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Seize the Opportunity with Chin Na: Part 2

By Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming

Dr, Yang demonstrates a painful Chin Na grasping and controlling technique during a seminar on this subject held in Boston.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part article on Chinese Chin Na.
In Part 1 Dr. Yang discussed a number of Chin Na aspects including the need for speed and power to execute techniques and maintain control, and the importance of controlling an opponent completely. It Part two Dr. Yang discusses about how to escape from an opponent’s Chin Na technique and how to counter Chin Na grabs.


Chin Na literally means "seize control." Chin Na covers a wide range of defensive and offensive techniques, from very fundamental hand grappling to the very advanced Dim Mak (delayed death touch). The fundamental techniques can be learned by any martial artist or even by someone without any martial arts experience. These fundamental techniques can easily be adapted and incorporated into any martial style such as Judo, Wrestling (Shuai Jiao), Karate, or Tae Kwon Do to increase the range of responses.

Chin Na Escapes

Dr, Yang demonstrates how to escape a Chin Na technique as it is being applied.

A Chin Na expert must also know how to escape from an opponent’s Chin Na control, and be able to counterattack and reverse the situation. To escape from an opponent’s control, you must master several techniques in addition to those explained in the previous section. One of the major techniques is knowing how to sense the angle at which your opponent is grabbing, and being able to change the angle so that his control of your muscles and joints is ineffective. This will give you time to escape. Of course, often you will be able to escape if you struggle and sweat a bit. However, for a skillful escape the most important factor is speed, and the second is skill. Power is not so important in an escape as it is in offensive Chin Na. Here are a few general ideas on how to escape:

1. Rotation Escape

The main reason for rotation when you are grabbed is to change the angle of the grab. When your opponent grabs you, he will try to do it at the most effective angle and location. In order to escape you must act immediately. If you cannot rotate and change the situation before he has completed his control, you have lost. It is therefore extremely important to thoroughly practice escapes both by yourself and with a partner.

When you neutralize an opponent’s grabbing attack, it is important to remember to neutralize it in such a way that he cannot immediately continue his attack with another technique. Usually, when you rotate out of a grab, you will pull your hand back as soon as possible, but while you do so you must prepare to deal with a possible punch if your opponent tries to continue his attack.

Solo escape practice is very simple, and you may use almost all of the escape techniques. You simply use one hand to apply the technique to the other hand, and practice the escape with the grabbed hand. Solo practice has the limitation that, since you know and expect the technique, you cannot build up much sensitivity. It is therefore necessary to also practice with a partner.

2. Pressure Release Escape

Pressure release escape is the natural reaction of your body to pain. The principle is very simple. When your opponent tries to control you with Chin Na, before he completes his control, you simply use your other hand to grab the opponent’s fingers or hand that is causing you the pain. This pressure release technique is commonly used in Chin Na counterattack. In this case, right after you have released the pressure, immediately change your grab into a Chin Na technique. Therefore, pressure release escape can be practiced only with a partner.

3. Distraction Escape

Distraction escape is probably the easiest and most effective technique among the three. Before your opponent has completed his control, you simply distract his concentration, for example by kicking his shin or groin. Alternatively, you can use the other hand to punch his nose or poke his eyes. When his attention is unfocused, you immediately escape from his grab and, if possible, counterattack with a Chin Na of your own.

Distraction is commonly used both in offense and defense. In offense, you will often find that your opponent tenses his muscles right after you grab him. This makes it very hard for you to continue your technique. When this happens, simply punch or kick him to distract him, and immediately apply a Chin Na. Remember that Chin Na is effective only when it is a surprise.

It would be very hard to say which technique is the most effective escape, because it depends on the situation and the technique being used. It is impossible to discuss escapes for every situation. However, once you understand the principles and have practiced a lot with your partners, you will soon find that escaping is much easier than controlling. Once you thoroughly understand a Chin Na technique, you should already understand the escape.

Counter Attacks To Chin Na Grabs

Dr, Yang demonstrates an escape to an opponent’s grab before applying a counter Chin Na technique.

Generally speaking, it is harder to counterattack against a grabbing Chin Na than it is to attack with a grabbing Chin Na. This is because when you attack you make the decision what technique to apply, whereas when you counterattack you are responding to another person’s attack, and your actions are determined by, and limited by, the technique he applies. Therefore, in order to be able to counterattack against a grabbing Chin Na, you must know what your opponent is doing and what your possible actions are. Not only that, it normally takes less than one second to apply a Chin Na, so you have probably one third of that time to react. In order for you to react naturally and skillfully, your technique must be much higher than the attacker’s.

There are a few counterattack rules which you should always remember:

1. Always consider escape first and counter second. You must save yourself first before you can counterattack. It cannot be denied that sometimes a counterattack is the best way to escape. However, you should train yourself to escape first, and once you have developed your reactions enough you will find yourself counterattacking naturally when it is appropriate.

2. If you are not sure you can use a grabbing Chin Na for your counterattack, do not use it. Punching or kicking counterattacks are much easier, faster, and safer than grabbing Chin Na.

3. When you use a counterattack, you must react before you are completely controlled. You should understand that a perfect grabbing Chin Na control is very fast and effective when done by a Chin Na expert. Once you are controlled completely, you will not have any chance to escape.

4. The crucial key of a successful counterattack is following the opponent’s motion and then changing the angle. If you resist at the beginning, you will have set yourself up for your opponent’s locking. However, if you follow his motion, it will become difficult for him to lock you in the angle he desires. This will also provide you an opportunity to change the angle of his locking and lead him into your trap for your counterattack.

Since there are many possible counter techniques to use against each grabbing Chin Na, it is impossible to describe all of them. With your own diligent training, it is quite possible that you will find a counter for a particular technique which is more effective for you than the ones described in my Chin Na classes, books and DVDs.

You should realize that usually it is much harder to apply most of the grabbing Chin Na techniques to an opponent than it is to just punch him or use a cavity strike Chin Na. However, cavity striking requires a more thorough knowledge of acupuncture points and understanding of which cavities are vital at which time of the day. To use a grabbing Chin Na on your opponent effectively will show him that your fighting ability is much greater than his. Therefore, if you are not confident that you can handle your opponent, you should not take a risk and use grabbing Chin Na. Remember: to show mercy to your opponent means to be cruel to yourself.

When you are in a fight, you should immediately seize your opponent’s will, confidence, and fighting spirit. This is spiritual Chin Na. This means that at the beginning of a fight you should use your spirit and confidence to discourage your opponent and make him lose his fighting confidence and spirit. Usually, this spirit and confidence is shown on your face and in the way you look at him. From your eyes and face, your opponent can sense your spirit of vitality, your courage, your confidence, your calmness, and subconsciously, even your Qi capacity and will power. If you can conquer your opponent with this first visual and mental contact, then you have reached the highest level of Chin Na -- to seize the opponent’s fighting spirit. Remember: the highest fighting art is to fight without fighting.

However, if you are not able to discourage him and you must fight, then you must know a few things. Is your fighting ability greater than his? Will you be able to use grabbing Chin Na to stop the fight? In order to use a grabbing Chin Na successfully, you must first test your opponent and see how his reactions are. This test will reveal his style, and will let you know whether a grabbing Chin Na will work. Remember: fight smart and safe, not brave and stupid.

In order for your grabbing Chin Na to be effective, your techniques must first of all be fast, natural, and skillful. In a fight, everything happens so fast that you do not have time to think, so your reactions must be natural. You must therefore train so that your reactions are flexible, and you can react quickly and correctly to changing situations. Not only that, you must also know how to fool your opponent and set him up in a position favorable to your Chin Na application. All of these things must be trained constantly until they are part of your natural reaction -- only then will you be able to use grabbing Chin Na effectively in a fight.

In addition to the above, there are a number of things you need to train before you can effectively use grabbing Chin Na in a fight. Since you opponent will not cooperate with you, it will be quite different from practicing with a partner. You need to know the ways of setting your opponent up for your Chin Na control, including an effective intercept of his initial attack. If you just learn the techniques by rote, and never learn to develop yourself through your own research, then you should not be called a master of Chin Na. A master must know how to keep the old and develop the new, while always following the correct principles and rules.

With more than five thousand years of research and training behind them, the Chinese martial arts cover a very broad range of techniques, using the hands, legs, and numerous weapons. The higher levels of Chin Na, which require the development of Qi and Jin, must be felt, and usually they can only be learned through oral instruction from a qualified teacher. If you wish to reach the highest level of skill, but cannot find an instructor, then you must read, attend seminars, ponder, and practice. If you persevere, after several years of training you may find yourself at the doorway to the higher, internal side of the art.

Acknowledgement: Photo in the article were supplied by Christopher Caile, Editor of

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About The Author:

Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming started his Gongfu (Kung Fu) training at the age of fifteen under the Shaolin White Crane (Bai He) Master Cheng, Gin Gsao. In thirteen years of study (1961-1974) under Master Cheng, Dr. Yang became an expert in the White Crane style of Chinese martial arts, which includes both the use of bare hands and of various weapons such as saber, staff, spear, trident, two short rods, and many others. With the same master he also studied White Crane Chin Na, Tui Na and Dian Xue massages, and herbal treatment.

At the age of sixteen, Dr. Yang began the study of Taijiquan (Yang Style) under Master Gao, Tao. After learning from Master Gao, Dr. Yang continued his study and research of Taijiquan with several masters and senior practitioners such as Master Li, Mao-Ching and Mr. Wilson Chen in Taipei. Master Li learned his Taijiquan from the well-known Master Han, Ching-Tang, and Mr. Chen learned his Taijiquan from Master Chang, Xiang-San. Dr. Yang has mastered the Taiji barehand sequence, pushing hands, the two-man fighting sequence, Taiji sword, Taiji saber, and Taiji Qigong.

At 18, he entered Tamkang College in Taipei Xian to study Physics and also began the study of traditional Shaolin Long Fist (Changquan) with Master Li, Mao-Ching at the Tamkang College Guoshu Club (1964-1968). He eventually became an assistant instructor under Master Li. In 1971 he completed his M.S. degree in Physics at the National Taiwan University and then served in the Chinese Air Force from 1971 to 1972. In the service, Dr. Yang taught Physics at the Junior Academy of the Chinese Air Force while also teaching Wushu. After being honorably discharged in 1972, he returned to Tamkang College to teach Physics and resumed study under Master Li, Mao-Ching. From Master Li, Dr. Yang learned Northern style Gongfu, which includes both barehand techniques, especially kicking, and numerous weapons.

In 1974, Dr. Yang came to the United States to study Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University. At the request of a few students, Dr. Yang began to teach, which resulted in the foundation of the Purdue University Chinese Kung Fu Research Club in the spring of 1975. While at Purdue, Dr. Yang also taught college-credited courses in Taijiquan. In May, 1978 he was awarded a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering by Purdue.

Yang's Martial Arts Association was established in Boston, MA in 1982. Currently, YMAA is an international organization, including 56 schools in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Holland, Hungary, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1984, Dr. Yang retired from his engineering career, to focus his energy on teaching and researching the Chinese arts, and introducing them to the West through many books, videos and DVDs. Visit for current information.

Dr. Yang has nearly 40 years of instructional experience: seven years in Taiwan, five years at Purdue University, two years in Houston, TX, and 25 years in Boston, MA. On November 29, 2005, Dr. Yang conferred the title of Taiji Master to one of his senior students, which by definition bestows the honorable title of Grandmaster upon Dr. Yang.

Dr. Yang is also the founder of the YMAA Retreat Center in Humbolt County, CA, where he will spend ten years training a select group of students, starting in August 2008.

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

Chinese Martial Arts, Chin Na, Aikido, Jujutsu, Jujitsu, Eagle Claw Kung Fu

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