As introduced in the previous article, Chi Sau which translated literally means sticking hands, is a unique form of training used in Wing Chun Kuen where practitioners sharpen their skills and techniques at short range, improving reactions, balance, sensitivity, timing, speed and strength. In this article, we will be going further into the subject and detailing how these benefits can be achieved from training as well as analysing the concepts behind the advanced sticking hands theory.
Awareness During Training
At the beginner level of training in Wing Chun Kuen, while practicing forms, movements and sticking hands, the students are not yet aware of what they are doing and why. At this point they simply try to learn the movements and techniques they are being taught, swinging arms and legs without understanding the concepts behind what they are trying to do. They mostly copy and follow whatever their instructor is doing.
As the students progress and get better with time, they should begin to look into themselves, as a performer would do, seeing themselves from the outside in. Once this process begins, this forms the first stage of the training awareness where the mind and the movements start to merge together. It is in this stage that the students actually begin to learn the movements and techniques they are being taught. This means that they are now using their minds to learn the movements.
The second stage of training awareness begins when the students start to train using their mind and their knowledge together with their body to form their techniques and movements. Thereby exercising with knowledge. At this stage, the students now begin to form proper shapes within their movements putting the knowledge gained from the merging of the mind and movements into their activity. At this stage, the students should work at it until they don’t have to put any thought into the movements. Hence at the end of the stage, the students would have reached the point where the mind and the movements become one.
In the third stage of training awareness, the students begin to learn how to use their minds to make their movements become stronger and more powerful. They start to study and observe the way they practice. It now becomes the mind and the energy merging together to generate the movements and no longer the movement itself.
These base concepts of training awareness can be applied to all areas of martial arts training not just forms or sticking hands. They are very valuable in teaching the student self awareness as well as self discipline during training. In whatever activity we do using our bodies, it is not our strength that moves us, it is our energy that makes the movements using the shape of the body. Hence the body forms shapes.
These processes so far described are natural in human beings. For example, if you desire a glass of water, you would move, your movement requires energy, but do you feel your energy when you are reaching for a glass of water? You don’t, you just do it unconsciously.
Applying this concept to the subject of Martial arts, most people are like this when they are learning martial arts at the very beginning. They don’t feel the energy in what they are doing because they only learn the movements and techniques. They don’t look into what they are doing at the time they are doing it but when you come to a much higher standard of martial arts training, you seem to have eyes that look into yourself to see what you are doing. That means you are concentrating more into what you are doing, and being less distracted. You begin to study where you energy begins, where it comes from and how it responds and reacts. It is at this stage that your mind and energy begin to merge.
You are then totally involved in your activity using your emotions, your love and your passion. At this point you are now an artist because you who are creating not just copying. Your teacher teaches you the techniques but when you are performing what you are taught it is you who is doing it, so the question arises can you actually do it? Can you create from what you are taught? If you can then you are now an artist so be yourself, there is no one else better qualified. Hence during this time, artistic skill can never be artistic perfection because the soul creates everything.
The training stages discussed so far refer to students in the beginner and intermediate standards. Following on from the concepts of mind, energy and body movements that have just been described, when applying these concepts to training, the body will experience balance and imbalance. This takes the subject of training in Wing Chun Kuen to much higher level.
In general the balance of the body has to have a centre, if the body is experiencing imbalance, the centre of the body will change, this change means that consequently the centre of the body will also experience imbalance. When the body balance is on the outside or close to the position of the centre, we call this gathering or heavy. If the body balance is off the centre we call this empty or light.
The phrase gathering or heavy is used to denote where the weight or strength is gathered. Empty or light denotes the converse. For example while practicing sticking hands, you would normally have one leg forward and the other leg back. If the balance is at the centre with both legs are supporting the same weight and the body is not moving, then there is no heavy and there is no light. Consequently there is no difference between the two. But if the body leans back a little, or the moment it moves, it is no longer at the centre and this now creates a difference between heavy and light.
In sticking hands theory, during the changes in motion and movements whether forwards, backwards, left or right, the difference between heavy and light in respect to the body balance should always be 40 and 60 percent. Only at certain times can it be 30 and 70 percent, but never 20 and 80 percent or 10 and 90 percent.
Another illustration to further explain the point is when you punch, your mind projects your energy forward to the front, the front now becomes heavy or gathered and the back becomes light or empty. If someone behind you pushes you slightly, you will fall over towards the front, because your weight has gone forward. Also if some one were to pull you from the front, you will equally fall over.
This concept of balance explains why in advanced sticking hands it is preferred for the difference of heavy to light in relation to the distribution of the body balance to be 40 and 60 percent. So that whether your energy or strength is projected forwards or backwards, left or right or in any other direction, a good body balance is always maintained. So balance during training now becomes a very important key issue for the student to observe and understand.
Producing Round Energy
Each technique and movement within sticking hands should be round. That is, the movements produced by the body should have round angles. When the movement is round, the energy from within becomes agile – otherwise forming straight angles will produce very static energy.
If the movement or technique forms a straight line or shapes with angles such as triangles or squares, we still have to demand that the way the energy is produced from within is round. For example consider a Bong Sau movement (a wing arm technique), looking at the wing arm from the outside, the elbow is bent forming an angle but from inside your body you should use your mind to create a round energy to support your wing arm technique. Although your elbow is bent on the outside, the shape of the energy from the inside pushing out will not let you feel the energy from the outside pushing inwards in the event of an opponent or training partner crashing in your wing arm. This is because of the agile round energy from the inside pushing out that supports your bridge hand which you use to forms the shapes within your techniques. (Briefly described the Bridge hand, like a bridge stretching across a river should be strong and flexible. The whole arm and its joints in use is called the bridge hand.)
Hence by creating and utilising round energy you can produce much more force to take on and over power the outside force coming in and also the energy you produce will never stop because it is round and like a circle and has no end. While practicing sticking hands, the movements and techniques should not be agitated, that is suddenly fast or suddenly slow. They should be round, even and linked by the energy within. Techniques that are in between movements should not be done with hesitation nor should they stop. If either the movement or the energy stops, then your mind still has to carry on because it is your mind that creates the energy to produce movements.
Consequently in order to link the energy of the whole body during sticking hands, the back and hips have to be joined together with the energy that is going forward. The movements have to be quick but should not suddenly stop this means it cannot be agitated or rigid but instead even and ongoing. The energy within the two hands has to be linked together as if there is a great big air balloon between your hands joining them together with the energy of the rest of the body. (The only exception to this is when your hands are in two different directions).
It should be noted that this concept is intended for training and not fighting. For there is a great difference between the two.
Concept of the Five Bows
In trying to apply these concepts to your training in order to achieve the benefits so far outlined, the student can no longer concentrate on local areas of the body such as only the hands or only the legs or elbows etc. The student is now required to concentrate on observing and responding using the whole body. This is achieved by joining the whole body together into the application of techniques and movements. The top and bottom, left and right, front and back of the body has to be used together as one.
During training the student has to observe and take note of how he or she uses the body. Using the shoulders together with hips, the elbows together with the knees and the hands together with the feet. This means the student is focusing into the whole body and in advanced sticking hands, this is called being square on.
When using the whole body into an application of a technique or movement during sticking hands, there is a way to use the strength and power generated from the whole body. This method is based on the concept of the five bows within the body.
These bows are briefly described below:
1). The spinal cord is the main bow in the body. The waist is the back of this bow while the neck and the coccyx are the ends of the bow.
2). The upper body limbs, the arms form two bows. The elbow is the back of this bow while the hand and shoulder where it joins the spinal cord are the ends of the bow.
3). The lower limbs, the legs, form two bows also. The knee is the back of the bow and the foot and hip socket of the leg are each end of the bow
When the waist, which is the back of the main bow moves, it needs also both the upper and lower bows. Hence your movement requires all five bows moving together. The energy produced will come through the rib cage and extend outwards and this is the energy that powers the movements.
Taking your opponent seriously
All too often, during sticking hands training, the role the eye plays is usually ignored and not taken full advantage of. The eyes should not be taken off your opponent. The eyes project energy too, the way you look at your training partner or opponent will show whether or not you are ready to take on your opponent. Any fear within you will usually be seen first through the eyes and most times the battle is won or lost at this point. So the eye in effect can become a weapon, sharp and mean just like an eagle’s eyes. The eyes mean so much during any kind of confrontation. This is part of the warrior attitude.
The concepts and suggestions discussed in this article, if understood and consistently applied to sticking hands training can only yield those incredible results that will inspire others as well as yourself to go further and reach for more excellence in your Martial Arts. Chi Sau training is an on going learning experience. It is truly a fascinating and ingenious training system. It’s true value can only really be appreciated by those who train earnestly and have a desire to learn from it.