Can you learn Wing Chun without a dummy? In other words, do you NEED a dummy to learn Wing Chun?
Here’s the deal…
Although the wooden dummy is one the most iconic things about learning Wing Chun, it’s only one part of learning the art. But also, you can learn the the Wing Chun dummy form in the air without a dummy. In fact, Ip Man is known to have practiced and taught the dummy form without a dummy the first few years he moved to Hong Kong.
In this article, we will go over potential ways to practice Wing Chun if you don’t have a wooden dummy (mook jong) or have no way to get one. In addition to how to practice Wing Chun without a dummy we’ll also cover learning Wing Chun online.
What does solo training usually involve?
Wing Chun solo training is, more often than not, where the bulk of your Wing Chun training will take place. Wing Chun has three empty hand forms—Siu Nim Tao, Chum Kiu, and Bill Jee—and one dummy form. Practicing alone in front of the mirror will help you get an idea of what your forms look like… things you won’t know alone without a mirror. Not everyone has access to a Wing Chun dummy at home, so one of the first things you should do is simply practicing the Mook Jong form in the air—more elaboration on that below.
In Wing Chun, solo training alone is where the bulk of your muscle memory is cultivated. One way to help with the development of muscle memory is through imagination. It does not have to be anything fancy that you imagine, but visualization helps, and you want to be able to turn what you learn into an instinct that you can do without thinking about it.
In addition to the forms, some practitioners will do some shadowboxing, solo drills, maybe even make a little cardio workout alone.
Practicing the dummy without a dummy
As stated above, we consider the Wing Chun dummy to be the ultimate partner (see How to Build a Wooden Dummy). That being said, the ultimate partner isn’t always obtainable to everyone who takes up Wing Chun right off the bat. But how do you practice Wing Chun without a partner—the so-called ultimate partner? There are absolutely ways to practice Wing Chun without a dummy! Again, as stated above, there is the air dummy. No dummy? No problem, just practicing the motions alone in the air will help in cultivating the muscle memory. Positioning an object on the floor (bucket, block, etc) to use to work around is extremely beneficial as well.
Wing Chun—in fact, any martial art—depends on feedback from another individual. The dummy assists in cultivating structure and position, but even the ultimate partner has a glaring flaw, and that flaw is that it is not mobile like a person. If you have someone you can practice with—someone taking the same classes with you, you get feedback that is much, much easier to interpret and address. The wooden dummy is a solo training tool to a fault, so unfortunately, until your next class, you may not be able to get the feedback that someone can just say, “Hey, this is off.”
The air dummy is a tricky thing to practice—especially among newer students. Imagination plays a key factor in the air dummy. Students who have practiced Wing Chun for a while will usually imagine their hands, arms, feet, and legs hitting something, so as to help with going through their form. In reality, the air dummy requires a lot of imagination to help make the practice worthwhile. Again, it does not have to be anything fancy.
Are there any advantages to using the air dummy over the wooden dummy?
Yes. Practicing the dummy in the air allows you to practicing moving through targets rather than the surface of them. It frees up your options of directions as you can imagine your target changing. There are limitations to a wooden dummy. It stays in one place. Its harder than a real person. Etc. However, if you ask any Wing Chun practitioner who has been practicing, for simplicity sake, five years, they will more than likely have a dummy. However, the air dummy can be taken anywhere.
Can I learn Wing Chun alone online?
Learning Wing Chun—or any martial art for that matter—is a tricky path to take, but it can absolutely be done. Our own Sifu Adam Williss has lots of videos on his YouTube channel that delves into all sorts of Wing Chun aspects. Learning Wing Chun alone online comes with the caveat of being able to choose from a wide library right off the bat, depending on which online Wing Chun school you decide to follow. While this may sound good at first, it is very important to pace yourself, and learning things in the proper order can often be key. You want to learn how to crawl, then walk, then run, not run, then crawl, then walk. See if your school of choice has Wing Chun course for beginners. That way you’ll learn in a specific step-by-step manner for beginers.
What about one-on-one internet lessons?
That all depends on the school. We at The Dragon Institute do offer online courses. If you are learning Wing Chun, you definitely want to see if you can get a one-on-one lesson plan going with the Sifu of the school, because the Sifu is going to be able to help correct you on things that need correcting. The Sifu is going to be your Wing Chun partner in this endeavor—you cannot go this path alone, be it remotely or in person.
What things should I keep in mind when learning remotely?
First and foremost: transparency. Do not try and hide things from your Sifu, because they will know if you aren’t practicing.
Practicing at home is right up there with transparency in importance. The old saying of “Practice, practice, practice!” is there for a reason. Practice makes perfect, and if you are not practicing, you will not be progressing. In the cases of both transparency and practice, if you do neither, you will be wasting both your time and your Sifu’s time. Nobody wants their time wasted.
Ask questions. There are no stupid questions, only unasked questions. Now granted, some questions will likely be harder to answer in a virtual lesson than others due to the lack of physical contact, so do bear that in mind.
Is there anything I should have for learning remotely?
For the most part, that will also depend on the school you decide to go with, but there are a couple things that any practitioner should have with them when learning remotely. A webcam is an absolute necessity. You can probably use a smartphone as well, but be sure to have a stand to place it on.
One last word of advice
Understand that learning any martial art remotely is a very difficult path to take. We are not saying it is impossible, just that it is very difficult, and it absolutely cannot be done by yourself. You need to have a partner of some kind. Your Sifu will likely be that partner, but if you are able to learn remotely with a friend or family member, even better.
With learning Wing Chun online, it is very unlikely that you will never feel the need to get a Mook Jong of some kind—it is just too integral to learning Wing Chun to not have. Any Sifu will tell you that you should, at the very least, strongly consider getting a Mook Jong at some point. The Mook Jong is undoubtedly the strongest symbol of commitment to Wing Chun. It unlocks so much more of a practitioner’s Wing Chun that an air dummy just cannot do. Furthermore, it is just an all-around ideal partner to have for solo training.
Can the Wing Chun Wooden Dummy forms be practiced without actually owning a dummy? Yes, by following video from a qualified instructor and using an object on the ground to work around, you can learn the wooden dummy without investing in the dummy itself.