Sifu Murat Kaplan on Chi Sau


Chi Sao

We close our feature “Why Chi Sau?” with Sifu Murat Kaplan. In this article, Sifu Murat adds several notches to Chi Sau, including this drill’s connection to Qi Gong.

Do take a moment to read…”Along with so many other positive contributions of Wing Chun to our lives, I personally feel the following benefits worth stressing:

Wing Chun, as a martial art, trains our body, mind and soul, not leaving a gap between any of the two combined traits when operating together.

The unique system of Wing Chun training curriculum enables the practitioner establish a balanced and refined harmony between body and mind, body and soul, mind and soul, etc. This balance and harmony is what we all need regardless of time, place and positions we experience in order to possess the vital qualities to reach inner peace and happiness. These qualities are “consciousness and mindfulness”.

The perfectly designed training system of Wing Chun makes the practitioner improve his consciousness and mindfulness throughout several exercises from the early stages of the training. Siu Lim Tao, the first empty hand form (translated as ‘the little idea form) suggests, with the name itself, the very core of how we develop these two fundamental features by indicating that all the details and particulars should be focused on and maintained in a highly relaxed but conscious manner.

Training this first form our body generates and stores energy (Chi) through very slow movement, open energy channels from the stance (YJKYM) and relaxed and expanded breathing. Eventually we will be able to move our Chi from the core of our storage area to all areas in our body: ‘from core to extremities’ and back again. This is a Chi Gong training within the Wing Chun system. The first part of the first form is completed very slowly to ensure proper learning and structure. The mind and body begin to integrate and the training of the ‘yee’ (or ‘intention’) begins to take place. As stated very often ‘Siu Lim Tao is to be played for a lifetime. The more we do it, the more it helps every aspect of our Wing Chun both physically and mentally in order to gain the two vital qualities for our life: mindfulness and consciousness.

The second crucial point to remember today is how Wing Chun helps us develop another set of skills that we all need: the skill of decision making and executing the decisions made!

First we will define what we mean by ‘decision making’ and later we will see how effectively Wing Chun provides us with the necessary tools to have that skill. Decision making is the skill that is part of ability to execute group of basic skills. Decision making is the ability to conclude based on facts and make consequent decision, in order to make progress of the situation. Decision making is the skill important for every individual. Decision making is necessary for individuals in order to make adjustments to the new situations, new environments.

The decision can be proven to be right or wrong, but the worst situation is one without decision at all. A hesitant driver who cannot make up his mind and decide what to do in a crossroad can cause deadly accidents, risking both his life and others’. Making timely decision, even in ambiguous and stressful situations is the real skill that can save lives or help individuals solve problems encountered. The famous Wing Chun training ‘Chi Sao’ (sticking hands) is a great tool to develop this skill. Through prescribed arm positions, structure and movement we can begin to attune to the energy of our training partner. We begin to focus and sense the energy (Chi). The connection through the arm contact is the portal wherein each person learns how to deeply sense and feel movement, tension and energy of their partner. Chi Sao training develops timing and contact reflexes and we learn when and how to execute a technique. Some of the benefits of Chi Sao are ‘close distance coordination, focusing with te eyes, mobility, balance, timing, accuracy, control of the opponent’s balance, and the Chi Gong power gained through relaxed state during the training. This whole process requires (and develops) the decision making skill because when we play Chi Sao we check assumptions against facts (the sensitivity drill), we develop behaviors that are creative in problem-solving to enable decisions, we consider the effects of external and internal forces on our techniques, we consider any possible impact of our decisions etc.

When we need to take a quick action and execute our decisions we should quickly gather the information from our partner’s moves and pressure applied to our arms, break the hardest moment or the point into parts and act immediately on the emptiness gained through hardness and anxiety of the opponent, test the water before destroying the gates of the opponent, minimize the risk by understanding and using real relaxed state and choosing alternative openings that can be tried when more information is available from the opolponent’s attacks, etc. And the most important is Chi Sao teaches us that ‘if we must act now, we should do so even if the information is incomplete or if risks are involved’. Therefore it is always suggested to implement and communicate our decision in order to move forward and reach our goals.

Rather than sparring, Chi Sao gives two practitioners the opportunity to test and explore each other’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing a unique and unplanned learning process to take place. Chi Sao helps us develop our decision making skill along with the power to execute decisions made as it trains us to hone footwork coordination, reflexes, positioning, techniques, energy and the automatic response to any unexpected situation.

The next vital quality that we all have to posses is ‘relaxation’ in order to better understand what we mean by the skill of decision making and the power of executing the decision made. Relaxation in the forearm during Chi Sao trainings creates an advantage. The practitioner does not have to consciously think, as the arm is automatically guided to form each successive structure. Therefore those who apply too much force and power during Chi Sao are usually the ones who get hit easily just because they lack the speed and mindfulness maintained by relaxation. Likewise, in real life situations those who are tense and anxious of any possible disorder or problem react without proper timing, spend too much power unnecessarily and let any attack reach the central line and destroy the gates and the structure.

This is why it is believed that if an individual practices Chi Sao aggressively, with little sensitivity and control, and no cooperation, he is no longer training Chi Sao. He is now training his ego and pride. Under these less than ideal conditions, skill development is arrested. Further his partner will become demoralized and tired. He will deplete his Chi, muscles will become sore and tired, sensitivity will become numbed and his spirit will suffer. Chi Sao, when practiced properly, will offer a lifetime of learning. ‘No Chi Sao, No Wing Chun’ as Great Gradmaster Ip Man said!”

Sifu Murat Kaplan 郭忠诚

Sifu Murat Kaplan and GM Samuel Kwok


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