When you get down to the core of it, fighting is a relationship between two people; usually of which one party is trying to inflict damage whilst the other is trying to protect themselves. Chi sau is a relationship between two people, but this time there is a co - operative element in that both parties are each exploring attack and defence movements in a safe environment. Teaching is also relationship between two people, with transfer of knowledge being seen as the motivator.
Interaction is the key to any relationship. I am sure you have been in a 'conversation' with individuals who only ever talk and never listen. They generally offer a few questions, but only for the reason they can open up a new topic about themselves. Other times we get stuck with someone who we have nothing in common with. Each new topic we bring up to pass the time is shot down with one word answers. Compare that relationship with a chat with good friend or your partner, instead of coming away drained you feel energised.
Too often chi sau is taught as a series of snap shot techniques, like learning several phrases in a foreign language. Have you ever tried this method of communication in France? After one or two sentences you will be shot down or the response you get will be a blitzkrieg of unintelligible words. To interact you need to know the meaning of the words and not just phrases. The language part of wing chun is relatively easy (it's techniques), it is the relationship part which is difficult. If you do not understand the context of the techniques you may as well be both speaking in different languages at the same time.
So, if the relationship bit is important, how do you learn that? By learning to understand your own body and its responses to stimulus you take a big step in finding out how to use it. Also, the interaction of chi sau allows you time to study the movement of your partner, and how common tensions exist in each of us. What I am getting at is it is not the arms flapping around in chi sau that is important, it is how those movements effect your structure and balance (your ability to give and receive force).
All of this creates a big problem for a wing chun school like Sung. People come to us wanting to learn the equivalent of a crash course in French for their holiday, and what we are offering is akin to an immersive language experience. Even if they have learned martial arts (including wing chun) elsewhere, they may as well be speaking German as the core basics are different. However if they can learn the wing chun principles correctly, they will greatly improve their other arts as a consequence. It takes time but the effects will spread into your life more than if you were just to learn a few kicks and punches.
So, as a teacher it is not my job to tell you how to react to a given stimulus, I can give you the feeling of how I react, adjust you so you can create that and other appropriate responses, but most importantly free your body to find its own natural responses which are free of habit. When you remove the immediate defensive response, the taught response and the habitual responses, you will find the body already has its own internal response which is not only just as powerful but crucially more appropriate than you could have anticipated. This is a joy to witness (it feels egoless) and the feeling of detachment it gives opens up an opportunity to watch and learn. Therefore chi sau become a true laboratory to explore and grow, which is a million miles away from technique and drill work.
I learn so much teaching because the method I use through words and touch is done simply to get the student to inhibit their own habitual reactions and bring about a more natural response. The results can be remarkable but also frustrating for students as when they practice with others at first they try to reproduce a movement which they have previously allowed to happen. The equivalent of parroting a phrase in French in response to a question you did not understand. True in-the-moment interaction allows both parties to learn from chi sau and take their wing chun to a different level.
Beware of wing chun systems which offers an endless curriculum of techniques and belts to acheive mastery. There is a lot to learn at Sung but much of it is a stripping away of what is unnecessary. For a martial art to work as an adaquate self defence, it's movement should be simple, efficient, brutal and direct, in that way we can engage in the moment and not fall into the trap of predicting future scenarios which may not happen.
Sorry to say there is no secret technique or magic bullet available, other than begin by training your mind to be in the moment. Where the mind goes the body follows, and at that point the wing chun journey begins.
Keeping you up to date with what is happening in class