This is the full transcript of a lecture by Grandmaster Moy Tung on the difference between Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu’s Chi Sao exercise and sparring. An excerpt was previously published here: Moy Tung on Chi Sao vs. sparring. Things to keep in mind during the Detroit Kung Fu anniversary workshops June 3-13.
You have to build a relationship to even be able to work out with someone in Ving Tsun Kung Fu. If people don’t know each other that means it’s sparring. You’re just trying to test each other’s hands. Before we’re even going to do things like play hands, or have some students enjoy working out and sparring with each other, let’s just make it so there’s an environment where everyone is clear about the situation, and they know what they’re getting into. And they make sure their kung fu’s prepared for that.
I don’t mind my students sparring with people from other families, even from my own brother’s families, people in the Moy Yat family. I don’t mind them sparring among themselves. But there’s Chi Sao, and then there’s sparring. A lot of people mistake sparring for Chi Sao. Chi Sao is a constructive and very productive exercise. It really builds a person’s kung fu, incredibly.
Sparring is just one of those average exercises in martial arts. It can be fun and enjoyable, but, literally, it’s just trying to check each other’s kung fu. Sparring and playing hands, and getting confrontational with each other in the work out, is a certain way people get experience in kung fu. But the number one best way is the Ving Tsun way, and that way is simply doing it the Chi Sao way, which is definitely just relaxed, and you sit there and you’re conditioning with it.
When you’re doing Chi Sao with someone, instead of worrying about trying to get techniques in on a sihing, a student is better off just playing the role of the sidai they’re supposed to play, rolling their arms, working on their sensitivity and reflexes, feeling for the openings. A whole lot of fun things were included when the exercise of Chi Sao was made up. A student needs that. Because that means their body gets to repetitiously go over and over and over and over the technique. That repetitiously going over the technique builds the kung fu within them.
If all they did was spar and try the technique out all the time, that’s just like wearing out your tires. Some people Chi Sao that way, that’s how they do it. When they feel someone that’s got real horse, and real kung fu heaviness in their arms, and that person’s technique is penetrating their boundaries and they get hit, and they feel that hit, they know that hit’s going deep; they change their mind about wanting to spar a Ving Tsun guy.
So I’m not worried about what you guys have to do. I’m just making things comfortable so you can relax and do what you feel you have to do. I know the people in my branch of the Moy Yat family – any of these guys train correctly, the way they’re supposed to do V.T.; I’m not worried when it comes down to them training with anybody. If they’re training around one of their granduncles, or a great-granduncle, that student is gonna learn. They have a lot of kung fu there, to deal with that relationship, and to learn a bunch of Ving Tsun.
I have to teach a lot of people about what Moy Yat really would want. And that is to understand the difference between Chi Sao and sparring. The Chi Sao is there. A lot of rough stuff can go on in Chi Sao, people can test technique in Chi Sao, even some sparring can emerge in Chi Sao, but then it goes back to Chi Sao again. And I know there’s a way to really test someone’s kung fu in Chi Sao that’s legitimate Chi Sao. Believe me, most of the martial art world, especially a huge amount of people who think they know Ving Tsun, who learned it from someone from China or whatever – they don’t really know Ving Tsun, they don’t know Chi Sao, and what they’re doing is playing hands and thinking they’re doing some kind of Ving Tsun-Bruce Lee thing.
Those who really know Ving Tsun, though? You can tell when you touch their hands. Just because someone spars up close, doesn’t make them good at Ving Tsun. It doesn’t make their kung fu real, doesn’t make their Ving Tsun real, doesn’t make their Chi Sao good at all. Just because they might touch hands and roll a little bit and then spar up close. I think it’s a valuable skill. A lot of guys from other martial arts are doing that these days, learning how to spar up close, I get it. But there’s nothing like V.T., nothing. End of story.