The "Wooden Dummy" Form
The famed wooden dummy, called Muk-Yan-Chong, is one of – if not the – most-recognized item in the martial arts today. Even though a variety of martial arts employ a wooden dummy for training, it is usually more recognized with Wing Tsun.
When the wooden dummy first became a martial training tool is unknown, but it is generally accepted that it originated at the Shaolin temple. The “Wooden Man Alley” is said to have been two rows of spring-loaded wooden dummies, and in order for a student-monk to reach the end, he had to endure a variety of strikes from these wooden assailants. If he made it to the end, he would then brand his arms with the styles of kung fu he trained in by grasping hot cauldrons with his forearms.
Personally, I am very glad that that is no longer a requirement to excel at Wing Tsun.
A variety of shapes and sizes of dummies have been created throughout the generations, with the “live” dummy being the most prevalent (see below). Master Yip Man’s era is credited with mounting the dummy on slats and taking the form of what we see today. In times prior, though, the common method of mounting was simply sinking the dummy into the ground vs. mounting it on the wall.
Where construction itself is concerned, the dummy has a set pattern for how it is fashioned and what its use is truly for. Some feel that the dummy’s primary purpose is to condition the arms while others believe it is to mimic a person. It is true that repeated training will see many side benefits such as conditioning, timing, etc., but in my experience and as I was taught, the dummy’s primary purpose is to improve one’s structure when striking a non-moving object, increasing the coordination between upper and lower bodies (uniting the upper and lower bodies), and creating short-range burst type of power.
Section 1 begins by introducing the practitioner to an inanimate object, an object that will resist force at every turn. Because of this, we learn how to project relaxed force, a force that is devoid of rebound, or pushing us backward.
Additionally, section 1 teaches proper footwork, body unity, and treating the body as one complete unit for creating short-range, explosive power. We learn angling, making use of the opponent’s actions via various angles, sticking to the opponent, and exploding into the opponent.
1. Hoi-ma to Yee-chi-kim-yeung-ma
Opening the Stance to Character "Two" Adduction-stance
Stand in front of the dummy while being in punching range. Open the stance the same as with all other forms.
Assume a left Man-sau with the fingers as close as possible to the trunk without touching it.
Drive the arms at 45-degree upward angle to simulate the defense of a double neck grab. The elbows are outward just enough to deflect the dummy arms.
While simultaneously assuming a right Juk-sun-ma, the left hand grabs the inside of the dummy’s right arm while the right hand reaches around to grab the back of the dummy’s head area. 100% of the body’s weight is on the right leg and 0% on the left.
5. Noi-moon Bong-sau
Remaining in a right Juk-sun-ma, the right arm transitions to Noi-moon Bong-sau against the inside of the dummy’s right arm while the left hand assumes Wu-sau. The body’s weight remains fully on the right leg.
6. Tan-sau Gwoy-cheung
Palm Up-arm with Lying-palm
Initiate a 45-degree Wang-bo (Side-step) with the left leg and then the right leg executes Huen-bo around the dummy’s leg. When complete, the body is in a right Juen-ma at 45-degrees with the dummy. With the step, right Noi-moon Bong-sau transitions to Tan-sau while left Wu-sau strikes with Gwoy-cheung.
7. Sheung-har Gaun-sau
High/Low Splitting Block-arms
The right leg Huen-bo’s to the front and stops in front of the dummy’s leg. By way of adduction, the left leg is pulled forward so that the body is in a left Juk-sun-ma.
Simultaneously, Tan-sau/Gwoy-cheung transitions to a right low/left high Gaun-sau.
The right leg steps to the right while the arms transition to Kwun-sau. When complete, the dummy’s leg should be centered between yours. If you turned towards the dummy and assumed Yee-chi-kim-yeung-ma, you should be centered with the dummy’s leg.
9. Tan-sau Gwoy-cheung
Palm Up-arm with Lying-palm
The right leg steps 45-degrees to the dummy’s left side while the right leg Huen-bo’s around the leg and then towards the trunk. When complete, you should be in a left Juen-ma at a 45-degree angle towards the dummy.
Simultaneously, Kwun-sau transitions to left Tan-sau and right Gwoy-cheung.
10. Sheung-har Gaun-sau
High/Low Splitting Block-arms
The left leg Huen-bo’s to the front but now the body goes further so that if you turned to the front, you would be centered on the dummy’s leg.
Simultaneously, Tan-sau/Gwoy-cheung transitions to a left low/right high Gaun-sau.
While assuming Yee-chi-kim-yeung-ma, simultaneously transition Sheung-har Gaun-sau to left Tan-sau and right Kau-sau.
Initiate left Jum-sau with right Jing-cheung.
Transition the arms to right Man-sau.
Repeat steps 3-13 for the other side.
When complete, you have completed section 1 of the Muk-Yan-Chong
There are a variety of wooden dummy interpretations due to each style’s conceptual differences. Common sense dictates that the original wooden dummy form would have evolved and improved over time, but it is interesting to note that many styles resemble each other in many areas.
For example, the first half of the dummy form is almost identical in most styles. The second half, however, is where personal interpretation has largely been introduced. Is this bad? Of course not. Personal interpretation is what makes the art so alive and formidable. It is a bit sad, though, when someone mentions that their particular method is the traditional or authentic way, and that everything else is modified. Unless someone is doing the wooden dummy form exactly as Ng Mui did it, then we are all doing a modified form, are we not? And all lineages agree that the forms have been modified and improved over the course of the generations.
Drills & Applications
As a practitioner works through the various wooden dummy drills, you can see a variety of elements from previous training. The difference, however, is that in many cases, the angles are different. There is also a great deal of power release, footwork, and other advanced elements that many do not readily notice at first.
From the ready position...
... the opponent attempts a neck grab. Using Chuit-kiu (learned during Chum-Kiu) to drive through the incoming arms...
... the hands grab the arm and the back of the head. With a forceful downward pull, Man-geng-sau pulls downward. This is followed up with an elbow, punching, etc.
A common movement throughout the first section is Noi-moon Bong-sau. This action teaches us to go from an inside line to an outside line.
1. Noi-moon Bong-sau to Tan-sau/Gwoy-cheung
Indoor-arm Wing-arm to Palm Up-arm/Lying-palm
The attacker launches a punch, which is defended with a same-side Bong-sau. Before the defender can counter, the attacker is faster and launches a punch on the other side, which is defended with the same Bong-sau. Now, however, you are on the inside vs. the outside.
2. Noi-moon Bong-sau to Tan-sau/Gwoy-cheung
Stepping to the side and changing Bong-sau to Tan-sau...
3. Noi-moon Bong-sau to Tan-sau/Gwoy-cheung
... the defender slams Gwoy-cheung into the attacker's ribs.
In addition to concepts such as this, the wooden dummy also reinforces how important it is to give way to the explosive incoming force of an opponent. This is one of the concepts for borrowing the actions of the attacker in order to use it against him.
Remember that when you have successfully bridged the gap, you are now in your preferred fighting range. If you withdraw and then try to close the gap again, there is nothing to say that this time you will not get dropped.
Instead, take the opportunities that are presented and do not let them go.
The opponent is making an obvious gesture that he is about to attack.
As the attacker drives in with his punch, the defender side steps and begins to raise the leg. As the leg is being raised.
.. it immediate explodes into the knee. Depending on the distance from the leg, this kick is usually a stomping action on the top of the knee.
Concepts & Theories
Muk-Yan-Chong training teaches a great deal about short-range power and how to create this power for very close ranges. Wing Tsun favors close ranges such as fist, palm and elbow/knee range, so the wooden dummy capitalizes on this by teaching us to explode into our opponent.
The continuous release of force into this inanimate object also teaches us to overcome rebound. When you strike the dummy, only two things can happen: either the dummy moves, or you move. If the dummy is mounted on a wall, then naturally it is not going to go anywhere. Therefore, the power into the dummy will bounce back (rebound) into you, and now it is you that moves.
Over the course of time, we learn to overcome that rebound by reinforcing our adduction of the knees and linking the entire body as one structure. Throughout our dummy training, we learn to keep ourselves in place when this rebound occurs, and because of this, our power increases. In turn, this power releases more explosion of force. All of this creates short-range power that is efficient, explosive, and very difficult for our opponent to counter.
Live vs. Dead Dummy
Many who are new to Wing Tsun will usually think that the present dummy is what was always around, but what you see today has only been around since the 1940’s. The wooden dummy’s look has been been altered over time, most probably originating during the Red Junk (Chinese boats) era of our history. It is said that practitioners fashioned holes in the side of the yardarms where the arms and leg could be inserted. But when training on dry ground, the dummy was inserted approximately two feet down.
A “live” dummy is one which is mounted on the wall or a portable stand, whereas a “dead” dummy is one which is sunk into the floor or ground. Prior to Master Yip Man’s era, most dummies were dead dummies, and even a brief look at pre-Yip Man era photos will almost always show you a wooden dummy that is sunk into the floor.
When Yip Man moved into his Hong Kong apartment, there was no where to sink a dummy into the floor. So as the story goes, one of his students fashioned the dummy to a wall-mounted frame. With this new mounting, there was also a type of give to the force being exerted since it would move slightly, and it was found that this type of mounting was actually preferable to the non-moving “dead” dummies.
Is there a difference? Is one really better than the other? Yes, there is. Having trained on both styles of dummies, I prefer the live dummies because of the give and rebound you experience. Both have their pros and cons, though.
A dead dummy is non-moving, so even if you have a good command of your structure on a live dummy, the first time you experience a dead dummy will be eye-opening. I highly recommend that a practitioner at the wooden dummy level also acquire a dead dummy for even more force creation.
Why Does Wooden Dummy Training Come "After" Empty-hand Forms Training?
Some view the wooden dummy as the height of empty-hand fighting, and you will see a variety of practitioners jumping into the dummy curriculum before they have completed the empty-hand curriculum.
This, however, is a mistake.
The first half of the dummy includes a variety of concepts from the Siu-Nim-Tau and Chum-Kiu, whereas the last half of the dummy includes concepts from the Biu-Tze. A practitioner can train their current skill level on a dummy and glean a lot from it, but training the curriculum itself would be a mistake if they have not completed the Biu-Tze. While the dummy is an excellent teacher for learning more about Wing Tsun, it can also create a plethora of bad habits if a practitioner is not already at a particular level (a fact that we have seen repeatedly over the years).
Remember that the wooden dummy comes after the empty-hand forms for a reason. Some will say it does not matter, but it does. If it did not really matter, then the dummy curriculum would come before something else, would it not?
True or False: The Dummy's Purpose Is To Build Up The Arms For Contact
False. While regular training with the wooden dummy will condition your arms for contact, that is not its primary purpose. Its primary purpose lies in advanced training for uniting the upper and lower bodies to create one complete unit vs a collection of parts.
While many attributes result from this type of training, building up the arms for contact is not the primary purpose.
For More Information...
After completing the empty-hand forms, the next step on your path of progression is the wooden dummy. It is here that we expand as well as learn more advanced concepts for building a stronger foundation within an extremely tight working space. And nothing is better than Volume 5: Muk-Yan-Chong for taking you step-by-step through this remarkable training aid.
This in-depth video-illustrated workbook takes you through the complete wooden dummy curriculum from start-to-finish, including the complete form, drills, applications, and concepts and theories, propelling your skill set to a brand new level.