One of the hardest challenges you will have to overcome in Wing Chun will be finding quality training partners.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a training partner that never got tired?
A training partner who was always up for training whenever you are?
A training partner who does not mind doing the same thing over and over and over again?
Most importantly, wouldn’t it be great to find a training partner who doesn’t mind getting beat up every single time they train?
Enter Wing Chun’s muk yan jong, AKA the wooden dummy.
Why You Need A Dummy For Your Training
Choosing of the best wooden dummy for your training needs is one of the most important decisions you make as you progress in the Wing Chun system.
Why? The wooden dummy satisfies all of the criteria for a perfect Wing Chun partner.
- The wooden dummy allows you to practice all of the techniques you will need for a self-defense or combative scenario at your own pace whenever and wherever you like and for as long as you like
- It is available whenever you are
- it will never get injured or sick
- It won’t ever bitch, whine, piss, moan or complain about practicing the same thing over and over
- It doesn’t mind getting whacked over and over and over again!
Wing Chun as an art and a system of self-defense is unlike most other arts. There are no fancy air punches, dragon claws or finger painting motions with our hands. We do not memorize dozens of routines or emphasize the esoteric or non-physical aspects of training. For us, our Wing Chun training is predicated on making contact with another person.
All of our drills are designed for this purpose, and our forms are designed to download those skills into arm muscle memory for one reason and one reason only: to apply them against an opponent in a non-cooperative environment. In fact, in addition to the aforementioned drills we obsessively engage in, the countless hours of chi sau and progressively harder sparring and even the reiteration in our minds of the basic principles, concepts and ideas are all based on the reality that in order for this art and system of combat to be effective, contact will need to be made in order to feel the opponent’s intentions.
The muk yan jong, or wooden dummy, is an apparatus designed by our Wing Chun ancestors to address all three of these areas that sadly, so many Wing Chun folks may be out of touch with today, opting for emphasis on ranks, titles and online pissing contests as to lineage and legitimacy. You may be able to BS yourself or others, but you can’t fake feedback from a neutral third party. The dummy is that party, which is why if you are serious about your Wing Chun training, the dummy is to your practice what a track is to a sprinter.
How To Choose The Best Wooden Dummy To Fit Your Training Needs
When choosing the best wooden dummy for your training, the following three factors need to be honestly addressed and the corresponding questions honestly answered:
- SPACE – Where do you plan on housing the dummy? is this going in a school a garage and apartment or the corner of a bedroom? There are several full-size dummies that are designed to fit in corners for example.
- MATERIAL – What is the dummy made from? Wooden dummies are the most durable but also the most expensive. There are several options made from polypropylene (PVC) pipe that provide a more cost-effective solution for are you looking for a wood or a more cost-effective alternative such as PVC pipe?
- COST / PRICE – How much are you able to invest in procuring the best wooden dummy you can afford? As a rule, a wooden dummy will last for years, if not a lifetime. Arms and legs can be replaced, however infrequently, but the body and frame of the dummy should last a lifetime. Knowing this, it makes sense to shoot for the highest quality dummy you can afford.
Answering these three questions will provide you with the most effective and budget-friendly option for bringing this extremely versatile and a very necessary component of your training to you.
*NOTE: I will not be including items such as the Wing Chun Attach-Mate or other similar pieces of equipment that attach to others in order to create a dummy-like result, nor will I cover portable or half-dummies designed for use in a doorway or some other modified sense. These products are extremely valuable for other aspects of training and will be discussed in a future review, but in the interest of making information as specific and targeted as possible for you, I am only focusing on proper Wing Chun muk jong wooden dummies according to the traditional and established full dummy design.
Ready? Let’s get started.
TRADITIONAL WALL/STAND MOUNTED DUMMIES
TMAS Traditional Wing Chun Dummy With Stand
What better way to kick this list off than with my personal dummy.
Constructed in the traditional wooden training dummy style, this has served me well for over 12 years. What I have found most valuable with my dummy is its’ ability to be adjusted to the height of whomever is using it, something that comes in handy when you are larger than the typical Wing Chun stylist’s build. Another benefit to a dummy on a stand is its’ portability; it can be moved around to accommodate any rearrangement of your training area without being taken apart or dismantled.
The arms of the dummy should align with your shoulders; this is important in terms of keeping training aligned with reality. Many folks use a dummy at at a height that is several inches shorter than it should be. Wrong. Training on a dummy with an adjustable stand remedies this as the trunk of the dummy itself can be removed from the 2 center planks and adjusted accordingly.
A time-tested traditional training tool, this particular model will aid in your functionalization of your Wing Chun skills while linking you to generations of practitioners who mastered the art on the design of this very dummy.
This will aid you in hardening practical fighting skills by providing a human-like reference point for all of your techniques and since it is handcrafted by authentic artisans in China in full accordance with the long-established design specifications, you can be assured that your training will be taken to the next level-with diligent and regular practice, of course!
Dummymaker Walnut Color Wing Chun Dummy
If you are looking for a traditional dummy with all the trimmings to begin your ascent to the next level of your Wing Chun training but are a bit light on cash, look no further.
A more economical version of traditional Wing Chun dummy with stand, all of the elements of the dummy are included. The stand’s heavy duty reinforcements ensure that you will get years of productive training out of him (or her).
Like the model listed above, the arms and leg are fully replaceable and set in a furniture grade hardwood body if you should ever need to replace them.
All of the Dummymaker products are handcrafted in a small studio dedicated to producing top-notch equipment, so you need not worry as to the quality of craftsmanship on this piece.
All in all, this is a sturdy, economical piece of equipment designed by top-level craftsman for hardcore Wing Chun practice without having to have your checkbook take the beating.
Warrior Martial Arts Traditional Wing Chun Dummy with Wall Mount Stand
One of the biggest objections to a traditional Wing Chun dummy is spatial limitation. For many dedicated Wing Chun folks, it is just too darn boxy and awkward to have in their training area. It is for this reason that the wall mounted dummy was created. Let’s not forget that space was at a premium in Hong Kong, where this design was first utilized, back in Ip Man’s day.
Made of furniture grade hardwood and put through a 9 step lamination process, this particular model conforms to all of the specifications of the traditional dummy without the bulkiness of its’ more traditional boxed in design. The only concern is that you must dedicate a space to this particular model as it will need to be anchored to the wall with bolts.
This model carries a lifetime warranty on dummy trunks against major cracking or splitting (you shouldn’t have a thing to worry about-these folks know what they’re doing) and is available in six colors so your inner fashionista can choose the perfect color for your training area-’cause we all know that hard training is not enough, you’ve gotta look good doing it.
The wall stand has 4 height adjustable brackets to match user height (arms should be even with your shoulders as stated above) and all Warrior Martial Art Supply dummies can be used with multiple stands. This is important if you should ever decide to take the wall mount off and affix a traditional box stand to it, you can do so without having to purchase an entirely new unit.
Dummymaker Wall Mounted Wing Chun Dummy
If the wall mounted dummy design tickles your fancy, the Dummymaker Wall Mounted Wing Chun Dummy offers the same features and benefits to the one listed above with a bit more streamlined and close to the wall design.
Manufactured in a traditional workshop where dummies are created for hard and frequent training, each dummy is constructed traditionally according to the traditional design with the unique handcrafted quality that can only be given by a craftsman; no mass-production here.
The heavy laminated hardwoord frame and reinforced cross-pattern ensure that the dummy will stay in place (provided it is properly fastened of course) while its’ compact nature and design make it an ideal choice if you have limited space to train.
Warrior Martial Arts Wing Chun Wooden Dummy With Recoil Reaction Stand
One of the main differences in the modern Wing Chun dummy as we know it and its’ generations-past predecessor was that the old style of dummy was literally buried in the ground. While this did much for rooting and conditioning, the crucial element of “aliveness’ so impoertant to our Wing Chun training was lost.
It was not until Ip Man moved from the mainland to the crowded and stuffy metropolis of Hong Kong that the dummy took on its’ now iconic structure and feel. Both the wall mount and traditional mounted dummies listed above both offer a degree of “play” in their use; that is, they offer some springiness to mimic a human body, forcing the user’s structure to adapt.
This design is unique in that its’ wall-mounted recoil stand provides even more of that springiness. All other aspects of the dummy are identical, however it is this unit’s unique top-down center mounting shish-ka-bob style that allows the user to really feel the dummy’s motions. Training in this way, your structure is becoming accustomed to the feedback of returning resistance to any force you send to the dummy. A valuable addition to your training for sure.
I have always enjoyed using this style of dummy as it forces me to both root and be pliable simultaneously. Give it a shot.
FREESTANDING WOODEN DUMMIES
Augusta Pro Wing Chun Wooden Dummy With Striking Pads
One of my close friends has this very model and I must admit I was a bit skeptical at first, having only trained to that point on the traditional stand-based dummy. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.
The base itself is long enough so as to dissipate any force I gave to it yet narrow enough to where it did not get in my way as I maneuvered around it like I had thought it might. The fact that the base ends well before the leg ensures you won’t snag your feet as you pass from one side of the dummy to the other.
This unit also comes with complimentary striking pads, which is a nice bonus. Striking pads allow you to make some contact to the dummy, upping the realism factor quite a bit not only for punching but for the eyejabs, throat strike and lower-level strikes while providing you with a visual cue for each of the 3 main frontal targets on the body: head, chest/solar plexus and abdomen.
Augusta Pro offers a 5 year warranty on each Wooden Dummy body for normal practice use (which as stated above shouldn’t be an issue but is sure nice to know).
Dummymaker Wing Chun Dummy with Closed Base
Much like the Augusta Pro listed above, this unit makes training a breeze. One feature that this Dummymaker version from the Augsta Pro is its’ beveled front base for easier maneuvering. The leg does not extend all the way to the floor on this model but still conforms to the design specs of the traditional Ip Man dummy, giving a feel of a slightly different opponent if you are used to one design-but the concept of adaptation and seeking commonalities is what Wing Chun is all about, right?
Its’ closed base and narrow, rectangular base makes for easier use in smaller areas such as spare room or limited space studio. Use in a corner works well too, provided you prop a pad or other soft material on its’ edges if you put one there. I do not recommend this though; the chief benefit to this particular model lies in its’ portability.
Each unit comes with bolts and nuts for complete assembly so you don’t need to spend Saturday at the Home Depot trying to figure things out as to what size hardware is needed; it’s all included. You can spend your time doing more enjoyable things-like beating this thing like it owed you 50 bucks.
Dummymaker Wing Chun Dummy With Closed Base (Extra Wide)
Identical to the unit above, what I love about this particular design is its’ extra wide yet still beveled base. This allows for greater stability while you train while also allowing for you to get the dummy a bit closer to the wall, aiding in conserving space.
The back of the base lifts up to reveal a small storage area: this can be ideal for equipment storage, or for sandbags or some other form of light weights to keep the dummy in place.
Just like its’ slightly less wide sibling above, all hardware comes included for assembly.
Dummymaker Wing Chun Wooden Dummy With Corner Angle Base
This unit is designed specifically for use in corners. Let me explain why this is so important:
In watching countless folks perform the dummy set or work out on the dummy themselves, I have noticed that there is a tendency to over-exaggerate motions on the dummy, especially insofar as moving around the dummy is concerned. Folks either take too wide a step, too long a step or shift, or both. Having a dummy designed to fit in a corner solves that problem for you by taking away the option of overshifting and overstepping. In a corner, your spatial limitations are clear. Wing Chun is designed for close-in fighting and close-quarters self-defense.
Training on a dummy structured for use in such confined quarters forces your techniques and motions to become that much more economical, thereby aligning you with the essence of why the art was founded in the first place.
This unit is available in walnut, as shown here, or in a lighter shade of vintage patina for the interior designer in you.
POLYPROPYLENE (PVC) BODY WING CHUN DUMMIES
As economical as many of the wooden models are, using a dummy whose body is made of polypropylene (PVC) pipe provides an unmatched ratio of weight and durability to price. It is for this reason that PVC dummies with wooden extremities are so popular.
Warrior Martial Arts Supply Freestanding PVC Wing Chun Dummy With Vector Stand
The first dummy I ever trained on, back at the Ng Family Chinese Martial Arts Association in Chicago’s Chinatown, was a PVC dummy trunk with wooden arms and a wooden traditional frame stand. It is still there to this day, and has held up like a champ.
The most expensive part of a hardwood dummy is obviously the trunk, as it carries the most weight and uses the most material. Replacing the trunk with PVC not only cuts the cost of a dummy down significantly but also increases the ease of which you can move your dummy around from place to place within your training area or even moving. Let me tell you from personal experience, moving with a traditional wooden dummy, even a free-standing one, is just plain not fun.
The triangular design of the Vector stand peaks at the leg, so it will not get in the way of your moving around it. I feel that having the triangular base point at your centerline while you work the dummy reminds you that your opponent is seeking to do just that-attack to your center.
One of the biggest issues with a free-standing PVC dummy is the issue of the weigh (or lack thereof) of the body of the dummy, thereby having enough mass to hold itself in place. On the back of the Vector stand is a peg for weight plates that cna be used to offset the lack of inherent poundage of the PVC trunk. To move this unit around, simply slip off the plates, drag to a new position or pick up and load in a U-Haul and you’re all set. Great for apartment dwellers, this dummy provides a value that is unmatched if weight and space are concerns without wishing to sacrifice structure, form or function.
Conclusion: Why Choosing The Right Wooden Dummy Is Essential For Proper Wing Chun Training
In conclusion, let me tell you from personal experience that even after the countless hours of forms training, partner drills, chi sau and even full-contact sparring my Wing Chun skills did not really begin to develop until I began to learn the wooden dummy form. Why? Because it wasn’t until I began working the dummy that I understood positioning; I now knew how to right my positioning when it was a bit off as well as placing myself in the correct position biomechanically to apply the techniques of the system on an opponent. This knowledge translated into much more effective drilling, chi sau practice and even full-contact training for combat sports such as boxing and sanshou kickboxing and lei tai fighting.
Remember, the dummy is not a conditioning tool; your arms will grow tougher and more conditioned by virtue of dummy training but that is not the main purpose of its’ place in Wing Chun. The dummy is a positioning tool. If you fight the dummy the way you would a heavy bag, you will lose. The dummy is designed to teach you to regain a position when you momentarily lose it and to maneuver around a body in order to recover and gain the most advantageous position.
Check out the following clip of Sifu David Peterson (whose wooden dummy DVD seminar is among my core collection of resources I use on a regular basis) performing the complete muk yan jong dummy set below and pay particular attention to how his body moves fluidly yet with unbroken structure. This is why the dummy is so important for us as Wing Chun folks: it helps us functionalize not just what technique to use, but HOW to apply them. Have a look:
When deciding which wooden dummy is best for your training needs you have to address the following three questions:
- SPACE – Where do you plan on housing the dummy?
- MATERIAL – What is the dummy made from?
- COST / PRICE – How much are you able to invest in procuring the best wooden dummy you can afford?
Once you can get a handle on exactly what you were looking for and what purpose you hope to achieve by utilizing a wooden dummy your training can truly reach the next level.
It makes sense, therefore, to get this ideal training partner into your own regimen as soon as possible. I promise you this once you start training with the dummy you will be able to see where your strengths and weaknesses more efficiently lie and adjust accordingly. Answer the 3 key questions listed above, decide which one best suits your needs, get your hands on it and get to training.
Hear me now, believe me later: if you want to take your Wing Chun skills to the next level, make friends with a real dummy and it’s off to the races.
Train Smart, Stay Safe