Formation of a Wushu Student: Andrea Falk’s New Book

Andrea Falk Beijing Bitterswwet

Click image to read more and order

Plum represents a LOT of books, among them some real treasures. Typically, when we talk about the best ones, they usually share certain qualities having to do with technical information: a teacher generous enough to reveal principles, methods, even “secrets.”

Andrea Falk’s newest book, Beijing Bittersweet, certainly includes gems of instruction from her own teachers, but its treasure has a different nature: we are able to watch her personal martial development — as the first foreign exchange student at the Beijing Physical Culture Institute — while also observing the reconstruction of martial arts in China after the Cultural Revolution. This was a turbulent time, with politics playing a role in every aspect of society including martial practice, especially in discussions centering around traditional vs contemporary Wushu.

This is a first row appreciation of martial culture in China at this time, from a Westerner who was both challenged and embraced by her fellow students and teachers. As always, her writing is good, and her outlining of the politics of the day does not veer off into Western cliche.

We highly recommend this book.



The Role of Continuous Movement in Yang Style T’ai Chi Chuan

~Reprinted from T’ai Chi Magazine Millennial Issue, February 2000

At one time T’ai Chi was known as River Boxing (He Quan). The reason is obvious, even to the non-player. T’ai Chi’s smooth, continuous flowing motions move along like a gentle mountain stream turning and tumbling occasionally but never halting its fluid progress.

And to make progress in this art we often return to the set, as to a favored poem, to refresh our remembrance and to gain new insights.

Each of T’ai Chi’s honorable styles has a unique character. But the definite trait of Yang style is its emphasis on smooth and continuous movement. At first blush this appears relatively simple. Set up your metronome and proceed, keeping at an even pace throughout the form. But in a tighter view we recognize that the task may sound easy but, like that mountain stream, there may be a few slippery rocks to navigate. Read more →


Sifu Jack Yan Teaches Mandarin (Plus a Whole Lot More)

Sometimes, here at Plum, we circle back and take a second look at a book or DVD we rediscover in our own catalogue. Adding almost 4000 items over the years has, hopefully, matured our tastes and understandings, and we often find nuance and new meaning among the treasures.

Sifu Jack Yan

But today, it is not a stack of media we circle around to, but a person, a teacher and a scholar whom we have represented for many years: Sifu Jack Yan. Sifu Yan is well-known in several areas: for his excellent translations into English of his own teacher’s works (Sifu Chen ZhengLei is his Tai Chi teacher); for his own works on Tong Bei, Whip Stick, and Eight Immortals Sword; and, of course, as an experienced teacher. We have long been admirers, but just found new reason to expand our praise.

Sifu Yan is now offering a 20 week online course in Mandarin for English speakers. He has developed a unique system for teaching and, after attending the first lecture, we are excited to recommend it. The first lecture is free of charge and can be found here, if you want to learn more about the class.

But, wait, there’s more!

Once on his site, we took some time to explore and found that he also offers a healthy selection of FREE recorded classes on other martial topics, as well as a 41-part lecture series on the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching). His insights and approach are accessible, and because he has filmed these with his own students in mind, the talks also incorporate martial thinking alongside classical philosophy. Really well done! And did we mention they are free?

And for the long-distance student, Sifu Yan has filmed additional (over 1000) lessons in Tai Chi, Kung Fu and Tong Bei, creating an entire curriculum for those who choose a paid subscription. You can try these classes for free before deciding.

We encourage you to visit Sifu Yan’s site for great material, well-presented.


Spring Cleaning’s Treasures

OK, so here’s the deal: we already represent Sifu Zhang Guangyu’s excellent series on Yiquan in VCD format, plus we carry an entirely different series of his in DVD format.

However, our Spring Cleaning has revealed one set matching the DVD representation of the VCD series (but not the other DVD series). Got that? Well, we only have one set of these, but they could be yours! These 4 DVDs regularly sell for $63.80 (4 X $15.95) but you may have this one lone set for $45. They are still sealed, and cover just under 4 hours of instruction in Chinese, with clear English subtitles.

Remember, only ONE set of these…

SOLD! Gone! But don’t despair, there are many more one-offs coming your way.



Going, Going, Gone

At least monthly, we discover that Kung Fu books and videos that were previously abundant and available are now out of print. Unfortunately, we rarely hear about these things BEFORE they disappear.

Back in the day, Unique Publications was one of the two main American publishers of martial arts books, along with Ohara (Kodansha and Tuttle were the other two, with Kodansha headquartered in Japan). Unique was purchased by another company, APG, then APG was purchased by Beckett, a large publisher but not in the area of martial arts —they are one of the leading producers of trading cards. Their interests have veered away from the martial over the years; as a matter of fact, Plum has exclusive license to reprint several of their best titles that Unique originally purchased from Dan Miller at Highview, such as Xing Yi Nei Gong, Fundamentals of Pakua Chang, Practical Chin Na, and more. But that’s a different story.

Beckett will cease publication of several classics, and we have been privileged to acquire a select few for customers before they completely disappear, (and at great prices, too). Although many of these have been around for a while, we continue to find great value in their content. They won’t be around for long, but while we have them…(click each to go to sales page for more information, and to purchase).

Yu Wen-Mei’s Chi Kung

Yu Wen-Mei’s Liangong

Yang Jwing Ming’s Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan

Doc Fai Wong’s Tai Chi Chuan’s Internal Secrets

Paul Koh’s Secrets of the Shaolin Masters


Our First Love

Wang FengTing’s Practice Kung Fu

Wang FengTing’s Practice Kung Fu Leg Standing

Although we are smitten by many truly wonderful contemporary texts we represent on Plum, our first love was the older manuals: dusty copies found on the bottom shelves of poorly lit bookstores in Chinatown. These books telescoped us back to earlier times and teachers.

Now, more than 50 years later, some of what was contemporary then is now old school and, thankfully, there are publishers such as Lionbooks still seeing the value in reprinting classics.

The first book here, Practice Kung Fu by Wang FengTing, was one of the first books I bought back in the day. I still have that original copy. Happily, it has been reissued and we are so happy to offer it at Plum, along with another new acquisition, Sifu Wang’s Practice Kung Fu Leg Standing. No color inside, nothing fancy, but opening these provide a thrilling moment (at least, for us!)


Bagua Zhang Weapons by Liu Jing Ru

And while we are announcing new titles, we slipped in a Bagua book, a week or so ago, but didn’t shout it out, so here it is, Bagua Zhang’s Weapons, by the incomparable Liu Jing Ru. This thorough manual is a great reference for Bagua Sword, Saber, Spear and Elkhorn. We only have a few of these at the moment; in case they go quickly, you have been warned!



Why Practice the Tai Chi Sword?

If you are learning the art of TC sword, or even just want to appreciate the style, you have picked one of the great martial arts weapons. This double-bladed instrument — whether wooden practice or combat steel — is unlike any other in the Tai Chi arsenal. It encourages direct concentration aligned with movement — what we call “intent” — and we see that the sword measures up, internally and externally, to any of the Chinese martial weapons. Intent is the marrow of movement.

Hand a sword to a Tai Chi player, and watch her demonstrate the easy morphing from the artist’s role to the warrior mind set. With the sword, we are directed to be functional and artistic at the same time. Read more →


Spinning Bagua

When we think of Kung Fu and its long history, we tend to think of its venerable age, lineage, and established methods. But everything in Kung Fu was new once — VERY NEW — and innovative. Responding to environment, population and, most influentially, technology, these impulses sparked revolutionary changes, as well as temporary (and sometimes, embarrassing) fads.

Now, martial arts has inspired its fads. That doesn’t necessarily mean the material is bogus, but rather that the appeal to public interest eventually moves along, leaving behind a dedicated contingent of practitioners who, publicly or privately, cut new pathways.

Child ninjas — masked and black-faced — swinging from trees, followed by Bruce Lee’s cat cries, followed by Peter Max gi’s…well, no need to remind us of the things stuffed way back in our martial closets. Even Tai Chi — NOT the art itself but the way some people exploit its benefits — has attained a faddish following that makes those of us who practice in our backyards shake our heads at the $2000 courses that seem to suggest all Tai Chi is performed on a cliff overlooking a beach at sunset. Not to mention the obvious misappropriation of Tai Chi by pharmaceutical companies, using the art to sell their pills

So, what about the new kid in the guan, Bagua Zhang, the style many refer to as the “last traditional Chinese martial art?” Read more →


Hawk Splits Sky: Good News and Great Reviews

Good news!

Hawk Splits Sky: Jibengong Practice, Bagua Zhang Mastery is back in stock after selling out the first printing, and available to order.

 Good reviews!

In the shameless praise department, we are delighted to read what people have to say about our new book/DVD package. Here’s a new sampling:

It’s a masterpiece. I’m not sure Ted understands what a gift he has. To be able to write about such a technical subject, and make the reader feel like they’re reading poetry—that’s a rare gift.

I already have my favorite sentences: “The hidden or dark skills, like strategy and misdirection, stay as calm as ravens on an ancient tree.” And, “……Bagua Standing Practice begins with the added assumption that people are threaded like screws but have just forgotten that fact.”  

I mean, who else could write a Bagua manual that reads like an epic poem?

I’m both humbled and inspired.



I just wanted to send you a quick note to let you know how much I am enjoying your latest work Hawk Splits Sky!
First off the layout images and graphics are some of the nicest work I have ever seen in a martial arts presentation. But more importantly the Gongs selected were described in such incredible detail and presented in a way that is sure to add to any style of Bagua practitioners skill sets. When you first described the project I thought immediately of standard bagua skills like, Pi, Tuo, Kan etc.. The way you have the book/video laid out really lets you see how married the basics are with advanced concepts and skills.
Thanks again for making such a great addition to the martial arts community.
By the way, the new jibengong book is amazing.


No One Is Perfect: Books That Go Bump In the Shipping

Honestly, considering the amount of shipping we do, both sending and receiving, it is remarkable how few bumped corners we have to report.

But things DO go wrong, every once in a while. Take, for instance, a recent order from Taiwan. A few lovelies received minor bruises, hardly anything to rise up over but still, not perfect. So, we take this opportunity to offer these at a reduced price. Don’t expect open gashes and missing teeth; more likely, a corner will have a little bend, a spine might have a small crush, a cover might puff out a little.

To order the hurt copy at the discounted price, click the image and it will add it to the shopping cart. If you want to read more about each book, click the ‘Read More’ link below each one (but you’ll have to return here to order and get the nice price)!

In most cases, we have only one copy each, but we’ll try to update when sold.

Classic Reprint: Chu Hsia Tien’s Boxing Annals $13.95 / $10.95 READ MORE

Ten Sword Manual: $15.95 / $12.95 READ MORE

SOLD OUT! Essence of Bagua: The Biography of Liu Yun Chiao $49.95 / $43.95 READ MORE

Complete BaJi Quan Introduction $51.95 / $43.95 READ MORE



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!



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.  


≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈

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.

[caldera_form id=”CF5b2c06ab141aa”]

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.


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.


≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈

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.

[caldera_form id=”CF5b2c06ab141aa”]

Happy New Year!


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



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.


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.



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.



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


≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈ ≈

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.

[caldera_form id=”CF5b2c06ab141aa”]

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.


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


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.