"Self-cultivation of the nature is merit, Self-cultivation of the body is virtue."
-Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, Chapter 3


Shaolin Qinna (Chin.: Shàolín Qínná 少林擒拿)

Qinna is the name for various defensive joint-locking and manipulation techniques found in almost every style of Chinese martial arts, and is a very important component of Traditional Shaolin Wugong.

The name itself means to capture (擒 qín) and hold (拿 ná). It is a technique by which an attacker can be neutralized without suffering permanent physical damage or experiencing excessive pain. The intensity and duration of the discomfort felt by an attacker is completely controlled by the Qinna expert, making it a perfect defense technique for a Buddhist monk. For this reason, Qinna is a highly developed art form of Shaolin Wugong.

Almost every movement of a boxing set (Chin.: tàolù 套路) in Shaolin Wugong contains three variant forms of application (Chin.: yòngfǎ 用法).

  1. Striking (Chin.: dǎ 打)
  2. Throwing (Chin.: shuāi 摔 )
  3. Seizing & Controlling (Chin.: qínná 擒拿)

This means that any given movement may be interpreted as a possible strike, take-down, or joint-locking maneuver, not to mention as a defensive posture or action, or a combination of both attack and defense.

Qinna techniques are not only joint-locking, but include five essential aspects, known as the "Five Qinna Principles" (Chin.: wǔ qínná yuánzé 五擒拿原则) described below.

Five Qinna Principles

1. Muscle & Tendon Separation (Chin.: fēn jīn 分筋)

There are two aspects to Fen Jin. The first is "grasping" (Chin.: zhuājǐn 抓紧). Zhuajin is applied by the fingers "pinching" and separating the muscles and tendons of the opponent's body causing intense pain. Shaolin imitative styles such as Tiger Boxing (Chin.: Hǔquán 虎拳) or Eagle Claw Boxing (Chin.: Yīngzhǎoquán 鹰爪拳) make frequent use of Zhuajin skills. To be effective the fingers must be very strong. Strengthening of the fingers and grip is done through various exercises from fingertip push-ups, to lifting weights such as heavy jars filled with sand using the fingertips to grasp the rim. The second aspect of Fen Jin is "pressing the cavities" (Chin.: nà xué 捺穴), that is attacking the pressure points.

2. Bone Misplacement (Chin.: niǔ gǔ 扭骨)

Niu Gu are techniques which when applied at full force can either dislocate or snap a bone, or damage the joint, muscles and tendons surrounding the bone. However, applied with a minimal force an opponent can be moved to the ground and subdued without further damage.

3. Breath Obstruction (Chin.: bì qì 闭气)

Bi Qi literally means to close or seal the air, or vital breath. The obvious means is by striking, squeezing, or locking the throat. The breath rate can also be interrupted by striking the solar plexus, armpit, or rib cage causing the muscles to spasm and constrict the lungs. The effect will be the temporary loss of breath, usually halting any further attack from an opponent, and opening the opportunity for escape.

4. Vein & Artery Pressing (Chin.: diǎn mài 点脉)

Dian Mai is a very dangerous component of Qinna. Used to block the circulation of blood, Dian Mai techniques can disrupt motor function, cause unconsciousness, or potentially be fatal. For this reason, these techniques are often not taught openly. A student who learns Dian Mai must be of high morals. However, when used in correct combinations, Dian Mai can be used to treat or heal ailments and relieve pain.

5. Cavity Pressing (Chin.: diǎn xué 点穴)

Cavities here are otherwise known as pressure points, or Qi (气) channels throughout the body. Attacks to these points can be fatal, as they govern complete body and mind function, blood circulation, maintenance of organs and excitable bio-systems such as cardiac and neural biophysics. They are the passages through which vital energy travels. If obstructed, an energy imbalance may occur in the body resulting in illness, brain damage, or fatality. Dian Xue is the highest level of Qinna. It requires much less physical strength, but a deep knowledge of Qi meridians and Energy Transference.

Masters of Qinna

Shaolin Elder Ven. Shi Suxi (Chin.: Shì Sùxǐ 释素喜, 1924-2006) was highly trained in Qinna, and mastered all Five Qinna Principles. Ven. Suxi practiced daily on strengthening his fingers by filling three bags- one with grain, one with sand, and one with metal pellets- placing them on a bench and beating them with his index and middle fingers, or forcefully inserting his fingers into the fillings. He often trained like this until he fingers were red and swollen.

In 1943, under the guidance of his master, 28th Generation Shaolin Monk Ven. Shi Zhenxu (Chin.: Shì Zhēnxù 释贞绪, 1893-1955), Ven. Suxi studied and mastered the art of Dian Xue. Ven. Zhenxu created a wooden dummy, upon which he drew very detailed maps of Qi meridians and pressure points. 36 fatal points, 18 crippling points, and 64 health care points, for a total of 118. Within one year Ven. Suxi trained assiduously and thoroughly grasped all 118 points.


Qinna is a very specialized skill of Shaolin Wugong. It should only be used as a defense technique, and the pressure applied should only be as much as is necessary to interrupt an attacker's fighting ability. Real skill lies in the ability to neutralize an attacker without causing permanent physical damage or excessive pain.

Qinna techniques should be used with care. In the best case scenario, Qinna can be used as a healing method to alleviate muscular, tendon and joint pain of a patient. If however one is faced with an unfortunate confrontation with an attacker, Qinna is the preferable way to incapacitate them without long-term physically damaging effects. This way, they may have a chance to heal and grow spiritually. To reach this level however, takes many years of training under a qualified and experienced teacher.

-少林禅城 Shaolin Chan City

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1 comment:

mawei said...

Thanks. This definitely has expanded my conception of what Shaolin qin na really is. Thank you for sharing. I gotta get down there soon!!