Effortlessly controlling an opponent requires the successful application of a contradiction: Being relaxed but strong when the stakes are high.

There’s a natural, self-preservation instinct to resist aggression directly. However, resisting leads to an arm wrestle that the stronger opponent wins. At the opposite end, having incredibly relaxed arms will lead to your guard being collapsed. The stonger opponent wins again.

The middle ground involves using superior technique to win – you don’t have the luxury of picking weaker opponents. Having loose arms, but being strong through the legs and hips has to be trained as an automatic behaviour when the arms clash and forces interact.

Sifu Barry Pang explains that the goal is to be able to read and redirect, especially under extreme pressure. This requires relaxed hands, a strong base and a gradual build-up of your ability to withstand pressure.

The power comes from the technique, not the arms

Barry Pang

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Chi Sao training tips

Avoid soft Chi Sao – If your Chi Sao practice has no pressure, it may feel good but it is not useful. In a real situation there will be massive pressure, both physical and mental. You must develop an automatic ability to remain relaxed whilst your guard is under significant pressure, absorbing the force through correct body structure and a strong stance.

Avoid tense Chi Sao – If your Chi Sao practice involves tense, strong arms, your ability to read and redirect your opponent has gone. The stronger person will win. If you have developed a strong arm habit, you need to undo this by starting again, slowly building up the pressure that your relaxed arms can cope with.

Broaden your Chi Sao training – At Barry Pang Kung Fu we condition ourselves for different contact points and body mechanics beyond the Wing Chun static position. Tai Chi 太极拳 partner work Tui Sao involves dynamic use of the legs and hips to generate power, maintain balance and be able to yield when required. Liu He Ba Fa 六合八法拳 partner work Yiu Shun has similar legwork but introduces a variety of contact points from the wrist through to the body.

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