Chi Sao; Phases of Understanding
Level 1 Mechanical Phase
Purely mechanical phase, used to learn the correct lines for the three shapes; tan (spread), bong (redirect) and fook (subdue). You work the rotating motion of the arms (luk sau) with pressing (bik) power.
Level 2 Striking Phase
Striking level. Basic hand shapes are converted into strikes. Strikes are introduced as drills. Footwork involves basic advancing (biu ma) and turning (juen ma).
Level 3 Root Phase
Where you develop good angled footwork (toi ma), root and balance. The root in particular gives rise to greater power in the arms, allowing you to experiment with breaking the opponents balance using such things as pushing and pulling. You experiment with various ways of stepping and sinking and lifting the hips (kwa) for power.
Level 4 Experimental Striking Phase
Where you develop free and spontaneous hitting. Striking is not limited to hands, but includes strikes from clinch/dirty boxing, knees and elbows.
Level 5 Positional Control Phase
Where focus is no longer on hitting, but on positional control of opponent. The idea is to exert complete control over the opponent, removing his ability to attack. You do this by controlling his limbs, controlling his balance and remaining in a position of dominance. You are rooted to the spot and your ability to uproot, turn, redirect or hold the opponent appears effortless.
Level 6 Metaphorical Phase
The unraveling level, where the object is to develop character traits such as tenacity, perseverance and courage. The struggle to overcome adversity within the paradigm of Chi Sao is used as a metaphor for overcoming adversities in life.