combat, energy, force, health, kung fu, martial arts, military, self defense, Terre Haute, wellness

What is Chi Sau?

Someone asks:

I’ve heard that Wing Chun practitioners practice something called chi sau.  What is that?  What is it good for?

Ip Chun Donnie Yen Chi Sau
Grandmaster Ip Chun performing chi sau with Donnie Yen, actor and martial artist.

Chi Sau (also spelled chi sao) literally translates as “sticky hands”.  It’s traditionally been termed this due to the connected bridge which begins the exercise’s rolling hands (poon sau).  It’s also been identified (or called this) due to the activities that take place after the bridge (that section between the wrist and elbow) of one person connects with something (esp. the bridge) of another.  So, as a fun way of looking at it, sticky hands is a good name for it.   However, many, who don’t understand the exercises of chi dan sau and chi sheung sau, get too caught up in the sticky hands portion of the exercise.  The goal isn’t to actually stay connected to your opponent (i.e., keep one’s bridge stuck to the opponent’s).  So, caution should be exercised when taking the translation too literally.

Through chi sau, the Wing Chun practitioner learns several effective and important principles, including but not necessarily limited to:

  • reflex and motor skill development
  • technique over sheer force
  • energy and force sensitivity and redirection/manipulation
  • balance and timing
  • trapping

Is this the same as Tai Chi push hands?

While similar, chi sau and push hands have different goals.  Push hands trains you to feel your opponent’s center of gravity and disrupt it, by pushing, tripping, or throwing.  Chi sau does that as well, but, because Wing Chun is an explosive martial art that includes strikes and trapping, it also seeks to find ways to protect one’s self while simultaneously striking the opponent.

Are there different ways of practicing chi sau?

Yes.  The two most common include chi dan sau, single sticky hand, and chi sheung sau, double sticky hands.  They imply just as it sounds they might: One deals with a single connection and working from there; while, the other deals with two connected bridges.  Sometimes these exercises are performed blind-folded; others without blindfolds.  Sometimes they are practiced on flat surfaces; other times on stairwells; others on tables (or other limited space platforms); . . . . .

There is another exercise in chi sau, though, less known.  It deals with multiple opponents.  One stands with a different person connect to each side (bridge), and practices dealing with more than one intention. . . . .  This is, generally, a more advanced level of training.

At my kwoon, the Yost Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy in Terre Haute, Indiana, we teach all of these disciplines in order to empower the student to deal with various complexities of combat and life.


The honest truth is that no one can help you understand, much less master, chi sau or push hands online.  You have to go to a qualified instructor and learn, experience and mature.  As you do you’ll find that your disposition changes, as do the requirements as you work with different intentions, body styles, etc.  The more you practice the better you get.

Empower yourself to life!™

yostwingchun.com

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