In the Wing Tsun™world, Lat Sau means “free-hand fighting.” Lat Sau comes after chi sau. In other words, chi sau is a bridge toward actual fighting. Chi sau (sticky hands) is an exercise that has combative elements but is not full-on fighting. Chi sau practice builds sensitivity in the arms or legs to the movements of our attacker. It enables a defender to counter instantly in response to the mode of attack. Of course, chi sau creates an artificial situation in order to focus on building the skill of the feeling of our attacker’s movements through arm and leg contact.
In Lat Sau, the arms and legs are not in contact, initially, as in a real fight. Now is the time we learn to bridge the gap between the beginning of an attack and the moment of contact. All the skills of previous training are used together to defend and attack using all the principals of sticky hands, structure, straight-line of defense and attack, economy of movement, not clashing with an attacker’s force, borrowing an attacker’s force, using the correct angles to put us into a position to defend and so on.
In Wing Tsun, a fight only lasts until there is a clear ‘winner.’ Of course in a real self-defense situation, the winner is the one who walks away or runs away unharmed. A prolonged fight is not in the interests of the defender. The longer the fight lasts, the more chance that an attacker will have a chance to to prevail.
Various levels of contact gear are possible, all the way from light chest gear to full head, chest and leg protection. Normally there is no sport outlet for Wing Tsun fighters. Sport puts an element of unreality into the martial art because of the existence of a ring, rules, restrictions, a “face-off” between two fighters, etc. In real life, an attack may come out of nowhere, weapons are sometimes used, blind-sided attacks occur, chairs get used, there are obstructions, bystanders, multiple attackers and the list goes on. Real self-defense has very little similarity to sport. The focus of Wing Tsun is self-defense and the benefits received in the pursuit of the practice such as fitness, breath-control, self-confidence, self-control, and self-discipline among others.
– Sifu Keith Sonnenberg