Chin na
The art of seizing

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The art of seizing

Chin na is concerned with seizing the opponent abruptly and painfully during grappling. Taijiquan
(supreme ultimate fist) students discover how to:

  1. Seize

  2. Misplace the bones

  3. Divide the muscles

  4. Seal the breath

  5. Strike cavities

  6. Manipulate fingers and thumbs

  7. Flow between applications

As a martial art, chin na can be practiced in its own right or as an aspect of other systems. The taijiquan forms feature countless chin na applications.

Locks and holds

Many martial arts employ locks and holds successfully. They are an effective way of restraining an opponent and/or damaging the body. Unfortunately, locks and holds require commitment.
If you hold somebody, you are committed to maintaining the hold using sustained strength. At some point you must let go and your opponent is free. We do not use locks and holds.


Chin na cannot be used forcefully; it is a subtle skill. No sane person would allow you to break their arm, so you must become very sly and spontaneous.
Brute force, strength against strength is not chin na.

3 levels of skill

Students work through 3 levels of 'misplacing the bone' application:

  1. Fixed

  2. Flowing

  3. Freeform

Fixed applications are taught in the experienced grade. Flowing is advanced and freeform is expert level.

Flowing chin na

Once the principles are familiar, students flow from one chin na application to another. The ability to flow from one chin na to another has distinct advantages:

  1. It enables you to persist with your intention of inflicting injury

  2. You remain sticky

  3. You maintain control

  4. You demonstrate your skill

  5. You can inflict a wider variety of damage without risk of an effective counter

All of this hinges on two things:

  1. The ability to apply a range of chin na applications in the first place

  2. Stickiness

Stickiness enables you to remain in contact throughout your encounter, and not give the advantage to your opponent.

Kung fu

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.


The danger with training specific chin na applications is that you may come to see them as techniques. This is not the approach advocated by Sifu Waller.
Techniques have their place as a study tool. However, they are not a good approach to use in actual combat.
A technique involves a series of steps employed against a particular attack. Should your opponent deviate from the anticipated course of action, a technique could easily fail.

Taijiquan fighting method

For chin na to work, you must concern yourself with the underlying principles rather than technique.
Once you understand how the principles work, you can use them spontaneously in accord with the requirement of a given situation. This is more realistic.


Adaptation is essential; you change what you are doing relative to what is happening.
If your chin na is countered by your opponent, you move into a different one or adopt a different strategy entirely - such as stepping or striking.


By changing your chin na you can confuse the opponent. You can flow from one type of chin na to another without warning and produce a different effect each time. This will unsettle your attacker.
It is important not to show off or be complacent; an error on your part can rapidly lead to defeat. Never underestimate the opponent.


In class, students are encouraged to apply one chin na and invite their partner to escape it. As your partner escapes, apply a different application.
This becomes a yielding game; where the chin na flow seamlessly. Try it with your eyes closed and your partner countering your chin na.

Martial arts are dangerous

The British Medical Association Guide To Sports Injuries states:

Combat sports such as boxing, judo, karate or kung fu make tough demands on the body; training is intense, and participation requires all-round fitness. Regardless of the fitness of the participants, however, the aggressive blows traded between opponents means that these sports always carry a serious risk of injury.

Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 07 November 2018