Chin na basics

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Your basic chin na skills are: breaking, sealing, seizing, splitting and tearing. It is important that you can differentiate clearly between them and apply each skill as the situation demands.
Each ability requires you to be fully connected, rooted and be using the 'baby grip' rather than tension.



Usually damage is the typical outcome of a strike, rather than an actual break. Some impact can cause a break, providing your positioning is correct.
Most joints and limbs can be broken or damaged; it is all a question of physics. And whole-body movement. Be careful when experimenting, especially with the spine.


To successfully seize, you need to probe with your fingers. A random grip will not do it; you need to massage deeper into the opponent's body.
You must fold your fingers into their muscle. Only then can you tear. Use a juggling ball to practice seizing.


Sealing is an outcome of the jing 'wardoff' and 'squeeze'. It must be employed with minimum commitment.


Splitting is the outcome of two opposing directions of force.


Tearing must not be performed by local arm strength. It is your own weight falling away from the opponent that causes the damage (or the opponent, trying to escape the seize).
Please remember that seizing is not an alternative to a lock - you do not want to hold the opponent. Seizing and tearing serve to damage, not to restrain.

Two hands

Anything that requires two hands must be approached with caution. Ask yourself: "Am I making an assumption?"
If your opponent has one of their hands free and you have committed both of yours, you may be in trouble.


Remember that successful use of chin na must immediately compromise the opponent. You need to prevent them from striking with the second hand or either leg, in addition to taking their balance.
If your application is unsuccessful, strike instantly. Even a distraction can buy you the moment that you need.
If you find yourself using strength, stop. Know that you have failed, and do something else before your tension is turned against you. Pushing hands will teach this ability.


The more rooted you are, the easier it is to lever. Rooting is not squatting; it is sinking into the hips and the floor. It is a passive skill, an allowing rather than a doing.

Chin na during floor work

Floor work teaches you to use your whole body and not offer an easy target. Before the end of the early black belt syllabus is over you need to be capable of countering a hold before it is fully applied.
Nobody can hold you if you can stop the hold during its instigation. After that point, fatigue and pain is your enemy.
Learn to go with the force. Then, turn away without damaging your own body or compromising your structure. Never use force against force.

Chin na applications

The experienced syllabus will cover a wide range of chin na applications. They teach principles.
The principles serve to demonstrate the relationship between different parts of the body in terms of leverage and must not be used as stand-alone self defence applications.

Flowing chin na

Once the principles are familiar, students will learn how to flow from one chin na to another. This can be useful should one prove unsuccessful and a good striking opportunity is not available.
Ultimately the application of a chin na should feel like a strike. This is practiced using controlled contact.

The paradox of simplicity is that making things simpler is hard work.

(Bill Jensen)

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 04 May 2023