The very essence of Wing Chun Kung Fu can be captured in Chi Sau (sticking hands). To gauge a students ability in Wing Chun it is not done by watching their forms but by engaging in Chi Sau with them. If you ever have the opportunity to Chi Sau with a master then you will see just what the difference is, you may not understand how it is achieved but you will definetley want to achieve it!
In all of the styles of Kung Fu I cannot think of one training excercise that is the same as Chi Sau for the ability to completely test your knowledge of the art you are learning.
Chi Sau is done with one hand or with both hands and is a the bridge between the forms (your techniques) and free fighting. You and your opponent face each other with your forearms touching, now relax as it is often cited that you are looking for around 4oz of pressure in Chi Sau.
You both start to roll your arms and feel for pressure from each other, the idea being you use that pressure to incorporate your techniques for instance if you feel forward pressure as your opponent tries to strike you then you may want to Bong Sau to deflect the strike.
As you Bong Sau your opponent should feel that and could use a Lap Sau to create an opening for a strike which you could Tan Sau and so it goes on and on continually shifting the advantage from one person to the other.
Chi sao develops not only your hand techniques but also contact sensitivity, reflexes, positioning, knowledge of energy use as well as your trapping skills all of which are crucial elements in Wing Chun. All of these elements are as one when you are fighting and it is the combination of these elements that determines the ability of a person when they are free fighting. For instance you cannot perform the correct hand technique effectively without using the other elements also.
The knowledge of these elements will enable you to defend against any form of attack. Wing Chun is not about if your opponent throws a jab you must block with a Tan Sau. It is in fact the exact opposite of this in that you are using the elements mentioned above together which will naturally develop a fluid and effective response that is not a mechanical move that is repeated over and over.
Through Chi Sau this is what is developed and it is through Chi Sau that your knowledge and understanding of Wing Chun Kung Fu will come.
It is important to do Chi Sau slowly so that you can understand what is happening and develop these elements of the Wing Chun system. Hand techniques including trapping are the easiest to learn and are also the least effective as your opponent will pick up on them, the other elements are much harder to understand and develop and are what will seperate you from a mechanical fighting style and it is only through Chi Sau that this can be developed properly.
You should use pre-arranged sets of moves in Chi Sau so that you can develop those techniques and it will help you to know what you will feel in free fighting when those techniques are used but you should also allocate enough time to practice free Chi Sau so that you move away from fixed moves and can combine all of the elements of Wing Chun and develop your abilities.
by Glenn Hodgkinson
©2005 WING CHUN TRAINING