Basic Blocks → Biu Sau 鏢手

Biu Sau 鏢手 – a sidewards wedging block, for defence against long, wide swinging hooks by coming inside them

Biu Sau 鏢手 (‘pointing hand’) is a sharp emergency move (when done on the Inside Gate, which is where it’s most useful). It can either be done very aggressively or very passively but must be done very carefully either way, since it’s a high risk position to be in. This is a sidewards wedging block for dealing with long, wide swinging hooks around the side of your head, that you need to come inside the arc of, because you can’t lean back enough to avoid it.

If you want to block a wide hook, you may be able to step back with a slapping parry, if you’ve got space & time, and the punch is short enough. But if it’s a really long, wide swinging hook, like a bowling haymaker, and you can’t step back quick & far enough to avoid it, then your best bet, so long as there’s enough of a lateral arc in the punch, may be to step forward with Biu Sau 鏢手 (meaning ‘pointing hand’) to cover the punch, while your spare hand strikes or covers the opponent’s centre at the same time. In Japanese Karate, this same move is called Shuto Uke 手刀受 (meaning ‘knife-hand block’).

Alternatively, instead of Biu Sau, where your palm is facing down, so long as the punch is not too high, you may prefer to do the similar Tan Sau 攤手 (where palm faces up) because it may be quicker, more relaxed, more natural and easier to tuck into the arc of the hooked punch. Other popular variations include Jam Sau 枕手 (sinking hand) for more downwards pressure, and Fak Sau 拂手 (side palm strike) for more outwards chopping energy, but on this course we’ll focus on Biu Sau primarily, and Tan Sau secondarily, and call that enough, because I believe they are the safer, more balanced moves in this context, and between them can solve pretty much all problems of this type, with Biu Sau being the more broadly relevant technique of the two.

You can do throw either one of these sidewards wedging blocks assertively, by chopping into the opponent’s arm as you step forward in a straight line; or you can do this very passively, by stepping towards the opponent’s non punching arm while spinning in the same direction as the punch is going, to keep it at arm’s length from your head, with optimum structural strength and minimal effort.

Passive versions of Biu Da 鏢打 (Biu Sau plus simultaneous counter strike) and Tan Da 攤打 (Tan Sau and counter strike) are commonly seen in Tai Chi and Aikido because they’re quite effortless moves, but effective.

Generally, when the Biu Sau is receiving passively, assisted by spinning in your stance, your simultaneous counter should be an uppercutting check hook punch, or chop with Tan Sau / lateral Jam Sau arm structure. The closed-fist variant of this counter-strike, ie, the uppercutting check hook punch here – is the same as the Drilling Fist (Zuan Quan) from Xing Yi. It’s also roughly the same as the Gwa Choi backfist from Jeet Kune Do.

But sometimes Biu Sau can’t get inside the arc of the punch, because you’re elbow sicks out a bit, while Tan Sau can because it points more into the arc and the elbow doesn’t get in the way so much – this is an example of why you may sometimes prefer to use Tan Da against wide hooks, especially from an already sticking hands position where you’re confident of optimal trajectory & energetics needed. Tan Sau is best complemented by a simultaneous overhand hook with the other hand, using a Bong Sau or Lan Sau type structure.

If you want to chop into the opponent’s arm with maximum power to injure their arm, you may prefer to use Jam Sau or Fak Sau. If you want to apply downwards pressure to take them to the ground, you may like Jam Sau. Some martial artists will say it’s good to double up, with two hands doing Jam Sau against one punching arm, but in Kung Fu we generally avoid this – the second hand should cover the centre, in anticipation of the opponent’s other hand or even a headbutt coming at you next.

Bruce Lee doing Biu Sau on a Wing Chun wooden dummy
Bruce Lee demonstrating Biu Sau (pointing hand) on the arm of a Wing Chun wooden dummy.
Morihei Ueshiba doing an uppercut or backfist
Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, doing Noi Moon 內門 (Inside Gate) Lap Sau 拉手 (Grabbing Hand), while his other hand is doing a closed fist Jam Sau 枕手 which resembles an uppercut or backfist or Drilling Fist. This combined technique has similar mechanics to Biu Da 鏢打, and works well as a follow-up after an initial high Tan Sau 攤手 with the hand that is to become the Lap Sau 拉手.