Can you learn Wing Chun without a dummy? In other words, do you NEED a dummy to train Wing Chun?
Here’s the deal…
Although the wooden dummy is one the most iconic things about training Wing Chun, it’s only one part of training the art. But also, you can train 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 training Wing Chun online.
What does solo Wing Chun 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 training forms—Siu Nim Tao, Chum Kiu, and Bill Jee—and one Wing Chun dummy form. Training 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 train on a Wing Chun dummy at home, so one of the first things you should do is simply train the Wing Chun dummy form in the air.
In Wing Chun, solo training alone is where the bulk of your muscle memory is cultivated. One way to help with developing 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 train into an instinct that you can do without having to think about it.
In addition to traing the forms, some Wing Chun practitioners will do some shadowboxing, solo training drills, maybe even make a little cardio workout out of it.
Practicing the Wing Chun dummy without a dummy
As stated above, we consider the Wing Chun dummy to be the ultimate solo training partner (see How to Build a Wooden Dummy). That said, the ultimate solo training 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? There are lots of ways to practice Wing Chun without a dummy! There is the air dummy. No dummy? No problem, just practicing the motions alone in the air will train your muscle memory. Positioning an object on the floor (bucket, block, etc) to use to work around is also helpful.
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.