Wing Chun Wednesday 19-03-2014


Sigung Chu {L} Bong Sau over 90.
Sigung Chu and Sifu Fung.

Chi Sau is often regarded as the Jewel in the Crown of Wing Chun training, and as such it  seems that many Schools are more concerned with proving its value than teaching its role. Claims are made that seem more like advertising than anything else, especially if your only source of information comes from a Masters writing, YouTube or some other non personal communication.       Like this Blog perhaps.

In my Sifu’s Blue Book he says that..

Sticking hands is the process of constantly searching for openings and hitting through as soon as you come into contact with the opponents arms, you maintain close contact and can therefore keep him under control. Sticking hands is a really useful fighting skill because it enables you to automatically continue regardless of whether your strikes are blocked this relies on fluid continuous forward force and the correct application of hand trapping movements, hand trapping effectively immobilises the opponent it only breaks his defences but also stops him from any further attacks. 

This is not completely consistent with what my Sifu said during “Hands On training” he would say that Chi Sau was just a Drill and apart from helping you how to understand how to avoid and absorb incoming force had no practicable purpose, he would refer to it as how Wing Chun people play. He would of course mention the above thinking but in very specific contexts and not general application.

On Samuel Kwok’s site he says that…

“Chi Sau is there to make you a better fighter. It is a means to an end. Being good at Chi Sau itself does not make you a good fighter, Chi Sau is there to help you practice applying techniques and theories you learn in the hand forms. When you get in a fight you can’t solve it by asking your opponent to Chi Sau. But hopefully Chi Sau has given you a chance to practice techniques and theory’s against lots off different people (of different size and shape) so you know what is effective and you know what makes you vulnerable.”

Sam Kwok is taking the “Middle Ground” here but the overlying feeling is “look how good Chi Sau is and what it can do for you”. It is still more a selling point than a training aid.

I am not very keen on either of the above approaches, my Sifu’s or Samuel Kwok’s because it leads Students down a very narrow path, a path that assumes they are in some sort of control during what will be a chaotic situation, with an opponent that is so slow they have ability to make choices and it puts Chi Sau in a Box that is much too small for it, encourages Students to follow instead of search, and ultimately to try to utilise something in a way that it was quite possibly never intended for.

My own feelings about Chi Sau are, to be expected, in line with my Sifu’s, that it has no practicable purpose, it is simply a Drill, and in fact it could very well be considered no more than another Wing Chun Form, a method of storing the system’s moves for later use and for passing trusted information on to others down through the years.

Does Chi Sau benefit your Fighting Ability?

I believe it helps, and often in ways that Students do not envisage, this fact, the hidden benefits, becomes problematic as it can lead to Students misunderstanding what the “Core Values” of the Drill are, ignoring aspects that are very real and valuable in a Fight in favour of the things  my Sifu regarded as Wing Chun playing.

Especially in issues relating to positioning it can lead people to instinctively trust very dangerous ineffective positions while completely ignoring the main lesson.

Something that we must always take into account is that very few people enjoy supervised training for more than 3 – 4 hours a week, when you consider how much of this time is spent in other things besides Chi Sau it is easy to see how the “Baby is getting thrown out with the Bath Water”, how the important “Learning Objectives” can very easily be missed completely in favour of becoming a better Chi Sau player, often where you do your playing is in a social position and not a realistic place to defend from.

Check out these earlier posts on Zones

The Close Talker..    Comfort Zones and Training.   Twighlight Zone.

I do think that Chi Sau is valuable, I think that it is a fantastic Tool for improving Fighting Skill, but Chi Sau is not a Box of Corn Flakes, you will not find this Skill tumbling into your Breakfast one morning without warning, Chi Sau is much more like a Laboratory, and you will only get the results back from the tests you run yourself.

There are some very basic aspects of Fighting that are not even considered by many Students in the practice of Chi Sau {and this should be obvious to anyone that has actually experienced Violence}, practices that once studied bring up more reasons for why Chi Sau would not work out on the Street than why it would work, these artefacts do not make Chi Sau wrong, but they should make you adjust your thinking about what is being taught and what you should hope to learn from it.

One of the core principals in Wing Chun, as I am sure you all know is “Simultaneous Attack and Defence”, so here we are in Chi Sau, with both Arms on our Partner…..?

There is great value to be had in every aspect of Chi Sau if you know what to look for, and great peril if you do not look for the right stuff and instead focus on the playing.

When I was first introduced to Chi Sau I was told that it helped us deal with random attacks due to the random nature of Chi Sau itself, but my observations over the past 20 years have not verified this at all, on the contrary once Students become familiar with Chi Sau it is in fact very ordered and not random at all, when I would try to bring in something random such as rolling with both of my Arms in the outside Gate or both Arms on the inside Gate people would immediately try to get back to the usual pattern of one Arm in each Gate and accuse me of messing around. The pattern of rolling may be complex but it is not random.

I am of the opinion that the first and most important aspect to gain from Chi Sau is an intimate understanding of the relative position of your Partner, no one should be able to make Hand contact with your Body from the Basic Rolling position, this is “Line in the Sand Territory” once someone comes inside this Space you are in Danger of being hit and need to act, being aware of this distance is a safety mechanism, yet many Students do all of their Rolling in a position where contact can be easily made.

If Chi Sau does imprint our training on our Nervous System, as many believe, this practice is teaching your Nervous System not to react when someone is close enough to hit you, if you ever find yourself in a Street Situation,from this range you will be Sucker Punched, if you manage to avoid a Sucker Punch things will deteriorate very quickly and it soon becomes a Wrestling Match, despite the fact that a lot of Chi Sau ends up looking like a Wrestling Match the actions practiced in Chi Sau are unsuited to stop a Grappler.

If you walk in to any Wing Chun School and see people Rolling it is usually a very social thing, the Students will be rolling away and having a chat {it would be interesting if we could find out what was remembered afterwards, the rolling or the conversation}, or else people will be exchanging Slaps and Taps and pushing each other around it is rare that Students use Chi Sau to find how to develop a “Position of Dominance” and finish off the Partner, it is more often both people doing their own thing, no one role plays Good Guy – Bad Guy and looks for a finish, it just goes back and forth.

The biggest misconception that this type of training encourages is that a Street Incident is between 2 people, you and the Bad Guy, it isn’t, it is just about 1 person, it is an attack,the Bad guy is not looking for a contest.

To take your Chi Sau forward and get the most from this wonderful Drill, training should begin with a Talking Heads moment …..

“And you may ask yourself…. well…. how did I get here”?



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