It is always hard for us western people to apply the Asian philosophy especially when talking about martial arts that are seen in our culture as techniques allowing to fight and defend ourselves only.
But if we use the pragmatic view of this philosophy, all of a sudden we find a new interest in the idea of the five elements.
In order to apply this idea in Chi Sao, we will split in 5 what should be seeked for in Chi Sao:
Part 1, linked to the Wood, is what Cantonese people call Guo Sao. These are all hands and foot Wing Chun boxing techniques.
This boxed version of course follows the rules of Wing Chun and is as a consequence limited to our rules stating that we should not use huge sidesteps that would compromise our balance and we should not take a blow (at least we try not to). These rules make us less efficient than boxers who learn rotary or flexing sidesteps and push their learning up to how to take blows. But we should not forget that Wing Chun is made of 5 elements!
Second element, Fire, is called Hong Djaï and could be translated by control. It is in this movement that we learn how to control opponent’s hands so as not to let him box.
Third movement is Metal and is called Toï Laï. I hear you from here, no Lionel, you are wrong, the third movement is Earth. It is true that if we look at today’s logos, Earth is at the third position but this is linked to seasons and other philosophical inputs. In Wing Chun you have to refer to the old version where Earth is in the middle of the other 4 movements. Loï Taï is commonly described as push and pull. It is in this movement that we learn how to move the opponent, to make him loose his structure and even his balance.
Fourth movement is called Tau Sao that we could translate by manipulation. The aim here is to manipulate opponent’s hands or body to redirect him.
Central movement is Earth. It is simply all of our footsteps, it is well known that without earth, there is no playground.
For those of you who read my previous article about the five elements, you will have noticed that I link movements to the different Wing Chun forms: Siu Lim linked to the Wood, Cham Kiu to the Fire, etc… By linking this symbolism and the above described movements, this gives you an idea from where the different techniques might be taken to perform those five movements.
Now that you have the five elements division in Chi Sao and the form from where you may find the different techniques, this offers you possibility to work each element on its own, by two, by three or to work them together.
To be applied in your next Chi Sao