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