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Evolving your Chi Sao

After another excellent John Kang seminar we all came away with a good deal of Wing Chun information to process. Over the next few classes in SF I focused on a few lessons that were applicable to chi sao practice; new openings from rolling, counters, combinations and exploiting common mistakes in pressure and structure. This got me thinking about the natural progression many people make in their chi sao practice.

Initially in chi sao you just want to defend all attacks and maintain good structure. Good structure is an all encompassing terms that involves everything from your stance, to your hand positioning, to your forward pressure and muscle tension. You are really just trying to survive and keep up with your training partner.

As you get comfortable with your defense and structure you may move on to improving your offense. You employ counters, timing and improved structure to challenge your training partners. Some of these may be conscious improvements, but often these things just happen without your noticing it. For some people offense comes naturally, or is baked in to their practice from the beginning. For others it needs to be developed and coaxed out. Either way, it is an essential part of Wing Chun.

Inevitably you will find that you tend to rely on certain techniques and get stuck repeating them. Identifying and breaking your patterns is a great way to expand your chi sao and keep your training partners guessing. Experimenting with new techniques may be humbling as they probably will fail much of the time, but if you have even some success with new techniques you can probably refine them and learn when and where they work best.

It is easy to plateau while training in any martial art and feel like you are not making much progress. Or perhaps you feel blocked from really using certain techniques. This is where learning set-ups and combinations can open some doors and help you advance. These can be learned at any stage and will add wonders to your arsenal.

Depending on the experience and variety of your training partners, there are many ways to continue working on your chi sao. Changing up your style of chi sao is one way. If your chi sao is usually soft and slow, try switching to hard and fast, or soft and fast. If you normally work at the outer edge of your optimum range, trying working at the inner edge of your optimum range. Another approach is to try handicapping yourself. If your attacks are dominated by one hand, try using your other hand for all attacks. Or try chi sao while standing on only one leg; this was a tip I picked up from someone else and is surprisingly useful.

There are many paths your chi sao practice can follow, and many more ways you can work on improving it. Please share your experiences with us online, or in person at one of our classes.

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