Lat Sao Training in Wing Tsun

'Lat sao' quite literally means "free hand" training. It teaches the free-form application of movements/reaction skills learned in earlier practice to whatever an opponent happens to throw at you.

There are two main variants of Lat Sao in Wing Tsun. I will call one the Hong Kong or "classical" method, and the other the German or "non-classical" method. (It's important to note that "classical" here does not mean what Bruce Lee called the "traditional" method that he described as "organized despair". In fact, this non-classical method is the foundation for Bruce Lee's entire concept of "from without form" or the "style of no style."

German Lat Sao

The German Lat Sao was developed by GM Keith Kernspecht in the mid to late eighties for two reasons: (a) to give beginning (pre-chi sao level) students an easy "platform" of sorts from which to launch the techniques they have learned in response to typical attacks from other martial arts styles, and (b) to allow him to train at his own level so he could advance his skills all of the time, even when teaching only lower-level students.

Here is an example of the German Lat Sao variant, demonstrated by a high-level instructor (5th Level Practician) and his student:

This German program teaches students to overcome unannounced random attacks from other styles (Student Programs 1 thru 5). After that, the German program integrates the Chi Sao sections developed by Leung Ting, all from the same "pak-da" or Paak sao/punch cycle.

Below are two Backyard Wing Tsun students practicing Lat Sau Section 4 of the Bay Mountain Martial Arts Wing Tsun version of the German program. Lat Sau 4 includes counters against roundhouse attacks of all kinds and the "Luk Sau" or "slinging hands" cycle where the attacker's moves trigger the defense and counter response, which then triggers a similar response in the attacker, etc. It also trains awareness of and counters to attacks (here a shin-kick to the real leg) coming from behind:

These two Backyard Wing Tsun students have less than one year of training under their belts.

Hong Kong Lat Sao:

The Hong Kong Lat Sao was developed by GM Leung Ting and is based on the "Lap Sao" (bong sao/fook sao/tsuen sao) cycle. It has the advantage of being more fluid and easier to integrate with chi sao movements from the various sections. The drawback, however, is that it cannot be taught to students who have not learned and digested at least chi sao section 1, first.

Here is Sifu Henning Daverne's brand of Hong Kong Lat Sao, from Wing Tsun Skandinavia:

and finally a collection of the best HK Lat Sao videos we could find on the net:

Teachig Lat Sau:


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The Lat Sao Chronicles

Bookmark our WT Blog so you can follow our exploits in trying to uncover the "secrets" of Hong Kong-style Lat Sao.

Here in the US, there is precious little teaching of HK Lat Sao going on. Granted, I have been out of the Leung Ting organization for over six years now and I don't really know what they are teaching, but I don't see any Youtube videos of anyone in the States doing HK-style Lat Sao.

I only know the subject was touched upon by Leung Ting in two separate seminars I attended. I don't know if other seminars have been taught on the subject. The only place in North America where I see it taught on a regular basis is in Sifu Carson Lau's school in Toronto, Canada.

Since there is no one here to teach me this in person, I decided to film my own attempts to reconstruct it from what (little) I have learned in the past, from videos like those above, and from comparing notes with others who have learned bits and pieces of that program.

In the process, I have been forced to turn to my good friend and sometimes "victim", sometimes "teacher" - the wooden dummy on my porch, I will reveal ways I have discovered to practice wooden dummy drills that resemble elements of the HK Lat Sao Program. My students are actively enlisted to help me in this process.

It all should be quite interesting and at the very least entertaining, if not necessarily educational (smile). After all, Wing Tsun is supposed to be a scientific system, right? One should be able to discover its techniques and methods (and find new applications of) its fundamental principles and concepts. It's what Wing Tsun is all about.

I can't wait.

[11-19-13 UPDATE]:

After spending a couple of years teaching Sifu Simon Mayer's Student Program, it became very clear to me that what has been touted as the "Hong Kong Lat Sau Program" is nothing more than the ordinary Student Programs 6 through 9. Rude awakening! Here is a video of my students dong it, free style:

Not really that big of a deal.


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