I know what you must be thinking. Not another article on Chi Sao. It's been done to death, and what else can you say about it that hasn't been covered already. Well Chi Sao in my opinion, has gotten a bad rap due to its misconception and misuse of it. Which is why I feel it's necessary to state what Chi Sao is and what its not. Of course this is just my opinion,but hopefully this won't be another typical Chi Sao article. I want to clear up a few points, and explain why I feel Chi Sao is still a relevant component to training and has its place in the Wing Chun system.
First off let me state my position on Chi Sao,which I hope later on will be obvious.First, Chi Sao is not fighting nor has anything to do with real fighting. Like Ive heard a million times by other Chunners say,No one is going to Chi Sao you in a real fight,and I agree.However over the years,there has been some confusion among the many lineages about what Chi Sao represents.Is it fighting or is it a Drill? So this needs to be cleared up. Second,Chi Sao in my opinion should only be used as a training platform to test and refine certain skills which is unique to the Wing Chun system. Even though Chi Sao is not fighting, however it still serves as a very useful training tool to help the student master the basic tools and to learn how to apply the various theories needed for fighting.What Chi Sao practice does is allow two people to pressure test those tools like Tan Sao, Bong Sao, Fuk Sao,etc without the need of conventional sparring or worrying about getting hurt in the process. Chi Sao training provides a very safe environment to practice which is conducive to learning.
The purpose of pressure testing of the basic tools in Chi Sao helps to see if one has mastered these skills and can apply them at will.If one has not mastered these basic skills it will easily show up in their Chi Sao. These mistakes or what I call holes need to be fixed,so Chi Sao can serve that purpose.In Chi Sao,and in fighting,basic skill sets have to be mastered first before one can be effective in fighting. One has to have the ability to be able to maintain proper body a lineament under constant multi-directional force from the opponent while maintaining balance, mobility, and structural integrity.One also has to be able to deliver force from a stable base. All these basic skills are needed in combat,and can come from proper training in Chi Sao and later be carried over and applied in sparring or fighting.
Therefore,Chi Sao can serve as a very useful training tool in the Wing Chun system.Chi Sao is the testing ground before one engages in sparring,so if ones Chi Sao is very poor it is not likely one is ready to move on to sparring or fighting.Chi Sao can serve as that critical stage before fighting.So even though Chi Sao is not fighting,nor was it ever intended to be used in that way,Chi Sao still is an invaluable tool. Which if used correctly can lead the student to mastery and eventually unlock the keys to the Wing Chun system.
Sifu Michael Mc Ilwrath
April 25, 2013