The English translation of Chi Sau is literally sticking hands and for the most part this is exactly what it is. However strictly speaking, we are not just talking about the hands but the whole arm or 'Bridging Arm' as it is commonly referred. Hence it can be said that it's strategies are employed at 'bridging range'.

In recent times public exposure to Chi Sau has been mostly through the Wing Chun system, which is a kung fu style popularised by the late Bruce Lee. Other kung fu systems also incorporate similar 'sticking' platforms into their overall combat strategy such as Shaolin Ancestors kung fu.

The objective for its inclusion is quite specific, as it is a way of training the mechanics of maintaining self-balance whilst influencing that of your opponent. During the bridging period, whether it is a glancing or prolonged contact, there most likely will be opportunities to attack the incoming forces. Whether we end up dissipating, distorting or controlling, we can as a result create opportunities such as openings for strikes, takedowns or submissions. Importantly, training to control the opponent's arms and balance whilst striking results in a different approach to other stand-up kung fu systems.

Currently within some sectors of the kung fu communities there is disagreement as to the validity of Chi Sau as a method for fighting. Some argue that its a valuable training exercises to develop certain aspects of sensitivity and reflex which is the reason why it is trained differently to how they would fight. While others within the same camp may suggest that if trained in the right environment and intensity it could indeed represent a practical and effective way to fight. Whatever the argument it would seem logical that if you train for the latter your actions and movements should be the same as the ones you would use during a fight, with the only difference being the level of intensity and intent to injure. From my own experience both sides of the argument are valid. It really depends on which system of kung fu they are training, as there are different approaches even within the same styles.

If you train to fight using Chi Sau then your programming must allow you to engage from the onset and regardless of what stance or arm structure you flow into, your reactions must be very similar to what you have trained otherwise there will be a mental conflict. To be effective you must be aware of the strengths and limitations of all your bridges at the different ranges of combat. Without a comprehensive level of understanding and awareness we would be prone to making inefficient bridging choices. Only then can we train to listen and react from the entire bridge whilst delivering seamless power from our body's core.

Whatever our choice of striking tools we need to be able to deploy them all from a sole platform. In essence whichever hand set-up or arm postures we adopt, our ability to stick and flow should naturally surface from whatever position we find ourselves in. However there exist certain favourable arm positions or biomechanical structures from which to strike or control from, so our platform needs to be able to generate enough power to overcome strong resistance in order to naturally flow into these positions. The ability to engage our Chi Sau from any starting position is just the beginning of the journey. I was once told 'Your basics are your most advanced, improve your basics and your kung fu will become more advanced'.

Certainly Kung Fu can survive without including Sticking Hands, but in my opinion it’s a great asset to have, and would make a valuable contribution to any traditional Chinese Martial system.

Author's Bio: 

The Author Siukee Wan is an instructor of the Shaolin Ancestors Kung Fu and currently teaches Kung Fu Classes in Guildford Surrey. To view more articles or to find further detail on the Guildford Kung Fu Classes please visit kung fu in guildford