Chi Sao, is an extremely important component of the wing chun kung fu system.
There are also different versions of chi sao other martial arts systems have developed.
Chi Sao, is often referred to as “sticking hands” or contact reflexes.
Chi Sao is not a style of fighting. It is a training method to enhance our close range combat skills. By practicing chi sao, one will improve contact sensitivity, superior positioning, finding the path with the least resistance, develops forward intention from SLT, and enhances trapping and controlling skills.
Practitioners will lock arms and learn to sense changes in body mechanics, pressure, momentum and “feel”. This increased sensitivity gained from these drills will help a practitioner to attack and counter an opponent’s movements precisely.
In the wing chun system, a practitioner will not retract his attack and look for another opening.
A wing chun fighter, upon encountering a “block” will redirect the opponents force and continue on the path with the least resistance.
The main intention of a wing chun practitioner is to attack and control the opponents centreline.
As we close the gap, chi sao is an excellent tool for redirecting the opponent’s attack, counter through the path with the least resistance and continue to attack and control his centreline.
Chi Sao will only work when there is some form of contact with your opponent.
During a fight, if there is no contact or very little contact, chi sao cannot be activated or utilized.
If you are fighting a Boxer, it is virtually impossible to use chi sao, because of the dynamics involved.
This is why, I believe, there are other equally important fighting concepts to develop when training wing chun.
Rolling arms chi sao (lok sao) is the basic 2 arm chi sao that most wing chun schools practise. Then, there are wing chun schools that practise huan sao chi sao (rotating arms), generally from the Kulo and Yuan Kah San systems of wing chun. The most surprising form of Chi Sao I have seen is in Foshan, from Ip Man’s legacy. They lock arms and forcibly attack their opponents centre line with powerful punches.
The following comments do not have any inferences to any wing chun schools in China or Australia, or the rest of the World!
The comments are my personal views, in general, and should not be taken politically.
I think a practitioner must have a good understanding of SLT and its concepts, which is a work in progress, the longer you train.
In my teachings, apart from SLT, I will introduce a new student to street survival techniques, such as arm grabs, chokes, pushes and shoves, stick and knife attacks, and so on. This training also indirectly introduces the new student to chi sao, especially when grabbing and shoving are involved.
Wing Chun Drilling is an essential skill requirement which enables the practitioner to improve his footwork, balance and coordination, which in turn will develop quicker reflexes.
In the Jee shin wing chun system, we have 5 stages of combat. Non contact position which is just outside the kicking range, contact stage which is wrist range and exchange range which is at the elbow.
These first 3 ranges of combat will dictate what techniques the practitioner can use practically and successfully.
If we can bridge the gap successfully on the opponent and make contact we can then use our chi sao skills.
The Jee shin wing chun system has flying entry techniques to bridge the gap quickly. Our first intention is to make contact with the arms, take the balance and control the opponent. This is where chi sao may take its place. Because we are an attacking style of wing chun, when we make contact our chi sao skills or close range reflexes must be very efficient.
People have said to me, “chi sao is crap”; “come and try your chi sao on me” and I have replied,
“I don’t need to”. When you touch me or make contact, then, I will use my chi sao.
I also have met wing chun people, because of their good chi sao skills, think the best position to be in, is close range. But, I say, what if you are fighting someone that is 120kg and 190 or 200cm tall. Being in close would be suicide and the last place you would want to be.
That’s why the 3 stages of combat must be used, dynamically and practically.
My schools do spend a lot of time practising various forms of chi sao, be we also concentrate on bridging the gap and countering random attacks from kicks and all type of punches. While we practise counter attacks, if the opponent tries to grab, push or overpower us, then our chi sao comes into play.
The Leung Bik/Ip Man system is such a practical street fighting system, it can be adapted for any type of competition and is a very practical self defence system for the streets. It is a true Taoist system.
Go with the flow and adapt to any situation.
In Jee shin wing chun system, we do not start basic single arm chi sao (dan chi sao) until level 2, which equates to 6 months of training.
Initially, students need to develop their coordination, a good understanding of range and distance and develop their footwork. A good fighter hits and doesn’t get hit and his tool to allow this to happen is footwork.
Concentrate on balance training, which will enhance your speed and power. Develop an arsenal of techniques to call upon to improve your coordination and reflexes.
Then, you will have a solid foundation to improve your chi sao skills.
But, do not start it too early!