Wing Chun Chi Sao Training
Wing Chun Chi Sao Training will develop your touch sensitivity.
You will be able to read your opponent’s intentions and respond to his movements much faster than by eye.
Besides Wing Chun, many other forms use Chi Sao. This goes to show how highly regarded the benefits of Chi Sao are.
- Centerline Principle
- Hand Positions
- Dan Chi Sao
- Luk Sao
- Basic Attack
- The 4 Positions
- Multiple Strikes
- Free Flowing Chi Sao
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Wing Chun Chi Sao Training
The exercises in this article are in the order in which you should learn the skills.
If there is a size difference between you and your partner, adjust the angle of your body. You want to direct energy towards your opponent.
If you don’t have a training partner, you can train with a wooden Chi Sao dummy. See some examples of Wing Chun wooden dummies here.
Whenever there are 2 people in a demonstration, the person on the left (the female) is P1. The person on the right (the male) is P2. Practice all drills from both sides of the body. Use padding if needed, but gloves are cumbersome. Adjust the movements so they work for you.
The Centerline Principle
The centerline is an imaginary line that runs vertically down the center of the body. Attack and defend on this line, i.e., guide incoming attacks out of your center, past your body. Attack your opponent along his center.
Always keep the centerline of you and your opponent in mind when fighting. Have control of your centerline whilst penetrating his.
To enable ease of transference from practice to real life, stand in the Fighters Position. The following description of the Fighters Position is from How to Street Fight by Sam Fury.
Your Lead Side
If your right leg is forward most, then your right side is your lead and your left side is your rear. When fighting, have your strong side as your lead most of the time, but train on both sides. Most of your strikes come off your lead.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and take a natural step back. Put a slight bend in your knees. Relax your body and have a slight forward lean. Find the point at which you are most balanced. Be firm and flexible as opposed to stiff and rigid. To test, have someone push you from the front.
There are 3 main hand positions used in Chi Sao. They are Tan Sao (Palm up Block/Taun Sao), Bong Sau (Wing Arm Block/Bon Sao) and Fook Sao (Bridge-On Arm Block/Fok Sao/Fuk Sao). Practice each of these hand positions separately as well as switching from one to the other.
Using Tan Sao limits your opponent’s ability to strike straight in. Drive it forward from the center of your body in a slight upward motion.
Ensure the following:
- Your palm is open, almost flat, and facing the sky.
- There is approximately a 30° bend at the elbow.
- The whole arm is slightly towards your centerline.
Use Bong Sau to redirect the opponent’s attack to a neutral position. It is best used when you are already in contact with the opponent’s arm.
Ensure the following:
- Point your elbow straight out and a little in.
- Angle your forearm at a 45° downward slope in towards the centerline.
- The forearm is also angled 45° forward.
- The wrist is in the centerline.
- The elbow is higher than the wrist.
- The hand/fingers continue in the same direction as the forearm.
- The upper arm is in a fairly straight line, pointing to the front.
- The angle of the elbow is slightly greater than 90°.
This is a defensive position. Place is over your opponent’s arm. Adjust your exact positioning to fit the situation and is often described as either high or low.
Ensure the following:
- The elbow is about 6-8 inches from the body and angles in towards the center of your body.
- The forearm angles up with the hand open and the fingers hooked down towards the wrist.
Dan Chi Sao/Single Sticky Hands
Don’t apply the movements in this drill with the intent of striking. They are for teaching the feeling of movement and. Do them gently to begin with.
Contrary to the name, it is the forearms that ‘stick’, not the hands. They stay in touch throughout the entire drill.
P1’s right arm is in Tan Sao. P2 adopts Fook Sao with his left arm on top of P1’s arm. P2 presses his elbow inwards towards his centerline. Both exert a slight forward pressure.
In one motion, P1 uses the Tan Sao to guide P2’s left arm off the centerline then attempts to strike with the same hand. P2 defends by dropping his elbow down and inward.
P2 attempts to strike P1’s face. P1 defends with Bong Sao. P1 and P2 return to the starting position. They repeat the drill.
Double Dan Chi Sao
This is the same as Dan Chi Sao but with P1’s free hand in a Low Fook Sao over P2’s Tan Sao. This position does not change whilst the other hand performs Dan Chi Sao as normal. At the completion of one complete round, switch arms. Practice until the switch between arms is seamless.
Luk Sao is the base of Chi Sao. Practice it on its own until fluid before incorporating attack and defense drills. Throughout the movement, keep the shoulders relaxed and apply a slight forward pressure.
Note: If your hand positions are correct, forward pressure will be automatic. If your opponent removes opposing pressure, your hand will strike forward by reflex.
Luk Sao is basically moving between 2 positions. From Bong Sao and Low Fook Sao, to High Fook Sao and Tan Sao.
P1’s right hand is in Tan Sao. P2’s right hand is in Bong Sao. Both of their other arms are in the Fook Sao position. They are over their partners opposing arms, i.e. right on left, left on right. P1’s Fook Sao is in a high position whilst P2’s is low. Constantly press the elbow of the Fook Sao into the centerline.
P1 rotates her right elbow up, keeping the wrist in towards her centerline. As her elbow rises up to shoulder height, her forearm drops into the Bong Sao. Her left hand stays in Fook Sao throughout the movement but moves to a low position. Keep the elbow down on the Fook Sao or you will lose forward pressure.
As P1 one does the above, P2 drops his Bong Sao back down into Tan Sao. As his Bong Sao drops, he moves his wrist outward and the elbow lowers back into its drawn-in position of the Tan Sao. As his Bong Sao settles into a Tan Sao, his Fook Sao moves from low to high while staying in contact with P1’s right Bong Sao.
They then reverse the roll and return to the starting position.
Do this in a flowing manner. It is important to do it with intent. Turn and push to interlock the hands. Be tense but flexible.
All drills from now on start from Luk Sao unless otherwise stated.
When explaining when to start a drill sequence from Luk Sao, the terms ‘high or low point/position’ are used. This does not mean to start the movement at the very highest or lowest point. The exact point of where one should begin a technique is impossible to describe. With practice, you will discover the best timing.
P2 grabs P1’s arms. His right hand grabs the inside of P1’s left and his left hand grabs the outside of her right. P2 shifts his body to his left, whilst directing P1’s arms forward and to the right.
Whilst still gripping with his right arm, P2 uses his left hand to apply pressure a little above the elbow. If it is below the elbow P1 will be able to elbow P2.
P2 moves into P1 as he continues to push on P1’s arm. He strikes P1’s mid-section with his right hand as he moves in.
Defense against the Basic Attack
As P1 attempts the Double Arm Grab, P2 relaxes his upper body. He must keep grounded through his legs to avoid getting pulled off balance.
As P1 moves in to press P2’s arm, P2 turns toward her and deflects her arms away. P2’s left arm angels down sharply to suppress both of P1’s hands. At the same time, P2’s right hand strikes P1’s mid-section.
The 4 Positions
There are 4 positions in which the arms can be in relation to the opponent’s guard. This is a basic explanation so you can follow the movements in the drills. More detailed explanations are in the book.
- Right Out, Left In
- Left Out, Right In
- Both Out
- Both In
In the left picture, they are Right Out, Left In. In the right, they are Left Out, Right In.
In this picture, P1 is Both Out. P2 is Both In. In this case, P1 is using a High Fook Sao and Tan Sao, and P2 is using a Tan Sao and Bong Sao.
This multiple strike attack drill is good for showing the application of trapping in a more realistic fighting scenario.
P1 is in the Left Out, Right In position. As her right arm reaches a high point she brings it down over P2’s right arm. At the same time, her left arm comes up to the outside of P2’s left arm and brings it down to cross over his right.
P1 pulls her left arm out and uses it to cover the top of P2’s right arm.
She suppresses P2’s arm and strikes with her left, then her right, then again with her left.
Notice that whichever hand she is striking with, the other comes down to cover P2’s hands.
Multiple Strikes Defense
The start is the same as Multiple Strikes, but this time P1 steps in to punch. As P1 strikes, P2 steps back and deflects the strike. P1 steps forward for a second strike. Again, P2 steps back and deflects the strike. This can continue.
Free Form Chi Sao
Now that you have a basic understanding of various techniques, you can go into Free Form Chi Sao.
Although often referred to as Sticky Hands, the goal of the exercise is not to stick to your opponent. Instead, the aim is to protect oneself whilst exploiting your opponent’s openings.
Like all sparring, it is a good time to test what works and/or how your opponent reacts to your actions.
Here are some general tips:
- Don’t pull your limb back in preparation for a strike.
- Be aware of force. If he uses too much, give then attack. If his force is too weak, attack through his defense.
- Strike only when there is an opening. This is especially true if kicking.
- Always be aware of distance.
- Stay on the centerline and respond to his actions. Let it flow.
“Stay with what comes, follow through as it retreats, and spring forward as our hand is freed.” – Wing Tsun Motto
Free Form Sticky Hands Variations
There are many ways to vary Chi Sao apart from “going at it”. The only limit is your imagination. Here are a few ideas:
- Start over whenever a strike makes solid contact. This is good when first learning.
- With or without footwork. Without footwork is good when first learning.
- One arm or two arm. Can also try cross arm e.g. right arm vs. right arm.
- Only defend or only attack.
- Blindfolded. Great for advanced training in sensitivity. Start slow.
- Stop after every move. This gives you time to think/talk about your technique and your next move. Aim to streamline your movements.
Wing Chun Chi Sao Videos
Here is a video playlist with videos teaching and demonstrating Chi Sao.
- Sifu Lamar explains basic Chi Sao hand positioning and then a few drills.
- Dan Inosanto with a few drills that Bruce Lee taught him – Bruce Lee Chi Sao.
- Wing Chun Kung Fu Chi Sao demonstration. It shows how Chi Sao is applies to fighting.
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Chi Sao Tutorial Summary
In this article you learned:
- The basics of Chi Sao including the centerline principle, stance, and hand positions.
- Chi Sao drills to get you to the fundamental movement of Luk Sao.
- Intermediate Chi Sao techniques showing how to adapt attack and defense.
- Free-flowing Chi Sao. From here, you can experiment to create your own drills.
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