Wing Chun Wooden Dummy
The Coolest Training Partner Ever!

No doubt about it, flowing through a wooden dummy session is cool!

This is sifu Alon Peterson at normal speed (not fast motion video). I wish I could flow smoothly like that, don't you? And look at his smooth footwork. This is the goal when you train on a Wing Chun dummy.

In his book, The Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000 Hour Rule” as the key to success in any field. His premise is that to be an expert in your field requires that you practice your skill or art for at least 10,000 hours.

An old Chinese proverb (which Bruce Lee borrowed) states:

“I fear not the man who practices 10,000 techniques once, but the man who practices one technique 10,000 times holds my respect.”

If you're one of the lucky few, you have a Wing Chun wooden dummy at home waiting for you to practice. If you're like me, you have to wait until you get to the kwoon to touch hands with the mook yan jong (wooden dummy - or mook jong, for short).

[Mook yan jong is the Cantonese pronunciation (close enough). In Mandarin it is: mu ren zhuang: 木人. Literally wood, person, post (stake).]

Where Did the Wooden Dummy Come From?

One of the more popular legends behind the wing chun wooden dummy's origin says it came from the ancient Shaolin Temple.

About 300 years ago, before the Manchu government burned the temple to the ground, the temple had a tunnel with 108 individual dummies. Practice one move on one specific dummy; talk about practicing one move 10,000 times!

In order for the monks to graduate, they had to pass through this tunnel and successfully neutralize each dummy, which represented being able to complete each of the 108 combat techniques.

Ng Mui, the buddhist nun and matriarch credited for founding Wing Chun Kung Fu in many lineages, escaped the Manchu attack and survived the Shaolin Temple's burning.

She took many kung fu secrets with her, and also combined all of the individual 108 wooden dummy combat techniques, and unified them into one training set (Wing Chun form) that could be trained by using just one wooden dummy.

The First Wing Chun Dummies

Originally, wooden dummies were made from tree trunks that were set in the ground with gravel so they would give slightly when struck. Modern wooden dummies are made from various types of wood, with teak, a hardwood, being quite common and sought after.

Many craftsmen make wooden dummies that are both functional and beautiful works of art. Just like a fine piece of furniture, though, Wing Chun dummies cost a pretty penny.

In general, you'll want to favor dummies made from hardwoods like teak, oak, hickory, and others. These hold up well over time compared to softer woods like pine. At my kwoon we have two wooden dummies.

The hardwood one is teak and belonged to our grandmaster. The dummy traveled across the Pacific Ocean to the U.S. and was used by my sifu's sifu. And now, my sifu inherited it.

It's got to be close to 40 years old. The leg on it broke, but was recently repaired with a metal splint. It's still going strong.

The second dummy is about 10 years old, made out of some cheaper, softer wood and stained to look dark. The main body (the trunk) already has a nasty split where the double arms come out. I don't think it can be properly repaired (the log is split deeply).

No matter what you do, I recommend investing in a quality dummy. You'll be able to pass it on to the next generation. And like a good piece of heirloom furniture that gets better with age, you can sell it.

What's more, hardwoods, like precious metals, go up in value with time.

A Few Ways to Save Money on a Wing Chun Wooden Dummy

  • Shipping these heavy and awkward shaped mook jongs adds to the cost. If you can drive and pick yours up, that could save you a bundle; and you may have a great road trip story to share with others.

    One of my buddies (below) bought an oak dummy from a carpenter in the Midwest (U.S.A). The carpenter suggested my buddy could save $400 if he picked it up himself. It would have a been a great trip, but he couldn't take time-off from work.
My buddy playing with his new wooden dummy
  • Yes, you can buy the lower cost dummies made from softer woods or ply wood. That is to say, some people glue and adhere smaller pieces of wood to form the main body of the dummy, then carve or cut it to the desired shape.

  • Wing Chun dummies can be crafted out of less expensive materials. Plastic, like a Wing Chun PVC dummy, is popular, although this not my personal favorite. Others have even used metal.

  • Then you can also buy specially made dummy arms and legs and attach them to a post, the wall, or even a punching bag.

    I've used the kind for a punching bag. It didn't have the leg attachment, just the arms. But I liked it more than I thought I would.

    It's not the same workout as on a hunk of wood, but when the heavy bag swung back, it was like it was attacking me. I thought that was a practical use of solo training time.

The trouble is, even the less expensive wood dummies are not cheap. Fellow Wing Chun'ers from Wing Chun Geeks wrote a wooden dummy buying guide you can read here. It helps bring order to an often confusing and big-ticket purchase.

If you're handy, you can build your own dummy and save on all the labor costs and buy the material when it's on discount. Check out this build your own wing chun dummy video guide, including the materials list.

The wooden dummy takes the place of a training partner...

The purpose of Wing Chun dummies is to prepare you for combat by allowing you to get in the hours necessary for success and to allow you to practice your techniques in isolation.

The dummy helps you in developing the skills of Wing Chun: correct angle of deflection, balance, flow, accuracy, timing, positioning, speed and power.

The timing and power of all fighting techniques can be drilled repeatedly on the dummy.

  • Accuracy is improved by teaching you how to position your arms and body in relation to your opponent so you can use both arms simultaneously;
  • Speed is improved through training and turning motor patterns into reflexive habits;
  • Footwork is fine-tuned and balance is enhanced through deliberate practice of the forms, without having to react to a moving opponent.

Don't waste your solo training time. It has been said that an average martial artist will spend 80% of his time training alone. By using a wooden dummy, you can maximize your solo training benefits, bringing you closer to your peak physical, mental, and spiritual awareness.

Where to next? Try these articles and resources ...

The 6 Wing Chun Forms

Can I Use the Dummy to Practice the Sil Lim Tao and Other Techniques?

Resource: Search and Buy Wing Chun Dummies; For All Budgets

Video MASTERY: 84+ Downloadable DVDs on Dummy Training 
(*Type Dummy in the search bar*)

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