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Qin Na in Chinese Martial Arts

by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, September 16, 2013

Nobody can tell exactly when Qin Na was first used. It probably began the first time one person grabbed another with the intention of controlling him. Grabbing the opponent's limbs or weapon is one of the most basic and instinctive ways to immobilize him or control his actions.

Because of their practicality, Qin Na techniques have been trained right along with other fighting techniques since the beginning of Chinese martial arts, many thousands of years ago. Although no system has sprung up which practices only Qin Na, almost every martial style has Qin Na mixed in with its other techniques. Even in Japan, Korea, and other oriental countries, which have been significantly influenced by Chinese culture, the indigenous martial styles have Qin Na techniques mixed in to some degree.

Generally speaking, since martial styles in southern China specialize in hand techniques and close range fighting, they tend to have better-developed Qin Na techniques, and they tend to rely more upon them than do the northern styles. Also, because southern martial styles emphasize hand conditioning more than the northern styles, they tend to use more muscles for grabbing and cavity press. Southern styles' emphasis on short range fighting causes them to train more for sticking and adhering. The techniques are usually applied with a circular motion, which can set the opponent up for a Qin Na control without his feeling the preparation. Footwork is also considered a very important part of Qin Na training for a southern martial artist.

In Chinese internal styles such as Taiji and Liu He Ba Fa, neutralization is usually done with a circular motion, and so the Qin Na techniques tend to be smooth and round. Often the opponent will be controlled before he realizes that a technique is being applied. In coordination with circular stepping, circular Qin Na can be used to pull the opponent's root and throw him away.

Japanese Jujitsu and Aikido are based on the same principles as Qin Na and Taiji. Since these countries were significantly influenced by Chinese culture, it seems probable that Chinese Qin Na also influenced their indigenous martial arts.

Importance of Qin Na Techniques

Since fundamental Qin Na techniques can be used to seize and control a criminal without injuring or killing him, they have been an important part of training for constables, government officers, and modern policemen. Around A.D. 527, the Shaolin temple became heavily involved in the martial arts. Since many non-lethal Qin Na techniques are very effective, the martial artists at the temple extensively researched, developed, and trained them. In the late Qing dynasty in the 19th century, Shaolin techniques were taught to people in the general population, and Qin Na techniques were passed down along with the different martial styles, which were developed in the Shaolin temple. Many Qin Na techniques were also developed for use with weapons specially designed to seize the opponent's weapon. If your opponent is disarmed, he is automatically in a disadvantageous situation. For example, the hook of the hook sword or the hand guard of a Chai (Sai) were designed for this purpose.

Qin Na Categories and Theory

Although Qin Na techniques from one Gongfu style may seem quite different from the techniques of another style, the theories and principles of application remain the same. These theories and principles form the root of all Qin Na techniques. If you adhere to these roots, your Qin Na will continue to grow and improve, but if you ignore these roots, your Qin Na will always remain undeveloped.

First you should understand that there is no technique, which is perfect for all situations. What you do depends upon what your opponent does, and since your opponent will not stand still and just let you control him, you must be able to adapt your Qin Na to fit the circumstances. Like all martial arts techniques, your Qin Na must respond to and follow the situation; techniques must be skillful, alive, fast, and powerful.  You should further understand that Qin Na must take the opponent by surprise. In grabbing Qin Na you have to grasp your opponent's body, and so if your opponent is aware of your intention it will be extremely difficult for you to successfully apply the technique. In such a case you may be obliged to use a cavity strike Qin Na instead of a grabbing technique.

It is usually much easier to strike the opponent than to control him. Subduing an opponent through a Qin Na controlling technique is a way to show mercy to someone you do not want to injure. To successfully apply a grabbing Qin Na, you often need to fake or strike the opponent first to set him up for your controlling technique. For example, you can use a punch to cause your opponent to block, and when he blocks, you quickly grab his hand and use Qin Na to control him. Alternatively, you might kick his shin first to draw his attention to his leg, and immediately grab his hand and control him.

There are five categories of Qin Na: 1. Fen Jin or Zhua Jin (dividing the muscle/tendon or grabbing the muscle/tendon). 2. Cuo Gu (misplacing the bone). 3. Bi Qi (sealing the breath). 4. Dian Mai or Duan Mai (vein/artery press or sealing the vein/artery). 5. Dian Mai or Dian Xue (pressing primary Qi channel or cavity press). I will discuss four of these categories here.

In addition, very often Qin Na techniques make use of principles from several categories at once. For example, many techniques simultaneously use the principles of dividing the muscle/tendon and misplacing the bone.

1. Fen Jin or Zhua Jin (dividing the muscle/tendon or grabbing the muscle/tendon):

Fen in Chinese means to divide, Zhua means to grab and Jin means tendon, sinew, or muscle. Fen Jin or Zhua Jin Qin Na refers to techniques, which tear apart the opponent's muscles or tendons. Muscles contain nerves and many Qi branch channels, so when you tear a muscle or tendon, not only do you cause sensations of pain to travel to the brain, you also directly or indirectly affect the Qi and interfere with the normal functioning of the organs. If the pain is great enough, it can disturb the Qi and seriously damage the organs, and in extreme cases even cause death. For this reason, when you are in extreme pain your brain may "give the order" for you to pass out. Once you are unconscious, the Qi circulation will significantly decrease, which will limit damage to the organs and perhaps save your life.

Fen Jin Qin Na uses two main ways to divide the muscle/tendon. One-way is to twist the opponent's joint and then bend. Twisting the joint also twists the muscles/tendons. If you bend the joint at the same time, you can tear the tendons off the bone. The other method is to split and tear the muscle/tendon apart without twisting. The most common place to do this is with the fingers.

Zhua Jin (grabbing the muscle/tendon) relies upon the strength of the fingers to grab, press, and then pull the opponent's large muscles or tendons. This causes pain by over extending the muscles and tendons. Common targets for Zhua Jin Qin Na are the tendons on the shoulder, under the armpit, on the neck, and on the sides of the waist. Zhua Jin Qin Na is used particularly by the Eagle Claw and Tiger Claw styles. Although Zhua Jin is usually classified with Fen Jin Qin Na, many Chinese martial artists separate the two categories because the principle used to divide the muscle/tendon is different.

Qin Na in Chinese Martial Arts

2. Cao Gu (misplacing the bone):

Cao means wrong, disorder, or to place wrongly, and Gu means bone. Cao Gu therefore are Qin Na techniques, which put bones in the wrong positions. These techniques are usually applied to the joints. If you examine the structure of a joint, you will see that the bones are connected to each other by ligaments, and that the muscles around and over the joints are connected to the bones by tendons. When a joint is bent backward or twisted and bent in the wrong direction, it can cause extreme pain, the ligament can be torn off the bone, and the bones can be pulled apart. Strictly speaking, it is very difficult to use dividing the muscle/tendon and misplacing the bone techniques separately. When one is used, generally the other one is also more or less simultaneously applied.

3. Bi Qi (sealing the breath):

Bi in Chinese means to close, seal, or shut, and Qi (more specifically Kong Qi) means air. Bi Qi is the technique of preventing the opponent from inhaling, thereby causing him to pass out. There are three categories of Bi Qi, differing in their approach to sealing.

The first category is the direct sealing of the windpipe. You can grab your opponent's throat with your fingers, or compress his throat with your arm, and prevent him from inhaling. Alternatively, you can use your fingers to press or strike the Tiantu cavity on the base of his throat to stop him from inhaling. Attacking this area causes the muscles around the windpipe to contract and close the windpipe.

The second category of Bi Qi is striking the muscles, which surround the lungs. Because of the protection, which the ribs afford, it is very difficult to strike the muscles around the lungs directly. However, some of these muscles extend beyond the ribs. When they are attacked, they contract in pain and compress the lungs, preventing inhalation. Two muscle groups in the stomach are commonly used in this way.

Finally, the last category of sealing the breath is cavity press or nerve ending strike. The principle of this category is very similar to that of the muscle strikes, the only difference being that cavities are struck rather than muscle groups. This category is normally much more difficult both in principle and technique. However, when it is done correctly it is more effective than striking the muscles.

When an outside force strikes the chest, the ribs act like a spring or an elastic ball to bounce the attacking force away or bounce yourself backward in order to protect the lungs and heart. This construction makes it very hard to cause the lungs to compress by striking the chest. You should also understand that the muscles, which are outside the ribs, will not compress the lungs when they contract, because the ribs will protect the lungs.
Therefore, in order to cause contraction of the lungs you must strike particular acupuncture cavities or the ends of the nerves, which emerge from the lung area underneath the ribs. Striking these cavities accurately and at the right depth will affect the Qi in the muscles around the lungs, causing them to contract. Alternatively, you can strike the nerve endings. This causes pain to penetrate the ribs and shock the internal muscles surrounding the lungs into contraction, thus sealing the breath.

4. Dian Mai or Duan Mai (vein/artery press or sealing the vein/artery):

Dian Mai is also known as Dim Mak, which is simply the same word spoken in a different dialect
In principle, Duan Mai can be done either by striking or pressing. A striking Duan Mai Qin Na can rupture the blood vessel and stop the blood circulation, which usually causes death. For example, when the temple is struck, the muscles in that area will tighten up and rupture the artery. A pressing Duan Mai Qin Na can also stop or seal the blood circulation. For example, sealing the neck artery will stop the blood circulation to your head and thus cut down the oxygen supply to the brain. This will cause unconsciousness or even death. There are two major arteries (carotid), one on either side of your neck, which supply oxygen to your brain. When either or both of these are struck or pressed, the flow of blood to the brain can be stopped.

If you do not know how to revive the victim, he will die from the lack of oxygen. Therefore, you must be careful in using sealing the vein/artery techniques. If you are not absolutely sure how to revive the person, do not use these techniques.

(The above excerpt is from Comprehensive Applications of Shaolin Chin Na by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming)

Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, is a renowned author and teacher of Chinese martial arts and Qigong. Born in Taiwan, he has trained and taught Taijiquan, Qigong and Chinese martial arts for over forty-five years. He is the author of over thirty books, and was elected by Inside Kung Fu magazine as one of the 10 people who has "made the greatest impact on martial arts in the past 100 years." Dr. Yang lives in Northern California.


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