Pak Sao and Lat Sao - What's the Difference?


What's the difference between a Lat Sao and Pak Sao?

- - -
Answer: Lat Sao is a drill (similar to Chi Sao) and Pak Sao is a block. So the two are very different. However, often times Wing Chun terms get mixed up in translation.

There is another block called Lap (or Lop) Sao. Since you might be asking about the difference between these two blocks and not the drill, I’ll go ahead and describe all three below.

1) Lat Sao - is a sensitivity drill practiced primarily in Grandmaster Leung Ting’s Wing Tsun lineage. It’s not sparring — although it can look a little like it to the untrained eye. And it’s not technically Chi Sao — although Chi Sao’s touch sensitivity is useful in the drill.

During a Lat Sao drill one partner plays the attacker while the other plays the defender.

The attacker’s job is to feed attacks to the defender so the defender can train counter-attacks, identify mistakes, and correct them.

The roles of defender/attacker switch back and forth during the drill. If both students are advanced enough the drill can be quite fast and dynamic.

2) Lap Sao (Lop Sao) - is a block and loosely translated as “grabbing hand”. In my academy we train the Lap Sao as a deflection block, which we can also use to grab the opponent for extra leverage.

With this deflection the opponent’s energy is kept to the outside of your body. In other words, if you use your Right Arm to do the Lap Sao, you’re deflecting the energy to the right of your Right Arm.

It’s important to understand that even though you can grab with a Lap Sao, you don’t want to get into a grappling situation, which would make it force-against-force.

The grabbing force is subtle enough to take the opponent’s balance, but NOT take the opponent OFF balance.

3) Pak Sao - is a block and loosely translated as “clapping hand”. In Mandarin it’s pronounced “pai shou” and if you play with a little child or baby and want her to clap her hands you’d say something like, “pai pai shou, pai pai shou”.

In Wing Chun, however, my sifu says, “The Pak Sao is the strongest block in Wing Chun.

This block travels from the outside-in and slightly crosses your centerline. Pretty much the same route you use to slap someone.

In this case, the opponent’s energy is deflected to the opposite side of your Pak Sao blocking hand. In other words, if you use your Right Arm to do the Pak Sao, you’re deflecting the energy to the left of your Right Arm (and past your body/centerline).

What martial artists and Wing Chun practitioners on Twitter had to say about the difference between Pak Sao and Lap Sao

@DMCunningham I would describe Lap Sao as a grabbing hand technique while Pak Sao is a slapping hand technique. Lop Sau's grab isn't the key aspect. At the same time, the grab is important.

@TheGOguy How would I describe the difference between Lap-sao and Pak-sao? Differently (that's all I can say).

@Worldobyrne Possibly lineage differences but, Pak is more of a directing slap or pat, Lap is a jerking or pulling movement.

@SifuSpencer One seizes for control and one smacks for entry. Kind of!

@mtimlin Pak is more of a slap where lap is more of a grab isn't it?

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Comments for Pak Sao and Lat Sao - What's the Difference?

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Feb 25, 2011
I have an issue with the word - BLOCK
by: Eduardo P.

I like the article, but I take issue with one word, "block". Ving Tsun does not encourage blocking, which is opposing force. We DEFLECT force and then complement it or we DISIPATE it.

Ving Tsun does not deny anything. We waste time and energy by living in denial. I might sound like I am being very picky, but when it comes to transmitting the system, like the Kuen Kuit suggests, we MUST keep it pure, if the system is to survive. :-)

Feb 25, 2011
The word BLOCK in Wing Chun
by: Rob@WingChunLife

I appreciate your point of view and I agree with it because I understand the subtle distinctions language can make.

Do you (or anyone reading this) have an alternate word to describe a Wing Chun defensive deflection/parry without having to say or write "Wing Chun defensive deflection/parry"?

As all are probably aware, I use the term BLOCK in the general sense - a maneuver used for a defensive purpose.

In the article I did try to describe how the Pak Sao and Lap Sao are blocks that use deflection.

So does anyone have an alternate word to describe "blocks that use deflection" or a "Wing Chun defensive deflection/parry" without having to say either of those?

Thanks :-)

Mar 28, 2011
Not sure...
by: Anonymous

In Hong Kong's Wing Chun Lat Sao is absolutely not a drill, but is a concept, a way of training things. In Leung Ting's style usually Lat Sao comes before Chi Sao, but in HK's Wing Chun Lat Sao goes at the end. First you must learn Chi Sao and Biu Chi, then you can try to use it in a free pattern, the so called Lat Sao. The final stage is called Mai Saan Jong, and is the "live dummy" training: you try to apply anything you know, absolutely free. In this stage it's commin to bleed from nose or mouth...
There's no active or passive trainee during Lat Sao. Both are trying to apply what they know.
just my 2 cents...

Mar 28, 2011
Re: Not Sure
by: Rob@WingChunLife

It's interesting how each lineage and school adds it's own personality to the system.

Some people have an issue with it. I'm OK with it most of the time as long as the fundamentals are kept in focus.

Besides, most accounts agree that the Dragon Pole wasn't originally part of the Wing Chun system. It was added much later.

And fortunately, it's now part of most, if not all, Wing Chun forms no matter what lineage you're in.

I think the same can be said about the Lat Sao no matter how you learn or train with it.

I personally do not use the Lat Sao in my club, at least we don't use that word to describe any of our drills or trainings.

We have chi sao (single and double arm, random and predetermined), flow drills and sparring. Nothing that we call Lat Sao.

However, almost any of the above drills/training can be turned up or down in intensity and made more or less random (random being sparring).

Jan 20, 2013
Deflective or Force Against Force
by: Anonymous

I believe that blocking consists of two angles of defense, one being a direct approach with force against force and the other being a deflection or redirection of the force coming at you.

Both are blocks but the deflection method is in my opinion a better choice in that it keeps you from being hit in many cases during a confrontation.

In a force against force block or motion, the ability to maneuver your feet become tied up with the block because now you are meeting an attack with strength against a power house of body mass behind your opponents attack, but with a deflection, it seems that footwork is easily applied to accommodate your hand deflection and deep the flow of your opponents back up mass moving in the direction you deflected it to go.

I've tried both and to me, a deflective block is better than a blunt force against force block.

Just my opinion.

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