Apr
14
2021

Tai Chi Training Secrets: How Do You Practice Martially, When You Are By Yourself?

A recent letter from one of our favorite correspondents, Gary Shapiro, put the question: “We spoke about how practicing taiji with the martial aspects in mind enhances it’s health effects. So— how does that work?  Can one practice “martially” solo? (and how?).”

In our newest video, Sifu Ted answers this and offers some training tips for integrating martial aspects into Tai Chi practice.

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Apr
1
2021

Young Forest, Traditional Skill Northern Shaolin Vol. #2

Wing Lam on Northern Shaolin (Bak Sil Lum)Plum is experiencing a plentiful Spring this year, starting with the reappearance of Sifu Bow Sim Mark’s early works; then the masterful new edition on White Crane from GM Lee and Master Bernard; and now the long-awaited second volume of Shifu Wing Lam’s compendium on Northern Shaolin (Bak Sil Lum).

Although there is much here to gain for any traditional Chinese martial artist, Northern Shaolin practitioners in particular will be pleased to see discussions and names for the ten traditional hand sets, not to mention several weapons routines. There are also sections on techniques and methods not commonly known.

We applaud the influx into martial literature of the teacher sharing more personal insights and approaches. Youtube can deliver 10,000 performances, but the more intimate thoughts and details inherent in a lineage are still relatively absent. Books like these are welcome and needed.

To get a more comprehensive look into this book, CLICK HERE for the Table of Contents.

 

Mar
28
2021

NEW! Authentic White Crane Kung Fu Book

In traditional Kung Fu, we often talk about the shape of an Art, although that shape cannot always be easily defined. It might include a short list of specific qualities, a couple of hard-won principles, certain approaches to its qigong, methods learned from its secret songs…It is elusive and typically closely-held. The experienced eye might detect it when it is present, but it is uncommon to know its many aspects.

Which is why we are especially excited to announce the arrival of the new book on Flying Crane Kung Fu from Grandmaster Lee Joo-Chian and Master Lorne Bernard. Grandmaster Lee, who died in late 2020, has given the Kung Fu world a real treasure: a generous look at the elements that make up this family system, one of the original branches of the White Crane system. He and Sifu Bernard have gone to the heart of the style, telling the old stories and offering insight into this traditional martial art, from breathing patterns to staff fighting techniques. They have included the formulas and verses that were previously secret, the songs that tell how to think about an art. The photographs alone are worth the price. It is truly a remarkable work.

We could go on, but you can read more HERE, as well as get a good look at the breadth and depth of this book through its Table of Contents.

Highly recommended!

Mar
21
2021

Sifu Bow Sim Mark

I believe that I first saw Sifu Bow Sim Mark perform at Brendan Lai’s 1984 All Master’s Kung Fu Demonstration in San Francisco. Those were the pre-pre-youtube days and, other than pictures of her in the Kung Fu magazines, I had never seen her movement.

I—along with the friends who accompanied me that night to watch one incredible master after another—never forgot the feeling of seeing her on stage doing Fu Style Tai Chi Chuan, and a beautiful sword set: flower in her hair, elegant, powerful, spirited, martial.

When Plum started, her books were some of the few early entries in our catalogue but, as time wore on, they became more difficult to access. Now, we are so happy to announce that they are back in stock, along with many titles that we were never able to get (for instance: Broadsword, Dragon Fan, Combined Internal Chuan, and a terrific collection of Basic Wushu Exercises). These are the original first and second edition texts. Sifu Mark is generous with the number of her photos and most, although written in english, carry the Chinese characters for the names and instructions for the moves, as well as other parts of the text.

We hope to expand the collection if more become available, but for right now, check out the 8 titles we have just added. We have a very limited number of Rooting Pine Chi Kung books, but hope to get more in the future.

 

Mar
7
2021

From Basics to Mastery: Jibengongs and the Bear Palm Gong in Bagua

As we have mentioned (more than once, I’m thinking), I am working on a new book/dvd project on Bagua Gongs, those special exercises that teach by principle and really infuse your practice with the flavor of your style (in this case, Bagua Zhang).

The project keeps growing, and looks like it is veering into one book accompanied by THREE DVDs! Well, at least that is a good excuse for why it is taking so long to finish. Anyway, here is a short video on a Gong that is NOT included in the book, but is nonetheless important as well as fun to practice.

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Feb
28
2021

Recommended Seminars

Ken CohenAs a longtime teacher, I do not get much opportunity to actually be a student myself. So I was delighted to be invited to take a seat (well, take a stance) in Ken Cohen’s recent online zoom class on Yiquan.

Cohen Shifu is all that one could hope to find in a teacher; everything from his research and experience with authentic teachers and material, to his unique presentation which is lively, understandable, and generous.

Especially if you are pursuing classes on Qigong or Yiquan, I would highly recommend Ken Cohen. One positive thing that the lockdown has given us is the expansion of high-quality online instruction, and you could definitely benefit from taking this advantage through some of Cohen Shifu’s courses.

 

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Feb
14
2021

Two Paths, One Road

Praying Mantis Fist (TangLang Quan) is a famous style with a distinctive hand position known as a “Hook.” Although I shouldn’t write “a distinctive,” when, actually, this famous style has TWO versions of the key hand style, each to represent the same special hook shape for the hand.

The first and most iconic version starts with all the fingers—including the thumb—pointing down, aiming to the ground, with a downward fold at the wrist. This famous hook ends with the palm drooping, until it is time to strike; a great shape for Chin Na practice. 

Praying Mantis Fist

Edge Hand

The other rendition also points to the floor but is based on a different model. The difference lies in anatomy. This formation removes the downward droop at the wrist, leaving the palm of the hand facing your own centerline. This simple difference in shape results in a modified approach to usage. For instance, the side drop aims the fingers down, into the opponent himself. When it comes in contact with another wrist shape, the outside of the pinkie cuts like the edge of a saw (which, come to think of it, is also serrated.) The wrist lock can create more holding strength but also, possibly, makes the second method more susceptible to Chin Na attacks, in the correct hands. The first way is easier to form, the second feels more secure. Read more →

Feb
5
2021

Year of the Metal Ox: Narrye Caldwell’s Annual Outlook

One sure thing: as soon as the calendar page turns from December to January, we start to get inquiries about when people will see Narrye Caldwell’s post for the Chinese (Lunar) New Year. Well, here it is! As always, enjoy.

 

Year of the Metal Ox—February 12, 2021

Let me start with a true story. Twenty years ago we had a presidential election that was too close to call. Everything hinged on a razor thin margin in Florida that showed George Bush leading Al Gore by a mere 537 votes. State law required a recount. A month of legal battles ensued, and finally a Supreme Court decision stopped the recount in Florida. This resulted in Bush winning the presidency with 271 electoral votes, one more than required, in spite of losing the popular vote by a significant number.

That winter I attended a Chinese New Year’s talk by one of my teachers, Lu Ming. Ming’s talks were always sprinkled with stories and clever insights. And this is what he said, with a sardonic
chuckle, about the election I just described: “If it had been a Rat year, every vote would have been counted.”

Well, here we are. The election we just had is the one Ming foretold. It happened in a Rat year, and yes, every vote got counted. This past Rat year brought much hardship, which there is no need to review here. But the one silver lining is, “in a Rat year, every vote gets counted.”

Overview of the year

First let’s talk about the Metal Ox. Ox qi is associated with the long view. The Ox is a yin Earth sign, so patience, endurance, constancy, and persistence are its superpowers. Remember that, because though there is much to be done and the world is in a frightful state right now, the new qi coming in with the Ox year brings the strength required to shoulder burdens, take on the necessary work, and keep our eyes on long term solutions.

Each year’s astrological signature is made up of the combination of heaven qi—which is Metal this year—and the Earth qi associated with the animal sign—in this case, Earth. From the traditional Five Phase view, Earth nourishes Metal so we have a harmonious energetic quality to the year. Think of it this way—the stability and constancy of Earth, when unobstructed, can transform base metal into gold. We have an opportunity now. Through hard work and sound judgment, we can recover what is precious and lies buried deep within us. So, noses to the grindstone, all.

Now for the fun part. Here’s a quick look at how each animal sign can best utilize this year’s qi. Read more →

Feb
3
2021

Dispelling Some Myths

Sifu Lorne Bernard reminds us to be thorough in our consideration of the Arts,  and to think reasonably. Don’t be duped! Here are 11 great points to set you on your practice.

Time to dispel some myths and have some fun!

Misinformation and lack of understanding have affected all spheres of human activity since we have been recording it. Those who know about various subjects often just shrug when they see how the masses often misinterpret events or misunderstand issues.

In the martial arts, this propensity to stereotyping and believing without proper research leads to good people being duped by false claims, fake histories and silly demonstrations of supposed skill. I write this mini-article to educate, perhaps with a little friendly nudge or a wink wink emoji type feeling, rather than out of malice or some other negative mind set. If you are easily offended, then that is on you and all I can suggest is that what offends must hold a grain of truth.

Again, my intention is not to offend but to hopefully instill the desire to analyze and reflect upon some issues related to the martial arts. So here is a friendly set of things I’ve always wanted to share. As I get older I esteem it is now time to do so and have a chuckle at the same time.

1- If you keep learning different martial arts, and always choose the latest exotic art that no one else has ever heard of, you may be an attention whore.

2- The old saying that “All martial arts come from shaolin” is silly and historically ridiculous. This being said, many systems do come from shaolin, hence the famous saying.

3- If a system is many generations (more than 6 generations) old, it is very unlikely to be identical to what it was at the beginning! People change, misinterpret, add, evolve and forget! 1Kun g Fu Shoulder Training @plumpub.com

4- Good traditional martial arts styles are living entities that progress all the time. If they become static, then they lose effectiveness. Experimentation ought to be encouraged, as well as hard study to understand the style’s true essence and essential techniques.

5-All schools expound the virtues of their art and technique. It’s called business. Now you know.

6- There is nothing new under the sun. It’s all been done before, you just did not know it!

7-The only master who never ever lost a fight is the one who never had one!

8- If everyone’s account of an event differs from your own…you might want to re-examine your beliefs. In other words, don’t be like the mother who notes how all the soldiers are walking off beat except for her son.

9- If you expect a fight to look like a kung fu movie you will be sorely disappointed. I will not stand there posing in a cat stance with a crane beak strike frozen in space so you can see it!

10- If you expect to see many of the moves and positions from traditional systems in actual combat, you will be disappointed. They are being used alright, it’s just that they are executed quickly and differently than the forms. For example, in wing chun they say one should ever see the Bong sao. In the flying crane style, the cat stance is always used but hardly seen. Long punches become short and hand techniques are so fast as to be hard to identify (well, if one is skilled). So there are two factors at work: 1-Are the techniques being used; 2- Does the person looking have the knowledge and background to determine whether or not it is so?

11- If your school claims to do traditional martial arts but does not have regular sparring… that is…odd😃

More to come!

Peace and happiness!

 

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Jan
25
2021

New Sha Style DVDs

Sha Guo Zheng Liu He Tong BeiIn between our filming and editing of our new Bagua Zhang book/DVD project, we have also been doing some cataloguing of material we have neglected. Two of these DVDs are from Sha GuoZheng style, on Liu He Tong Bei Roads 1 and 2.

From our experience, Sha’s work is always an interesting and, at times, deep dive into traditional Kung Fu.

More to come, but for now, enjoy!

Jan
6
2021

Chen XiaoWang Tai Chi DVDs

Chen XiaoWang Chen Taijiquan Lao Jia

Lao Jia

Chen XiaoWang Chen Taijiquan Lao Jia

Internal Practice

A quick note to let you know that we have a couple of returns back in stock…sort of.

About a year ago, two of the VCDs from the popular series by Chen XiaoWang went out of print, one on Lao Jia and one on Internal Practice. Well, we have finally restocked those two, but in DVDs this time. We only have a few each, and you can click on the images to get to the page for ordering.

And don’t forget! The January 10% off sale (for the entire site) goes until January 15, using the coupon code January21.

 

Jan
1
2021

Sage Advice for Martial Artists

Sifu Lorne Bernard, Director of the Shaolin White Crane Academy in Quebec, shares with us his short article on the importance of keeping a martial journal. We highly recommend Sifu Bernard’s Shaolin White Crane book and DVDs, all available on Plum, and look forward to his new DVD in the series, that should be available here soon.

One of the things I appreciate greatly about my Shifu Lee joo-Chian was how he insisted I learn and write down the names and steps of all my routines. He argued traditional styles have names for a reason and that writing down routines was essential. So, I painstakingly learned “kung fu Chinese” if you wish and made up my own way to Romanise or transcribe the words. We wrote down every single routine I learned. My Shifu often said that this was a key to training as it forced us to reflect upon the routines and the art.
Now that he is gone, I realize what a treasure this is as without these notes a great deal would have been lost. When I forget a routine, I can just brush up with my notes its very easy to do…
 
These notes or books are central to our knowledge as are (this is important) the secret details (or keys) not openly shared. Old school Chinese masters were afraid to write it all down so one had to know the little details or keys that were implicit in the written word. Of course training mind, body and spirit are also necessary. After all talk is cheap.
 
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Une des choses que j’apprécie beaucoup au sujet de mon Shifu Lee joo-Chian était la façon dont il a insisté pour que j’apprenne à écrire les noms de mouvements de toutes mes routines. Il a soutenu que les styles traditionnels ont des noms pour une raison et que l’écriture des routines était essentielle. Donc, j’ai soigneusement appris le chinois nécessaire pour le kung fu s et créer ma propre façon de romaniser ou de transcrire les mots. Nous avons écrit toutes les routines que j’ai apprises. Mon Shifu disait souvent que c’était une clé de la formation car cela nous obligeait à réfléchir sur les routines et l’art.
Maintenant qu’il est parti, je me rends compte à quel point c’est un trésor car sans ces notes beaucoup aurait été perdu. Quand j’oublie une routine, je peux juste rafraîchir avec mes notes son très facile à faire ….
Ces notes ou livres sont au cœur de nos connaissances, tout comme (c’est important) les détails secrets (ou clés) qui ne sont pas ouvertement partagés. Les maîtres chinois de vieille école avaient peur d’écrire tout cela ainsi on devait connaître les petits détails ou les clefs qui étaient implicites dans le mot écrit.
Bien sûr, la formation de l’esprit, le corps et l’esprit sont également nécessaires. Après la pratique est importante!😎
 

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Dec
28
2020

Xiantian Bagua Zhang: Gao Style Bagua Zhang Circle Form

C.S. Tang's Xiantian Bagua Zhang: Gao Style Cirlce FormThis may be one of the Bagua books you did not know you were waiting for.

C.S. Tang has produced another excellent and comprehensive text, this time on Gao Style Bagua Zhang. Tang Sifu, known and respected for his martial scholarship, has produced a large fine volume, inclusive of everything from origin stories to advanced training techniques.

As if that were not enough, Sifu Tang gives instruction on the little-known Circle Form from Gao Style Bagua Zhang.

Click the image to see much more about the book (and to purchase it at Plum’s delightfully discounted price) and click HERE to get a gander at the two-page Table of Contents.

A nice end-of-the-year gift to Bagua practitioners.

Dec
23
2020

Dennis Rovere’s Chinese Military Combat Series

Happy to announce the addition of Dennis Rovere’s 2 Volume (3 Disk) DVD series, Secret Fighting Skills of the Chinese Military.

Mr Rovere, an Independent Scholar who has both trained and taught widely in Combat Techniques, is also represented on Plum by his popular and authoritative book and DVD, Xing Yi Quan of the Chinese Army.

Check out his new material and Plum’s great price!

Dec
9
2020

Plum December Sale Catalogue

We thought we would try something different this year, and pick out some of our favorite books and DVDs—a few older, many more recent—to highlight for a December sale. Plum carries over 3000 books, VCDs and DVDs, so choosing among them is not easy, but we at least made sure we have enough copies to satisfy demand—many of our regular offerings are in short supply due to scarcity.

Click each picture and it will take you to the page to order.

Wujishi Breathing Exercises, Reg $16.95 / Sale $13.95

Blossoms in the Spring, Book & DVD, reg $34.50 / SALE $29.95

Liu He Tang Lang (6 Harmony Mantis 3-DVD set, reg $90 / SALE: $80

Spirit of the Stars: Navigating Your Fate With Polestar Astrology, Reg $38 / SALE $32.95

Mizong Jia, Reg $38 / SALE $32.95

Evolution of Wing Chun Kicking Techniques, Reg. $38.95, SALE $33.95

Ted Mancuso’s Weapons Book/DVD packages: Spear, Bandit Knife, Saber, Staff. Reg $27- $35 / SALE: 10% discount for individual volumes or $110 for the set of 4

Life Is Too Short For Bad Kung Fu, Reg $34.95 / SALE: $29.95, or buy with Lone Sword and get the set for $45

Lone Sword Against the Cold Cold Sky, Reg $22.45 / SALE $20, or buy with Life Is Too Short and get the set for $45

Malaysian Masters 2-DVD set, Southern Kung Fu, Reg $40 / SALE $32

You Shen (Swimming Dragon) Bagua Zhang, Reg $62.95 / SALE: $56.95

Falk’s Dictionary of Chinese Martial Arts Deluxe ed Reg $56 /SALE $50; Hardcover ed Reg $80 / SALE $72.95

Spirit of Five Animals Reg $19.95 / SALE $16.95

Dec
7
2020

A Perspective on Chi

More than 50 years have gone by since I began studying martial arts. In those Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris dark ages, all of us who practice Kung Fu knew of this thing, “Chi” (vital energy). Few of us suspected it would ever become so widely known outside the training halls.

Of course, “known” and “understood” are two different things. We live in a predominantly western culture, a scientific culture. But how many of us have a good basic grasp of science?

And Chi is even more slippery.

Of course, hard-headed, skeptical people want to know where Chi is, in much the same way advertisers ask, “what’s in your wallet?” On the other hand, some people with less intellectual rigor except Chi as easily as children accept the Easter Bunny. Read more →

Dec
1
2020

Let The Sales Begin!

Hey, we’ve made it to December! Yes, this has been a tough year, but 2021 is almost here, so let’s celebrate with some discounts.

Use coupon code December10 to get a 10% discount on any  orders through December 7, and we’ll email you another 10% coupon that you can use in January.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Nov
26
2020

Tai Chi Is the Fastest Martial Art

Q: OK, I’m intrigued—what makes Tai Chi the fastest martial art.

A: Of course, we have to first admit that speed is relative, but let’s come back to that. There are some very simple reasons that Tai Chi is so fast and, really, being the “fastest martial art” isn’t all that big a deal. But to think of a style that moves slowly and ends up being one of the fastest martial arts—that’s a special technique.

Q: What is it?

A: Let’s see if we can mine it for clues. The first reason is that Tai Chi’s attempts to go slowly help it to create a perfect map. Like an engineering drawing, everything’s got to be right; or an architectural drawing—there can be no sloppiness. Now, you will find the same thing in, say, Shaolin, but you have to wait longer, and if don’t have such a great teacher, you may not get it at all—that kind of precision isn’t for everyone. Read more →

Nov
11
2020

Becoming A Sifu

sifu

Sifu Ted, Sifu Linda, me and Sifu Lam, along with fellow students, Phil, John and Jerome after we did a Kung Fu demo at the County Fair in the mid-80s.

When do you become a Sifu? The simple answer is you become a Sifu when other people start calling you a Sifu. A more legitimate answer is you become a Sifu when your Sifu says you’re a Sifu. However, like many aspects of Chinese culture, there’s simple answers, and then there’s a deep dive. At the Academy of Martial and Internal Arts, we like those deep dives.

The title “Sifu” is a fine example of simple answers versus deep dives. On the simplest level, it’s the Chinese term for ‘master.’ It gets complex when you go deeper. “Sifu” is the Cantonese pronunciation, which sounds kind of like “sea-fu.” Master Ted Mancuso’s lineage has both Cantonese and Mandarin influences. Among his masters are Grandmaster Adam Hsu from Taiwan where they speak Mandarin and Grandmaster Kwong Wing Lam from Hong Kong where Cantonese is spoken. In Mandarin, it’s “Shifu,” which sounds a bit like “sure-fu.” Although Cantonese and Mandarin use the same written characters, there are regional dialect distinctions and vast idiomatic differences, so the comparison isn’t always an X=X relationship. This gets even more complicated, deserving of an essay of its own, so we won’t dwell on it too much here. At the Academy, we generally default to the Cantonese, most likely because that set the precedent in the 70s and 80s when Kung Fu was beginning to cross the Pacific. Read more →

Nov
9
2020

Bagua Zhang and Xin Yi Quan

Got in a short stack of great books—limited copies on each, at the moment, but thought we would let you know about them.

One of them, the book on Dai Style XinYiQuan, incorporates those QR Codes instead of including a packaged DVD, so that with a simple scan from your phone’s camera, you can watch video material online. Here you go!

dai style xinyiquan

The Secret Techniques of Dai Style XinYiQuan

Bagua Sword

Bagua Sword and Dragon Shaped Sword (with DVD)

Bagua Swimming Body

Bagua Swimming Body from Gao YiSheng lineage