Graphing Chi Sau: This is Chi Sau, this is not....
Chi sau or "Sticky hands" is not a single, narrowly defined drill. Like Wing chun's techniques, it is ultimately a concept and not a rigidly defined movement. Shape and position are a result of function. While not infinite in use or expression, it does expand and contract to encompass many aspects of Wing chun and fighting.
Chi sau practice occurs on a continuum of variation and force. There are different things to be learned from all the variations. Poon sau is the simplest. Poon sau practice focuses on the positioning, sticking, rolling, and transitioning positions. This is where your Chi sau practice starts. From there attacks and defenses are added to those ideas. Increasing levels of contact and deviation from the "rolling" pattern will eventually qualify your Chi sau as Gor sau. It is still sticky hands practice as long as you are developing the four most important things learned in Chi Sau (see Chi Sau is for PEST(s)).
Gor sau approaches what other arts would refer to as sparring and serves well as preparatory practice for sparring. With regular practice, when you close on an opponent (or he closes on you), your arms will already "know" what to do upon contact. And once interception is made and you stick, could you say to be back into sticky hand practice...?
If you were to plot the variations of Chi sau on a line graph, the simplest and most structured (Poon sau) on the left and the greatest levels of chaos, variety, and contact (Gor sau) on the right it would look something like the graph below. Also, just off the graph on the right would lie sparring (which could in turn have its own continuum graph of wide ranging variations)
This is just to give you an idea of the overall concept. As many variations can occur along the line as one can come up with as long as the core purposes are preserved. In additional to level varying levels of force one could Chi sau:
-only with legs (Chi Gerk)
-with one's back against a wall
-On top or bottom of a full-mount
-with training knives
-focusing on locks
-focusing on takedowns
and so on....
Practice of all variations is necessary to develop full and functional Wing chun skills. Start at the beginning and hone the details, but do not get stuck at the beginning. Explore variation to build usable skills.
Sifu Nick Edmonds
Red Light Wing Chun Phoenix, Arizona