May
7
2020

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 →

May
5
2020

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 →

Apr
28
2020

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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Apr
24
2020

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 →

Apr
23
2020

Shaolin Sheltering: Weird Weapons

Among the first commandments for stifling COVID-19 is ‘do not touch your face’. This was extremely difficult for me. Spring is allergy season. It makes me cough and sneeze, and the last thing I want to be right now is a coughing sneezing Asian. What’s more, my nose is always itchy. To keep from scratching, I need one of those pet cones. The official term for those is ‘Elizabethan collars’ but I’ve called them ‘cones of shame’ in the wake of the movie Up (2009). The Chinese actually have such a thing. It’s called a cangue, a word derived from the old Portuguese canga meaning ‘yoke.’ It’s called jia (枷) in Mandarin. Used for prisoners, a cangue is a wide heavy wooden collar about a yard square like a flat Elizabethan collar for humans. If you are imprisoned in one, you cannot feed yourself or touch your face. It’s a torture. Just imagine the agony if you weren’t free to pick… I mean ‘scratch’… your nose because your neck was cuffed by a cangue-of-shame.

A legendary Kung Fu hero fought in a cangue – Wu Song (武松), a fictional character from the 14th century classic Outlaws of the Marsh. This epic has 108 heroes very loosely based on historical figures alongside fantasy ones, akin to British tales of King Arthur or Robin Hood. Among those 108, Wu Song stands out as one of the most beloved, in part because he was a drunken master and readers love irreverent boisterous drunks. He’s famous for killing a tiger after drinking 18 bowls of wine (the limit was 3 because it was especially strong, but no one had the courage to refuse Wu Song another round).  If you see a Chinese painting of a bearded warrior pummeling a tiger, that’s Wu Song. There was also famous incident where Wu Song had to escape his captors who planned to murder him while he was restrained in a cangue. Read more →

Apr
22
2020

Yes, We’re Shipping!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not to mention that Linda has also repurposed our overstock of yellow sashes.

Apr
21
2020

The Simple Art of Breathing

This simple method of breathing works well for people practicing Chinese martial arts, Chinese medicine, meditation and what is commonly referred to as Qigong (Chi Kung). We call it simple, but it is also profound; as it relates the physical act of inhalation and exhalation with the mind’s intent, keeping a special focus on a most familiar activity. A little investment of time each day is all you need to start, and, unlike more rigorous approaches, this one will never hurt you. Try it!

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Apr
17
2020

Special Knowledge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week we offer an unusual mix aimed mostly at more advanced information, each in its respective art.

For instance the many insights of Yang style Tai Chi Chuan performed by Lin MoGen are embodied in an unusually relaxed and natural version that takes over an hour to perform.

Jiang JianYe shows  a Chen Tai Chi short stick developed by Chen style Tai Chi teacher, Chen Shen Pu. This is a medium sized form with most of the major actions using this favorite weapon.

Finally, we again visit Benny Meng who collects history, application and detailed instructions to improve your Wooden Man training.

Apr
11
2020

Copper Whiskers

    This is an article about one of the great weapons, a weapon that has been employed in real combat but which is also considered an instrument of beauty and style. People react variously to a two-edged straight sword; some see its performance as art. This is rare. Traditionally, scholars wore a straight sword to blend the literary with the martial. It is said, that Confucius wore a sword for just this reason. It is not typically a battlefield weapon, but those who protected their villages commonly wielded the two-edged blade with authority. Today, most who pick up this weapon say they are “playing the straight sword,” and, despite their concentrated practice, its simply for the pleasure of moving it. And there is more I want to say about the straight sword, but I’ll put that off until later.

There’s a certain level of elevated skill that comes with each weapon. Here’s a comparison of the straight sword to its fellows: Staff 100 days; Saber 1000 days; Sword 10 000 days. Read more →

Apr
10
2020

Shaolin Sheltering

L-R Sifu Ted Mancuso, Sifu Linda Darrigo and Gene Ching with Sifu Lam. Photo is from a Kung Fu demonstration they did in the mid 80s.

Master Ted Mancuso, the proprietor of Plum Publications and founder of the Academy of Martial and Internal Arts, is my elder Kung Fu brother, or my Sihing (師兄) in Cantonese. We both trained in Northern Shaolin Kung Fu (Bak Sil Lum 北少林) under Grandmaster Kwong Wing Lam and our friendship spans nearly four decades now. Master Ted graciously allows me train alongside his students, my martial nieces and nephews, or my Sijat (again in Cantonese 師侄 – it’s not the same in Mandarin), and I’m very grateful to be part of his Academy. Thanks to Ted’s foresight, the Academy closed just ahead of California’s Shelter-in-Place order, so it’s been several weeks since we’ve held class. The Academy sits across the street from Dominican Hospital; During our last sessions in April, we could see them setting up emergency tents in preparation for the inevitable crisis. So we knew this was coming. We just didn’t fully understand the impact yet. And we still don’t.

What I do know is that the order has had a tremendous impact on my practice as I’m sure it has for everyone. Staying healthy and being out of work is a more pressing concern, but I really miss class. Ideally, isolation should not inhibit Kung Fu, especially not for Shaolin proponents because our roots lie in renunciates. The lone monk studying snakes, cranes and mantids to penetrate mystic martial secrets while living a solitary life high atop a sacred mountain is a romantic image we all share. While I’m no monk, I do have a daily regimen that I practice in solitude like any serious martial artist. And now that I have more time, I’ve expanded that to fill the gap. Unfortunately, I’m not on a mountaintop. I’m sheltering at home where I don’t have a yard that works for working out, but I’ve rearranged the furniture in my living room to make more space. At Shaolin Temple, it is said that Shaolin can be practiced in the space it takes to lay down an ox. I was raised in the suburbs, so I have no idea how much space that is. Nevertheless, the forms I learned at Shaolin Temple fit, along with some others, just not many Bak Sil Lum forms. Bak Sil Lum left the temple centuries ago and has expanded into its own unique system that takes up more floor space. Be that as it may, this solo training at home just isn’t the same as class at the Academy. Read more →

Apr
2
2020

A Martial Artist Washes His Hands

Right now we’re all awash in the best methods of sanitizing our hands, so why not have some fun with it? We did! Get down and dirty (um, I mean clean) with a kung fu teacher who knows his hand positions.

Apr
2
2020

From Principle to Practice

Hello out there. We hope this finds you all safe and healthy.

12 animal xing yi

12 Animal Xing Yi Lecture

10 Animal Xing Yi Lecture

Feng Zhi Qiang

Complete Introduction to 24 Move Taijiquan

Wu (Hao) Style Taijiquan Self-Defense

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s offerings range from theory to practice: two DVD lectures from the George Xu group on 10 Animal and 12 Animal Xing Yi, presented by Qian Zhao Hong and Jiang Bao Kang, respectively; two instructional texts, one on Wu (Hao) style and the other on Chen style Taijiquan. The two books are actually restocks that were unavailable for a long period, but we have found once again. The one by Sifu Feng Zhi Qiang has been particularly popular when available.

The two DVDs derive from the camps hosted by George Xu and his group in Colorada and California. These DVDs, whether featuring Xu himself, or hs colleagues, stand out in general as presenting high-level information from important teachers.

We are still operating and shipping daily, both domestically and internationally. As many of you have written to us, this self-quarantine at least provides some additional time for practice. We’d like to hear (and share) how you are getting along. You are dear to us.

Mar
30
2020

Beng Jin: Kung Fu’s Hidden Skill

Here’s a new short video on Beng Jin (Beng Energy) that we created for our local sequestered students.

If you are a Tai Chi student, you have most likely heard your teacher lecture on this special quality, and are undoubtedly practicing this right now! But Beng Jing exists in all styles of Kung Fu, and is worth exploring, especially when your temporary opponent might be that nice fig tree in your backyard.

 

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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.

Mar
27
2020

Inner Circle Tai Chi Daily Neigong

Our illustrious and accomplished colleague and friend in Sacramento, Sifu Robert Nakashima, has generously created and shared his daily Neigong routine.

Running about 20 minutes, even just watching this video provides calm and comfort, although getting up and trying it yourself is highly recommended. The setting, the presentation, even the light chirping of birds in the background—along with, of course, Robert’s smooth and beautiful performance—all contribute to a real gift.

Mar
24
2020

Bong Bo Kuen (Beng Bu Quan)

Really exciting news!

We have been working with Sifu Tak Wah Eng to bring some of his valuable, out-of-print material back to our world, and we are happy to announce that his long-gone DVD on Bong Bo Kuen (Beng Bu Quan) is once again available at Plum. Bong Bo is considered to be the foundational form of Praying Mantis Kung Fu, and his DVD is one of the most requested on our site.

And that’s not all—we have been able to recreate the original poster that came with the DVD, a step-by-step chart with each posture of the routine performed by Sifu Paul Koh. A code for free access to the poster (downloadable at full-size) will accompany the DVD.

 

Mar
22
2020

Safe, Sound and Shipping

Dear friends,

Just a note to let you know that we at Plum are all healthy and safe and still open for correspondence and business.

We are monitoring the shipping situation around the world and, so far, packages are being delivered, although it may take a few extra days to receive them.

Having suspended classes at our studio, we have some extra time at home so, hopefully, we will be able to catch up on some cataloguing, articles and videos we have been wanting to post. We are also trying to produce some short videos for our local students, and we will post them here when completed. This first one takes advantage of the Rattan Ring as a training tool.

Please stay safe, and keep in touch!

Ted, Linda and Debbie

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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.

Mar
21
2020

Chen Style Taijiquan—A Tangled History

chen style taijiquanHappy to announce the arrival of a new book to our Plum catalogue, Mark Chen’s Chen Style Taijiquan: Collected Masterworks—The History of a Martial Art.

Chen has done wide and deep research on the origins of Chen Taiji, not an easy matter. His main focus is Chen ZhaoPi, but he incorporates other voices in the Chen tradition. He also follows Chen ZhaoPi’s life, with its many turns and trials. Not surprisingly, the story of this famous Taijiquan style is a bumpy one, replete with disagreements, claimants, rich recollections and foundational secrets of training.

Here is a quote from the book by Chen WangTing, who many believe to be the creator of six sets of Taijiquan: 
“Ah, in those days, I went forth in full readiness for battle…. I faced disaster many times! The imperial favors bestowed on me are all in vain! Now, aged and on my dying breath, with only a scroll of HuangTing to accompany me. When troubled, I invent boxing; when busy, I till the fields. I take advantage of my spare time to teach disciples and descendants to become outstanding people in fulfillment of their duties.”

We recommend the scholarship of this book; this appears to be a time of great opening up of these old scrolls, and if for no other reason, it is a wonderful opportunity to read the biographies of a Chen master.

Mar
19
2020

Free Livestream Qigong Class, Thursday, March 19

Next session, Sunday, March 21, at 10am PDT, on Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/953395301

Our friend and colleague, Sally Chang, sent this to us this morning…

With news in a nosedive, I decided to offer this Qigong class FREE for EVERYBODY. No experience necessary, I’ll guide you the whole way.
Invite a friend, and show up with whoever you’re holed up with. I think it’s important to have a spirit of generosity in these times.
(don’t ask me for toilet paper though..) 😉 It’s a stretch for me, for this introvert, to be so public. But my feeling is, if someone joins in and feels even a little bit more grounded and sane, then it’s worth opening the doors wide.

Let’s hold each other in a safe, coronavirus-free space, move and breathe and have a laugh together, and feel more balanced in a changing situation. It’ll be my first time doing a livestream so please be patient and forgiving if there are any bumps; hopefully the interweb tech spirits will be with us 🙂

Join Me and Invite a Friend Today, Thursday @ 5pm-6pm (PDT)

https://m.facebook.com/SallyChangAcupuncture.EvergreenTaijiAcademy/

Mar
19
2020

Intent

This is maybe not entirely martial, but is a beautiful demonstration of Intent.

I think it will also take your mind off of your worries for a few minutes! Enjoy.

“Meet the enemy head-on, and oppose them like a great cannon shot.”

Mar
17
2020

Southern Shaolin Fists and a Pole

southern shaolin

 

 

Three energetic offerings from the Southern Shaolin Temple: a ‘light’ fist (Golden Arhat Light Fist), a ‘heavy’ fist (12 Pound Fist) and a Shoulder Pole shaped like a long thick cigar (sometimes a cigar is only a shoulder pole).

By the way, these inexpensive VCDs ($7.95 each!) come with english subtitles.

Click each image to see more.