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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why Chi-Sao Part 1

Why chi-sao? I think this is a great question. The answers vary depending on your perspective, experience and time spent in your art. For some, chi-sao is the essence of fighting because of the tactile reflexes it builds and allows for spontaneous attacks and defense in which the intensity can be increased considerably without “killing” your partner. For others, chi-sao give you the reflexes to trap the opponent so that you can then follow up with successive blows when a path is cleared. For some, chi-sao is really a waste of time as it doesn’t reflect a real-fight scenario (you do not chi-sao your enemy).

I wouldn’t agree whole heartedly with the last statement, but my perspective is rooted in it. I do not feel that chi-sao is reflective of the free-fight scenario. The concept of trapping would not be easy to do against an unwilling attacker and many of the pak-sao/lap-sao punch drills will not translate as such. However, this is not to say that chi-sao is not important to wing chun fighter. Much like the heavy bag is crucial for the boxer or repeated falling drills for the judoka – chi-sao is an essential element in its own right, but does not make a fighter in itself.

It’s unfortunate, in my opinion, that chi-sao has taken center stage as a representation of fight experience. You see challenge matches on YouTube or on a school’s website and it’s not really a challenge match but a chi-sao challege match. The two are not the same. Why would anyone chi-sao their opponent? It’s almost akin to how kung fu skill is now reflective of their ability to perform wushu forms…and what has that done? Pretty much made kung fu a laughing stock in the martial world. Chi-sao is rather addicting and can be well controlled. It’s also something that is done for much of the class, so it’s ridiculously easy to get caught up in it. Wing chun classes foster the idea that chi-sao skill = good fighter, as can be demonstrated night in and night out as the instructor successfully easily lands hits.

But really, chi-sao does not make a fighter. So why chi-sao? I suppose you don’t need to. If that’s the case, you can go sign up for some kick boxing class or something. But for those that feel wing chun is the method you seek to become a fighter then chi-sao certainly has a purpose.

Stay tuned for the next post.

Until then.

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