Chi Sao (sticky hands) is a very important tool to help you learn Wing Chun. It helps you develop sensitivity, structure, footwork, turning, and much more. It is a very important stepping stone for you to be able to apply Wing Chun in a fight.
Although Chi Sao is less practiced by beginners, advanced practitioners should practice Chi Sao regularly. It is the key to developing new combinations and applying different aspects of Wing Chun (from forms and drills). However, many dismisses the importance of Chi Sao just because they think it is not an accurate representation of a real fight. Thus you should take these points into consideration before demoting your Chi Sao practice in your Daily To-Practice List.
Here are some key points you should understand about Chi Sao:
1. Chi Sao is a tool
It is used to help develop sensitivity, structure, speed, and application.
Why are these important?
Sensitivity. No, we’re not talking about how often you cry when someone insults you. We’re talking about whether or not you can feel your opponent’s movement (when he is connected to you) and how fast you can react. Sensitivity allows you to react appropriately when the situation calls for it. It allows you to adapt when the situation changes. For example, if you are facing a boxer, you want to be able to block that first jab and ALSO the second hook that he might throw. When you are doing Chi Sao, you should deliberately try to feel your opponent and react to his movements.
Structure. Like a good building, good Wing Chun builds upon good structure. Without good structure, you may leave yourself more vulnerable to attacks and your moves/attacks may be ineffective. With good structure, your body supports your attacks and blocks. This allows weaker practitioners to overcome stronger opponents (without structure, this is impossible). When practicing Chi Sao, you will be able to tell how good your structure is (or your instructor). If your instructor has advanced knowledge in Chi Sao, they should be able to feel “gaps” in your structure during Chi Sao. They will either correct you or exploit that gap (Lok Sao, rolling hand, is basically Chi Sao without attacking. This allows you to focus on your initial structure). To check if your structure is correct, look at what attacks hit you and if you are doing them correctly.
Speed. Chi Sao allows you to build the speed of your movement. It allows you to master your movements at a slower pace and slowly build up your speed. But, be careful. You should never sacrifice structure and sensitivity for speed. Speed takes time to develop, and so do structure and sensitivity. Developing only speed would be a waste of time because you will have to go back and develop all three together again. Also, with only speed, your strikes and blocks may be useless because of the opponent’s superior sensitivity and structure.
Application. With sensitivity, structure, and speed developed from Chi Sao, Wing Chun application becomes a lot easier. Chi Sao allows you to turn Wing Chun into your second nature. When your hand and opponent’s hand touch, you’ll know exactly what to do from every position that you can end up in.
2. Chi Sao is not an accurate representation of a real fight
Obvious, right? In a sense, Chi Sao is a simulation of close quarter combat (that is, when your hands are in striking range). Both of the practitioners start close together and initiate attacks from there. However, Chi Sao does not let you practice every component that may be needed in a real fight. It does not practice a lot of take-down defense, bridging, or kicking (kicking during Chi Sao is not a very good idea until advanced levels because you will not be able to practice body integration and your hand techniques).
Which brings us to the next point…
3. Chi Sao does not make up for different aspects of practice
Chi Sao is only one of the tools for you to master Wing Chun. Forms, drills, and other exercises are important as well. One without the other greatly degrades your Wing chun.
In addition to Chi Sao, you should practice bridging. Because Chi Sao starts from a fairly close position, you need to be able to close the distance between you and your opponent. You should also practice your forms. Forms allow you to learn the correct structure and positioning as well as important ideas and concepts that must be explained. Forms also allow you to practice many important aspects of Wing Chun on your own. Drills should definitely be a part of your training routine. Without drills, you will find it hard to start doing Chi Sao because you might not be used to doing more advanced movements.
As you can see, Chi Sao is important, but it is not the only tool or a tool that you should throw away.
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