Before actually beginning to use the Wooden Dummy, there are certain concepts and skills that must be fully understood and mastered by the Wing Chun student in order to realize maximum benefit from Mook Joang training and avoid injury. Besides the basic principles of Structure, footwork and Body Unity the student must fully understand the Centerline Theory and its implications on his own technique in relation to the Dummy. He must also have developed the ability to exert Yut You Hoang Ging, or "Soft and relaxed Power", and have a good grasp of the concepts of Yum Yeung Structure, Reference and Whirlpool Energy. However training does not stop there. Many hours should be spent focusing on these techniques to ensure they flow as second nature with no thought. Purely by reaction to feeling. The mind performs best when it is free of thought.

Hand Position
Because the Wooden Dummy formally introduces the concept of making contact with a solid object during the execution of a technique, it is also important that the student learns the correct way to position the hands and arms to prepare them for contact with the hard surface of the Dummy arms and trunk. As in other phases of Gung Fu training, the proper formation of the fist and the position of the fingers and thumb when making arm contact with the dummy arms is vital to the prevention of injury.

When striking the Dummy arms with the wrist or forearm, the thumb of the striking hand should be tucked against the side of the hand with the first section of the thumb folded inward across the bottom of the last index knuckle. This puts the forearm muscles into the correct tonus to prevent injury during a block or strike and also helps direct the Chi to the wrist, rather than letting it escape outward through the fingers. The exception to this rule is the Boang Sau motion, in which the thumb and Fingers hang loosely with the wrist relaxed and bent to keep the Chi in the forearm.

When striking the Dummy trunk with an open palm, the thumb of the striking hand should be tucked against the side of the hand with the tip of the thumb on the outside bottom of the index finger. This position will protect the thumb from being accidentally hung up on part of the Dummy and will prepare the base of the palm for contact. Although punches to the Dummy trunk do not actually make contact with its wooden surface, the fist should always be properly formed according to the Structure of the punching motion. This teaches the trainee to instinctively form a proper fist on its way to the target area, clenching in the interim between blocking and coming to full extension with a last-moment squeeze of the fist that adds power to the strike. As a punch is executed, the hand should be closed to a flat fist, then the fingers rolled tightly down to form the fist with the thumb wrapped around the front. This seemingly simple movement must be mastered so that the split-second conversion from open-hand block to short range punch can be performed with no retraction of the punching hand.

Woo Sau.
Another important skill needed at Wooden Dummy level is the correct use of the Woo Sau Guarding Hand. Unlike the other forms of the system, in the Mook Yan Joang set, as in sparring or actual combat, any hand not in use is usually held in Origin Position to guard the Centerline with Woo Sau Structure forming the second line of defence. This prepares the student for Sticky Hands training with a live partner as the instinctive reaction to keep the guard up and protect the inner gate is developed.

Angle Structure.
Unlike practicing motions in the air, Wooden Dummy training provides the student with a mould against which the techniques can be fit and restructured to perfection. This not only involves correct spacing between the hands and reference to the Centerline but also correct extension of the individual motions. For example, if the trainee executes Dai Boang Sau and at the end of that motion finds that the low Dummy arm could shoot him in the stomach or hip if it were a gun, or would touch him if it were three feet longer, he knows that either his motion is under extended, his footwork is improperly referenced to the Centerline, or both. Since the two upper Dummy arms are not in use during this motion, they are therefore considered to be non-existent, and it is not important where they point.

Only when actual contact is made with any of the Dummy's arms or its leg are those limbs, considered a factor in the trainee's body positioning. For example, when executing the Toy Ma Gahng/Jom Sau motion as in Movement 6 of the Dummy form, the Light Leg must not step past the Dummy leg, or both the Gahng Sau and the Jom Sau will be improperly referenced, both pointing directly at the trainee. But in the Toy Ma Gum Sau of Movement 62, the stance is stepped further to the right. This is structurally acceptable because the upper left Dummy arm that was being blocked by Jom Sau in Movement 6 is no longer a factor, and the low Dummy arm is being blocked by the trainee 's left hand rather than his right, which was used against that same arm in the Gahng/Jom movement. This implies that the Centerline in the two motions is not the same; in Movement 6, the line is unchanged from that created by the Seep Ma footwork of Movement 5, angled 45 degrees off the Original Centerline. In Movement 62, the line is the same as it would be if the trainee were in "Yee" Tee Keem Yeung Ma position - the Original Centerline itself. Again, this is because in Movement 62, the two upper arms are, for all intents and purposes, "non-existent". Likewise, when the trainee executes a Complex Motion that contacts two arms, the third arm is treated as non-existent, unless it is simultaneously being used in a kicking or leg blocking technique.
Certain Complex Motions, such as Loy Kwun Sau, violate this principle only because of the inflexible nature of the Dummy arms, as the trainee can only simulate moving one or the other off the line. But in any case, the trainee should always make sure that the Dummy's "guns" do not point at his Motherline at any time. This structural consideration results in many subtle variations in the execution of techniques and Moving Stances that at first appear to be identical. In many cases, those differences are nearly undetectable to the untrained eye.

Written by Conrad Howard — November 22, 2012

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