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8 Wing Chun Chi Sao Beginner Training Tips, and Principles

Learning self-defense techniques such as Wing Chun Chi Sao is an important skill everyone can develop. This skill will help you protect yourself should you end up as a victim of an attack. In addition, it will also help you improve your physical and mental health. 

If you are caught walking the street alone at night, you could seem like an easy target for someone who is looking for targets. They can catch you by surprise and take your valuables before you even know what has happened.

In the worst cases, they could physically harm you in minor or in fatal ways. To avoid this, you should know how to effectively protect yourself in these situations. Learning Wing Chun martial arts is one way to do this. 

Why Chi Sao?

There are several Wing Chun techniques and practices you can learn to protect yourself if you are in danger of being harmed. While self-defense is a necessary skill to know, you must remember that it is used as a method of protecting yourself rather than a method of instigating a fight.

Chi Sao in itself will not give you all the tools you need to protect yourself; however, it is an important training exercise of Wing Chun. These techniques will improve your reflexes, sensitivity, and your structure, thus enabling you to get closer to mastering the art of self-defense. 

What Is Wing Chun Chi Sao? 

Wing Chun is a type of Chinese martial art that is based on the concepts of striking and controlling in close-range combat. It is a fairly new martial art as some historians believe it started around 300 years ago. 

Wing Chun martial arts has become popular for many reasons and it was developed as a compact form of Kung Fu that gives an advantage to smaller fighters. This method of self-defense was also developed to exploit the weaknesses of your opponent.

The methods have become increasingly favored due to the practicality of this form of self-defense in modern society. These skills can also be learned fairly quickly, and the techniques can be practiced and perfected by people of all sizes and physical abilities. 

Chi Sao

Chi Sao—also spelled Chi Sau—is one of the main techniques used in Wing Chun and it falls into the controlling category of martial arts. It is often referred to as “sticky hands” or “sticking” because it uses the technique of following your opponent’s hands.

Chi Sao is such an important tool for learning and mastering Wing Chun that it is often referred to as “the heart” or “the jewel” of Wing Chun. Chi Sao is used to improve your mobility, reflexes, and speed and to learn how to “read” your opponent’s mind.

The techniques used in Chi Sao and Wing Chun training lead you to anticipate your opponent’s next move, giving you the ability to strike at your opponent without being hit back. 

This is why the most important aspect of the Chi Sao technique is to react to what you feel rather than to what you see. You should aim to follow your opponent’s hands by keeping contact at the forearm and anticipating when they may lower their guard.

This means you won’t be constantly sticking to their hands but rather following them until they present an opening, allowing you to strike. This is done by learning how to interpret a person’s energy.

When you have contact with your opponent at the forearm, this is known as the bridge. From this bridge, you can utilize other Wing Chun elements to defend yourself. These defense moves include Tan Sau, Bong Sau, and Fook Sau.

Basic Principles of Chi Sao

To practice and master Chi Sao, you need to know the basic principles of these techniques. Before you start Chi Sao training, it is important to understand the practice and the principles to effectively complete the techniques.

Understanding these techniques will improve your ability to defend yourself when it is necessary. Here are eight of the most important principles when you begin learning and mastering Chi Sao. 

Timing

Learn when it is the right time to defend and when it is the right time to attack. This is something you can learn to sense by listening to your feelings.

Safety

Your main priority should be to defend yourself first and attack later. This is the most important aspect of self-defense; you should leave the situation unharmed. Striking should only happen if the timing is right and if it is necessary.

Take It Slow

There is no need to rush when practicing Chi Sao, and you should learn each move slowly to perfect it. When you are protecting yourself, it is also important to not panic by slowing everything down.

Distance and Stance Is Important

Every position you take should be calculated. You should also focus on your stance and how you have angled yourself in relation to your opponent. Your positions should always protect your center while controlling your opponent’s center. 

Stay Relaxed

You should keep your muscles relaxed to avoid muscle tension. The same goes for your mental state. Keep your emotions calm and stay focused. 

Watch for Opportunities

Practicing Chi Sao will teach you that attacks from you should not be premeditated. You should strike spontaneously when it feels right. This should only happen when you will not be exposed to a counter strike.

Feel, Don’t See

Possibly the most important principle of Chi Sao is to feel more than you see. The art lies in the ability to feel the motions of your opponent and when the right time to strike arises. This will help you improve your reflexes and react spontaneously. 

Sticking Hands

You should keep all these principles in mind as you learn, practice, and master Chi Sao. These principles should be used along with the main principle of Wing Chun sticky hands. 

This main principle is the part where you should always have contact with your opponent, and if you lose control, you should invite their arms closer to you to initiate contact again. 

8 Wing Chun Chi Sao Training Tips

You can practice almost everything in Wing Chun, including Chi Sao. Practice by yourself, using props such as a Wing Chun wooden dummy, or with someone else. 

Learning from someone skilled in the art of Chi Sao helps you gain insider knowledge; however, this option is not always possible. You can also find Wing Chun Chi Sao training drills and learn more about this type of martial art through books such as How to Do Chi Sao: Wing Chun Sticky Hands.

While you learn the different techniques and practices of Chi Sao, you can keep these training tips in mind to help you.

1. Stance Is Everything

It’s already been mentioned that stance is one of the basic principles in Chi Sao, proving that you should keep this in mind at all times. Your stance should be comfortable while giving you control over the situation. 

You should always maintain a solid Yi Gee Kim Yeung Ma (YGKYM) stance during Chi Sao.

2. Find Your Center

You should always have a good idea of your own centerline as well as that of your opponent. This will give you the ability to collapse your opponent’s attacks or defense by slightly shifting them out of their centerline. 

If you are slightly off your own centerline, you are giving your opponent an advantage, and they can maximize on this error. 

3. Tension or Energy

Chi Sao is all about feeling, and this means that energy is much more important than tension. Energy will help you improve your sensitivity and reflexes, whereas tension will do the opposite. 

You should aim to stay relaxed so your arms can easily strike out when your opponent eases up. When you are tense, your arms are likely to stay in that position even when their arms move away. However, when you are relaxed, it is easier to let your arm strikeout. 

4. Stay in Control

Learning how to stay controlled is necessary when practicing Chi Sao. This is something you can learn while you are practicing various elements of Wing Chun when practicing with a partner.

Your aim should not be to strike your opponent down—during training—but rather to control your shots. If you can deliver a powerful strike and stop it before actually touching your partner, this will be more impressive than actually hitting them.

5. Range

Take note of the space between you and your opponent. This space should not stay the same the entire time. You can easily stay stuck to your opponent’s arms, but if you are trying to overcome someone to escape, you will need to strike them.

This means you will have to close the gap between the two of you and suppress your opponent’s defense. You should also aim to strike at close range. Feeling comfortable finding power at such close proximity is key to learning Chi Sao techniques.

6. Strike Without a Counter

Since Chi Sao is a technique of self-defense, the aim is for you to protect yourself from getting hurt. This requires you to avoid getting hit no matter what and leads us to the point that you should focus on defense more than on striking.

While you are protecting yourself, you should feel when your opponent drops their defense enough for you to punch them. However, you should only take this opportunity if you are sure that you won’t get hit after your strike. 

If you are unsure of whether you will get hit, rather wait for a better chance. If you are in a real-life situation, one blow from your attacker may knock you out. 

7. Bend Your Elbows

A key element of Chi Sao is the close proximity to your opponent. This means if you have to straighten your arm fully to strike them, then you are too far away. Striking with straight arms opens up gaps, which your opponent can capitalize on to strike you. 

If you maintain a consistent 135-degree angle with your elbow, then you are maximizing your defense. This creates the ultimate barrier to prevent your opponent from getting a strike in.

8. Understand the Fundamentals of Wing Chun

You cannot learn Chi Sao in isolation as it is only an element of Wing Chun. You should also pay attention to the other fundamentals such as Tan, Bong, and Fook Sau. These techniques will work alongside the Chi Sao techniques you learn. 

Understanding all the fundamentals will allow you to see how they all work together to protect you and provide the opportunity for you to give a knockout blow in a dangerous situation. 

The Perfect Timing for Chi Sao

When you discover Wing Chun, you will likely be asking the question of how to practice this martial art and when to use it. 

Practicing 

If you want to master the art of Wing Chun, you will need to practice Chi Sao and the other fundamentals as often as possible. You can practice by yourself as well as with a partner. If you are practicing alone, you can use a Wing Chun wooden dummy and practice as many Wing Chun exercises as you can. 

When it comes to Chi Sao, it becomes a bit harder to practice alone since it involves sticking to your opponent’s arms. Here you should find someone to train with so you can learn to feel their energy and anticipate their moves. 

If you don’t have access to a partner often enough, you should still practice Chi Sao by yourself. You don’t necessarily have to physically practice but you can practice mentally. This means you should be consistently learning more about martial arts.

Write down all that you learn and practice the techniques you can by yourself. This is the mental practice you must focus on. Then when you do have the chance to practice with someone else, you will be one step ahead. You can practice with someone using this Chi Sao video.

When Would You Use Chi Sao in a Real Fight?

You can use techniques from both Wing Chun and Chi Sao when you need to. However, you must remember that Chi Sao is more of a defense technique that is used to block off your opponent’s offense. 

Chi Sao may not always be used in a fight in a way that is obvious to onlookers; it is more about practicing the methods of feeling your opponent’s energy. This will help you anticipate their moves.

You can use these methods when you are practicing and when you are confronted with danger, yet Chi Sao can only be used when you are close to your opponent. Mastering this will give you the upper hand if you are attacked in a small space like a stairwell, for instance.

You should use it when you need to defend yourself, and it should not be used as a method of instigating a fight. The techniques learned in Wing Chun can do serious damage to your opponent and so it should not be used with full force unless it is necessary.

Wing Chun Chi Sao FAQs

Is Wing Chun easy to learn?

The length of time it takes you to learn Wing Chun is completely up to your commitment. You can learn these techniques within five years if you show dedication to mastering the art of Wing Chun. 

If you stay devoted to learning, you can grasp these concepts, however, you will need to be taught by a trained professional to teach you properly. 

What are the best books to self-study Wing Chun Chi Sao?

If you are dedicated to learning Chi Sao, you can elevate your skills by self-learning some of the techniques and basic principles. You can find books such as How to Do Chi Sao: Wing Chun Sticky Hands to self-train.

Even if you put in several hours of practice by yourself, you will still need to learn from a Wing Chun trainer. 

Should Wing Chun Chi Sao be taught sooner rather than later?

You can start learning Chi Sao after you understand the fundamentals of Wing Chun, which are Tan, Bong, and Fook. Once you understand and can practice Chi Sao, you can start to put them all together. 

You can start understanding the principles of various techniques as soon as you like; however, it will be best to follow a structured training program from your trainer to get the most out of your training. 

Why is Wing Chun not used in MMA training?

Wing Chun is a powerful form of martial arts and should be used in self-defense rather than as a technique to strike an opponent in a fight such as MMA. 

The techniques used in Wing Chun aim to take out an attacker so you can get away from danger. This makes it a dangerous form of fighting and should not be used unless you truly want to cause damage to an attacker. 

You’ll love this manual,
because it will teach you how to adapt Chi Sao to real fighting scenarios!

8 Wing Chun Chi Sao Beginner Training Tips, and Principles 1

The Last Strike 

Don’t forget to maintain a proper stance throughout your Chi Sao training: relax your muscles and feel the energy of your opponent. The key to mastering these components is to focus on the fundamentals of Wing Chun.

Start protecting yourself today by learning all about the Wing Chun and Chi Sao basics in How to Do Chi Sao: Wing Chun Sticky Hands.

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