Sam wrote: what do you make of Chi sau, sticky hands, pushing arms etc. Do you think they can have a place or is it just flapping arms about?

Some people that i’ve trained with not mentioning any styles or schools had the opinion that if they flick you that they score a point or they get a hit. Where i trained these Flicks were dismissed for the reason if it wasn’t a punch that would hurt you then it is not worth blocking in the first place.

How would you train it if at all?

Steve wrote: I’m going to combine my answer to your question with another question that came up on the Sunday Session thread about a drill I do that James referred to as ‘sticky hands.’

The drill that James was referring to is not sticky hands, it’s hand fighting. The purpose of this, like Muay Thai and wrestling pummelling, head and leg fighting, is to achieve a dominant position. This can mean to create space to strike him, off-balance him prior to a dump/takedown, or tying him to check him, etc. It’s a momentary, very brief phase during the fight. Once the principle is understood, you don’t need to make a lifetime study of it, and you definitely shouldn’t be using something like the Chi Sau or sticky hands as a replacement for the fight.

Sometimes you perform these drills in a fixed way or sometimes in an experimental way, but always you conclude with an actual fight, either conditional or dissimilar. For example, in Primal if we were working this type of drill, each training partner would have a designated mission at the outset (either similar or dissimilar). For example, one guy might have the role of a standup fighter, and his mission is to hit the other guy; the other guy might have the role of a submission fighter, and his goal is to go for the takedown and submission. They have a set time frame to achieve their respective missions (usually 10-30 seconds of high intensity work). They’d start the hand fighting and somewhere in the middle of it I’d shout out ‘FIGHT’. Now they have to perform their mission before the time runs out. At the end of the time period, they go back to their original drill. And I repeat the process. In this way, the hand-fighting won’t become too experimental or idealistic. Because at any second, they might be called on to fight.

I do this kind of thing with hundreds of different drills. They’re snapshots of the fight.

That’s how I would suggest you apply your chi sau drills. You start out with a flow drill which could be designated soft or hard, and then you break into a mini-fight which has conditions for safety factor, and then back to the flow. And you can change the conditions, of course. Doing it like this takes out the flicky bits and the absurd claims as to what a move means, or what effect it would have had if he hadn’t held back.

And more important, it puts the hand-fighting into perspective in the context of the whole fight. When you know how to create these snapshots and put them all together, you end up with a movie of a fight. And your brain doesn’t know the difference, so you can get a lot of fight experience without actually taking serious risks of injury. There are some risks, obviously, but they’re much less.

Here’s a clip, if you look at the beginning of it only you’ll see a brief moment of hand fighting before they move to the clinch position. That’s all that it is. It’s an important part of the fight, but it’s fleeting.