What is Chi Sao?

Two Wing Chun legends. Ip Man (left) and his student Bruce Lee (right) performing the Chi Sao "roll."

Wing Chun favors sensitivity and speed over strength. Chi Sao is the tool used to develop these attributes. As you can see from the multiple links below, there are many ways to add variety to this drill. But let's start by defining what the drill is.

What is Chi Sao?

Chi Sao is often translated as "sticking hands." Two practitioners stand less than arm's length away from each other. They touch their arms at the wrists and then begin to roll (something you will see in videos later). The goal is to feel for openings in the partner's defenses and then attack.

You are also feeling for pressure. If your partner leans downward heavily on your left arm, you should not fight upward against their muscle. Instead, you should disappear by snaking around them with a Huen Sao (see the Techniques page for more information) and then strike to their centerline!

The Biggest Chi Sao Mistake: Hand Chasing

One of the most common mistakes I have seen people do (including me!) in Chi Sao is to chase the hands. Let's say someone moves their right hand out to the side, then presses upward, then downward, then moves in a circle, and so on and so forth.

Many people will follow the person's hand all over the place. There is a simple reason for this: they are worried about getting hit. However, instead of chasing their hands, you should be striking back to their centerline. If a person drifts too far in any direction, they are opening themselves up for an attack.

Bruce Lee once said, "The person who controls the centerline controls the fight." This is true. If you let go of your fear of getting hit and charge back to the centerline and dominate it, then you won't need to worry about their counter attack. They won't be able to pull one off if you get control of the centerline!

Is Chi Sao Fighting?

Many people ask this question, and the answer is NO...but also YES.

Chi Sao is NOT fighting because, on the street, your opponent is not going to always be within arm's length, and they sure as hell aren't going to touch their arms to yours at the wrists and engage in the Chi Sao roll with you!

However, in a way it IS fighting...the Wing Chun way. The range in which we practice Chi Sao is the range in which Wing Chun is most effective. Therefore, we can say that our beloved training drill of Chi Sao IS and IS NOT "fighting."

We will go into further detail about Chi Sao on the following pages.

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