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HISTORY AND UTILITY OF THE WOODEN DUMMY

by

Ivan Valdivia, Ph.D., C.Psych.

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Brown Sash in Wing Chun
Kung-Fu

at

Heritage Martial Arts


13 April 2008

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I. Introduction

In the present monograph, the history and utility of the Wooden Dummy in the

context of Wing Chun will be briefly discussed. Alternate forms of the tool are outside of

the scope of this work.

The Muk Yan Jong translates roughly to “wooden man post”. In common

parlance, it is referred to as the Wooden Dummy [see Appendix A] by Western

practitioners of the Chinese martial arts. Although it is most often associated with Wing

Chun [indeed, it is an almost ubiquitous symbol of the art], it can also be found in several

other styles, such as Choy Lee Fut [see Appendix B] and Jeet Kune Do [see Appendix

C]; however, the structure of the dummies can be significantly different in order to

accommodate the philosophy and drills of their respective systems.

The dummy is a unique training device that has very few equivalents in most

other disciplines; an argument can be made that a modern interpretation is the Body

Opponent Bag [BOB] typically used in Mixed Martial Arts [see Appendix D]. Most

frequently, the Wooden Dummy is a structure made of hard wood in order to ensure

durability, given that they will, by necessity, sustain substantial wear and tear over time.

Typically, it has a cylindrical “body” that is supported by two cross beams on the ground,

and three “arms” and one “leg” that are stationary and unmovable [e.g., in contrast to Jeet

Kune Do variants].

II. History

The original form of the Wooden Dummy, called the Ching Lung Baak Fu Jong,

meaning “green dragon/white tiger jong”, is suggestive of the Shaolin Temple, which had

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the tiger and dragon as warrior symbols. Authors have speculated that its use dates back

to the 15th Century, although exact figures seem to be unknown at present. According to

some scholars, the “Wooden Man Hall” was an important part of the temple where

monks qualified to represent the Shaolin subsequent to successful passage. According to

one Wing Chun legend, the wooden dummy itself originated with the “108 Wooden

Men” of the Shaolin Temple, who each taught a specific technique. Following the

destruction of the temple by the Manchus, a Wooden Dummy was allegedly built to

honor the 108 men. Consequently, the modern Set has incorporated 108 motions [see

below]. The tool used today in Wing Chun was reportedly refined by Yip Man, one of

the modern revisionists of the art.

III. Purpose and Applications

Because Wing Chun drills are inherently interactive, this can present a challenge

to the student who would like to practice when away from the training hall. Thus, the

purpose of the wooden dummy is to prepare a practitioner of Wing Chun for combat by

allowing the proponent to practice techniques in isolation. At its core, the device is

intended to teach pupils about correct angles of attack, timing, foot work, distancing,

body positioning with respect to the center and mother lines, flowing techniques, moving

around an enemy while attacking, and developing power in motion. Conditioning is

often a peripheral, if not central, benefit.

Typically, Wing Chun practitioners learn to use the wooden dummy by

memorizing a pre-arranged grouping of movements, or Set, which is often divided into

two parts [60 & 48 motions] and taught at different stages of training. As mentioned,

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this set contains 108 movements, which is a significant number in Wing Chun. One

hundred and eight is evenly divisible by three, a fact that some cite as an example of the

commonly found triplets in the system. To others, 108 refers to 10 dimensions and eight

directions, and the Set is meant to remind students to pay attention to these different

aspects of motion when applying techniques.

One important aspect of Wooden Dummy training mentioned above is the

development of flow in techniques. Thus, raw power is often discouraged in order to

avoid choppiness and to maximize the fluidity of motion. Even so, it has been suggested

that practicing the Set too quickly can lead to the overuse of muscles. Maintaining

contact with the dummy [called “adhesion power”] can also aid with the refinement of

Chi Sau, a set of techniques used as a point of entry into freestyle fighting. In order to

accomplish many of the goals of this training modality, the Set can be performed while

blindfolded to increase sensitivity, or in the air [called “Hong Jong”] in a way that is

reminiscent of the three open handed forms.

IV. Conclusion

The Wooden Dummy is a tool that has become deeply embedded into Wing

Chun. Its history is vibrant and its utility varied. It is an important teaching aid that can

be used to demonstrate myriad concepts, including performance of a form, principles of

motion, and even conditioning.

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Webliography

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wooden_dummy

http://www.martialarts-technique.com/woodendummy.php

http://www.wingchun.ca/wingchunwoodendummy.htm

http://books.google.ca/books?id=S7O9g4-
tzFMC&pg=PA177&lpg=PA177&dq=wooden+dummy&source=web&ots=wY0Xl0ELn
L&sig=Jlyz6liAWlRzMdMj2AtMUU8_ZF8&hl=en#PPA177,M1
[Gee, G., Meng, B., & Loewenhagen, R. (2003). Mastering Wing Chun Kung Fu,
Featuring Shaolin Wing Chun. Human Kinetics Publishers.]

http://www.cyberus.ca/~p.gordon/media/articles/mook1.htm

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Appendix A:
Wing Chun Wooden Dummies

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Appendix B:
Choy Lee Fut Wooden Dummies

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Appendix C:
Jeet Kune Do Dummies

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Appendix D:
The Body Opponent Bag [BOB]