Monkey paws

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Pushing hands

Monkey paws is the second version of pushing hands (there are 4). It is more complex than single pushing hands, but less technical than double pushing hands. This said, it is still very challenging

Martial arts drill

Single pushing hands, double pushing hands and da lu are all taijiquan specific. Monkey paws is not. Similar versions of this particular exercise can be found in many different fighting styles.

Chi sau

Monkey paws is often known as 'chi sau' or sticky hands. It is a 'bridging' exercise.
Chi sau is usually associated with wing chun but also features in many other systems including pak mei, preying mantis and xingyiquan.

The difference between experienced fighters and beginners is the speed of muscle relaxation.

(Frederic Delavier)

Not wing chun chi sau

Although monkey paws has much in common with wing chun chi sau, it is not the same. There are different considerations, emphasis, body use and outcomes.
Wing chun is more linear and the elbows are held close to the body. Taijiquan is rounded, more open and softer.

Balance & centre

The role of balance and centre is very important in monkey paws. Central equilibrium is paramount. A slight adjustment in position can weaken the effect of your actions... or strengthen it.

Of itself so

Done correctly, monkey paws trains your body to respond without the need to consciously think about what is taking place. It just happens.

Stages of progress

Monkey paws starts off simply and eventually becomes more of a combat drill:

  1. Fixed feet

  2. 5 hands

  3. Stepping

  4. Against an attacker (freeform)

  5. Form applications

  6. Chin na applications

  7. Against an attacker (drill)

Fixed feet

This beginners level version is all about staying relaxed and sticky. By turning the waist and adjusting, the student learns to avoid using tension and adapt, change and improvise instead.
There is no stepping
. It is essentially another 'central equilibrium' exercise.

5 hands

This version introduces 5 hand/arm positions frequently found in kung fu and present within the Long Yang form and its associated martial drills:

  1. Rolling parry
    - movement 3 in the Long Yang form (repeated throughout the sequence)
    - movement 4 yin phase

  2. Piercing palm
    - section 2 in the Long Yang form, before each repulse monkey
    - slant flying lead hand
    - part wild horse's mane lead hand
    - section 3 in the Long Yang form

  3. Monkey paw
    - immovable elbow
    - double palm
    - fishes in eight
    - single whip lead hand
    - implicit throughout the Long Yang form


  4. Parry
    - flicking
    - circle arms
    - step forward, parry and punch


  5. Small rollback
    - pluck energy
    - explicit version before squeeze
    - explicit version before shoulder

By incorporating these 5 concerns, the exercise becomes much more martial and effective.
The student now begins to 'feel' for holes in the defences.
A separate rolling drill (dan chi sau) can be used to remove anticipation and improve reflexes


The ability to step when appropriate enables the student to deal with attacks in a more comprehensive manner.
Combining effective footwork with stickiness and yielding is a challenging new endeavour.

Against an attacker (freeform)

The skill of monkey paws can be used against punches and grapples.

Form applications

This challenging level of practice requires the exponent to utilise movements from the form during monkey paws.
Instead of simply feeling for spaces, the student now listens for opportunities and then employs simultaneous attack & defence movements effectively and consistently.
Openings are not forced. The main skill here is appropriateness

Chin na applications

As with form applications, there are many opportunities to introduce chin na principles and applications. Learn to feel for the possibilities and respond to the flow of the situation.

Against an attacker (drill)

Unlike the previous version of working 'against an attacker' (which was freeform), this drill occurs within the framework of the standard exercise - fixed feet or stepping.
It is designed to teach close quarters reflexes against kicks, punches and grappling.

Why do we call it 'monkey paws'?

Peter Southwood calls this exercise monkey paws rather than chi sau because he considers the monkey paw hand to be the main factor in this drill.
The monkey paw position teaches the immovable elbow. This facilitates small circle responses that take very little time and have a great effect for a minimal amount of effort.

Create chaos

Monkey is a very naughty creature: nimble, agile, adaptive and mean... Monkeys love chaos and confusion. Confusion can be facilitated by hooking.
Hook inwards or outwards in order to gain a more favourable position relative to the opponent.
By hooking, a student can unsettle the attacker and change the entire dynamic of the attack because hooking requires the opponent to change.
Hooking is accomplished by using hand position 3: the monkey paw.

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Page created 18 January 1995
Last updated 2 March 2001