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Wooden Dummy: What is it and How Can It Help My Training?

Sifu Anthony Wooden DummyA wooden dummy is commonplace in a kung fu school.  Some schools have several wooden dummies, at Syracuse Martial Arts Academy we have 4. You may have seen wooden dummy training in the Ip Man movies.  But what is their purpose? How can someone get the most out of training on a wooden dummy?

I was able to catch up with Wing Chun instructor Sifu Anthony Iglesias and ask him some questions about the wooden dummy.

How important is the wooden dummy to Wing Chun training?

Sifu Anthony:  The importance of training the wooden dummy can not be understated. It is a vital training tool if one wishes to truly understand the mechanics of Wing Chun.

What is the purpose of the wooden dummy?

Sifu Anthony: Think of it like a protractor effect. It helps one perfect angles and body alignment. So many mistakes can be uncovered and fixed due to the feedback one gets from the unforgiving dummy. I say unforgiving because the dummy truly gives you what you give it. If your structure is spot on the dummy rewards you, but if your structure is weak it bites back and hard.

Wooden DummyHow does the wooden dummy help your training?

Sifu Anthony: A few things the dummy emphasizes in training. Angle, Line, Vector, Structure to absorb and expel, short power (known as Dun Ging) and more. Many MANY people just flop around the dummy and play patty cake with it. This is detrimental to ones training. The dummies purpose is to perfect your structure so you can get maximum results with minimum effort. A good understanding and time spent in Siu Lim Tao and Chum Kiu are prerequisites for dummy training……. most of the time.

How can a student make the most out of their wooden dummy training?

Sifu Anthony: The first thing a student MUST learn when approaching the wooden dummy for the first time is patience. Know that it’s a process and that no part of the training should be skipped. You must explore every move carefully and fully. My advice is learn the traditional forms. Don’t make it up as you go. To me just making things up on the dummy is like picking up an musical instrument you’ve never played before and just playing. It’s going to sound pretty terrible. To make music you must start from the beginning and learn the fundamentals. There are different forms depending on the lineage of Wing Chun you train but if you want to learn the form closest to what Bruce Lee may have been taught had he actually learned the full dummy, you’d want to focus on the Ip Man (Hong Kong) set. Learn each sequence slowly and again, focus on the details.

Any words of encouragement for students trying to work on a wooden dummy?

Sifu Anthony: When done correctly the dummy will speak to you a certain way. You will feel it throughout your entire body and hear it in the way the wood rings. These are just a few beginner tips but are vital to ones training.


Jeanne started her martial arts training later in life and has been training at SMAA for over 10 years. She likes all aspects of the martial arts from the physical challenges to the spiritual pursuits of martial etiquette and virtue. She has a master degree in marketing and is currently working on her MBA.

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