While it may seem like a misnomer, Lat-sau is Wing Tsun’s answer to full sparring but still in a controlled manner. Meaning Free-fighting, Lat-sau is a curriculum all to itself in that so many variables are possible.
For most, the premise of sparring means going all out and full bore. For Wing Tsun, though, everything we do is about refining and honing our skills. Full-scale sparring certainly has its place in any martial art, and Wing Tsun in particular. But the concept of Lat-sau affords us the opportunity of applying a great deal of realistic fight training still within the realm of being a learning experience.
So how do we approach this unique method of fighting? How does it all start and what goes in to it?
Lat-sau begins with the Pak-sau drill, a drill learned during the very beginning with Siu-Nim-Tau section 1. The reason that Pak-sau is used as the basis of Lat-sau is because of its simultaneous attack and defense nature. It is immediate, fast and very efficient as a first response, as well as flowing smoothly with natural actions.
Once Pak-sau is competent, we delve into the Pak-sau timing drill. This drill begins with the Pak-sau drill and then suddenly, without notice, the punch is timed with Pak-sau so that it becomes one movement vs a one-two movement. By doing this, we learn to keep Wu-sau properly protecting our upper body while simultaneously timing the punch with Pak-sau.
With the timing drill, we introduce steps. Advancing-steps, side-steps and withdrawing-steps are worked – as well as changing sides – in order to free things up and become more mobile. As it progresses, a student will also be introducing physical conditioning to improve their health, fitness and overall structure.
Following the Pak-sau timing drill, we then begin a circling action of the lower body. This circling action teaches how to maintain the centerline while moving, as well as enhancing structure and fitness. All previous actions of footwork are introduced, too, so that a practitioner becomes fluid, mobile and responsive.
Lastly in the Pak-sau series, the punches are altered high and low periodically in order to instill even more awareness to incoming attacks. When a practitioner learns a specific drill and way to “do” the drill, he/she sometimes gets ingrained with doing the actions solely in that manner. When that happens, they unknowingly create an unresponsive instinct.
By varying the punches high and low at random times, the practitioner is now forced to respond outside of the normal straightline attacks. Hooks, uppercuts, blasting forward, quickly withdrawing and setting up the incoming response are all elements that a practitioner will respond to. In effect, he/she is working a level of fight training without knowing it.
There are literally hundreds of Lat-sau scenarios to address the multitude of situations we might find ourselves in, and I am planning a series of examples to illustrate what Lat-sau is and how it is trained. Stay tuned for some great training!