From sticky hands to sticky body - By Bill Paris

What is the definition of a complete fighter? Someone who can defeat an opponent in all ranges of combat (distance, close range, takedowns, ground grappling), by any means. What are "sticky hands"? A close-range hand and arm training used in Wing Chun Kung Fu. What does "sticky body" mean? A natural companion to, and more penetrating method of, sticky hands, in which the entire body is involved in fighting. Who can offer this transitional type of training? Sifu Chow’s Integrative Wing Chun (IWC).

Any practitioner of Wing Chun is familiar with single and double sticky-hands (chi-sao). These drills help the student develop sensitivity and timing through feeling an opponent’s commitment. Sifu Chung Chow admonishes his students to be conscious of whether or not they feel commitment (or energy) on their wrist or elbow. If an opponent grabs the wrist, the student brings up the elbow into a bong sao (Wing Block). Conversely, energy applied to the elbow should cause the student to immediately drop the elbow into a tan sao (Upper Side Block). The main concept to remember is to "be like water," as Bruce Lee often told his students, and flow with the energy.

Sifu Chow’s IWC covers all ranges of fighting, and he breaks down close-range, stand-up fighting into four sections or "phases". "Phase 1" refers to the passing of the wrist, which occurs when the student initially makes contact with an opponent (such as after a "break" in chi-sao). "Phase 2" means gaining control of, or making a cutting angle on, the opponent’s elbow. "Phase 3" is the actual trapping of the elbow with one hand while penetrating the opponent’s blind side for a side choke with the other. "Phase 4" is gaining control of the space behind an opponent’s back, where s/he can no longer fight. Sifu Chow emphasizes that no one can get to Phase 4 in just one move, and admonishes his class to take many steps, as if climbing a ladder. If it is difficult to get a good choke on one side of the opponent, he demonstrates to his students how to flow with the opponent’s energy and immediately choke the other side. This tactic can be repeated until a rear naked chokehold, and a Phase 4 position, is achieved. Keep in mind that in Phases 1 through 4, the student is sticking to the opponent the entire time.

At Phase 4, the IWC student has completed the distance and close ranges of fighting. Traditional Wing Chun only goes as far as Phase 2 in stand up fighting, and sensitivity extends to the hands and the legs – but what about the rest of the body? What about takedowns and ground grappling? The IWC practitioner wants to STICK to the opponent’s body, just like with the hands in chi-sao! Isn’t that a better way to reserve more energy to achieve your goals?

This is when we get into "sticky body" territory. After Phase 4, the IWC student initiates a takedown. Takedowns can be achieved by the traditional Kau Gerk from Phase 3, or simply placing the foot behind the opponent’s knee in Phase 4 and stepping down. With either of these methods, the student continues to stick to the opponent. With a Kau Gerk, the student’s thigh becomes a leverage point to control the opponent’s back. If stepping behind an opponent’s knee, the student’s foot stays there until the opponent reaches the ground.

This is the time for control. The transition between takedown and ground grappling is all about controlling–and not slamming–the opponent. You don’t want to throw your opponent away if you have spent all of that effort breaking his/her structure! If an opponent’s structure is broken, s/he cannot fight. This will give you time to set up your body mechanics to ensure a proper mounting position.

Now that the opponent is on the ground, it is time for ground fighting. Just as in Wing Chun theory for stand up fighting, the student must face the opponent’s centerline when fighting on the ground, as well as stick to the opponent. For example, the most effective side mounting position that can be attained will look a lot like the letter "T." The student first grinds his/her chest behind an opponent’s shoulder and places a knee behind the base of the spine and another knee behind the base of the skull. This keeps the opponent’s back off of the floor so that they cannot face you. Next, one elbow digs into the opponent’s hip closest to the floor. The lower body is now wedged between a knee and elbow – it cannot move. Next, place the other hand behind the opponent’s ear and slide it down towards the floor, keeping tight against the face. When the palm, and opponent’s nose, is on the floor, his/her body is now is immobile. It cannot fight back. Throughout this process, notice that the student’s whole body is involved in fighting, and is actually sticking to the opponent at four different points!

At this juncture, the student has excellent control over the opponent. Kneeing the base of the spine or back of the head are obvious options to either soften an opponent up or render him/her unconscious. If an armlock is desired, bring the knee behind the opponent’s head up as your palm pushes the head backward underneath your buttocks. Feel free to sit on his/her head. Next, "shimmy " your free foot around towards the opponent’s face until it is in front of the face by your hand. Release your hand from the face ONLY when the heel is snugly against the cheek. With the free hand, hook underneath the opponent’s arm (furthest from the floor) and grab your opposing shoulder. There should be no gap at all between your arm and the opponent’s arm. Next, snake your other arm around the opponent’s trapped arm, but underneath the arm currently holding him/her. Bring the knee behind the base of the spine over the top of the opponent’s body so that you can squeeze both knees together tightly against the shoulder, with both feet flat on the floor. If done correctly, you can actually cause the opponent to tapout by leaning back only slightly. If this cannot be achieved, simply lean all the way back, keep the opponent’s thumb pointed towards the ceiling, thrust your pelvis up towards the elbow, and pull down on the wrist with both hands. Tapout.

For those readers uninitiated with takedown and ground grappling, this probably sounds very technical and time-consuming. However, the benefits of this type of training are immeasurable. By sticking to the arms and then body of an opponent, IWC naturally bridges the gap between stand-up and ground fighting. This unique approach gives the student more options and helps him/her to become a more complete fighter.


  • Oral and written traditions Chow K.Chung
  • copyrights Bill Paris