Chi Sao as a metaphor of conflict

I’ve been thinking a little about Wing Chun about which I know nothing other than a conversation with someone I know who does taekwondo and has been also learning Wing Chun for several years and is an osteopath – he described some of the manipulations as similar to Wing Chun movements, one of which is Chi Sao

“The most valuable …tool that Bruce Lee had for understanding the roots of combat came from his grounding in the practice of sticking hands – chi sao…the practice serves to develop the contact reflex and the experience of forward pressure…to allow the instantaneous understanding of the energy and intention of the opponent while eliciting the automatic response to any problem being set by him”

Clearly it is a practice and its an advanced technique that you cannot just do, but as a metaphor of understanding the rhythm and energy of conflict it is fascinating:

“Chi Sau may not be a ‘contest’ but it is a test – to see what works and what doesn’t (and why), feeling when an opponent is moving off-structure, whether they have forward intent, good stance and structure, good teng ‘listening energy’. Everything in your Wing Chun should be tested (rigourously) in an effort to identify what is really Wing Chun, if you realise you are using strength to supplement bad structure or speed to counter poor teng then this will be corrected in good Chi Sao.

If one is using Chi Sao in a Contest manner then I believe they are not performing good Chi Sao. Good Chi Sao is where you test yourself to highlight your own weaknesses and then correct them…Good Chi Sao then is when you are able to develop your own ability rather than exploit your partners.”

From the video it looks like a useful way to learn defense without excessive strength in the contact – it appears to be more flowing, more like aikido. Its not helping yet to resolve a conflict that has appeared and how to move next (against myself!) but will go and think about it some more.

1. Thomas B (2002), p311 The Roots of Combat, Bruce Lee Fighting Spirit New Edition, Sidgwick and Jackson
2. Benedict Challoner Szulecki (2009) How would you describe good Chi Sao?, Wing Chun / Ving Tsun kung fu group, available at: