Thursday, December 05, 2013

James W. DeMile - Why Train Chi Sao?


In classical Wing Chun teaching of Trapping, Chi Sao and Phon Sao were the same thing and it took many years to develop a defined skill. There was no distinction between the two, they were one art. Which in China, was OK, because training was a way of life and one would devote many years to develop even a basic skill.

At 18, Bruce Lee was still a student, not a teacher and wanted to continue his training in Wing Chun. He became frustrated after arriving in America, because there were no masters to train under. So, he decided to train training partners. This decision created two major problems. First, Chinese was his first language and it was hard to give English definitions to Chinese concepts. Second, since he was still just a student and learning trapping himself, he found it extremely difficult to communicate the innumerable option of motion without totally confusing his students. He solved both problems by simplifying the process of teaching Trapping by reducing the information into two distinctly separate levels, Chi Sao (an exercise) and Phon Sao (the application)

I have read, over the years, that Bruce Lee said that Chi Sao was not necessary to learn, that Trapping skills could be developed without it. Easily said, since Bruce already knew Chi Sao and its relationship to Trapping. It is like a millionaire telling you that money is not really important. Let me share my thoughts on reflecting what Bruce told me in my early years of training with him.

Bruce said it would be like trying to run before you can walk or trying to solve math problems before you can count. Phon Sao is totally spontaneous and relative to responding to the non-structured actions and reactions of your opponent. In application, it requires an extreme high level of skill in reading and controlling your opponents motion. You can use your hands, wrist or arms and there is no set starting position. You can attack or absorb an attack or do both. Although, there are people who have a natural talent for learning Trapping, most do not and I mean 98% of the population.

This is why Chi Sao is a critical step to evolving spontaneous trapping skills. Chi Sao is only an exercise and teaches you to walk or count. It allows students of different sizes and strengths to become equal. Chi Sao establishes physical guidelines of motion that are very efficient and effective, both offensively and defensively. But most important, it offers a set procedure to learn how to control the opponents actions and reactions within a defined area. This area is known as the Upper/Outer perimeter, where most attacks occur. This set procedure defines the stance (for stability/mobility and natural spring load base), centerline foundation ( for creating and maintaining two weapons), basic arm and hand positions (for natural defense), the rotation procedure (for defining the range of motion), blending (which enables the student to train any student, regardless of size) and attack options (creating and/or filling the holes of the opponent). By having a set procedure it allows the student to repeat, repeat, repeat his moves until he has a clear understanding of all the basic concepts of trapping.

Quite different, Phon Sao does not have a specific or required engagement structure. You can engage with your hands/wrist/arms in any manner allowing you to contact and control your opponent. The type of contact will determine the degree of Trap. Three defined methods of traps. Minor is checking. Closing of one angle with (three escape potentials). Major is closing three angles with (one escape potential ).
Maximum is restricting all angles (no escape potential).

Unlike Chi Sao, which you can do for an hour, Phon Sao is done in quick, short bursts of one to three moves. The majority of Phon Sao moves are done in less than 5 seconds. The types of actions and reactions will be different with each student and dependent on many factors, a few of which are, methods of engagement, amount of opposing energy, angles of energy, single or multiple energy, positive/negative energy flow, speed of motion and positions relative to the centerline. It is almost impossible for the teacher to teach a proper response when the student is reacting only to the “moment”. What might be the proper response of the teacher may not be the best response for the student. This is why a foundation is necessary so the teacher and student have a common language to explore the different potential for each encounter.

Addition, Division and multiplication are all applied aspects of numbers, but you first must be able to count the numbers from one to ten. The same logic is applied in Trapping. Chi Sao is learning to count from one to ten . Phon Sao is all the applied, from addition to Quantum Physics.

Posted to Facebook Sep 6, 2013

You can contact Sijo James W. DeMile via his Wing Chun do Site or Facebook.

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