top of page

Wing Chun Chi Sau and the neurological system

 An article by Si-fu Derek Vernon ( All rights reserved by the author )

Wing Chun System

Chi Sau is a unique training exercise that exists within the Wing Chun System.

Chi Sau meaning Sticking hands develops sensitivity in the hands, wrists and forearms. So what do we mean, when we use the word sensitivity? In short, feeling which is the sense of external
stimulation upon the body. I must at this point, point out the sense of sight (the eye) which can not be 100 per cent at determining the intention of any one who is going to attack you e.g. they may faint.

Chi Sau is also good for focusing the eyes. So the sense of sight is important up to the point of contact. This is when the sense of touch and Chi Sau comes into play. At the point of contact we can train the reflexes.

The reflex is the first part of the nervous system to act and it an involuntary action, so if the
nervous system is involuntary we must learn to condition it. For example, the normal reflex action when handed a very hot plate would be to drop it, but as this action would carry with it certain distinct disadvantages, like the loss of the meal that was on the plate or the work involved with clearing up afterwards, the plate instead of being dropped, is quickly put down. That is a reflex action which has been conditioned by other considerations.

The same must be said for fighting. If you are hit on the chest it would be pointless to touch the spot were the pain is. As this is not going to stop the attacker, were as hitting back at e.g. the nose of the attacker is going to stop any more pain.

So we can say that Chi Sau is the art of conditioning the nervous system. At the center of the nervous system is the Brain which can be split in to three parts:

1) The Cerebrum 2) The Cerebellum 3) The Medulla Oblongata.

The Cerebrum

This is the first part of the brain to be trained in chi Sau. For this is were the brain receives and interpret the senses, it also contains the brain cells for Memory, Morals, Intelligence and reasoning. At the beginning stages of Chi Sau one must remember (Memory) the techniques and understand the (Reasoning / Intelligence). At the later stages the conscious memory must be made subconscious. The Cerebrum houses two important Glands of the Endocrine System.

A) The Hypothalamus gland which is believed to be the third eye of old or the sixth sense which is often talked about. This may be true as the hypothalamus helps to Reigate the body temperature and stimulates both thirst and appetite; as well it influences the autonomic nervous system (the fight or flight reaction).

We can say that the hypothalamus gland is a receiving transmitter, which tells the Pituitary gland how to act.

B) The Pituitary gland is the master gland of the Endocrine system; it produces Hormones which control other glands of the body. The gland that is important to us is the Adrenal glands, which secrete adrenaline when excitement, fear, anger is sensed. It is said that when the adrenaline is running in the body, you will move fast. Bringing us
back to the conditioned reflex action.

The Cerebellum

The cerebellum is much smaller in size and lies below and behind the Cerebrum. Its function is to control all muscular co-ordination and balance. Which are fundamental to Chi Sau exercise. The use of only one arm to stick (as in Chi Dan Sau) to the opponent will give the student the opportunity to concentrate on the one side of the body and one movement at a time. This in turn will give the Cerebellum time to co-ordinate the muscles and balance out the elastic force needed by then in Chi Sau. This may be a conscious consideration at first, but then it will become subconscious in practice over time.

The Medulla Oblongata

The Medulla Oblongata's the center of those parts of the Autonomic nervous system, which control the heart, lungs, processes of digestion etc. As well and most important to Chi Sau it is the link between the brain and the central nervous system of the body.

A part of the M.O is the Pon Valerie which is a bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain and spinal cord. Nerves that extend upwards through the spinal cord to the brain pass through the M.O. where they cross thus the left hand side of the brain controls the right side of the body and vice-versa. This is why it is
important to train both sides in Chi Sau.

The Central Nervous System extends out from the spinal cord to the Peripheral Nervous System which lies just under the skin, which brings us back to the point of contact. When external stimulation is placed upon the body, the reflex actions the first part of the nervous system to act, as said before.

Sensory Nerves

These are messages Sent to the brain from the sensory nerves ending in the skin and from the other senses (Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste). Sensory nerves will register pain, irritation ( attacker-?) heat and cold. They play an important part in the reflex action and that of Wing Chun's Chi Sau.


Understanding the neurological system will put another perspective on the principles of Chi Sau (Sensitivity, Awareness, Timing, Positioning, Power, etc.)

Wing Chun's Chi Sau has every right in being called The Thinking Mans Martial Art!

"wing chun kickboxing martial arts Classes, Torquay Exeter Devon
bottom of page