The Place of Chi Sau within Wing Chun


This article is a continuation of Grandmaster Jim Fung's article, The Purpose of Chi Sau.

The Uniqueness of Chi Sau

Chi Sau is unique because the practitioner's arms are trained to respond automatically, that is without prior thought. Unlike sparring in some other martial arts disciplines, which is more choreographed and predetermined, Chi Sau is a reflexive action. When practising Chi Sau you learn to deflect fast punches without the use of brute force and with no hard blocking. In most cases a skilled Wing Chun practitioner can trap their attacker with one hand leaving their second hand free to strike through. These movements are all done in a split second. A well-trained practitioner is usually able to hit through any opening in practice or in combat. Skilled Wing Chun practitioners can develop power throughout their arms. This power is generated not through using sheer physical strength but through using thought force. This capability is acquired through proper training in the Sil Lum Tao form. Wing Chun students seek to defeat their opponents by applying the strongest force along their arms onto the weakest point of their attackers.

Unless a student is very skilled in Chi Sau they will have a weakness somewhere along their arm area, whether their punch is stable, attacking or defending. The training of Wing Chun arms trains you to have a circle in front of your body. This circle is achieved through the Tan Fook Sao Bong training once two hand forms are connected together. When rotated, this circle generates a sphere and can then act as a really superior self-defence mechanism. Whenever the attacker engages your circle his force is instantly deflected, absorbed or neutralised. The attacker is neutralised as he tries to hit through the circle's rotating structure. The circle fulfills the role of an impenetrable shield.

The Importance of Chi Sau for Self Defence Purposes

The reason why Grand Masters from all generations focuses on Chi Sau is because it is one of the most important aspects of Wing Chun training. Chi Sau displays the need for the use of reflex action, speed, and awareness in real life situations in order to gain the upper hand. It trains your arms to have a mind of their own. This is important for the following reasons:

Awareness allows you to search for an opening

During any type of combat unless the opponent can be immediately knocked out with one blow you will be involved in combat that engages you in arm contact. When your arms engage you can either hit straight through with one arm or with both arms acting together. Or you may find an opening that results from the way the attacker is holding his arm.

Arms like guided missiles put you in a winning position

One of most important points to note about Sil Lim Tao training is to always focus your force towards your attacker's centre line, which is also where your own equilibrium point lies. So like guided missiles your arms should launch toward your attacker's most vulnerable area, forcing him into the more submissive role of defender.

Reflex actions allow for split second reactions

Part of the basis of Wing Chun training is to cultivate forward force (see Dan Chi Sau chapter), which is directed to the vulnerable points of your attacker's body. Whenever the other person disengages his arms this forward force enables you to strike through without using premeditated movements. The whole action is akin to a spring coil. One is able to perform this kind of reflex action only through Chi Sau training and the sensitivity in the arms that is gained.

When the Wing Chun arms are formed into a circle shape and force is fairly evenly distributed around its circumference, there are no weak points along the arms and you have created a very strong structure. This means any brute force directed against a Wing Chun student can be absorbed and any blows neutralised. For the attacker it is like trying to hit through a constantly rotating, big leather basketball. This strategy makes it very difficult for their blows to reach their mark and their brute force may even be redirected against them.

So to summarise, as a result of using Chi Sau the student is equipped to either hit through, redirect, absorb, or neutralise the attacker's force and overcome those who are bigger and stronger than themselves.

Grandmaster Jim Fung

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