About the Sticky Hands

Most followers of martial arts should know this does not refer to a person with an uncontrollable desire to steal. It refers to a method to stick to an attacker’s arms (or legs) in order to keep track of and ultimately evade, deflect, or dissolve an attack by an adversary. Bruce Lee brought this training drill to the attention of martial arts followers in martial arts magazines in the late 60s and early seventies, having studied from then living Grandmaster Yip Man of ‘Wing Chun.’ Not all the details could be told …

… until Americans were trained in this technique as students of WingTsun / Ving Tsun / Wing Chun instructors. The nature of it is hard to put into words.

The Chinese people traditionally had kept their martial arts in a small family circle, not letting the knowledge spread beyond it. However, after Chairman Mao of the Chinese Communist party took over the Chinese government in the late 40s, most Chinese martial arts went further underground. Fearing a martial resistance, his forces reputedly rounded up many masters and had them jailed or killed.

Others fled the mainland to places like Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia or Hong Kong. Grandmaster Yip Man was one of those who fled to Hong Kong. Bruce Lee generally gets the credit for revealing the chi sau (sticky hands) drill in America by teaching it in the Seattle area.

Although not exclusive to Wing Tsun (Wing Chun), chi sau is most highly developed within the Yip Man family and even more so within the Leung Ting WingTsun® family. Leung Ting WingTsun® has seven basic two-man forms called ‘sections’ of chi sau up until the third form is learned. After that, more sections are taught as applications of the third form and the wooden dummy set.

One could call the WingTsun™ chi sau programs a mental-psychological-physical exercise because it is an exercise that requires some faith in one’s ability to learn it as well as self-examination of one’s physical flaws and humility. Unfortunately, some experts like to lend it a metaphysical quality which leads many to disbelieve its existence. Instead, it is an exercise which requires a student to change one’s perceptions of their abilities. We hear ‘I can’t’ – I can’t’ quite a bit before they pick up on the idea of stick a few months down the road.

Once you can feel an attack coming before you see, you won’t go back to other methods. Once you can feel the attacks as they occur and can use the attacker’s force, you will not want to defend another way. In fact, one cannot completely stop fast hands in another fashion. If fast hands occur outside this centerline position, a WingTsun practitioner merely shoots forward with fast hands down the shortest path to the attacker – a straight-line.

Sifu Keith Sonnenberg