I’d Rather Beg Forgiveness Than Ask For Permission: Chi Sau, Self Defense and the Street:

Getting it in with my Sifu and very good friend, Philip Ng. Phil taught me what REAL chi sau is all about (hint: it’s not just sticking to your opponent’s hands!)

What do we get drummed into our heads growing up?

The importance of being “nice.”

That word drives me crazy.  In fact, the two words I dislike the most are nice and unique.  Why?  They don’t mean anything.  Seriously, what does nice really mean?  The absence of something bad.  Think about it-what carries more weight, hearing someone say that so-and-so is a “nice guy” or that he is a “good man.”

The same goes for the word “unique.” If everyone is “unique” then by pure philosophical reasoning no one is.

Now I know the spirit behind what is trying to be said but it doesn’t change the fact that the end result is the same: two, in the words of Morgan Freeman from The Shawshank Redemption, bullshit words.

In that same vein, one of the sayings I heard a long time ago went soemthing like this:

It is always better to ask for permission than to beg for forgiveness.

Remember that one?  Sure you do.  Unlike my two favorite words mentioned above, this one has a legitimate basis for being considered valid (albeit in moderation) as proper etiquette and manners are important and serve many functions in society.

None of that has jack squat to do with fighting.

In fact, for any martial artist committed to simple, effective and practical self defense and personal protection and especially for us as Wing Chun folks, take this saying and flip it around.  For us and our focus on functionalizing our Wing Chun for use on the street, making Wing Chun effective in real life situations, it should read like this:

It is ALWAYS better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

I like the sound of that a hell of a lot more.

The woman who is attacked on the jogging path, the man jumped as he is leaving the grocery store late at night, anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time doesn’t have the luxury of processing the “whats” and the “whys” of the situation..Why is he attacking me?  What did I do?

Short answer-it doesn’t matter.

In Wing Chun training, we have a built in mechanism to address this issue, and that mechanism is Chi Sau training.  In order for Chi Sau to have any merit to you in your practice, it must be based on the principle of  being ASSERTIVE.  Don’t mistake being assertive with being aggressive.  The two are actually on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Being assertive is all about finding an opening and imposing your will dispassionately and without emotion; you simply take purposefully directed action when presented or if none presents, make an opportunity by creating an opening.

Aggression involves the proverbial hammering the square peg into the round hole by force.  One involves a minimal use of force to effect the greatest result; the other approaches every situation the same way.

Consider the following clip from Sifu David Peterson and observe just how tight and forward pressure focused their Chi Sau is.  Great stuff.

Here is where things get a bit tricky…

In matters of self-defense and personal protection your only job is to unleash hell on anyone who attacks you in a show of overwhelming force with the precision of a surgeon and the power of a butcher.

You must conjure up whatever demons you keep hidden away and turn them loose on the scumbag who is trying to violate you.

You have to meet their aggression with that much and more desire to do them harm for making the mistake of thinking that you are anyone’s mark or easy prey.

And then, just as quickly, once the threat is gone you must be able to revert back to being your normal self.

If your approach to Chi Sau training is a proper one, this can be done efficiently and effectively since you have developed the reflexes to sense energy and respond in kind in a simple, direct and efficient manner instead of wasting your energy on brute force alone.  Rather, you create an opening using a minimal amount of force and once that opening is created, THEN you turn it on and steamroll this prick.

As we said earlier, in a case like this, “asking for permission” in the form of hesitating or trying to process what or why this person is doing what they’re doing doesn’t matter one bit.

Gwoh Sau

In order to really functionalize your Chi Sau training; in order to prove that Wing Chun is an effective art that WORKS on the street your approach to Chi Sau must follow this formula.

On a personal note, I have always found the Chi Sau DVDs produced by Sifu Gary Lam to be “gold mines” of information on both approaching Chi Sau from a more realistic perspective as well as an example of how someone with a non-typical Wing Chun build (in other words, someone not slenderly built) an apply the Wing Chun system in a way that both plays to an individual’s strengths and does not alter or modify the system itself.

Begin taking action on this ASAP by building yourself a DVD instructional library of only the best resources, make use of them regularly and always remember that when it comes to Wing Chun’s effectiveness as a real no-b.s streetfighting system, never, ever EVER ask for permission to protect yourself-and to hell with begging for forgiveness, too.


Train Smart, Stay Safe

Sifu Bobby

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A WORD OF WARNING: I tend to speak and write how I think, so some of what I say may come across as insensitive, rough around the edges and maybe even a bit arrogant. If sarcasm, political incorrectness and occasional "naughty words" offend you, you may want to move on - but if you're serious about making your Wing Chun WORK, then fill out the fields above and let's get started!