Chi Sau is one of the factors that distinguishes Wing Chun. No other martial art has a training exercise that can teach highly high skill levels at the same rate. A pushing hands drill is used in Tai Chi and other styles (akin to Daan Chi Sau in Wing Chun). This exercise teaches a different skill by only using one hand or side at a time. Chi Sau is a unique exercise that makes us sensitive to our opponent’s movements and reacts following what is happening.
We are constantly aware of where our hands are about our bodies. When our arms make contact with the opponent’s, we instinctively know where our opponent is, making it easier to stop them from hitting us. The forearms, hands, and fingers are extremely sensitive to movement and can be subtly taught control. When we pick up a delicate object, we do not use the force we would use to pick up a sack of potatoes. We only grip as tightly as necessary; if something slips, feedback from the nervous system tells us to engage more tightly or change our position. Chi Sau primarily operates on this subconscious level.
Chi Sau drills provide a learning link between the forms and fighting. It teaches us how to use the random techniques of free action in a safe learning environment. The risk of injury is low because Chi Sau is a learning process rather than a fight. As a result, we can compare Chi Sau to testing our skills under laboratory conditions rather than the rough road test of actual fighting practice. Chi Sau’s practice requires a clear and focused mind. The need to concentrate and be single-minded clears the mind and prevents us from thinking about anything else. Training will frequently reach a point where there is no time to think about anything. At this point, we must trust and rely on our bodies’ automatic systems, turning off the conscious mind. Elite athletes have always understood the importance of a relaxed body and a focused mind.
Because Chi Sau is about developing sensitivity, it is simple to practice with just one person blindfolded. As this is all they have to rely on, the sensitivity in the arms will increase. If you practice blindfolded or with closed eyes, keep in mind that the person with limited vision will be able to feel where your center is but may be unaware of how close you are.