Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: Chin Na Fa

Chin Na Fa, first published in 1936 is the first modern look at the grappling arts of China. Originally written by Liu Jinsheng and Zhao Jiang, this new edition is translated by martial artist and grappling expert Tim Cartmell.
As Cartmell describes in the preface, "This work represents primary source material of ancient combat techniques designed to restrain, control, injure, or kill an opponent in hand-to-hand combat."
Cartmell goes on to say that the intent of this book is to provide historical documentation for ancient techniques that have been modified for competition and self-defense.

With that in mind, techniques shown in this book will be familiar not only to Chinese martial arts practitioners, but to those who study Judo, Aikido, Jujitsu and similar arts. Perhaps being somewhat Chinese-centric, the author provides us once again with historical evidence that Chinese Grappling arts pre-dated those of Japan:
"During the Ming Dynasty, Chen Yuanbin traveled to Japan and taught the skills of seizing and locking as well as wrestling."
Another startling revelation author Liu Jinsheng provides, referring to traditional Chinese martial arts:

"Those who have practiced these arts twenty or thirty years have never defeated anyone who has practiced Western boxing or Judo. Why is this? It is because the practitioners of Shaolin and Wudang styles only pay attention to the beauty of their forms - they lack practical methods and spirit and have lost the true transmissions of their ancestors. Hence, our martial arts are viewed by outsiders merely as rigorous dancing."

That's a pretty strong indictment of traditional arts, coming from a master of those arts.
"Chin Na Fa" was written for the battlefield soldier and policemen. The techniques can indeed cripple or kill.
As I stated earlier, this book is important in it's historical context. There are generally only one or two pictures of each technique, but the text reads clearly and it's easy to follow. There are however, no contemporary names or numbers for the acupressure and vital points, which only have Chinese names in their description. People familiar with the points shown will recognize them by their description.
Grapplers in other methods will also see techniques they practice, some that have interesting entries and counter-techniques. There's lots of tearing, ripping, choking, and even techniques for tying people up with a belt.
While it's not the most comprehensive book I've seen on the subject, it provides an honest historical view of combat arts in the time of trench warfare. Practitioners of Chinese martial arts as well as other grappling arts will find the book useful.

You can find "Chin Na Fa" and hundreds of other martial arts titles at the website for Blue Snake Books, LINKED HERE.


B said...

Excellent! I'm going to try and get my hot little hands on this one!Some good reading before I start the aikido journey!

daniele.perkele said...

Seems like you're really into grappling lately.
Although I understand the quite harsh statement about the uneffectiveness of chinese martial arts you quoted there, but I believe there are historical examples of chinese fighters defeating western boxers.

Dojo Rat said...

After reading what the author said about Western boxers defeating Chinese fighters, it made me wonder about the stories that Wing Chun was influenced by western boxing.
Seems possible.

Sean C. Ledig said...


Karl Godwin, a Wing Chun instructor in Altamonte Springs, Fl., wrote an article about that idea for Black Belt in 1986.

I can't remember which issue, but Google books has a complete collection of Black Belt from the first issue to present day.

Karl hypothesized that Wing Chun was a synthesis between Western Boxing and Taijiquan.

I've heard similar things. I'm sure there's some cross-pollenation between fighting arts. Good teachers and good fighters, no matter what country they're from or what time they live, are always on the lookout for anything that they can add to their arsenal.

And yes, I'm going to have to look for that book, too. Cartmell always does some good stuff.

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