It cannot be denied that a qualified instructor will help you to shorten the learning time and to transfer the key details of each technique. However, if there is no qualified instructor around, then you must rely on yourself.
The first thing to remember when you are teaching yourself is that you should focus on the principle of the technique. This will not only help you to learn that technique, but also learn other techniques which are based on the same principle. If you thoroughly understand the theory and principles, you will even be able to develop techniques by yourself. Second, after you learn a technique from a book, you should find a partner who is also interested in researching. Discuss the technique and principle with each other. Experiment with it, experience it, become familiar with it, and finally master it. There is no better way than practice, practice, and practice. Constant practice makes a technique effective, alive, and natural. You should understand that for a technique to be effective, it must be applied in a natural way as a natural reaction. Only then can you say that you have grasped the technique.
As you practice Chin Na, learn how much strength you need to do the technique on different people. This can be learned only through practicing with many different types of people. Furthermore, remember when you train your Chin Na that you must train your Yi first. “Yi” in Chinese means “mind.” You must put your mind where your technique is, then you can feel if the technique is right, and you will be able to direct your Qi to support the technique. Remember when you use a Chin Na, feeling is 80% of the technique. You must train your sense of touch so that you know without looking whether your control is effective.
Again, when you practice with a partner be careful to avoid injury. Some injuries can take months to heal completely, and if you are not careful you may even damage your body permanently and give yourself a lifetime of trouble. Therefore, when you practice you must control the power you use on each other. If either of you is in pain, let the other know so he can stop the technique. Play safe and smart, not brave and stupid. You should also learn the basic techniques for dealing with and healing injuries.
Often, a Chin Na book shows people standing in particular stances, and doing particular attacks or movements, but when you actually must use the techniques you will probably find that things are quite different. Once you have learned a technique according to the book and can do it easily and effectively, you must experiment with it to find its limits, and how it can be modified. Each technique is designed for particular circumstances, and while it can be modified, there are also circumstances where the technique would be ineffective or even dangerous to you. Also, many times you will start a technique but the opponent will move or counter you, and you will have to modify your technique or try another one, or even back away. You have not mastered the art until you have learned these things.
If you practice joint-lock Chin Na properly with your partner, eventually you are helping each other to stretch and condition the joints. This kind of exercise is very healthy for the joints. One of the common rules of practice is when you apply a technique to your partner, if he is still able to strike back in any way, your technique is wrong. Your safety is always the first concern when a technique is applied. Also, if you cannot use the technique skillfully enough in a practical situation, your technique is useless.
Naturally, if you encounter a true opponent, then you must injure him first so his fighting capability is reduced immediately. In order to injure your opponent, you must have Jin to make your techniques effective. Jin is a way of expressing power which can make the power stronger and more penetrating. When Jin is expressed, the muscles and tendons are supported by the Qi in the body so that the muscles and tendons reach their highest efficiency. Jin can be categorized as hard, soft-hard, or soft. When you apply a Chin Na, regardless of which category it falls into, if you do not know how to use your Jin in the technique, your Chin Na will be ineffective. For example, if you do not use Jin in Fen Jin Chin Na, your opponent will have an opportunity to use his muscles to resist your muscles. If you do not use a jerking Jin in Cuo Gu Chin Na, you will not be able to break or misplace the opponent’s joint. In the same way, in a sealing the breath or cavity press technique, if no Jin is used, the power will not penetrate to the right depth and the technique will be ineffective.