As with most Chinese martial arts, qin na is composed of many different levels, according to different criteria or standards. I would like to define these standards according to several different systems of categorization.
First, the levels of qin na techniques can be divided according to how much a person understands the technique and the technical difficulty of the technique executed. The same techniques—based on the same theory and principle—can generate very different results, according to an individual's expertise. Normally, this can be judged according to a few common criteria. First, a beginner's power is usually dull and stagnant, and therefore the technique is executed slowly and poorly. When an expert is performing the same technique, his power is soft and gentle, and therefore his technique is fast and effective.
Second, a beginner usually cannot catch the correct angle of locking through the feel of the contact, while an expert can grasp the correct angle instinctively. Generally, this instinct will take many months of diligent practice for each technique until they become natural and smooth. This is also the reason a beginner needs to use more muscular, slow power.
Third, when a technique is applied by a beginner, the victim can feel the angle as it occurs, but when done by a qin na expert, the victim will feel nothing until he is locked in place. The reason for this is that an expert will use a flowing, circular motion. When this circular motion is used, usually you will not realize you are being locked, and therefore your reaction will not be as instinctive and automatic as when someone tries to lock you at an obvious angle. Finally, when a beginner is executing a technique, usually he does not know how to coordinate his breathing and mind, and therefore the technique is not executed as effectively as it would be by an expert. This is like when you use an ax to chop a piece of wood. If you know how to place your mind on the bottom of the wood you would like to chop and how to coordinate with your exhalation, you will find you can break the wood much more easily than you could without such concentration.
Chin Na Results May Vary
Next, the levels of qin na techniques can be very different according to different martial styles. For example, "small wrap hand" wrist qin na is one of the most common techniques based on the theory of dividing the muscle/tendon. However, because of different understanding and training methods in various martial styles, it can be used to accomplish distinctly different results, and its effectiveness can also vary. Although ostensibly the same technique, some martial styles will execute it with good speed and an accurate locking angle, while others go slowly and remain on the surface. This means that even the same technique can vary in its effectiveness, depending on the styles, the teacher, and the student.
Next, the levels of qin na techniques can be distinguished according to different qin na categories. Generally speaking, the theory and the techniques of the "dividing muscle/tendon" and "misplacing the bone" qin na techniques are the easiest to learn and apply. "Grabbing the tendon" qin na is harder since it needs more strength, accuracy, and concentration to make it work. In some advanced "grabbing tendon" qin na, the qi and the coordination of the breathing are required. "Sealing the vein/artery" are the third most difficult techniques to learn.
Although some of the "sealing the vein/artery" qin na techniques applied to the neck are fairly easy to learn, most of the others are much more difficult and require special training. Finally, "pressing cavity" qin na is the hardest since it requires in-depth knowledge about the locations of cavities, the application of specific hand forms and techniques, the time window of vulnerability associated with each cavity, and the depth of penetration required for your power to properly affect the cavity. According to Chinese medicine, qi circulates in the body's qi channels and is affected and significantly influenced by the time of day and the seasons of the year. Furthermore, in order to effectively use even a small number of "pressing cavity" techniques, jing training is required. Normally, it will take a person more than ten years of vigorous practice to understand these theories and reach the final mastery of "pressing cavity" qin na.
Remember, a good qin na is not necessarily complicated. Soon, you will realize that the simple techniques are usually faster and easier to apply. Very often, this helps make them more effective than those techniques that look fancy but take a lot of time to apply. The key to judging a good technique is to decide how fast and effective the technique is when it is applied. Also, you should remember that almost all of the qin na techniques are related to the mutual angle between you and your opponent. When you set up an angle for locking, if your opponent is experienced, he can sense it and remove the angle.
Furthermore, he may mount a counter qin na technique to lock you. Therefore, the longer the time you take when you execute a technique, the greater the chance your opponent will be able to escape or even counterattack. When two qin na experts are practicing qin na, it is continuous, without an end. The reason for this is simply because every qin na can be countered, and every countered qin na can be countered. Therefore, if both practitioners are able to feel or sense the attacks clearly and accurately, either one will be able to change the locking angle to free himself and immediately execute another qin na on his opponent. Naturally, to reach this stage, you will need many years of practice and accumulation of experience.
Finally, you should understand that in order to reach an in-depth level of qin na, you should follow the training procedures that have been used in the past. First, you should regulate your body until all of the physical positions are accurate. This includes the mutual angle for locking, the positioning of your body, and the correct posture for controlling. After you have mastered all of these factors, you should then regulate your breathing. Correct breathing helps to manifest your power to a stronger stage. You will also need to regulate your mind. Remember, your mind leads the qi (or bioelectricity) to the muscles and tendons to activate them for action. The more your mind can be concentrated, the more qi can be led, and the more power you can generate. It is said, "Yi arrives, qi also arrives" ("Yi dao, qi yi dao"). Once you have regulated your body, breathing, mind, and qi, then you can raise up your spirit of controlling. This will lead you to the final level of perfect technique execution. If you are interested in knowing more about this external and internal training, please refer to The Root of Chinese Qigong, published by YMAA.
(The above is an excerpt from Tai Chi Chin Na—The Seizing Art of Tai Chi Chuan by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming)