Ol’ Faithful

by Kimberly Owens (Assistant Editor for “Martial Arts Training” Magazine)

Looking for a reliable training partner? Look no further than the Wing Chun Wooden Dummy. This traditional training device can enhance your speed, accuracy, power, timing, mobility, flow and visual and contact reflexes.

A good training partner can be hard to find. Some are too lazy, some talk too much and some just don’t want to get up in the morning. What are you supposed to do?

Find a new partner, what else?

Ideally, you’ll find a partner who is unforgiving of mistakes. Someone who can take a punch. A kick. Someone who is always ready to train. Doesn’t complain. Is never late. And never cancels training sessions due to an injury.

Does this perfect partner exist?

You bet. Meet your new partner: the wing chun wooden dummy.

This teak log with three arms and a leg can be an uncompromising addition to your training arsenal.

“The mook joing, loosely translated to wooden dummy, has been a training device in wing chun for approximately 300 years,” says Eric Oram, a 15 year practitioner of Wing Chun. “After the burning of the Shaolin Temple, those that survived combined the Temple’s original 108 training devices into one single practice dummy.”

Excellent Training Devices
The training dummy hasn’t changed much since that time. It’s essentially the same devide that was used all thos eyears ago.

“The dummy is traditionally made entirely of teak,” says the 29 year old Oram, who has studied under William Cheung since 1983. “It is very heavy, almost a solid log of teak, but it’s as portable as it could be. I can carry one myself, but it is a lot easier if you have help.”

Most of the dummies for the wing chun system are constructed by a man in the Fatsan Province of China, he says. Dummies are available in martial arts stores and in catalogs, but Oram says he has never seen a traditional tek dummy advertised.

While it appears you could build one yourself, Oram says that it takes some degree of craftsmanship to develop and make one correctly. The cross-cut for the arms leaves about half an inch of wlld between them, and the holds need to be big enough for the arms to have some area for movement.

“I tried to help someone make one, but the result was disastrous,” says Oram, who is an instructor at Los Angeles Traditional Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy and an aspiring actor. “I’ve never tried to build one on my own. Grandmaster Cheung gave me one when I was 15. I’ve always had the same one; therefore, I have no reason for a new one.”

It’s a lot easier to maintain a dummy than it is to build one, he says.

“In the old days, we had to oil them,” says Oram. “But now, they make them with sealants and lacquers so that they don’t get too worn. You don’t have to do much to maintain them and keep the wood in good shape.”

There’s a good reason why these devides have been used for more than 300 years – they’re excellent training devices.

In addition to toughening your limbs and learning combat techniques, the wing chun dummy will enhance your timing, speed, flow, power, accuracy, mobility, visual and contact reflexes, correct body positioning, arm and leg coordination and the accuracy of blocks. And it doesn’t make any difference what style you practice. These are qualities from which everyone can benefit.

To be sure, speed, timing, flow and the other attributes are vital to any martial artist. However, some may question the prudence of body-toughening, but Oram does not agree.

“First, most people study wing chun for its real life effectiveness,” he says. “Second, if you are in a fight, you want to be able to block, hit and strike with conficence. You don’t want to worry about hurting your arms.”

Specialized Dummies
If you’d like to focus on specific exercises, there are more specialized dummies. People make their own dummies according to their own preferences, says Oram. Some have spring-loaded arms, others arem ade from metal with pads.

“If you have a specific want, your dummy can be as vast as your imagination,” says Oram.

Dummy Etiquette
Using the dummy is easy, but it’s important that you use it properly. The dummy exercises are essentially a sequence of movements in which the practitioner reacts “spontaneously” to the dummy and its attacks.

“Without the right degree of concentration your practice could become a motion exercise,” says Oram. “You can’t allow yourself to know what is coming. Since the movements toward the dummy are preset, it becomes too easy to just move. You should be cautious of your workout turning too mechanical.”

Beginning students should take their time practicing with the dummy. Speed is never as important as form and structure. The dummy’s drills are about your body and how it relates to the blocks and strikes and how it fits to the dummy. There’s no room for mistakes.

“The dummy is very unforgiving,” says Oram. “If you hit it wrong once, especially with the bone in your wrist, you’ll learn how important form and correct body placement is.”

Move slowly at first, and practice your form and structure until you deliver several flawless exercises with not one misplaced strike or block. Once you have consistently correct placement, at the right time and with the right flow, then you can start moving faster. If you can’t do the exercises slow, you won’t be able to perform them fast.

Following are just a few of the drills you can do with the wing chun wooden dummy:

Fut sao/Cheun sao
Begin in a right neutral side stance. Block the dummy’s right arm with a right palm block (pak sao). Move in to block the dummy’s left arm with a right swinging arm block (fut sao). Next, execute a left handed threading arm block (cheun sao) and finish with a right handed palm strike.

Application: Your opponent comes at you with a right round punch. You defend yourself with the right pak sao. Your opponent then advances with a left round punch, but you block it with a right fut sao. Next, execute a left chuen sao to the outside of your opponent’s left elbow and finish him off with a right palm strike.

The application of the wing chun movements is exactly the same, says Oram.

“That is what drew me to wing chun,” says Oram. “Grandmaster Cheung said to me soon after we met, ‘What we train in the gym is what we use on the street.’ After that, I was hooked.”

Bon sao/Lop sao
Begin in the left neutral stance. Block the dummy’s left arm with a left wing arm block (bon sao), execute a left grabbing arm block (lop sao) and immediately follow up with a right elbow, a right palm strike to the head and a left palm strike to the body.

“It doesn’t amtter where your palm strikes land, as long as they hit the head and the body,” says Oram. “Any hit to the head will have an impact, as will a palm strike to the sternum, ribs or the floating ribs.”

Application: Your opponent advances with a left straight punch, and you defend yourself with a left bon sao. You “roll” into a left lop sao and turn to face the point of contact with your opponent’s wrist. With an immediate execution of a right elbow strike, you could break your opponent’s arm. Finally, you could finish him with palm strikes.

Double Palm Strikes
To begin, assume a right neutral stance. Trap the dummy’s arm in a right fut sao and move inside the arms to execute a double palm strike to the dummy’s center. Maneuver your left arm over and outside the dummy’s arm and execute a double palm strike to the head.

“Your arm should move around and then under the dummy’s arm in order to get to the head,” says Oram. “Your strike should be between the dummy’s arms.”

Application: The opponent advances and attacks with a left straight punch to the head. You block the arm and then trap it iwith an arm break. You lower your opponent’s arm, maneuver to the inside and execute a double palm strike to the body. You then reach over your opponent’s left arm to the inside, step forward and finish him with the double palm strike to the head.

Bil sao/Jut sao
Begin in the left neutral side stance. Block the dummy’s right arm with a left thrusting arm block (bil sao). Follow that with a left jerking arm block (jut sao). Move the dummy’s arms down, move to the outside and attack with a left palm strike. Meanwhile, defend yourself with a right deflection block (grun sao), and finish with a left palm strike to the dummy’s head.

Application: Your opponent steps forward and attacks with a right round punch, which you block with the left bil sao. Your opponent then attacks with a left round punch, which you block with a left jut sao.

You lower your opponent’s arm as he positions himself to the outside, advances and attacks with a left palm strike to the body. While delivering the strike, you check your opponent’s elbow with his right hand. Your opponent then attacks with a right round punch, which you block with a right grun sao. Advance toward your partner and throw a palm strike to the head and body.

“It is important for the wing chun practitioner to have contact with his opponent’s arm when he is striking the arms, head or body,” says Oram. “That is the contact reflex, which is achieved through touch, and it helps gauge the degree and direction of the opponent’s energy.”

A More Complete Art
While these are important and beneficial drills, this is only one segment of wing chun training. They also allocate a lot of time to sparring and drills.

When doing the exercise sequence with the dummy, it is important to remember that what you put in, you get out. Drills should be done as often as possible. And always in conjuction with the other elements of wing chun training.

“Wing chun is far superior to any other martial arts system,” says Oram, who quit kenpo karate to pursue wing chun. “It is a more complete martial art in every area: science, philosophy, theory and application. And more important, ‘what we train in the gym is what we use on the street.’ “