Chi Sao

Everything You Need to Know About Chi Sao

The 80-20 Principle of Chi Sao

Over 80% of successful strikes, defenses, or both are from doing only less than 20% of the basic Wing Chun techniques we first learn. In Chi Sao, it’s no different.

Chi Sao (Sticky Hand) is a Wing Chun drill that can be considered as light sparring. In Chi Sao, we learn how to effectively gauge sensitivity as well as actually striking and defending against a partner but we tend to do flashy or overcomplicated attacks when we Look Sau (roll our hands) during Chi Sao. Most of the time a simple Pak and Punch is enough to get to the opponent. But why do we learn all these other techniques in Chi Sao if we’re only going to be only using the same few techniques 80% of the time?

The reason is because we learn different techniques is so when we train with a partner we are helping them react to different attacks. It also teaches the sensitivities of different type of attacks so when we feel an attack come a certain way, we logically connect them to the defense drills that we’ve practiced over and over.

Master your Chi Sao Technique

By doing the same few techniques over and over, you’re building muscle memory for those techniques and this will help you improve and master them. If you have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, well in Chi Sao, by doing a single type of attack or defense repeatedly 10,000 times should be enough for you to own that skill and to be very comfortable doing it. When doing your techniques come natural to you, it allows you to start focusing.

Think about your own Chi Sao training sessions. Think back about when you Chi Sao and the techniques you use and the effectiveness of the ones that you use the most often. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the one technique that you have the highest success of striking and the least amount of success your opponent has defending. If you’re already aware of what technique you use that is effective, the next step you need to do is focus on the why.

The reason this is important is because once you realize what your strengths are, you can now focus on your opponents’ weaknesses and why they’re failing to defend against you. If your technique is successful against the majority then the majority has the same weaknesses. Help your fellow Wing Chun practitioners out. Tell them where they need improvement and show them why they’re unsuccessful. They will be thankful because it’s hard to realize our mistakes and address a solution.

Feel free to comment below on your Chi Sao training and if the 80-20 principle applies to your Wing Chun.

Psychology in Chi Sao

I write up my class notes to share every month. You can read my previous class notes here.

So, how does sharing class notes help me improve my training? This is why.

The purpose of these monthly class notes is to:

  • Reflect on what I learned
  • Look back on what I can improve
  • Inspire you to jot down your own notes and improve YOUR training
  • Share my goals and what I want to improve next
  • Get feedback from my peers
  • September was Chi Sao month. I focused on Chi Sao and it’s psychology when practicing with a partner. It definitely made class more interesting and had me very anxious to practice Chi Sao!


    Practice with force in class because it’s the only place where it’s safe to do so.


  • Lead with a strike so the opponent feels danger and react to it
  • Make the opponent react. The goal is always to make the opponent move because if they don’t move then they’re not in any danger and if they’re not in danger, my attack is useless
  • Chi Sao

  • If you begin flailing arms when you’re not in a good position, reset and find the best position to be in and go from there
  • Once you feel the opponent preparing something, go with the flow but counter them
  • If one arm is blocking the other needs to be striking
  • Four quadrants, do not cross quadrants
  • When striking, imagine striking through and past them
  • Final Notes

    Chi Sao was very enjoyable this month because of the new perspectives that my Sifu introduced. I believe the psychology behind Chi Sao is very important: Make the opponent react then exploit their reaction.

    Additional Chi Sao Notes

  • Don’t hesitate rolling when arms are switching in between rolls. Practice rolling in and out without hesitating when switching.
  • Always make sure Tan Sau and Bong Sau has 135 degree angle where the elbow bends.
  • Fook Sau is relaxed from forearm to wrist.
  • When both my arms are resting on opponent’s, follow with arms and not the elbows. Don’t bend elbows. Move with the rolling by raising or lowering the Fook Sau arm.
  • Keep Fook Sau in the centerline. Stick wrist to opponent’s wrist.
  • Keep fingers together to avoid them from being grabbed or jammed.
  • When rolling, transitioning from resting hand to rolling hand, pull in and shoot out when opponent is about to roll into Tan Sau
  • Roll to top when I’m in Tan Sau and lead with the thumb out
  • Bong Sau doesn’t stay static. Once block connects, flip to Tan Sau
  • Step in and lead with strikes
  • Chi Sao

  • Never pull unless it’s Lop Sau
  • Pin opponent, push into them. Bump them
  • When pinning opponent’s arm, make sure that my arm crosses theirs and it’s not parallel
  • Lead with strike first
  • Step in with weight on the back leg
  • Roll with a tune or beat
  • Tan Sau + Bong Sau roll is done as if there is a ball between the hands where each wrist overlaps the other
  • Use elbow to damage or pin opponent. The idea is to use every part of the body, if possible, for maximum efficiency.
  • Tan Sau should hurt the opponent. Blocking should make the opponent think before the next time they strike.
  • If my arms are pushed outside, Pak opponent’s arm and use my sticking arm to roll out and strike. Always look for openings and don’t wait on opponent’s next move; don’t wait, initiate.
  • Fook Sau is 135 degree
  • You miss 100% of the attacks you don’t make
  • Dealing With Frustration During Chi Sao

    Today we talk about the frustration that can occur during Chi Sao.

    For me, it happens at least once per class when I am doing Chi Sao with a junior or senior student partner. They would throw attacks where I can’t find a counter, or answer, to them and I get stuck. I know a possible solution is to use my strength or speed to get out of the situation but one principle that I’ve been training by is one that my Sifu always says. He says to not rely on power or speed but rely on good technique.

    It’s a hard principle to follow because my instincts are always to rely on my strength and speed. Even so, I stop to think of a solution by only relying on my techniques. Of course, this doesn’t always work because a lot can happen in a moment during Chi Sao. In this episode, I share two examples.

    My question for you, do you experience this? How do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!

    Look at My Eyes When I Chi Sao With You

    Eye contact is hard.

    Try making eye contact with strangers on the streets. My initial reaction is to look away.

    It’s hard to maintain eye contact because it’s usually for people I’m close with: friends, family, colleagues.

    In Wing Chun class though, it’s even more difficult because during drills or Chi Sao, my opponent is literally a feet away. It feels uncomfortable to maintain eye contact at such a close range. So instead, I would stare at my opponent’s hands. I would also stare everywhere else except my opponent’s face and eye area. And I wasn’t the only one, other people in my class would look to the side of me or past me (because they were taller than me).

    I think it’s important to work past this because I believe we can see a person’s intent through their eyes. Also by focusing on the face area of my opponent, I have the peripheral view of their body so when they’re about to do something, I can see it coming.

    Let me explain. I think that the farther the movement is from the brain, the easier it is to spot it, if you’re looking.

    For instance, let’s use a straight punch. If you look at my punch, you can see the movement from my neck first because I start tensing, then my shoulder raises, my biceps flexes, my elbow extends, then finally my fist.

    The hands are the last thing that moves when a strike comes.

    If I’m spending my time just staring at my opponent’s hands, I am already too late and my opponent has already thrown the punch. All I can do is avoid it by blocking, shifting, or deflecting. I think that’s where the term “chasing hands” comes from.

    Let me know if you think eye contact is important for you.

    Question: What do you pay attention to when you’re doing Chi Sao?

    Eyes Closed Chi Sao

    Today is another class note focused on Chi Sao, more specifically, Eyes Closed Chi Sao!

    The idea behind Eyes Closed Chi Sao (ECCS) is to shut out all your visual distractions and focus on finding openings created by your opponent.

    When I first tried this, it was scary because I couldn’t see what my opponent was going to do with my eyes closed. But when I got used to it, it made it much easier to focus on my opponent’s intent. I don’t know how to describe it any other way but “intent”. I could feel when my opponent is about to step forward or strike, etc. This was because my eyes were closed, I could no longer rely on my sight but had to use my other senses to Chi Sao.

    It’s a very fun drill and I encourage you to try it out with your training partner. Go soft so you don’t hurt each other, especially if it’s your first time. Just roll and see if you can find each other’s openings and try to strike when the opportunity presents itself! Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

    Using a Rash Guard in Wing Chun

    Today we talk about using a rash guard or compression sleeve in Wing Chun.

    It’s summer in New York and it gets really hot in class. This leads to a lot of sweating and it makes training a bit messy when I’m sliding off my opponent’s sweat.

    I’m trying out the rash guards (or as I like to call them, Chi Sao Guards) and here’s what I think so far:

    – It keeps my sweat separate from my opponent and my arms no longer slide off my opponent’s arms during drills and Chi Sao.

    – I’ve never wore long sleeves in class before so wearing these rash guards has been my first experience with sleeves in Wing Chun. I find it uncomfortable and prefer using only my arms.

    – It doesn’t affect my sensitivity or my techniques but once again, it feels different than when I’m just using my arms.

    I plan to continue using them for the remainder of the summer but in the mean time I’d like to know what your take is and if you wear any extra athletic wear for your Wing Chun training. Let me know in the comments!

    Keeping Your Cool in Chi Sao

    Today we talk about keeping your cool and not losing your temper during Chi Sao!

    I see Chi Sao as a game. The goal of playing a game is to win. The goals to winning Chi Sao may not always be clear so the most basic of objectives are to:

    – Be the first to land the strike on my opponent
    – Be the last one capable of striking
    – Be the one with the best technique

    These are great objectives but if there is no clear end to it, it will just continue to be a game of tag and exchanging strikes. This can continue to escalate to a point where either person can become agitated and start losing their cool. This leads to more aggressive behavior, a lost of technique, and regression to determine who’s stronger.

    But I realized that when both persons are clear on their objectives, there is no ego or lost of temper because it is clear what they’re trying to accomplish. I think it’s important to talk to your training partner before each Chi Sao session so that it is clear what both of you are trying to accomplish so that once it’s accomplished, it’s okay to reset positions and start again. I think communication is key to avoiding unnecessary conflict.

    Do you ever lose your cool during Chi Sao or any type of training drill? Let me know how you dealt with it in the comments!

    Defend and Strike in Chi Sao

    Today we talk about defending and striking in Chi Sao, also known as the art of multitasking.

    One of the things that my Sifu always says during Chi Sao is, “never defend with two hands”. If a person is attacking me, they’re probably only going to use one arm which means their other arm is free. So if I use both my arms to defend one of my opponent’s arm, right away I’m at a disadvantage. They have a free hand.

    The same can be applied for striking. If I’m attacking with both my arms, one of them has to be in guard position or else I open myself up for a counterstrike. And personally, I don’t think a two hand strike is an effective way to attack.

    The solution is to always defend and strike. We have two hands so it is possible to do both. It may take time to getting used to it in Chi Sao but if you watch the previous episode (#049), I talk about creating my own Wing Chun form that consisted of my Chi Sao techniques. By having my body memorize the technique, I let my muscle memory guide my body and let my mind think about the next step, whether it’s counter striking or following up with another strike.

    What do you think about this idea of always multitasking in Chi Sao? Let me know in the comments!

    Pinning Your Opponent in Chi Sao

    Today we talk about Chi Sao and how to properly pin your opponent.

    To pin your opponent efficiently, you need to do 4 things:

    1) Strike first so that your opponent feels danger

    2) Clear your opponent’s arm as they defend or react to your strike, meanwhile blocking their other arm from countering you

    3) Step in to close the distance

    4) Bump them to disrupt their flow

    5) Oh and this should all be done simultaneously 🙂

    Do you guys do anything similar in your Chi Sao training? I’m definitely interested in hear what you guys do so let me know in the comments!

    Learn Chi Sao

    If you haven’t learned Chi Sao (Sticky Hands) yet or want to learn different Chi Sao drills, you need to check out Sifu Chuck O’Neill’s Chi Sao video courses. He has two videos out on Chi Sao, the first video is called “Chi Sau Foundations” and is for those who are just starting Chi Sao. The second video is called “Chi Sau Advanced Techniques” and it goes over eight Chi Sao techniques. I have both videos and I have to say that I was surprised…

    We’re both from the Yip Man lineage but his approach to beginning Chi Sao was much different than the way I learned it. Sifu Chuck explains each drill by breaking them down into three sections: introducing the drill, reviewing it, and then adding key points to why the drill is important.

    I actually learned a lot from his hour long “Chi Sau Foundations” video. One thing that differentiated my Chi Sao training and Sifu Chuck’s is that he goes in details the importance of foot work in Chi Sao. Upper body is important but it requires both lower and upper body working in unison for us to be truly effective in Chi Sao and in Wing Chun.

    The videos can be downloaded right away and you can begin training as soon as it’s done downloading.

    You can buy Sifu Chuck’s video course here. (Disclaimer: I will earn a commission if you purchase through this link. I have personally used Sifu Chuck’s videos and I am recommending them because they are helpful and are products that I trust, not because of the commissions that I may earn from you using these products. Please do not spend any money unless you feel you really need it and will help you reach your goals.)

    If you’re an absolute beginner to Chi Sao, I recommend grabbing a friend or training partner to watch the videos so that you can train along. One note though, don’t try to digest everything in one day, there’s a lot of information in each video but the benefit of having a downloadable video course is that you can rewatch it whenever you want.

    Preview of Sifu Chuck’s Chi Sau 1 Video

    Photo Credit: S_R2009

    2x Your WingChun Every Week

    Stay updated with Practice Wing Chun to get weekly Wing Chun tips twice a week!

    Leave Your Comments Below