Wing Chun: The Wooden Dummy Form
The Wooden Dummy Form (Mook Yan Jong Fat), is an important part of Wing Chun training and essential to learning the system correctly.
In the hands of an educated practitioner, the wooden post with three 'arms' and one 'leg' becomes a complex and multifunctional piece of machinery.
Though its design has undergone refinements even as recently as the last century, the history of the wooden practice dummy in Kung Fu dates back to the early days of ancient Shaolin. As well as toughening up the limbs, hitting a solid tree could tell the Monks how to deal with reaction forces and correct their positions. The tree actually taught them how to do the moves properly!
The Wing Chun dummy form has eight sections of bespoke techniques that are genius in their efficiency when it comes to learning and practice. What at first seems like a limitation, the set position of the dummy can be looked at as a major bonus when one learns how to use the form. The dummy never lies, it never tires and it doesn't ever compromise when it comes to your training! The dummy has been described as the perfect training partner; it never forgets or develops bad habits so neither will you as long as you train regularly and seriously.
When practised alongside the empty hand forms, the dummy acts as a kind of glue that keeps application in reality. Practising blocks in mid air can be an effective method of acquiring skill as long as one can feel the connection between the right position and the internal aspects of body structure. The dummy leaves you with no choice, if the structure is wrong then the position will be off and force cannot be applied properly or dealt with.
The arms of the dummy are slotted through the main body and are purposefully allowed a square inch of movement so that one can learn not to waste energy when transferring force from their blocks into the wooden arms. All forces have an equal and opposite Reaction Force that is applied simultaneously. If you have only ever practiced a punch in mid air then you have not practiced a punch, when you punch the wooden dummy it punches you back. Once you understand how to practice on the dummy you can take the effect of reaction forces into account while performing empty hand forms and train the feeling of the required internal structure. Weather you intend on deflecting or absorbing the force delivered by an attacker, proper dummy work will seal the deal.
Even though the dummy does not move, the form is specially designed to simulate the circumstances. A comprehensive understanding of the form trains application of movement around an opponent by use of unique relative positioning that can be worked on with a live partner to uncover more dynamic footwork in application. With this in mind, a static dummy can represent a body in motion and as one moves towards it, to all intents and purposes it is the dummy moving toward you.
The better one becomes at understanding the dummy, the better their Wing Chun becomes and that’s when the journey really begins!