Chi Sao – The Lab for your forms

The Wing Chun Forms are great energetic movements that can improve your strength, relaxation and heart (i.e mind). With enough practice, the movements are stored in memory as reflex, so that we no longer have to think about them. It’s  just like riding a bicycle. If done incorrectly, however, you can destroy your Wing Chun structure, or even injure your body.

One safe and healthy way to know if you are doing your forms correctly is through Chi Sau (Sticky Hands). As the name implies, the most important aspect of Chi Sau is to always stick to your opponent. This allows us to sense what the opponent’s intentions are, whether it is a punch, block, kick etc. With this early sensing ability, we can stay ahead of our opponent.  The arms act as an antenna of sorts, providing the feedback necessary to anticipate and control our opponent.

The 3 Sections of Chi Sau are:

  1. Bridging/Entering
  2. Sticking
  3. Disengagement


Chi Sau starts before you have contact, as you are entering your opponent’s range of attack. This is where Bridging comes into play.

During bridging, it is important to use our “intent” to visualise geometric structures. These visualisations are an aid to achieving proper alignment. We want to use these to achieve optimal structural alignment a fraction of a second before making contact with our opponent, so as to destabilise him/her upon contact.

​This type of visualisation is used by many athletes. For example: a golfer visualising the effect of the wind on the ball, or a racing car driver visualising the racing line on the track.

For beginners in Wing Chun, they can visualise the following:

  • 7-Door grid
  • Cone

The 7-Door grid is used to filter unnecessary information. So each door can either be closed, open, or half open. The closed door is when the opponent is defending and cannot launch an attack. If it is open, we can go through that door to hit or lock the opponent’s defense. As for half-open, the opponent can defend or launch an attack from that door, which we need to watch out for.

The 7-grid door can also apply to us. When we launch an attack or approach an opponent, we need to keep as many doors closed as possible, or be prepared to shut them if the opponent decides to enter them.

The Cone

If an opponent throws a straight punch, we visualise a cone protruding towards the opponent, where the slope of the cone intersects the path of the punch. This will allow us to deliver a strike at our opponent, whilst simultaneously deflecting the punch. ​

One must remember that the bigger the base of the cone, the bigger the shield  created, however our striking range will be reduced. On the other hand, if we reduce the base of the cone, we will create a bigger gap, allowing our opponent to get through, but our striking range will be increased.

​When we are approaching the opponent, we need to remember to keep out of their power zone. This is roughly the space of the opponent’s cone.

It is where the opponent is at his strongest. At the same time, we need to keep the opponent within our power zone to have a bio-mechanical advantage over them. In other words, we must flank them.


At the moment of sticking, we should maintain the structure of the cone. This will help us deflect any incoming force. If the opponent’s force is too great and distorts the cone, we should step side ways out of the power zone. If we move backwards, this will not be as effective because the opponent has the momentum to drive his force into you.

​To step side-ways, we use the rule “right leg goes right, left leg goes left”. This means when we want to move to the right, our right leg leads the side step, and if we want to move left, our left leg leads the side step.

Once we get out of the opponent’s power zone, they will have to stop the charge and change direction to launch another attack. During this change of direction, you can launch a counter-attack.

When you launch an attack remember the quote ” A technique should finish in three.” This does not mean that you should finish the fight in 3 moves, but that you should have 3 strikes in 1 sequence or combination. This will make it harder for your opponent to defend and counter attack. ​

When you or your partner wants to disengage and finish the drill, don’t just drop your guard and walk away. Move out of his power range by moving to the side or back of him. Your mind should be on guard until you are out of range, in case he launches an unexpected last minute attack.

Article by

​Sifu Anthony Chung.  Sifu Anthony has over 20 years experience in teaching Wing Chun, and is now based in Indonesia, where he runs the hugely successful Vikoga Wing Chun Academy, teaching adults and kids. ​​

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