Wing Chun’s unique forearm sensitivity-training exercise often devolves into soft rollover habits. However, in applied kung fu, Chi Sao practice has to be far more assertive.

Given that real self-defence situations are high pressure, forceful encounters with wild punches and strong clinches, reactions need to be instantaneous and effective. This immediately rules out tricky, 3-step sparring routines or pulling out your latest “advanced technique” from the Wooden Dummy Form. Simplicity and intent is the key.

Sifu Barry Pang explains that in Chi Sao practice the search for a gap in the defences occurs with each movement. The goal is to find a path to strike through both the Tan Sao and Fuk Sao movements, both of which are simply punches from different positions. Tan Sao when you have the inside position on the opponent’s guard, Fuk Sao when on the outside.

Demonstrating casually with black sash Scott Peterson, Barry effortlessly pierces the centreline, lands strikes and knocks him back. To be able to apply this level of power, however, students must first train all the basics correctly and patiently build up their ability to take more and more Chi Sao pressure without tensing the arms. The power must come from a well-trained base, delivered through a strong centreline structure.

In the end, simplicity is effective and necessary in self-defence, when every second matters. Because Wing Chun only has two key hand techniques – punch and Bong Sao – minimal time is required to make decisions. Develop your centreline punch as you build up Chi Sao strength, because good sensitivity alone is not enough. You must have the instinct, or true intent, to strike.

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