Doing Chi Sau with a high level opponent is a fascinating experience. No
matter what you try they are there before you. When they move quickly you cannot
react and when they move slowly they have opened you without you even realising.
They are in control of everything. The question is how do they control you and how
can you learn to do this?
Whenever I Chi Sau with my Sifu he always says to me, “Come on, try your best, don’t hold back.” But in the end the result is always the same. My arms feel like lead, sweat is pouring from my brow and I have been hit (although not hard), chopped and pushed around more times than I can remember.
There are many things that make up good Chi Sau. Good technique and application are some of the most obvious things, reactions and timing are also others. However there is one more that is not mentioned so often and this determines the technique, reaction and dictates the timing. That is the flow of the hands.
You must be able to flow along with whatever techniques your opponent uses against you, also you must be able to flow along with what ever techniques you use against your opponent. Now if you have done Wing Chun for a while you might think that is quite obvious, however how many times have you kept that flow going continuously for five or ten minutes? If you try it you will find that it is very hard to do. Most of the time when you try to do something it is not smooth and disturbs the flow and can even break it completely. Then things can become very messy as you try hard to make them work and this is when you will start to use too much strength as your timing is out and you try harder to make your applications work.
When you Chi Sau with a high level person you find they do not do too much, they let you try whatever you like and are always there before you. You can try to test this by doing Chi Sau with your partner, but concentrate on the flow rather than trying to hit or defend. One person needs to lead the flow and the other must follow. Don’t do anything complicated, keep it at a level where both of you can manage. Whoever is leading must lead the flow very clearly and make it obvious what you want your opponent to do. If you want him or her to do a Bong Sau, Lap Sau in such a way that it is obvious . Remember the key is to create a continuous flow in which neither of you has to try to follow but where both of you can just do it. After a while you will find that you have to clear you mind and not think, just react and do. When you can keep this going for five minutes then have a third person at random times single a change in who is leading the flow. You need to make the change smooth and clean, and again the flow must be continuous.
A high level person can read your flow and follow it so closely you don’t even realise it . Even if you change it quickly they can adjust and follow it effortlessly. Then again without effort, they take over the flow, breaking your rhythm, not allowing you to regain control and to find another comfortable flow. This is true control as they can follow your flow at ease and take it over whenever they want. It is high level, because they do not need to use technique to control you, they do not need to grab your hands and pin them down to trap you. Whatever you do, you are being controlled and everything you do is because they allow you to do it.
Of course, we are talking about a very high level of skill here. I am lucky to have encountered this with my Sifu and my Sigong. As I mentioned earlier Sifu (and Sigong) always say, “Try your best.” However, that means they are in control. The very fact I have to try to do something means I cannot just do it, but that is the challenge and it is what makes Wing Chun so special.