Chi Sau by Ip Chun

Article by Ip Chun added on 1 Aug 2012. Last updated on 1 Aug 2012.

Grandmaster Ip Chun talks about Chi Sau

Notes on the name

Chi Sau is often spelled Chi Sao particularity in the US. The verbal translation for Chi Sau or Chi Sao is however the same. People in the west sometimes also refer to Chi Sau as sticking hands but this in reality misses many of the key points about Chi Sau.

The Article

Chi Sau is the most important part of the learning process of Wing Chun. Yet there are many Wing Chun practitioners who still do not understand Chi Sau properly.

There are Wing Chun teachers who put too much importance on Chi Sau, thinking that once they have learned the energy of Chi Sau they will not require any other kind of hand techniques to be able to control their opponent. Others feel that because Chi Sau does not resemble "One step" fighting techniques that it cannot therefore be of any practical value in sparring or real fights. It must be understood what Chi Sau can give you in relation to real fights, also what the difference is between sparring and Chi Sau.

Firstly we must understand that Chi Sau is only part of the training method of Wing Chun Kung Fu. Chi Sau is used to provide us with four essentials of factors of Wing Chun knowledge, there are other concepts which are relevant but we shall discuss here those which are most important.

4 elements of Chi Sau

  • Good hand technique [fighting method]
  • Knowledge of energy use
  • Good sensitivity and reflexes
  • Achieving the best position in sparring

These are the four most important factors in sparring. Once you have understood these four factors then you can apply any technique, whenever necessary. The greater the knowledge of these four factors then the more likely it will be that you succeed in sparring or fighting.

Ip Chun and Sam Kwok Chi Sau To understand this point from a different angle. Everybody knows that money is the most important tool [item] that we need whenever we go out to buy something, the more money or purchasing power we have the easier it is to get what we want, but it still depends on how you use your money, as a consumer you have to select what you need to buy and not spend on items you will never use, therefore if you have a lot of money it does not mean it will give real value.

Alternatively, when we are studying in school, we are supplied with knowledge of ethics, health, philosophy, and other aspects s of education, all of these we are taught. Some aspects will have a direct effect on our later life others only and indirect effect, a number may have an effect but then be dormant and take many years to surface. Nobody can say there is no need for complete education. For a few in school their results are always excellent, every year they might be top in examinations, yet when they enter into adult society their performance does not show their earlier promise. It all depends upon weather they can fluently apply what they learnt in school.

Chi Sau and sparring are related in much the same way. Chi Sau can supply all of the most important knowledge we need in sparring, Chi Sau is not free sparing this must be recognised, but if a students Chi Sau is good then their sparring will be good. Though a students ability to fight depends upon weather they have learnt how to fluently apply the four factors mentioned earlier.

Ip Man and Bruce Lee Chi Sau Therefore what we can learn from Chi Sau is complete in all directions, it is often the case with a practitioner who has good knowledge of the four factors, that when they are sparing or in a fight situation that they can handles it easily. There is no need to learn how to use one specific block against a particular move of kick.

The four factors mentioned in Chi Sau, I personally believe are not only restricted in relevance to Wing Chun, they are also suitable for any style of Kung Fu, Karate, etc [i.e. technique, power, sensitivity and reflexes with position.]. Except for hand technique which you can visibly identify from the forms, the other three factors are abstract and open to interpretation.

I admired Bruce Lee because he applied what he learnt from Chi Sau very well. Although he did not use Wing Chun techniques he could still apply his energy in whatever he wanted. From studying films you can see that each of his techniques weather it was Wing Chun or not, showed without doubt that his reflexes and reactions were of the highest order, his use of energy perfect and his position excellent.

Everybody says of Chinese Kung Fu it is like the sea, Large and Deep. If you learn Kung Fu in such a way that a specific technique is taught to defend against one particular attack then you are learning 'dead kung fu' and your kung fu will never be large or deep, however if you learn to understand the four factors of Chi Sau, then there will be no end to your knowledge, you will be able to learn, to explore freely and then you will understand Chinese Kung Fu is truly "Large and Deep".

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Chi SauBruce LeeIp ChunChi Sao

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