The Wing Chun dummy

The authentic Wing Chun’s wooden dummy

A lot of Kung Fu styles adopted wooden dummies to learn to manage a human being’s similar shape but one of the most celebrated and effective is for sure the Wing Chun’s Muk Yan Jong (or Mu Ren Zhuang).

The structure of this fantastic training tool:

  • It is basically a trunk with 3 small arms (same length) and a single central leg
  • The 3 arms are short because they simulate a closed guard position
  • The 4th extension is bent and represents the frontal leg (the other one is ideally incorporated in the central body)

A note by Master Kongling – In the story of Wing Chun Kung Fu, the structure of this dummy is originally related to the use of wooden benches and ship masts.

The technical characteristics

The construction of the wooden dummy must fall within specific parameters:

  • In the classical version, it is normally made of full wood (but there are also metal, plastic and mixed materials variants, read A Wing Chun wooden dummy like in PVC)
  • Depending on the materials and type of manufacture, it can weight 40-70 Kg
  • The core component is a cylindrical trunk of solid wood
  • The 3 upper limbs are generally truncated cones that starts larger near the body and become thinner at their extremities
  • The 2 upper arms should be at the height of the shoulders’ practitioner (generally there are 3 measures)
  • The frontal leg is a cylinder (or a beveled parallelepiped) bent in the middle and does not touch the ground
  • All the 3 limbs are removable and the holes in which they are inserted are slightly wider than necessary
  • The total height of the structure should not be higher than the practitioner’s head
  • The impact parts of the central body are often covered with rubber, rope or bags containing various materials (rice, sand, etc.)
  • In the original version, the dummy is never completely fixed on the ground (it is mounted on a structure that allows millimetric oscillations)

What is the purpose of the wooden man?

A martial art practitioner uses the wooden dummy for 3 fundamental reasons:

  • Trapping training – The main objective of this tool is to accustom and sensitize the limbs to close combat (read Trapping) at high speed / precision (touch, speed spatial intelligence, coordination, etc.)
  • Hand conditioning – Without protections, a wooden dummy is a fantastic tool for strengthening the hands (but only for advanced practitioners and with extreme graduality)
  • Alternative training – Especially for those who want to train seriously, it is not always possible to have the right training partners on hand; for this reason from time to time, to have one that is passive but does not feel pain, fatigue (etc.) it’s really fantastic (read 5 effective ways to find a training partner)

A note by Master Kongling – The impact with such a mass of wood can easily cause bad fractures, especially if we do not know how to hit (and if we do not have a base of conditioning more than solid).

The theory beyond the wooden dummy

In the 6DKF’s practice, the composition of the original Muk Yan Jong offers specific advantages:

  • The 3rd arm represents the movement – We do not have to see the 3 upper limbs as static but as an opponent moving at light speed; this forces us to overcome each time our limits
  • The total weight – The fact that all the compositive elements are full and solid is not casual, it simulates the weight mass and the inertia of a human body; this teaches us what does it means to hit something that “does not move” (or, in another way of seeing the practice, that “resists”, imposing its strength)
  • The resistance of the central cylinder – The core part of the wooden dummy is made to resist to full power blows, nothing can destroy it; this allows the practitioners to have occasion to test and train at full power their combat techniques (a thing that is absolutely impossible against a human partner)
  • The small movement range – As we said the entire structure is apparently unmovable but trough that small range of motion, our intent must be to try to control and push it away; if we think about it, that small construction detail changes everything, it allows us to lift the whole figure that simulates the human body making each session incredibly different

A note by Master Kongling – Basically, it is useless to work only with a training dummy (read Training dummies) but it is fundamental if we do not want to limit our skills in relation to the ones of our training partners (read also Why martial arts do not work: 5 reasons).

Final notes

A few conclusive thoughts:

  • This kind of wooden dummies are used not only by Wing Chun but also in other southern styles of Kung Fu (read also Northern and Southern Kung Fu styles: the main differences)
  • Also Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do (due to his Wing Chun’s roots) uses an equivalent training tool
  • In 6 Dragons Kung Fu, we use (among others) a wooden man that could appear similar but, again, that is slightly different (in the building, in the goals and in the approach)

in the next article of this series, we will talk about the 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s wooden dummy characteristics (read The 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s wooden dummy).

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Have you ever trained with an original version of the wooden man?

Author: Master Kongling

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