August 29, 2016 / in Techniques and Styles / by Tim Kittelstad
Probably the most talked about aspect of Wing Chun is Chi Sao. Every school is different on how they approach and teach Chi Sao. Many show it to you within your first week of training. At Sifu Och Wing Chun, we do things a little differently. The mentality behind our training is that of crafting a weapon. We want students to forge their weapon first on the anvil of defense against common attacks such as hooks, sucker punches, kicks, shirt grabs, takedowns, etc. Then, we sharpen it with Chi Sao, wooden dummy practice, and other drills. This is done to help students understand Wing Chun’s primary purpose—to protect yourself and your family and return home safely.
This builds the student’s confidence and understanding of the tools given to them. Without crafting the sword first, an “outsider” may not understand the need for sharpening and fall under impression that Chi Sao is useless or a waste of time.
Chi Sao – Wing Chun’s WHetStone
Once the sword is crafted, the sharpening can begin. One of the first things you can feel when beginning Chi Sao training is your structure being tested. Before any strikes, counters, and defenses can (or should) be learned, good structure and rooting needs to be cemented in your training. Without good structure, even the best attack will crumble against good alignment of the opposite body. Rooting through the heels, with hips tucked under the spine and the glutes engaged, form the basis for a strong structure.
The structure is confirmed in the science behind a squat. Ask any knowledgable fitness personal trainer, and they will agree. To safely squat, the weight must drive through the heels with the spine aligned properly. After that, you can roll with a basic level of understanding in how to not only have structure, but how to use Chi Sao to refine it.
Then attacks can commence.
Reactions and Chi Sao Training
Quick reactions are the cornerstone of Wing Chun self defense. It makes sense that, in one of the deadliest arts in the world, there is a specific drill to train your reaction. Drilling hours upon hours on good technique and structure is pointless if it cannot be applied in a combat scenario. Going back to what was mentioned earlier, that is why basic defense against attacks is introduced first at Sifu Och Wing Chun. Now that there is an appreciation for the techniques required, they can be upgraded. That is where Chi Sao lends a heavy hand to the Wing Chun practitioner’s development.
The goal is to keep forward intent with your techniques, so that any change or gap in the opponent’s movement presents an open target that is immediately struck. After the initial attempt there will be counters and defenses. Open communication between partners is crucial in this part of training. If a student is still learning how to shape a technique, there’s no need for speed and power. Partners should seek to vary the training speed based on the level of each individual. Once needed techniques are ready, the attacker should seek to to use real strikes at the student. Only in this manner can Chi Sao be used properly to develop your Wing Chun.
Without the proper instructor and good training, Chi Sao may look, to some, like a child’s game. And to some it may be nothing more than that, if they do not understand and fully grasp why they’re training in Chi Sao. With time and dedication, it is a valuable asset to training. Without Chi Sao, the Wing Chun student will not have that fully sharpened sword. Using the whetstone of Wing Chun, Chi Sao, is one of the best tools you can hone and use.