The wing chun dummy, wooden dummy, or wooden man, represents a significant part of Wing Chun training. From the outside (or from a beginners perspective), it is a rather simplistic device with seemingly little depth to its importance. Some may see it as only a “partner” to practice with, while others might see it as a conditioning tool. However, the importance and benefit of wooden dummy training is great, and not usually appreciated until some way through your training, as you come to understand core fundamental concepts of the Wing Chun training system.
The training syllabus varies from teacher to teacher, but wooden dummy training is typically started after learning the first two hand forms, siu nim tau (sil nim tau) – “young idea” – and cham kiu (chum kil) – “bridge seeking” – or sometimes not until finishing the third hand form, biu ji (bil jee) – “thrusting fingers”.
The wooden dummy form can be roughly broken into two halves. The first half contains concepts and techniques from the sil nim tau and cham kiu forms. The second half contains concepts and techniques mostly from the biu ji hand form. This is often the reasoning behind the right time for a student to commence his/her wooden dummy training.
The rewards of wooden dummy training go far beyond simply practicing technique. Some of the training benefits are as follows:
Distancing becomes greatly enhanced through training the wooden man. Through the practice of correct structure, power delivery, and movement around the dummy, a sense of distance becomes ingrained in the body’s movements.
This is developed as a result of feeling the correct structure, timing and position – feeling the delivery of power from the ground, through the hips, waist and elbows, and then into the dummy. Power is honed to a degree not obtained without training the wooden man.
Shortly after commencing wooden dummy training, you will initially notice a new awareness of your structure, starting from only the structure of individual limbs, and through diligent practice, steadily evolving into a structural consciousness of your whole skeleton working as one.
Development of timing through training the wooden dummy is different to timing development through partner drills. The essence of wooden man training is you, not the opponent. The wooden man forces you to focus on precise timing which requires comprehensive coordination in unity with structure, position and distancing. Micro-muscular timing – which is what muscles do from just before, to just after the application of a technique – is sharpened over and above what might be obtained without wooden dummy training.
A fluidity in position is gained through learning efficient movement around the wooden man. The wooden man’s simple centerline-defining shape and immovable limbs teaches your body penetrating angles for easily gaining a dominant position in practical application.
For the most dedicated of wing chun practitioners, wooden dummy training provides the development of mental focus to a height which is only limited the practitioners requirements and demands.
It can be seen that the attributes above all depend on one another to work synergistically, and in balance, for complete development in wooden dummy training.
The Wing Chun wooden dummy provides the Wing Chun practitioner with much more than something on which to practice techniques. It becomes a silent teacher, persistent and unforgiving. Learn to listen and you will discover all that the wooden man has to give.