Chi Sao – Wing Chun’s Whetstone

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.

Advanced Chi Sao Sticky Hands Drilling

florida-wing-chun-kung-fu-chi-sau-sifu-och-floridaAdvanced Chi Sao or “Sticky Hands” drilling increases a Wing Chun fighter’s ability to respond to an opponent’s changes, adaptations, and varying attacks during a fight. Chi Sao (or Chi Sau) trains you in the development of automatic reflex responses through sensitive contact training with the forearms, legs, and body. The amazing part about Chi Sao drilling is that it allows both partners to train and practice at the same time. Our Advanced Wing Chun classes incorporate Chi Sao drilling and allow both practitioners to sense changes, react to each others offense or defense in a split second, feel body movement & pressure, and react accordingly. It’s a way to practice immediate execution of techniques and changes in order to control the momentary chaos of combat.

The Purpose of Advanced Chi Sao

Chi Sao and its techniques are very specific to Wing Chun. Wing Chun uses both hands for simultaneous offense and defense while keeping the entire body actively in the fight. Wing Chun is always “feeling” for a way to end the fight instantly while both partners are actively redirecting, counter-attacking, and feeling for openings. This makes Wing Chun unique in the world of traditional and modern kung fu. Wing Chun is one of the only martial arts that trains all these aspects—combining both single hand, double hands, blind fold, and leg fighting into one continuous fighting/advanced sensitivity drill. Advanced Chi Sao training and drilling is a big part of this and a big part of our advanced Wing Chun classes.

advanced chi sau wing chun classesIn all the styles of Kung Fu that exist today, I don’t know of a single martial art that has all of the aspects that Wing Chun Chi Sao training incorporates. All Chinese martial arts train some varying amount of “soft to hard” (relaxation to strength), but what makes Wing Chun so incredibly unique is that it combines all of these techniques with the purity of the fighting mindset. Each of theses other Chinese martial arts practices its own form of sensitivity training. Tai Chi has its push hands. Northern Kung Fu and Southern Kung Fu use arm and leg drills that strike, press, and push in order to test their partner’s rooting, foundation, and reaction times. Wing Chun Kung Fu was one of the last martial arts to be developed by the Shaolin Temple. It was created during the 17th century during the use of weapons, guns, and knives—and during a time of war. The Shaolin Monks and Nun (Ng Mui) developed Wing Chun by combining the best (and fastest) aspects of all the traditional Shaolin Kung Fu styles. This new art (Wing Chun) was created in order to learn it in a quarter to half the time of traditional styles—styles which took 15-20 years of non-stop 14-18 hour days of training. Wing Chun’s unique approach and training of all of these different ways develops a practitioner that can attack and counter an opponent’s movements and reactions quickly, precisely, and effectively. Even with a strong mind and body, a Wing Chun fighter needs to train proper Chi Sao. Chi Sao is known as one of the major “engines” of Wing Chun Kung Fu and its fighting reaction.

Advanced Chi Sao Drilling and Training

Advanced Chi Sao drilling develops your contact sensitivity, rooting, and foundation. It also hones your use of energy, reaction time, hand combinations, and reflexes. It also drills and improves your positioning, angles, and trapping abilities. All of these aspects are critical when intelligent free fighting. Advanced Wing Chun classes include Chi Sao rolling hands to train a practitioner to not exchange blow for blow or kick for kick but rather exact a specific trained response in a natural, effective, and fluid manner that controls, dissipates, and redirects the opponent’s force. Chi Sao allows a Wing Chun practitioner to combine all the aspects of close-range fighting combat in a superb way of training sensitivity, relaxation, and explosive reaction.


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