One of the most important part of training Chinese martial arts, is the equipment itself. At first, their build and design was quite simple, however this changed within time. Nowadays the equipment has been modified and became more complex due to the evolution of different concepts and techniques that are associated with Kung fu.
Obviously, all the styles of combat and their effectives depend on the strength of the attack. The easiest way of improving one’s punches is training with bags that are filled either with sand, gravel or peas. Installing such bags can vary, some are placed onto metal frames like in Choy Lee Fut or on the wall like in Wing Chun Kuen.
One of the most essential parts in a progress of every martial artist plays the positioning of one’s body as well as the positioning of feet. In the beginning, to gain quicker results a trainee could lessen the grip of a base, an example of that can be the use of rosary balls or different types of oils. This method was usually used in the Northern China. However in the South of China this method was replaced with placing wooden stakes in the base or floor, this enabled martial artists to master not only the positioning of their body and feet but also their kicks. The amount of wooden stakes embedded in the base and their placement varies, depending on the schools in which trainees trained. It can range from the easiest set up, which uses only three elements (San Sin Chong used in Wing Chun Kuen) to more complicated ones such as: (Yee Sup Ng Fong Chong), which uses twenty five elements.
The wooden poles that are used in movement training became a basis in developing wooden dummies. The idea behind creating wooden dummies was the need to develop an equipment that would imitate a human being. Step by step the wooden dummies became more advance as well as complicated. Moreover some of them can even make few restricted movements. According to the legend, the last test that the monks from the Shaolin (Siu Lam) monastery had to do, was going through 108 wooden dummies, each one of them tested a different technique that was used by the monks. Sadly, such equipment did not last until our times, probably it was due to the size restrictions.
Nowadays, we can distinguish many different types of wooden dummies and each one of them presents a specific technique known to that particular style.
An example of diversified equipment presents Choy Lee Fut, in which trainees have up to 7 different kinds of equipment, each one of these has its own purpose. It is worth to mention one of the well known Chinese constructions, which would be a nine-armed wooden dummy from the Hei Hu Pai style. Its quality is that not one but two people can train on it.
A huge innovation in terms of building a “wooden man” was introducing moving abilities to some parts of the equipment or even to a whole mechanism. This process can be seen by tracing the evolution of a wooden dummy “Mok Yan Chong” in Wing Chun Kuen style. This change could be considered revolutionary because it created a division between the “dead” and the “alive”, “Mok Yan Chong”.
The first type of equipment was a wooden stake that was unmovingly tied into a base. Within years, the only thing that was changing was the amount an the placement of arms that imitated hands of an opponent. However, due to tight fastening each trainee had difficulties in advancing onto the next levels of “pliable strength”. Such restriction, created a change in the construction of this device, which in fact lead to the development of a current, more “alive” “Mok Yan Chong”. The ease of movement was achieved in two ways.
The first way was adding a large spring in between the torso and a base. Obviously this design had its advantage which was a reasonable size, however such fastening allowed only limited movement.
The second way, which in fact allowed full movement was called “alive” fastening “Mok Yan Chong”, it was widespread by heirs of Master Ip Man. The key to alive fastening are two points of support which allow the wooden dummy to hung in an open space. The whole construction is embedded on perpendicular board, that is stiffly tightened to a wall from the distance of about 0.5 m. Nowadays, the torso of a wooden dummy is usually made of a glued, cylindrical, wooden beam that is about 1.5 m long. Furthermore, the wooden dummy has two arms that are placed on two carved openings. The third arm is carved into an opening that is located underneath the two arms. The leg of a wooden dummy is slightly bent and thicker than the arms, it is located in the lowest point of this training tool. All these elements that are placed on the torso of a wooden dummy can be taken out at any time, this allows the trainee to smoothly transport the tool from one place to another.
Such an evolution of a “Mok Yan Chong” wooden dummy allowed more elastic movements in any direction, depending on the force of a trainee. Due to such functionalities of a wooden dummy, the training can closely resemble a typical combat situation with a real opponent.
The goal was to create a substitute of an opponent, the turning point was to create a wooden dummy that can move. The wooden dummies described here are categorized by the popular styles that can be found these days.
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