Chin Na: basic exercises

How to execute the Chin Na techniques

The learning path

A complete study of Chin Na (read A free home study Chin Na course for beginners) includes:

  • The learning of the theory behind the techniques
  • The practical application in gradually less cooperative contexts
  • The study of the methods to resist / counterattack

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

How to start

To be ready to face this complex path, it is essential to fortify our body and refine the control we have over it in terms of:

  1. Execution of precise movements – Without the interference of external factors, what we want to do and what we actually do must perfectly coincide (read Introduction to the idea of Precision Control); even if we do not mind, there is an abyss between what a beginner thinks he is doing and what he is really doing (with a camera it can be easily checked)
  2. Resistance to opponents’ initiative – The more we are conditioned to resist what the opponents try to execute (eg. a joints lever), the more we have time / space to react and to do not be subdued (read Physical conditioning: how it works); the focal point is that the best way to avoid suffering a Chin Na technique is to prevent it from reaching / stabilizing its final application stage; in the previous phases the damage is in fact (for a conditioned practitioner) more “bearable” (if not null)
  3. Instinctive reaction to the opponents’ action – In terms of defense, when we are directly in touch with our adversaries, we absolutely have no time to think, everything happens in fractions of seconds; the only rational thing that an expert can do is to tactically choose what kind of instinctive / preformatted reaction to adopt (read for example about the 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s body states in 6DKF’s interactions: from the strong blow to the light touch)

These 3 categories summarize the psychophysical conditioning that our school requires for the preparation to the study of Chin Na (read Chin Na): let’s deepen them.

1. The path to the application’s effectiveness

About the increase of effectiveness of the technical application, the exercises are related to:

  • Deepening of the basic combat interaction techniques – We must be able to intercept, deviate, parry (etc.) instinctively; against a good opponent, Chin Na creates each time different situations that we must be able to face in real-time
  • Sequential and calibrated movements – Every motion of our body must work in coordination with good timing, rooting (read Kung Fu rooting: the pyramid concept), dynamic equilibrium (read The concept of Dynamic Equilibrium) and perfect management of positions / directions
  • The acquisition of advanced body mechanics – We need a basic mastering of the muscle chain (read Use the body power: the muscle chain), skills like the Dragon Motion (read Dragon Motion: the swirling movements), etc. (read also All the skills of 6 Dragons Kung Fu)
  • Muscle memory – Training through repetition in ever-more different and increasingly complex contexts (read The muscle memory and Same exercises, different execution)
  • The interiorization of the ideal contexts – The ability to spontaneously and instinctively choose a Chin Na technique in the exact time / space when the opportunity occurs and never forcibly
  • Recognizing the effectiveness of an application – Primarily (during training) through dialogue with our partners and later (during combat) only feeling the reactions of the opponents’ body
  • The acquisition of a good knowledge of the human anatomy – Understand even only with the touch where internal organs, tendons, muscles, bones (etc.) are; know their shape, their mobility, their elongation capability, their weaknesses (etc.)
  • The learning of how to apply combat tactics – Manage the distances (grip change, misdirection, etc.) and deception through faints (provocative, directional, etc.)

A note by Master Kongling – Why are we stressing so much the needs of so advanced abilities? I do not want to hide it, anyone can quickly manage to perform most of the basic Chin Na techniques within a couple of hours’ lesson; the problem is that this type of knowledge does not find any effective feedback outside of a friendly collaborative context without the right premises. Many bad instructors delude their students to be able to effectively use Chin Na even without a solid martial base but this will never happen, especially in a real self-defense scenario (for a beginner is 10 times better to focus on striking).

2. The path to resistance

With regard to resistance and power development, the exercises are aimed at:

  • General conditioning – Condition all joints (wrists, arms, shoulders, etc.) in terms of flexibility, tightness, etc.
  • Generating explosive power – Study and development of Fa Jing (sudden manifestation of vibrant explosive force, more about this later)
  • Grip strength – Increase the gripping power of our hands, fingers and all the potentially involved body parts (in the various type of grabbing); it is important to know that the perfect grip is the one that causes pain by itself
  • Learning the 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s Contacts – Increase solid, liquid, fluid and elastic control of our body (to avoid being the victim of the adversaries’ action, read The 6DKF’s Solid Contacts and The 6DKF’s Liquid and Fluid Contacts)
  • Dynamic target reaching – Develop the ability to easily manage various kinds of dynamic mobile objects (gradually heavier, read Basic tools: the cloth and Advanced exercises: the dynamic water bottle); in terms of effort, this means to reach an efficient, dynamic and economic way of interacting with the combat scenario’s elements; this means to teach our instinct to automatically find clean trajectories of interception, to establish safe connections, to use agility and speed contextually to our needs

A note by Master Kongling – The raw reality is that even apparently good practitioners, against any (truly) non-collaborative partner (not necessarily an expert), not only are unable to perform any technique but even to create the conditions to apply them (they are slow, uncoordinated, predictable, imprecise, feeble, etc.).

3. The path to reactivity

With regard to reactivity, the exercises focus on:

  • Removing all the possible joint limits – Inhibiting the work of antagonistic muscles (which restrain and slow down our movements, read Body flexibility and martial arts)
  • Speed-up the movements – Both in terms of trajectory / path (read also Find effective aerodynamic trajectories), both in terms of physiological enhancement (muscles, etc.)
  • Space management – Develop a solid spatial intelligence and spatial memory (many advanced techniques require millimetric accuracy, read The most important skill in combat)
  • Instant access to maximum strength – Develop instant, secure and solid grip (with fingers, hands, legs, etc.); more in general, we have to make our body muscles able to immediately contract and to maintain / increase the performance at need (eg. while executing a strangulation technique)
  • Quick reasoning – Acquiring the ability to make fast and / or instinctive assessment (about the change of grip, the interruption of an adverse action, the change of path to achieve a specific goal, etc.)
  • General sensitivity – Build a high intuitive, visual, and especially tactile sensitivity to the adversary’s movements; we have to develop all of our senses to connect them and obtain the most precise information about what happens around us

A note by Master Kongling – In a real context, applying the Chin Na techniques is not easy at all; people do not wait passively to get a broken arm: they try their best to do not be caught, to free themselves, they strenuously attack and defend. This is the reason why it really has to make a leap in quality to be able to use so articulate techniques in combat.

Final notes

It is important to stress that:

  • Poor study means poor results – Facing Chin Na’s study in absence of these premises, inevitably leads to poor results and dangerous illusions of effectiveness (read Why martial arts do not work: 5 reasons); instead, if we follow the right path, the interiorization of Chin Na will become a direct and natural consequence of our new capabilities
  • Chin Na includes countermoves but… – Be forced to use the countermoves against a Chin Na technique (instead of preventing it) should always be considered as a “half-defeat”; in a real fight (against a prepared opponent), the achievement of the last phase, for example of a lever, coincides almost always with damaging of the involved body elements (in the worst cases it could mean a complete breaking)
  • The ancient method – It was not by chance that Chin Na, in Shaolin temple (and not only), was taught only after a long physical preparation, after the study of positions / forms / sequences and after the full acquisition of the most common fighting techniques (kicks, punches, parries, etc.)

In the next articles of this series, we will look more in detail specific Chin Na exercises.

In-depth video courses

In-depth articles


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Have you ever tried to apply a Chin Na technique to a not cooperative partner?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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