Footwork in Chi Sau by David Peterson


It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway!), that 'Chi Sau' without footwork is like fishing without a rod. Unless one has a "delivery system", how can one expect to "take one's goods to the market place"?

Of course, beginning 'Chi Sau' as a stationary exercise is crucial, in order to firstly make sure that the basic shapes & structures are correct, in much the same way that the 'Siu Nim Tau' form is practised standing still. What I teach my students, as a "bridge" between the basic "single-hand" drill ('Dan Sau') and the more complex "double-hand" drill ('Poon Sau') is a "moving/stepping" variation of the first exercise. This follows various footwork drills whereby the students learn both attacking and defensive footwork, both with and without partners, and consists of the following: the person in the 'Taan Sau' position steps in with their 'Jing Jeung' ("vertical palm") attack, to which the person in the 'Fook Sau' position responds by applying 'Jam Sau' ("sinking arm") deflection, supported by 'Tui Ma' ("side-stepping") away from the attack. From here, the "defender" then attacks with a punch as he/she uses 'Seung Ma' ("forward-stepping") to advance towards their partner's position. In response, if the partner feels (and I emphasise, "feels") that their "Centreline" position is not overly threatened, they can respond by "shuffling" away to the side (a simple variation on the basic 'Tui Ma', whereby the stance remains in the same configuration, but is shifted slightly backwards and away from the attacker) and convert their 'Jing Jeung' attack into a 'Taan Sau' defence. At this time, they can also "counter-attack" with a fist or palm attack if they wish. Alternatively, if the initial "attack" is felt to be too strong and in control of the "Centreline", a defence is created by "long-stepping" ( the opposite variation to the basic 'Tui Ma', whereby the forward leg retreats backwards and to the side, becoming the rear leg of the stance, while the body is now placed on the opposite side of the attacking limb), accompanied by a 'Bong Sau' deflection. Two very important points to note here are:

   1. no matter which way one ends up stepping, the stepping is determined largely by what one feels, in other words, how the enemy shows you by his/her own movement how to overcome them.
   2. While the "shuffle-step" shifts one backwards and to the side, the "long-step" MUST be a more lateral motion towards the side because 'Bong Sau' is NOT structurally sound enough to support the force of the attack if the footwork is a backwardly moving action, due to 'Bong Sau's' totally defensive nature.

IThe way in which we practised footwork in the "Double-hand" variation of 'Chi Sau' when learning in Hong Kong under Sifu's guidence commenced with the addition of a basic "attacking-step" ('Seung Ma') being applied to match the 'Taan Sau' position (ie: if the right hand was in 'Taan Sau', then the right foot would step forward, and vice-versa). This takes place at the "bottom of the roll", when the 'Bong Sau' converts to 'Taan Sau'. In response to this "attack", the "defender" makes use of the "Fook Sau Principle" (as drilled in the first section of the 'Siu Nim Tau' form), whereby the 'Fook Sau' remains in position with constant forward (elbow) force, resulting in the opponent's energy being transferred through to the stance, thus causing a natural "collapse" into the 'Tui Ma' ("side-stepping") action. At the same time, the defender's other hand remains in 'Bong Sau' and the "Centreline" is directed back towards the opponent, ensuring the ability to control and/or attack with either/both hands.

To further test the position/reaction, the training partner "attacking" can immediately, from the position that they are in, try to "attack" again by stepping and forcing forward with the hands. Should the "defender" have lost concentration at this point and relaxed their forward pressure, they will be found out because the the second "attack" will breach their defence, or else the stance will fail to "re-collapse" in a shuffling manner so as to maintain correct hand positioning/control and posture. If correctly applied, the result should be that the distance between the two remains the same, the hands remain in contact, and the "defender" is always at a slight angle to the "attacker", thus having instant access to him/her for a counter measure.

One thing to consider at this point, before we get into anything more complex on this subject, is that I have observed some practitioners only do the 'Poon Sau' ("rolling-hands") on one side, ie: only 'Bong Sau' on the right hand, never the left, plus it has also been my observation that some people practise 'Chi Sau' with the right leg forward, as opposed to our neutral stance ('Yi Ji Kim Yeung Ma'). In order to fully appreciate the drills that I have and will discuss, it is crucial to make sure that they are done on both sides, afterall, we don't know how we might be positioned when forced to apply such drills/concepts/techniques in real combat, so for the sake of total development, please try all the possibilities.


About the Author

David Peterson has been training in the Chinese martial arts since 1973. He became a student of Sifu Wong Shun Leung after travelling to Hong Kong in 1983. He is a teacher of the Chinese language and principal instructor of the ‘Melbourne Chinese Martial Arts Club’ where he instructs in the "Wong Shun Leung Method". Peterson is one of only two authorised and qualified instructors of Wong’s system in Australia, and a fully endorsed member of the world-wide ‘Wong Shun Leung Wing Chun Martial Arts Association’ and the Hong Kong-based 'Ving Tsun Athletic Association'. He is also a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in many local (Australian) and overseas journals, including "Combat", "Inside Kung-fu", "Black Belt", "Masters of the Martial Arts", "Impact: the Action Movie Magazine", "Eastern Heroes", "Australasian Fighting Arts", "Blitz Australasian Martial Arts Magazine", "Australasian Martial Arts Magazine", "Traditional Martial Arts Journal", "Impact Martial Arts Magazine", "Qi Magazine", "Martial Arts Illustrated", "Kicksider" and "Kung Fu Illustrierte". More recently, his articles have featured on several international Web sites in both the English and German languages.

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