Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday



There is a complete suite of mental intentions that we can work on when we play Chi Sau that are of as much if not more importance that rolling arms, however we should not allow ourselves to believe that these are fighting techniques, they are just seed trays for IDEAs, for creativity.

Everything we do requires deliberate intention, without it our Brain may not be able to help our body when needed, it simply will not know what we are trying to achieve.  There are a number of conceptual objectives that can be explored and developed through Chi Sau, most objectives are quite obvious and automatic once they have been identified, some are applied simultaneously even if we are not aware of them but it does benefit us to isolate them and become familiar with the concept.

Asking.  Applying mild pressure to our partner to get an indication of his state of being, relaxed, tense, aware or oblivious, it can be done with the hands or the body.

Running, if too much pressure is detected we can run our own hand away from the pressure to an unguarded area and strike.

Slipping. Similar to running if the pressure is too weak we can literally slip through and strike.

Leading. Deliberately reducing our own pressure to encourage our partner to move to a position we can take advantage of, can be just hands or by body movement.

Borrowing. Using our partners power to move us or spin us into a return strike.  This is the same as leading except initiated by our partner.

Uprooting. Taking our partners balance away not necessarily in an upwards direction. Glide them away.

Sinking. Applying downwards pressure through the bridges by dropping the C. of G.

Evading.  Using Chum Kiu shifting to bodily evade the line of force.

Dissolving. Using Chum Kiu rotation to turn away partners force.

Pushing, Using Chum Kiu rotation and shifting to aggressively expel our partner away. i.e. into a wall.

Dragging. Using Chum Kiu rotation and shifting to aggressively tear our partner out of their stance.

Shocking. A short sharp jolt as a push or pull to create stiffness in our partner.

Ejecting, {waving}. Using Biu Gee floor to arm wave force, Chum Kiu rising with shifting and / or rotating,  along with rapid angle expansion to bring about a dynamic explosion of force.

Swallowing, {vortexing}.   Using Biu Gee core winding,Chum Kiu sinking with shifting and / or rotation, rapid angle contraction to draw partner in.

As I mentioned last post there are many aspects of Chi Sau that only really have value when playing Chi Sau the principal offender being Gor Sau {trapping and light Chi Sau sparring} these are ways of developing the ability to redirect and tie up a partners hands in real time, they differ greatly from school to school but as they are only used against fellow students it is almost irrelevant how you do them. 

There is a quite widely held belief in some schools that Gor Sau is applicable to “Real Fighting”, even though some of the exercises or traps would work in a “Real Fight” why would we ever be in a position to use them?  If we have intercepted a strike with one arm as we always try to we would be striking them with our other arm and not trying to tie them up, if we found it necessary to defend with both arms we would be kicking simultaneously or just throwing the Bad guy away.

Playing Chi Sau is great fun and educational, there is nothing wrong in playing Chi Sau as long as we understand it is only playing.

Below is some footage from our Saturday morning training, Saturday is usually an impromptu workshop of some kind so I  have the camera running just in case we get something good happening Fly on the wall kind of view and then I post it on the Members page, they are a bit rough and ready, only really intended for domestic consumption but they do highlight some of the intentions from Chi Sau.





Wing Chun Wednesday




The Chi Sau drill is pretty much the centrepiece of Wing Chun training, it is a complex drill that continually evolves as our understanding deepens, it allows us to study and explore all of the shapes, movements strategies and concepts contained within each of the empty hand Forms in a dynamic and semi-antagonistic environment.

When I was training Chi Sau with my Sifu he would tell me “Chi Sau is a means to an end, not an end in itself”, this is probably the wisest and deepest lesson I ever received on Chi Sau.

Although Chi Sau contains all the moves from the empty hands it is mostly centred in Chum Kiu, we seek the bridge, and then seek to manipulate the bridge of our partner all the while supporting our arms with our body two of the central ideas of Chum Kiu, with regards to Chi Sau the other two Forms, Siu Lim Tao & Biu Gee can be seen as preparation and extension.

Most of us begin Chi Sau when we are still at the Siu Lim Tao level of training, this can create understanding issues that in some lineages never get rectified,  Siu Lim Tao is a CHI KUNG set that teaches us the very important attributes of Body Awareness and Motor Ability, it is a method of conditioning and preparation for the work ahead, S.L.T. is not intended to make physical contact, it has no real regard for the positioning of opponents or the directions of incoming force, Chi Sau done from a S.L.T. perspective tends to be performed in quite the wrong place and quite the wrong way for it to effectively and effortlessly transfer to real fighting.  This does not mean it will not work, it just means it will not work as well as Chi Sau approached from a Chum Kiu perspective.

S.L.T. inspired Chi Sau tends to be relatively static, both wrists in the centre, body still, Y.C.K.Y.M. arms at ultimate angle, it is a closed system that discourages creativity and creates an over reliance on the work done by the Bridges.

Chum Kiu inspired Chi Sau is driven by the body, the Arms are still a little restricted remaining mostly at ultimate angle but the ability to turn and shift the body bring about different relationships between our own bridge and our partners, the rotation introduces multiple vectors that can simultaneously push and pull at our partners bridges opening them up, closing them down and breaking their balance. Chum Kiu Chi Sau rotates up {cranial rotation}, down {caudal rotation}, centre out {lateral rotation} and into centre {Medial rotation}.

The Biu Gee addition of a mobile shoulder girdle and core activation adds diagonal and front {proximal} to back {distal}, back to front rotation as well as the ability to extend and retract the shoulder itself creating an incredibly unstable platform for our partners arms.

To simplify the explanation of rotations if we intercept an arm on the outside of our own arm we move it {our own arm} out to our shoulder line, if we intercept an arm inside our own arm we move it {our own arm} in towards the centre, to prevent this being a one dimensional single vector as we move out we move up { i.e.Tarn Sau to Dai Sau} as we move in we move down {i.e.Biu Sau to Fook Sau}.   The aim in redirecting any arm is to put it in a position where it no longer points at us so that should our partner try to punch it would not hit a target and is in a position that is difficult for our partner to apply their body mass to our bridge.

All Chi Sau practice should be task driven, it is training and as such we need there to be a recognisable learning objective, understanding what you are doing, why you are doing it and why it is working will help you discover how to stop your partner doing it to you.

Chi Sau sparring is great fun without doubt but we rarely learn anything from it, work hard on making one thing work, if you partner can prevent that try to find out why instead of just doing something else.

There is a complete suite of concepts, intentions that we can work on in Chi Sau that are of as much if not more importance than that of rolling our arms, I will go over these next week.

Complete Chi Sau would incorporate all aspects of both the Chum Kiu and Biu Gee Forms { if your training is sufficiently advanced it should also incorporate the extensions to these Forms brought in by studying the Knives and Pole}, it should contain  body movement that rises, sinks, rotates and shifts at the same time the arms should individually rotate up, down, side to side and in and out.



Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday





as baby humans play acting is how we learn to deal with the world around us, not only to survive but to flourish.


Most education methods in the modern world are more about remembering than learning, people advance to university by passing exams, they pass because they remember their lessons more than understand them, as a result we all know some people that are very well educated but basically dumb, as thick as a brick.

Very few education models teach people how to think, how to break apart a problem to be able to approach it from various new directions, how to learn and think creatively, and of course these methods become how people themselves choose to engage with the learning process.

To be expected we also see it in Martial Arts instruction, students just accept everything they are told without questioning its validity and get lost in the training, never understanding that the training is not the art, training is only a method that leads to being able to do the art. Being able to paint a horse will never give you a ride to market.

Training is just a map, and a map is not the country.

Ask yourself what is the core of my Martial Art?    What is it I wish to take from it?    How does the training I do help to enable me to achieve this?

In Wing Chun we have the Chi Sau drill or sticking hands, of itself Chi Sau is of very little value in application, I will go into this in later but for now lets just say it is a wonderful tool with which to explore our understanding of how the first three Forms combine to give IDEAs and options for fighting, especially if we can realise some of the Biu Gee actions.

One almost unavoidable problem with Chi Sau is that people very quickly get locked into someone else’s thinking, they trap themselves in shapes and responses, very few students roll two Bong Sau structures against two Fook Sau structures, very few students learn under arm Lap Sau manoeuvres and very few use Chi Sau as a way to learn creative footwork.  Another downfall of Chi Sau from the perspective of functionality is that a great deal of the training and the things we all work on are aimed at improving how we play Chi Sau, much of what makes for good Chi Sau play will never come up in a street situation, running palms is totally unnecessary in an environment where we attack and defend simultaneously, Bong Sau as deployed in Chi Sau is a loosing technique in a street fight, being good at Chi Sau may gain kudos in the Club but if we do not know how to use it to learn how to beat genuine bad guys then it is of little use.

This is part of the great dichotomy in Wing Chun, especially in Chi Sau and why the greater proportion of the Global Martial Arts Community think Wing Chun is a bit of a joke, so much of what we do is in a very real sense practically useless, it is no more than play acting, but as baby humans play acting is how we learn to deal with the world around us, not only to survive but to flourish.

For Chi Sau to fulfil its potential in our training we must know what we are hoping to learn before we begin and not just hope to remember what we were shown.

In my early training there were many of my fellow students that were technically better than I was, especially at Chi Sau, but once the playing became a little serious, as it always does at a certain level and I began to step out of the normal Chi Sau Box they would struggle to come to terms with what I was doing, they would say I was cheating, using strength or using my Judo knowledge they had failed to learn how to break apart the problem and find a solution, they wanted answers they could remember, they had not trained how to teach themselves how to solve rapidly evolving problems.   The complaints would make me giggle, because bad guys never use strength or use a different style.

What use is Chi Sau if it can only be used against someone else playing Chi Sau?


The problem of remembering as opposed to learning is exacerbated in a school like my Sifu’s that was based around gradings, progress becomes linked to learning and remembering the next Form,  the next technique or the counter to a certain technique, the path forward is obvious and unbending, this does little for creativity or spontaneity, it encourages remembering at the cost of learning.

Dynamic problem solving is not having 5 different ideas on how to stop a single attack but rather one idea that stops 5 different attacks.

Wing Chun in essence is very small, there really is very little to learn or master, but if it is approached as something to be taught and remembered it gets bigger with every new piece of information.

Chi Sau in particular needs to be seen for what it is, and not for what we would hope it can become, it is a way to learn ideas that we can take into fighting and not a way to fight, a means to an end, not an end in itself.


Learn the form, but seek the formless. Learn it all, then forget it all. Learn The Way, then find your own way.


The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.

Hunter S. Thompson


Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday



One obvious attraction of Wing Chun to new students is that there is no requirement to use strength, in fact it is frowned upon, softness and relaxation are the sought after conditioning. Observing a typical class you would be hard pressed to see anyone breaking a sweat or moving dynamically, no one applying effort.

I know there will be people reading this thinking  “He should come and train with us” but I assure you no matter what you think your Wing Chun class is doing it is nothing compared to Boxing Gym, a Judo Dojo or a Ju Jitsu Club, all of which I have been involved with at one time or another in my more than 55 years in the Martial Arts so I am talking from experience.

When was the last time someone left your class to go to the emergency ward  to get stitches inside their cheek, to get an arm relocated or to have a sprained wrist strapped up, over the years all of these things and many more have happened to me in the course of an ordinary evenings training.       In 25 years of Wing Chun training I have never seen anyone cop even a half serious injury, I have however seen a few people get a bit of a tap leave early never to return.

Not getting beaten up at training is in no way a negative thing, however training that brings no real test of a persons mettle is of dubious value in self protection, it is after all violence, fighting, we anticipate.

I consider myself to be a Martial Artist that now focuses on Wing Chun as opposed to an out and out Wing Chun practitioner, as a result I do not feel any obligation to uphold the opinion that Wing Chun is flawless and superior, because it quite simply is not, like all other Martial Art styles it has holes in it big enough to drive a fist through, often just being aware of the holes is all that is needed to avoid them, pretending they are not there just increases the chance of falling in one, any way at the end of the day it is not the style that gets us out of harms way, it is intention and effort.

There is a well respected and oft proven maxim in combat sport that states “Train hard so that you can fight easy” how does this relate to training that is soft and effortless?

As a fighting art Wing Chun becomes so much more effective if you have other skill sets that you can then apply Wing Chun thinking and strategy to, this is where Wing Chun really starts to shine, understanding that to win you really do have to go “Hard” and if we choose Wing Chun thinking we need to develop how to do this with minimum effort, not softness, the thing is that if you have no personal experience of what it means to go “Hard”, to go “Beast Mode” how can you ever do it without effort?

This is the disconnect that plagues Wing Chun, you cannot learn to be “Hard” through “Softness”.

On a more positive and encouraging note by using Wing Chun thinking and application it is more than possible to soften up something considered too hard without loosing all of the associated benefits of that said hardness.

There is no “HARD” training in Wing Chun so if you are training to develop an effective skill set some needs to be brought in from outside, we need to bring in training that hurts, training that is physical and will leave us with overuse soreness, we need exercises that break every rule that Wing Chun stands for we need to feel the issues that come with difficult to resolve conflict.

Kung Fu translates to something on the lines of achievement through time and effort, not softness, not looking for easy.

The majority of Wing Chun students join schools because of self defence issues, most are not looking to develop a lasting skill set, just some quick easy solutions to potential problems, but they get sucked in by the fairy stories that get told, that they can develop into serious and dangerous martial artists by standing around and doing very little, they get told tales of famous masters that stood around doing little for hours on end and eventually became the best in the world, this appeals to the inherent laziness deep inside all of us, and of course plays into every schoolboy Kung Fu Fantasy.

In life, every single aspect of life, sport, work and play you get nowhere without hard work and effort.

The really big worry with the schools and students that are “Looking for Easy”  is that not only do they buy into the IDEA that you can win a brawl without training hard, but that they could be literally staking their lives on it if they expect wishy washy Mothership thinking to get them out of deep and serious “You are here” doo doo.

so that is what they mean by Internal!


Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday



Eventually this is the most important consideration in many of the Martial Arts, and especially the Traditional Chinese Martial Arts, and by extension Wing Chun.

It is my firmest belief that as students we must present ourselves open and empty to be truly honest and capable of moving forward, our answer to the idea of softness and where it resides in our own training will define our understanding or highlight our  ignorance of the dynamics involved in personal violence.

Softness is not a FORCE.

Softness is the antithesis of FORCE.

Soft Force is an Oxymoron, something that contradicts itself, so we should stop thinking of soft force and try to develop a wider understanding of softness as a condition in relationship to a Martial Art.

An unfortunate reality is that a fair amount of modern Wing Chun is getting confused and hybridised with Tai Chi, Tai Chi pushes the opponents body mass, case in point Peng, the ward off, which is a very large aspect of Push Hands, Wing Chun chooses to not take this path,  Wing Chun chooses redirection, redirection is to go somewhere else or to send incoming force somewhere else, we shift, we pivot we step away.  A great deal of what is being taught as Chi Sau is closer to push hands than it is to Chi Sau. Many  Wing Chun practitioners think PAK SAU………….  but perform PENG.

Hardness and Softness are values, measures, delineations of types of contact, not of application, for instance it is well within my own skill set to make soft contact with an attacker using a steel pipe, which is, as everyone knows, as hard as steel.

Don’t say that!!!!

Being in a relaxed state has very little to do with softness, when drunks fall over they hit the ground just as hard as anyone else, being relaxed does not make someone any lighter.

If someone throws a punch at us there is no way we can affect the amount of force they use, or wether or not their striking arm is tense or relaxed, we have very limited control over the conditions of contact, contact is an aggregation of many factors such as stability, speed of movement, direction of movement and relative weight of the two respective points of contact.

The best we can do is affect how heavy the contact is. Softness is a contact issue.

What we refer to as soft contact can be achieved by various means such as redistributing the contact force along a greater contact area {shearing}, accepting the force and allowing it to pass through us {absorbing}, or by accepting the force and allowing it to settle into our centre and physically move us {following} or similarly reside in our centre and then purposefully take it somewhere else{leading}, in all likelihood in application it will be a combination of some or all of the previously mentioned.

I also feel that we would all benefit from changing the rhetoric, even if soft force existed why on earth would we want to stop anything? Stopping something requires a minimum of equal force and usually greater force.