I am gratified to see a lively and growing interest in Chin Na. For those of you who have just entered the theater, Chin Na is the art of bending human joints wrong. Chin Na is not a style with a single face. Over centuries of necessity, it has actually developed many different profiles. Because there are only so many ways to bend joints wrong the differences in styles such as Japanese versus Chinese is actually less significant than the different ways in which Chin Na is used. Let’s look at these differences.
Battle needs have guided the course of Chin Na styles. In Japanese Jiu Jitsu which is essentially an unarmed form of combat, partners can completely commit themselves to attain victory through arm bars or chokes on the ground. Considering the battlefield, where the Samurai or Chinese warrior, holding a weapon, might find himself embroiled in a skirmish with another armed soldier, ground fighting was not the preferred method. Stripping the enemy of his weapon without committing yourself to rolling in the mud beneath horses’ hooves, created an entirely different catalog of Chin Na skills. In this situation wrist releases and controls, rather than chokes and arm bars were the primary goals . Such quick snaps and twists could rip the handle of a weapon from a man’s grasp almost before he knew it.
In certain striking-oriented styles, such as Wing Chun and White Eyebrow, Chin Na is mostly momentary, it creates a fleeting advantage and allows a lighting-fast strike. You might hold an arm bar just long enough for your opponent to stiffen up and stop your Chin Na action, giving you the “freeze” just long enough to land a punch which, in a perfect example of reverse-psychology, allows you to get that arm-bar after all. The relation between hitting and grappling is very intimate and actually allows superficial advantages rather than going for definite outcomes. The same could be said for the Chin Na we might use against multiple opponents. If I were facing one person I might be able to take everything down and conclude where, against a gang, running away after a few quick shots may be a better goal.
It’s all Chin Na, but with different skill sets for different arenas. Standing Chin Na is meant to be quick, decisive and flexible. Ground Chin Na is of course flexible but aims toward clearer conclusions such as a strangle, a leg lock or a bar. Unless the striking skill of the upright fighter is exceptional the ground is best for eliminating the opponent’s options until, finally, he cages himself. But the ground fighter is not always the superior combatant. A Judo friend who decided to learn some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was impressed with the groundwork but just as unimpressed with his Jiu-Jitsu buddies’ defenses against throwing. He found them weak and unstable and considered that they were relatively unprepared for throws and sweeps. A much stronger example, recalls the early days of international competitions when the Russians finally organized their representative Judo team. One year they shocked the world by dominating their opponents with Standing arm bars and tap outs without even taking the time to go to the ground.
The point is to understand is that Chin Na has different levels of intensity and commitment, all the way from hand exchanges to nitty-gritty groundwork. Practice all these divisions, practice all their transitions, and you will excel.
Some Training Methods:
Grasping practice. You and your partner stand facing one another. Start grabbing at each others’ arms and, when the opportunity shows, try to get both of your hands on one of the partner’s upper limbs to control it. Don’t go all the way to locks just try to take control while your opponent is evading and countering. You will exhaust the obvious attacks—just reaching out and grabbing a limb— in about ten seconds. Then your tactical knowledge will start to zoom.
Enter and Slip: Start standing, arms engaged and try to drop and pick one or both legs. More importantly try to get down and secure control of the partner’s lower limbs. Make sure to not slam heads together. (This might be best designating which of you enters one at a time.) The other partner uses his hands and feeling to check and counter the low entering. If you are attacking and get your leg through the middle of your opponent’s legs and control some of his center of gravity, count yourself there.
Slow Progressions: Walk it through with your partner cooperating this time. Start standing. Double grasp any limb, enter, take him down, continue to finish. Reverse whole process. Back it up to a kneel, pull back to a drag and lock, end up standing and touching. Examine, as you go, the transitions from type of Chin Na to the next.