Once the hands are in contact, Chi Sao provides the tools to react to an incoming attack without thinking. However, the specific drill that develops this reflex is not widely taught or understood.
Sifu Barry Pang explains the method that Wong Shun Leung taught, which enables an automatic reaction in either direction, depending on what is felt through the arms. Getting this wrong means that you will walk into a punch.
If the mind has to get involved, the reaction will be too slowBarry Pang
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Practicing the Chi Sao attack/defence
Practice the attack/defence drill until the reactions become automatic and the pivot direction is always correct. Practice attacking with either hand. The defensive pivot is always to the side from where the attack is coming.
- Song ma/Tui Ma. A Tan Sao attack as you step forward (Song Ma). Opponent ‘rides’ this back and to the side, sticking to the attacking arm (Tui Ma).
- Pak Sao/Bong Sau. A Pak Sao attack from your Fuk Sao hand to clear the path for your other hand to strike, whilst moving forward. Opponent feels the movement with their Tan Sao hand, applying a Bong Sao and pivot to deflect the attack.
- Beginners, start with predictable Song Ma and Pak Sao attacks to develop the correct Tui Ma and Bong Sau reactions.
- Intermediate level, you can start to randomise these in your Chi Sao practice.
- Advanced level, you can include fake signals to throw your opponent off and allow the attack to flow into a short burst of close-contact sparring.