s several times a day), neither of them do any motion that isn’t rotational.

 

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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.

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Jan
1
2022

Happy New Year!

Dec
25
2021

A Different Boxing Day

At Plum, we know that Boxing Day does not celebrate OUR kind of boxing. But it is so perfectly named for martial artists, we thought we would take advantage with a Boxing Day Sale. As a matter of fact, why keep it to only one day? Let;s celebrate with a Boxing Week!

 

10% off SITEWIDE, from December 26, 2021 – January 2, 2022 (PST)

Coupon Code: Quan10

 

Warmest wishes for the New Year,

Ted, Debbie and Linda

 

Dec
24
2021

Essence of Baguazhang Back in Stock

Just a quick note, since a lot of you are waiting: just got our copies of “Essence of Baguazhang: The Biography of Liu Yun Chiao” back in stock. They are going fast, but we did get a nice stack of them, so hopefully they will last for all orders…

And if you do decide to order one, use this coupon for a 10% discount on the entire order: Essence10.

Dec
21
2021

First Reviews of Hawk Split Sky Have Landed

Our new book, Hawk Splits Sky: Jibengong Practice, Bagua Zhang Mastery, is selling well. This is always good news to us as both authors and publishers, but the truly great moment comes when the first few reviews come in. Here they are:

The Hawk splits the sky arrived this morning. I have to compliment both Sifu Ted and you for a wonderful book. Very well written, informative, well done instructions and then beautiful photography. The Learning Bagua Zhang book has been my starting out recommended Bagua book.  This new book will now be right beside it for any and all Bagua folks as well as any practitioner of martial arts.   

All right, I’m done gushing for the moment. I will start on the DVDs next. (You know that as a “book guy” I had to start with the book!).

My thanks to you and all the Plum folks.

~TK

 

Received the BOOK today! Only a brief session with it but I can assert that the layout and photography are magnificent. My only regret is that it is not in hardback as it certainly has the look and feel of a very special edition!

The text is intriguing and really had the feel of a private lesson with a very senior and highly articulate practitioner. The tone of the text is excellent. I can almost hear a voice of someone who is extremely qualified yet does not talk down to the students but gives them high quality instruction in hopes that they will work earnestly to absorb it and integrate it into their capabilities.

~WC

 

Just received my copy. Just flipped through the pages, it’s a beautifully done book. Nice paper and great photography.

~PT

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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.

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Dec
15
2021

It’s Alive!

Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor covid has been able to stop our new book by Sifu Ted Mancuso, “Hawk Splits Sky: Jibengong Practice, Bagua Zhang Mastery,” from publication. But it’s not like the forces of nature haven’t tried really hard.

Nonetheless, the boxes of books and the spindles of DVDs are now arrived, and you can CLICK HERE to read more about our project, and to order at our introductory price.

Woohoo!

Oh, and for the first month (until January 15), if you would like an autorgraphed copy, just ask.

Dec
13
2021

Our (hopefully) Last Pre-Announcement of Plum’s New Bagua Project

It is storming today in Santa Cruz, California, where we live and work. Except for one small detail, the rain is welcome in our drought-starved area. That one small detail? The storm is delaying the arrival of the DVDs we await to complete our new Bagua Book/DVD package.

In the meantime, here is a short interview with Ted Mancuso on the project. With any luck, the next post you read after this one will be our shout-out that it’s now available.

Q: Your new Bagua book, “Hawk Splits Sky: Jibengong Practice, Bagua Zhang Mastery” is finally about to come out. I know you’ve been working on it for quite a while. How does it feel?

A: To be honest, I’m very happy that it’s over, but I also have a little trepidation. Of course, that’s true with all the books that I produce; I always wonder: Are they good enough? Did I explain clearly? Do the pictures work? Or, is someone going to read it and say, “This guy Mancuso is an idiot?” That kind of stuff.

But this book especially concerns me. (Jiben)Gongs in martial arts can be difficult, because so many think they know them already as, say, Basics, so they process the concept intellectually before they practice the Gongs physically. In other words, if I say, “This is a book on Jibengong,” some are going to say, “Of course. That’s what you need to get good at Bagua — that and walking the circle of course; Basics are everything!” But Jibengongs are not Basics.

The gongs that I chose for this book come right from my classes; they’ve worked for years. Some of the Gongs may not initially resemble Bagua — possibly more like Xingyi. Some of them may embrace too large a concept, such as Open-Close. Others, of course, will be easily recognized. But because Gongs are both practice and concept, they can be difficult to wrap your mind around.

Q: Well, in addition to the book, you also include more than 3 hours of DVD.

A: That was our idea from the beginning: to give practitioners enough real-life examples of using the Gongs in order to play with the concepts.

The two DVDs are meant to do several things: first, of course, to teach the Gongs themselves, then to employ Usage to incorporate the Gongs into practice. But the usage DVD…I have to tell you — I’m going to be interested in seeing what people think about it, because it is definitely not what most martial artists are used to seeing on DVD. Now, if they are part of a school, that’s probably exactly the way they see it practiced. The word “practice” is key to this: on the DVD you’ll see our two senior students practicing and working out usage; that means that there are lots of hits, but also misses and fumbles; not everything is immediately accurate. Nonetheless, everything is going towards how to use these gongs, or even the concept of Gongs, to get better at Bagua. So, I’m excited about it, but I’m also apprehensive.

I’ll give you an example: You will see that one Gong emphasizes verticality; another might emphasize Open-Close. You’re not going to see the typical “ ‘A’ punches, ‘B’ Blocks,” in other words. Gongs are practiced concepts, and to get towards ‘correct’ you have to travel in the land of ‘incorrect’ for a long while (not unlike Bagua itself).

Q: Well, the book will be here in a couple of days, so we’ll see soon, I guess.

A: Yep. Can’t wait.

If you would like to read or view a little about this project and Jibengong, click links below:

Jibengongs and the Bear Palm Gong in Bagua

What Is Jibengong?

Bagua Zhang’s Jibengongs

The book is not yet in our catalogue, but if you would like to be contacted when available (and you have not already done so) fill form below.

Dec
3
2021

Kittens, Newbies, and an Old Favorite

Sort of hard to believe it is already December. In-between projects and cataloguing and writing articles, we have been keeping an eye on our two new wrestlers, Uxmal and Notte, a 6 month old (kitten) sister act who have taken up permanent residence in our home (and hearts). When they are not sleeping or eating, they are playing kung fu: slapping, blocking, pinning, rolling…each encounter is a lesson. And their spine flexibility is the stuff of dreams…But enough about kittens.

Xiang Xing Pictograph Boxing

We have also been adding books! In this batch, we have a mixture in Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters: four newcomers, and the return of a much-requested oldie, Xiang Xing Pictograph Boxing, by Xue Dian. Check out the original “psychedelic” cover.

What else? The reprint of an ancient classic on Spear Play, Revealed Records; a book on a relatively rare style of offensive fighting, Ba Quan; a small text covering some of the Secrets of Shaolin Acupuncture; and, finally, one on the lesser known branches of Yin Style Bagua Zhang, a Cao Style Baguazhang Manual (Joseph Crandall writes about Cao in his translated book on Yin Style Baguazhang). Click the pictures below to go to more information on each book, and a link to purchase.

Much more to come before year’s end (including, it seems, the long-awaited new book on Bagua Zhang’s Jibengongs, by Sifu Mancuso. Shhh…don’t want to jinx it, but it’s REALLY close!)

Secrets of Shaolin Acupuncture

Secrets of Shaolin Acupuncture

Xiang Xing Pictograph Fist

Xiang Xing Pictograph Fist

Ba Quan

Ba Quan

Revealed Records

Revealed Records

Cao Style Bagua Zhang

Cao Style Bagua Zhang

Nov
10
2021

Sifu Paul Koh’s Tiger Crane Matching Set

Southern Shaolin Tiger Crane Matching Set

Southern Shaolin Tiger Crane Matching Set

So happy to see another volume in Paul Koh’s expanding series on Southern Shaolin Tiger Claw.

This one is special, in that it is instruction and background for a matching set, in this case the famous Tiger Crane Two Person Routine. As with Sifu Koh’s other books, the set is traditional in its approach, while containing newly arranged elements, maintaining both contemporary and authentic aspects.

See it here!

Nov
4
2021

Liu YunChiao’s Bagua Zhang

Liu YunChiao's Bagua ZhangWe received several requests for this book before we even saw it, so we are pleased to actually have it in hand. And what a book!

We have seen other memorials to Liu YunChiao, all admirable, but this book, Essence of Baguazhang, honors him especially by including both written remembrances, by those who studied with him, and actual instruction in his Bagua Zhang lineage. The color photographs are well-done and, unusually, muhc of the non-instructional text in this book is peented in Chinese as well as English, Spanish and Japanese.

A real treasure. Click image to read more, and to order.

Oct
28
2021

Zheng Zi’s (Cheng Man Ching’s) Taijiquan

Cheng Man Ching's Tai Chi Complete

Click to see more

Well, here is an event!

We have just added to our site this beautiful book from Lionbooks on Zheng Man Qing’s) (Cheng Man Ching’s) teachings, presented by Hong WuCheng. Included, in full-color photgraphs, are the 37- and 72- routines, plus the complete Tai Chi sword. There are also sections on Zheng’s fundamentals, and basics, approach to practice, foot patterns, notes from senior teachers, and even a section at the end showing his elegant calligraphy and paintings.

 

Oct
13
2021

Oct
12
2021

Sep
30
2021

Continuing Our Hung Gar Week

Tid Sin Kuen Iron Wire Fist Lam Chun FaiFinally, finally!

Yesterday we received our long-delayed and even longer-anticipated GORGEOUS copies of Lam Chun Fai’s Tid Sin Kuen book. To be perfectly honest, we were a bit disappointed in the printing of the first set, so we went back and reprinted.

To remind: Plum has become the official publisher of this important text; for those who have ordered previously, this is the same edition so no need to order anew. But for those who have been waiting for it to come back, now’s the time!

Click image to go to sale page for more information, and to order.

Sep
26
2021

Who Doesn’t Love a Price Drop?

Prices are going up EVERYwhere. It is undeniable. So the chance to announce a price reduction brings us real pleasure, and when it is attached to a fine series of products, that makes it all the better.

Sifu Donald Hamby has dropped the prices on all of his Hung Gar DVDs to $29.95 each, which makes them an even better deal. These represent classic Hung Gar forms and fighting techniques, and are some of Plum’s more popular DVDs on the subject.

CLICK HERE to go to the DVD page.

We also learned (shhhh…!) that there may be another DVD in the wings, along with a new book. Can’t say any more right now, but we are looking forward.

And here is a brief recent interview with Sifu Hamby about his early training and entrance into the arts.

And, just a mention that FINALLY FINALLY we are expecting the new reprints of Tid Sin Kuen from Sifu Lam Chun Fai THIS WEEK! As many know, Sifu Lam is Sifu Hamby’s Hung Gar teacher.

Sep
24
2021

Paul Koh’s Butterfly Knives Flash!

Southern Shaolin Tiger Claw Butterfly KnivesAnother great book just landed from Paul Koh: Southern Shaolin Tiger Claw Double (Butterfly) Knives. This beautifully presented text, with full-color, full-page photos, includes History and Origins, Fundamentals, Techniques, Maneuvers, a full routine developed for him by Master Tak Wah Eng, and a beautifully told story of a young man’s encounter with the knives.

As with all of Sifu Koh’s books, there is a good deal of consideration in this volume, for both form and function. It is highly readable and accessible. and we recomend it.

Click image to go to page with more information, and to purchase.

Sep
5
2021

Hands and Swords

Practical Qin Na Zhao Da YuanAdam Hsu's San Cai SwordAs promised, we have finally added the two latest great books to our catalogue: Adam Hsu’s San Cai Sword, and Zhao Da Yuan’s Practical Qin Na (translated by Tom Bisio).

A recent customer mentioned that it is not just the books themselves, but the types of books that Plum represents that excite him. We’re prejudiced, but the same kinds of things stir us and inspire us to (hopefully) add titles that really contribute to the Chinese martial canon. These two books are a perfect example.

The San Cai sword book is both beautiful and rich with important content: Hsi Shifu demonstrates the single and the partner routines, as well as usage, and it the perfect companion to his 4-DVD series on this weapon.

And the 3rd volume in the Practical Qin Na series goes deeper than any other book on the subject, including routines and weapons, elements not normally found in Qin Na texts.

Click each image to get more information and to purchase.