I remember the first time I saw someone “playing” the Muk Yan Jong (aka Wooden Dummy). This guy was visiting Oakland from Germany and had come by my old school (before Greg) to do a little training. He didn’t want to train with any of us – he just wanted to use our equipment, which he was allowed to do. None of us (not even the Sifu) had learned the complete dummy set, so it was a kind of mysterious tool which we’d only seen used fully in the movies. We had only learned to use it to train the Gan Sao and Kwan Sao “hands” (“in the ballpark,” as Greg would say, of what we see in the video below).
The dummy is most often associated with Wing Chun but variations on this tool have been used in many Chinese styles of Kung Fu.
The German visitor was learning some style of Wing Chun but the way he trained was quite different from what I later learned from Greg. He pretty much beat the crap out of that dummy and his goal seemed to be to make a show of force and the insensitivity of his arms.
There is an old story I heard from Gary Lam about his teacher Wong Shun Leung. A zealous student was hitting the dummy so hard he broke one of the arms off. He took the broken arm to Sifu Wong and said proudly, “Look Sifu, I broke it!” Sify Wong took the broken bit of arm, knocked the student on the head with it, and said, “Now I have buy a new one!”
I was trained as Greg demonstrates here, that working the dummy should be done with precision and controlled power. That the dummy is a training tool which teaches position, structure, and an approach to footwork. The footwork aspect is the least of it, as the dummy doesn’t move and requires the practitioner to step broadly around the arms and enter and exit and reenter, unlike real fighting, where the entrance is much more direct with a much tighter angle, and probably never that wide 45 degree entrance you are taught as a “training mistake” (i.e., a mistake you make in training that allows you to train but isn’t how you will fight, like training with both arms simultaneously in Chi Sau or developing footwork with a jump rope in boxing). The main thing the dummy teaches, if memory serves, is angle and structure and “chasing center.”