Updated: Oct 28
In this vintage video footage, wing chun kung fu grandmaster William Cheung demonstrates the wooden dummy as a training tool for kung fu techniques.
Practice is the key to mastery in any martial art. Execution of thousands of strikes, kicks and blocks against a partner is the key to integrating the strategies and techniques in such a way that they become second nature. However, live partners are not always available.
So the next best thing, of course, would be a stand-in — and that's where the wooden dummy comes in for the practice necessary for mastering kung fu techniques when a human partner's participation isn't possible. Training devices such as the wooden dummy have been used by China's Shaolin Temple fighting monks for more than 2,000 years.
"There was a corridor that consisted of 108 wooden dummies representing 108 different attacking techniques," says wing chun expert andBlack BeltHall of Fame member William Cheung. "The monks would move down the hall and practice their defenses and counterattacks on them.
" In this kung fu techniques video, William Cheung demonstrates how kung fu practitioners can use a device such as the wooden dummy to practice their own defenses and counterattacks. William Cheung then demonstrates the practiced kung fu techniques on his training partner and senior disciple, Eric Oram.
Construction and Functionality of the Wooden Dummy for Wing Chun Kung Fu Training
"The three arms on the dummy can represent strikes to the middle and upper gates and can be either punches or kicks," explains Wiliam Cheung disciple and wing chun techniques expert Eric Oram. "The leg of the dummy teaches the wing chun practitioner to move from one side of the dummy to the other, keeping in mind where the opponent's lead leg is at all times."
The First Modern Wooden Dummy for Wing Chun Techniques Practice
"In 1951 my brother George Cheung ... persuaded Hong Kong-based wing chun legend Yip Man to commission a carpenter to build the first wooden dummy outside of China," William Cheung recalls. "It was built and installed on the rooftop of my family's house on Argyle Street in Kowloon, Hong Kong. I've been training on the wooden dummy ever since.
"In 1956 [George] went to Sydney, Australia, to attend university. He brought that dummy to Sydney with him. When he moved in 1959, he placed it in the care of a friend who ran a gas station. One winter's night when the temperature plummeted, [George's] friend used the dummy as firewood to keep himself warm. It was a sudden and tragic end for the first modern wooden dummy."
Safety First in Your Wing Chun Kung Fu Training
Because the wooden dummy is usually made of teak, it's essential to practice all your offensive and defensive kung fu techniques slowly and softly at first to minimize the impacts your body is forced to absorb. As your accuracy and technique improve, you can put more energy and intention into it.