First Class

Wing Chun's Chi Sau

Chi Sau (Sticking Hands):

An important training device in the Wing Chun system, Chi Sao takes a fleeting but defining moment of combat and stretches it out into a game that can be played for extended periods... Chi Sao's "default state" Poon sao, is used to create an even 'rolling' through the game, beginning with a formal opening that illustrates Chi Sao's 'moment in combat rather well: first contact with the next move crossing the bridge into the arms neutral area between the wrist and elbow gates. It is important to note that Chi Sao begins immediately from here on, the arms roll around a focal point between the players aprox 8 inch sphere, alternating between high and low elbow position and inside outside contact without rhythm, but with feeling, the players who are also able to move around this focal point or carry it with them attempt to learn the feeling of many possible outcomes at this 'moment in combat'. Looking to application at this point would not reveal Poon Sao itself but something close to a random freeze frame perhaps a Wing Chun practitioner ideally could use his learning’s from Chi Sao to be able to take control of this freeze frame despite many  unknown variables, this is deemed possible because although an opponent would not adhere to the formalities of the Chi Sao game, the focal point for that 'moment of combat' would exist and upon gaining control of centre, Wing Chun would be able to use its deadly force without hindrance.

Fluctuations from the 'flat line' of Poon Sao add a vast number of varied situations to the game while strengthening players relationship with Wing Chun’s three centre lines, concepts of range, structure and energy are all played with and felt in order to eventually; after extensive and correct play be absorbed into a practitioners repertoire so that the most effective techniques for any situation become an automatic response. It is a process of programming the reactions this way that a good understanding of Chi Sao will achieve, merely a game to develop sensitivity and speed of reaction Chi Sao comes with guidelines of best practice...

1: Always maintain 'good position'

With Chi Sao one is developing an ability to reduce the time between the beginning, middle and end of a conflict, Always maintaining good position means the best possible position at anytime where one is aware of range and centre line, footwork and angles are used with maximum effect and every change in position is made with deliberation, each step should be committed but never over-committed. recovering or maintaining a good position is essential to what Chi Sao has to offer the student, a superior position and structure can dominate over bigger muscles or even greater physical speed and aggression and contrary to the popular fight school philosophy of the best defence being a good offence, not actually being there in the first place is the key to a near absolute defence.

2: Always think defensively

It is important at this point to go over what is actually happening during Poon Sao to properly understand how the game is played defensively, it is not good enough to say "I will not strike because I always think defensively so I must block first" there wouldn’t be much of a game if both players did this.  Remember that Poon Sao is a state of perpetual defence and you can now start to feel for gaps, a gap always represents an opportunity to counter attack because you are feeling for the most efficient way to strike at your partners centre line from a pre existing contact, bringing us onto

3: Never force gaps.

A gap forced is not a gap at all, (remember 'the most efficient way') to force a gap using superior physical strength, sometimes speed, defeats the purpose of the exercise, disrupts the flow of the game and cheats only the self. There are many types of gap and gaps can be created without force, instead a gap naturally occurs under certain circumstances, learn to recognise this and natural gaps can be made, felt and filled without physical effort or exertion. A philosophy of gaps: lop sau cheng choi, covers a principal of thrusting on loss of contact, 9 of ten times when this happens, a trade off can be made and both players are able to strike freely meaning the gap could have been closed/defended and was filled by superior speed of reaction, timing and/or use of energy to confuse a partners sense of centre, the remaining one of ten is a more perfect gap where one player has dominated centre for the moment and usually has the only free hand i.e. they have both partners hands with only one of theirs, they have '2 on 1' and can strike a gap without interruption, this requires skill to pull off successfully, not just hands but range needs to have been taken into account. In short, we return to rule 1.

The guidelines not only define the formalities and parameters of the game but ensure the maximum training value is achieved so that WC is effective when one is faced with intercepting a punch in combat. When a gap occurs the flow of the game should stay unbroken, like any other position, the gap is not an end but another beginning outlining the difference between Chi Sao and combat.

Chi Sao unifies body and mind in its purpose. the right attitude is essential and reflects the physical aspect of stretching out the above mentioned ‘moment of combat’ the mind must stay in this moment with the body, too much thought will detach the mind from the now, thinking of what technique to use is too slow a process, instead the mind should be open, perceiving all that is sensed through the game and filtering information received into lessons learned, eventually techniques apply themselves, make a note of the results and  move with the flow, one should have no fear of being hit nor any desire to hit their partner, this again will happen by itself. A game of Chi Sao can be likened to a conversation between the hands, even if you could translate, you would not understand, the hands consider infinite possibilities and focus on one single action at a time, relating each one to its peers with just one 'word'. We don’t need to understand this, the hands do the talking, the techniques apply themselves... The mind is our most powerful weapon and martial arts are the art of using Mind with the body to devastating effect. Chi Sao can help you to shed external factors that lesson ones control of the mind body, exposing one’s self to the intensity of that fleeting moment of combat for extended periods develops a mindset that is always in the he3re and now, uncompromised by the common negative psychological effects of battle but fully aware of every action that occurs.

Chi Sau is a most effective way to instil some of Wing Chun's concepts into a student. Adaptability in the form of sophisticated technique, what cannot be pushed is instantly pulled, force too great to stop is avoided and blocked strikes immediately change direction and find the path of least resistance. All principles that apply to combat itself but the aim is reversed i.e. the changing nature of Wing Chun during a fight reflects the changing nature of the fight itself and allows one to focus on the destruction of an attacker in the minimum time with as little effort as possible, where as the game of Chi Sau employs the same changing nature to prolong the moment and put off (essentially forever) ending conflict, in this case what has no end has no beginning so there never is any conflict. Chi Sau is not fighting; in fact Chi Sau is 'Not Fighting'.

© Leeds Wing Chun 2013