Rolling (poon sau) is practiced in the neutral or chum kiu stance, because we need to be able to adjust our position forward or backwards as dictated by relative forward pressure between ourselves and our partner.

One partner’s arm moves from a low flat position, which looks like a low flat tan sau position but could better relate to a punch at solar plexus height, turning up through a fook sau to a high fook sau position with corresponding shoulder action to adjust the structure before finally pointing the elbow forward, up and slightly in and allowing the wrist to drop forward and across the centre, the bong sau action, practiced right at the end of the motion.

The same partner’s other arm moves correspondingly from a head high fook sau position to a low fook sau postion, relating to a vertical fist punch to the xyphoid process at the base of the sternum.

The shoulder is used to bring about these changes in the arm positions, and itself changes it’s internal structure to accommodate these movements and to maintain a close packed position for each arm position. Internally, the shoulder rolls down and forward for a low arm position, and rolls back and down for a high arm position.

As the fook sau arm reaches the high position, the elbow must be brought slightly to the centre, to avoid the arm being rolled off it’s line by the bong sau.

This also happens as it reaches the low position, to counter the levering effect of our partner’s arm as it rotates into the low flat position. The fook sau forearm maintains an almost horizontal position with the wrist just higher than the elbow throughout the entire movement. The elbow angle opens up as it gets higher to maintain the horizontal forearm which is pointing towards the partner’s mouth height, the wrist dips slightly as the arm gets higher so as to be ready for a wrist snap punch, and the elbow travels a full handspan from the low position to the high fook sau.

The wrists are relaxed throught the roll, and there should be an unintentional flicking of the wrists at the end of each movement as a result of the arm moving suddenly into the final position.

When the arms are in fook sau or tan sau positions, they are parallel to the centre. In rolling we never cross the arms towards the centre. Crossing the wrists in constitutes a cheat in the training, which has us working in such a way as to have an advantage in the training which doesn’t work in the fight. We train to fight to win, but training is separate from fighting, ie when training we are not fighting. Confusion in this area can lead to the greatest collection of errors. We always roll with the forearms parallel to the centre. Adjustments to the position are made when some action starts. In rolling, the arms are in their working range, not contact range. We cannot reach each other without moving, or moving our training partner. If we can be rolling and just put our fist or palm on the partner’s chest, we are too close and the arms are not learning to do their job properly. It has become a training game with little direct relationship to fighting.

Forward pressure in rolling can be varied to accomplish different training goals. The forward pressure can be intense, to develop strength in the shoulders and in the entire structure. Usually rolling is done in a relaxed manner, and forward pressure is applied in response to the training partner’s pressure.

Rolling is the framework we use from which we practice stepping, trapping, and chi sau. Rolling is an art in itself, within which we can develop much structural strength and understanding as well as sensitivity to our partner’s intention, hence our opponent’s in a fight.

Dave Jardine


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