Sunday, After the Tournament

Kung Fu tournamentPacking up over a hundred books and DVDs, we departed the Convention Center Sunday, about noon. The two-day spread of the TC Media Kung Fu tournament had allowed us to schmooze with a lot of teachers, students and fans. We felt like we’d been talking continually for two days, but then again, conversations spin off easily when the subject shared is close to heart. The activity was energetic: sifus such as Liang Shou Yu, Scott Jensen, Byron Brown, Yang Jwing Ming, Bryant Fong, William Dere, and Wu Bin criss-crossed the floor; students bumped into former teachers, colleagues engaged in catch-up; we even got to meet up with a few of our own former students. The ear-assaulting booming music compelled an intimacy, where listener and speaker leaned in closer while recounting their tales. And of course, many numerous folk stopped by us to commiserate on the loss of Kwong Wing Lam, commenting on how much he had done promoting the martial arts community. Read more →


Family Resemblance

I’ve been asked to judge at the annual Tiger Claw tournament this coming weekend. One of the things unique at this event is that it will feature, in its traditional column, not one, but TWO, Shaolin divisions.

This is particularly significant because, for the first time, these two competitions will offer double examples of true traditional Shaolin. This may resolve the question of just what, exactly, is Shaolin, by offering two separate but similar visions of the style.

These two divisions are distinguished by geography. First, we have the SongShan mountain and Temple, along with local students numbering in the thousands. In contrast, is Bak Sil Lum (Bei Shaolin, in Mandarin), a style that, though it migrated from the North, did not earn full recognition until it reached the South; thus, NORTHERN Shaolin. Much of this transportation was due to the efforts of iron palm master, Ku Yu-Cheung.

A comparison of these two branches holds up well under our gaze. The SongShan look has a rough, almost magical, shape and movement. The key sets are performed with a raw power. In contrast, Bak Sil Lum looks like it has been sanded down, smoothed, sharp edges removed.

But the kicks, the timing, the power, the poses…all show a family resemblance that deepens in the way quirks and similarities show themselves as you chat with your newly discovered cousin. Lineage can mean a lot more than a vase given to you by a wacky aunt, which you keep buried in a closet for 1500 years.

History is a told tale. It is not a fact. That’s why it is so important. This family reunion is an important step and suggests turning the focus to similarities rather than trivial differences. Having studied and taught Bak Sil Lum for a number of years, I can say that Shaolin has it own presence, in any of its manifestations.



Coming Events

Plum will be travelling in May and June to a couple of kung fu tournaments:

kung fu tournaments

10th Annual Tiger Claw Elite Kung Fu Magazine Championship,
May 19-20, 2018, San Jose, California

This year’s 2 day event will feature a NEW EXTERNAL DIVISION dedicated exclusively to Songshan Shaolin – the Kung Fu directly from Shaolin Temple alongside Traditional Kung Fu, Modern Wushu and internatl divisions in such arts as Tai Chi, Bagua Zhang and Xingyiquan. On Sunday, three Showcase Championships—the WildAid Tiger Claw Championship, the Year of the Dog – Top Dog Championship, and the Ku Yu-Cheung Bak Sil Lum Championship will preside.


Third Annual Gathering of the Masters

Hosted by Grand Master Donald Hamby
Traditional Chinese Martial Arts Federation (TCMAF)
Monterey Park, CA
Saturday, June 23, 2018, 1 pm to 5 pm

Teachers and students are invited to participate in the Third Annual Gathering of the Masters. Demonstrations of hand and weapon forms, combat techniques, sparring, sword or stick fighting, push hand, chi sau, and other specialties will be highlighted and promoted.

For more information, email Sifu Hamby.


The Gift of a Teacher

kwong wing lam Yesterday we attended the memorial for Wing Lam, my teacher for a number of years. Over a hundred students and family gathered in the chapel to pay last respects. Many people crowded the middle aisle, most of them dressed in black or white, as per the formal instructions for a Daoist ceremony. The middle aisle was barely large enough to hold the river of people crowding forward, first to take the incense stick then to bow or gesticulate as did the man on his knees right in front of me. Finally people walked to the coffin to view and bow. I turned back, though, unable to allow myself to change all those images I already kept in my head.

Debbie and I re-seated ourselves. We listened as a line of people stood and addressed the audience while two TV screens showed images to highlight the spoken word.

Again and again, students and family stood to speak their peace. Some insights about Wing Lam’s humor, kindness and knowledge brought sparkle like the sun on ocean waves. The illumination was as scattered as bursts of fireworks.

And the same message kept coming through again and again: how much they owed Lam Sifu as a teacher and as a person. How much he promoted his arts. How, finally, near the end, he did not want to bother anyone. This was his shy side. I remember him telling me about a photographer flying up from Burbank to take his picture for the cover of Black Belt Magazine. It seems he was a frustrating model. The camera man wanted Lam to show some technique like subduing his opponent with a nasty “grimace” on his face. I asked him what he did about this. “I told him,” he said to me, straight-faced, “in Kung Fu we don’t grimace.”

And now, the next day, I get a package from Hong Kong, a new book detailing Hung Gar in media, including 3-D glasses and photos, wild colors, and many famous masters of the Hung style. Beautiful illustrations, movie posters, scenes from advertising. Original photos of Lam Sai Wing. My teacher would have loved these. It’s not an instructional text, but here it is, as a reminder. I am sure there will be many more. Those eulogizing him kept saying, “You are all part of Wing Lam. Your teacher is always in your life.” With absolute serious I can say I have never seen so many people, especially men, break down and cry as they testified.

A little later we burned “money” to help his spirit billow upward to the sky.


Wing Lam Passes: April 25 2018

kwong wing lam Sifu Kwong Wing Lam passed away today from kidney failure following a period of illness. His study, beginning at age 8, brought him instruction from top notch practitioners such as Sifu Yang Shang Wu and Zhao Jiao.

Training with him for more than a decade, I recognized a teacher truly concerned for his art. His martial background was exceptional, and his practice was unfailing. He was, without a doubt, one of the most faithful and dedicated of all the practitioners I have ever met. His attitude was strong and clear, a physical, moving inspiration to his students in Tai Chi, Northern Shaolin, Hung Gar and other satellite fields. His was one of the first video courses of good quality and wide range, expanding the extended membership of these arts.

His martial interest took him down many paths. Convinced that Kung Fu weapons were too light and flimsy he started reconditioning and re-designing traditional weapons to the point of making an arsenal of superb and highly sought after instruments.

His fidelity to Kung Fu itself, minus politics or gossip, created a safe space in which students could practice and improve.

The pictures, conversations, teaching and inspiration he left behind cannot help but remain for years to come.

Goodbye, Sifu.


Daoism, Sleeping Meditation & Beyond the Battleground

DaoismTom Bisio, Founder of Internal Arts International, offers us two texts dedicated to the study of two extreme opposites, both seen through the eyes of Daoism.

A Daoist Nap:
The first, Chen Tuan’s Daoist Sleeping Meditation,  is concerned with the relatively unknown practice combining meditation with sleep.

Battleground: The book on principles of warfare, Beyond the Battleground, Classic Strategies from the Yijing and Baguazhang for managing Crisis Situations,  uses both western and Asian sources to try and untie the knot that is war. Click images for fuller descriptions and Plum’s nicely discounted prices.

Friends! We have been posting a little less because we are working on new improvements to the site which—it is our hope—will make browsing, reading and buying just that much faster and more accurate. Just bear with us. 


Four Things Hard to Believe

martial arts principles At the start of your training, if you’d asked: “What do I need to be a good martial artist?” you might have gotten a list which included strength, endurance, patience, humility, Ben-Gay, and a good pair of shoes. What would probably have been missing is the word “faith.” But anyone who’s done any kind of long-term training knows that that pinch of faith can often be all you have to guide you forward. You can’t check out every situation or problem that your chosen endeavor might involve—sometimes you just have to rely on those well-tested “rules of the road.” 

Martial arts training creates dozens of these moments: whether the actual technique is functional and tested, or just a vague hunk of indigestible advice; when the move defies logic, physics, or just plain gravity; where that grain of truth is obscured by wrong usage, tall telling, or the attrition of time.

I’ve had my own concepts that—though now resolved in my mind—were troublesome and doubtful for the longest time. I realized one reason it took so long, was that my teachers didn’t always explain the concepts behind these counter-intuitive ideas. I’m all for tradition, but in my own teaching I vowed to reverse that. So here are four of my favorite puzzlers. In each one, I’ve ended with the solution, no matter how improbable. Read more →


Tutorial: Tai Chi Tips, Stepping

If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes at Plum, you know how highly we prize basics as the foundation of good movement. ‘Stepping’ in Tai Chi, is one of those fundamentals that you might learn on the first day of class, and which you might be refining well into your advanced practice.

We prepared a short, 3-part tutorial with Tai Chi tips on just this subject, with a special section for those players who may need to compensate as a result of injury or physical limitation. It’s not just getting older that affects our stride—Debbie’s 5 month recovery from a fractured tibia is testament to that. Tai Chi, as an aid in that recovery, had to be modified to her condition, and the first step was in the stepping.

For those just starting, you might find a few Tai Chi tips to set you on the path; for those already knowledgeable, maybe a reminder or two to keep you there.



LiuHe Tanglang: The Short Strike Form

LiuHeDuan ChuiWe’ve added a new DVD to our collection: LiuHe Duan Chui, the second installment from Teacher Jian Gao, exhibiting one of the rarer styles of Praying Mantis—Six Harmony Praying Mantis—or what some might call a mantis variation of Liu He Quan (Six Harmonies Boxing).

This style incorporates key points from many others, such as Monkey, Tong Bei and Liu He Quan. It is, what you might call a highly tactical style, with San Ti movement, whipping hands and, as in this case, strong Xing Yi-like movement.



The Yi Bone’s Connected to the Qi Bone

Tai chi intentQ: I started reading a book which examines the 5 major Tai Chi styles and uses quotes from the classics to show what they all have in common, and what is unique to each style. Anyway, lots of repetition of “yi leads the chi” and “chi leads the body”. I kind of always thought that, in general, it meant don’t let your mind wander when doing a form, but I’d like to hear your take.


A: This is a key strategy for Tai Chi.

Imagine two people given the task of hitting different targets, and the first person is a boxer. What he feels when he gets ready, among other things, are the muscles of his arm and his torso.

Next to him is the other fighter, an archer. As he gets ready to shoot at the target, what he feels is the projection of the tip of the arrow; and his string hand building energy as it stores explosive jing by pulling back.

When the crucial time comes and the judge shouts “Fire!” the fighter activates and launches his body toward the target. And the archer does nothing, just releases everything, letting his Yi aim the arrow.


What’s Old is New: 3 Traditional DVDs

Despite the fact that Plum has built a catalogue containing almost ma shen wu4000 books, dvds and vcds (!) we are actually quite picky about our products. We review a lot of material, choosing only what we believe will add to the martial conversation. So imagine how pleased we are when we are able to offer three new additions from the same series. Ma Shen Wu

These new DVDs all derive from some of the surveys conducted during the 70’s in China, a time before the contemporary wushu wave washed over the traditional. The first two present a teacher whose performance awed many of us when we first saw him, Ma Shen ma shen wuWu. His lithe, expressive performances always thrilled; these two new DVDs—an Arhat routine containing a catalogue of twisting movements; and a wonderful Traveller’s staff set with unusual legs—are great examples of his abilities as both a traditional and tong beimaster performer.

Finally, a fast Tong Bei routine from Sifu XuKuiSheng. This is quite a long set with great variation, and fast ‘tangling’ hands.


C.S.Tang Tells the Story of XingYiQuan

xingyiquanPlum has worked with CS Tang for a long while. And after meeting and spending time with him a few years ago, our admiration deepened when we found that his breadth of information was made that much better by the thoughtful depth he brought to his subjects.

His recent and new-to-Plum book, “The Mysterious Power of Xingyiquan: A Complete Guide to History, Weapons and Fighting Skills” is a perfect example of this. It is ambitious in scope, yet does not suffer from being a shallow survey; it includes Tang’s insights plus much source material to support its claim of being “complete.” Its language is clear, and its photos are many. We recommend it highly.

And, for a limited time, we’ve discounted it 20%, to encourage you to add it to your martial library (right next to his essential book on Yiquan).



Some Long-Awaited Restocks

It’s been a few months since we have been fully stocked on our “En Face Books” (the books in this series have English text ‘facing’ Chinese text). They are among our customer favorites, because they have so much to offer: A book and accompanying VCD showing complete routines in both Chinese and English. What more could you ask for?

The ever-popular titles shown below are now available again—as a matter of fact, the entire series is in stock as of this posting. They are scattered around the site, relative to their styles, so you can find them when you are checking out your favorite sections.

An even easier way to find them all is to check out our comprehensive list HERE, which is worth visiting on the off-chance you missed any of these great titles first time around. Enjoy!


kung fu books


kung fu books

Fan Zi

kung fu books

Wu Song

kung fu books

Tai Yi

kung fu book

Tong Bei


Randy’s Back and Plum Has Got Him

randy williams wing chunFor many years, Plum has represented the entire line of Randy Williams DVDs. But over the last year, some titles became scarce or went out of print.

Good news! We are once again stocked on the ever-effervescent Sifu Williams and his valuable commentary and instruction on Wing Chun. We have glowed over the years about Sifu Williams’ techniques, not to mention the engaging way he presents his information, so no need to go there again. But YOU can now gorandy williams wing chun to the two pages we devote to his work and pick up some DVDs that are on your want list, or that just pique your interest.

And that’s not all! We have also dropped the price on ALL of his DVDs, from $29.95 to $24.95, while still maintaining the 10% discount for buying two or more from his series.



spring autumn kung fuJust a short excerpt from Professor Kang Ge-Wu’s martial history, The Spring and Autumn of Chinese Martial Arts. If you are interested in the broader view of Chinese Kung Fu, this is a must have. It is the first—and only— book issued in English on the 5000 year history of Chinese Martial Arts, and Plum’s first published book. It is one of our perennial sellers.

Liu Bang destroyed the Chin Dynasty and went to HongMen to meet with Xing Yu. At the banquet Xing Zhuang said, “We have no entertainers in the army. May I perform a sword dance?” And Xing Zhuang drew his sword and began dancing. He intended to strike Liu Bang. Xing Yu followed suit, shielding with his body so that Xing Zhuang could not strike Liu Bang.” (From the Records of the Historian). At that time wearing swords became the fashion. On the one hand the sword could be used in sword dancing. On the other hand it could be a defense weapon. Later, wearing a sword became part of ritual. The Book of Chin records, “The etiquttee of Han Dynasty stipulated that the Emperor and all officials wore swords. Later they wore swords only when they went to court.

Rubbing of Xing Yu defending Liu Bang


COMMENT: So popular did the sword become that Confucius is said to have worn one despite not knowing how to use it. He reported that it made him feel like a gentleman. One of China’s most famous and beloved poets, generally known as Li Po, was an accomplished swordsman and his great colleague, Tu Fu, wrote a few pieces about the art of swordplay. Women entertainers were so excellent at the sword that they actually inspired movements for combat. For many centuries this weapon that balances beauty and skill has been a favorite of the Chinese people in general and Kung Fu practitioners particularly.


Verses & Thoughts

Geometrymartial thoughts

The shortest distance
straight spine

– Peter Thelin




Sticking simply to the point,
the sharpened sense which in us moves,
that subtle probing of the blade
might flick aside this dunce’s crown

– Simon Cowper

Read more →


Review: Essence of Lien Bu Chuan

Lien Bu ChuanWe want to congratulate Artie Aviles, James Man Chin and Nelson Tsou on two excellent reviews they have received for their book “The Essence of Lien Bu Chuan.”

We are especially grateful to both Nick Scrima at The Journal of Chinese Martial Arts, and Nancy Fiano, from the Xinyi Dao Academy and the World Fighting Martial Arts Federation, for graciously allowing us to reprint their reviews below. 

From the Journal of Chinese Martial Arts:

It is refreshing to see a workbook on Chinese martial arts such as the Essence of Lien Bu Chuan. It is obvious that the authors, Artie Aviles, James Man Chin and Nelson Tsou, have given a lot of thought as to how to present the manual to the public. Their approach demonstrates a deep understanding of both the historical and technical aspects of this traditional routine, “Lien Bu Chuan.” Read more →


Tony Yang & Bajiquan: A Repeat Appearance

bajiquanJust a quick note to say we are now stocked, once again, on Sifu Tony Yang’s elusive 2 part DVD on Bajiquan. Yang Sifu studied Bajiquan in the Wutan tradition with Grandmaster Liu Yun Chiao, in Taiwan, and has been teaching this for many years.

If you’ve been waiting, get them while they are here! And we also have stock on his other DVDs: Bagua Kaimen, Liu Yun Chiao’s Chen Abstracted Form, and Liu Yun Chiao’s Yang Abstracted Form (all taught by Yang Sifu).


Play Ball! No, Really, It’s Good for Your Martial Practice

martial ball exercisesIf I’ve learned anything in my martial career it is that knowledge never walks in a straight line; while wandering through a labryinth, things like to leap out from behind the next hedge.

We just acquired a new text, Ball Playing for Health, Illustrated (Nongwan Chienshen Tushu), a partial inspiration for Caylor Adkins text on martial structure. Even as Adkins focuses on several approaches, the martial ball exercises he discusses stand out in a box full of methods and practices. He tells us that he developed many of his ball exercises from this old Taiwanese book from the 20’s or 30’s, designed to improve health.

The old text looked classic—containing many early records of these movements—with directional line drawings that resembled a man playing with a laser light in the dark.

We did some research, hunted around, and found that a reprint of this original book exists so, of course, we had to have it. And here it is: Ball Playing for Health, Illustrated. Click on the image in the selling page, to see a few snap shots of what might as well be an astronomical display of juggling.


Chinese Year of the Earth Dog

Every January, we look forward to the New Year post from Narrye Caldwell, Plum’s resident Chinese astrologer. She describes this one as “quirky and irreverent.”

This year, we add something extra: A colorful PDF version you can download to your computer, or even print out and give to friends. Click link above for dog

The inevitability of change is a fundamental principle in Chinese astrology. And the ability to skillfully adjust to continually shifting cycles, is considered to be a longevity art. Wisdom tells us, that no matter what difficulties you are facing, no matter how hopeless or frightening the situation seems, if you wait it out, a turning point will come. The important thing is to maintain your composure, and recognize the moment when appropriate action will be effective. That turning point is now. Welcome to the Year of the Earth Dog.

Characteristics of Earth element

Let me begin with the element (Earth) that rules this year. Earth has the qualities of stability, nourishment, consistency, balance and harmony. Earth is related to the digestive system in Chinese medicine, and its function of selecting, through our appetite, the correct foods for our condition. When working well, our earth element effortlessly transforms food and thought, (everything we take in), into substance and vitality. When depleted we can get stuck, exhausted, lose our way, become obsessive worriers. Read more →