Build your own wooden dummy!

A wooden dummy is a great training tool that every martial artist should consider making or buying. On this website you can view the whole construction process, view all of the wing chun wooden dummy parts and plans for construction. If building your own wooden dummy isn't what you had in mind, you can even order a custom wooden dummy directly from me.

My wooden dummy article was featured on!
Having a wooden dummy seems the ultimate in martial arts. I've seen them in kung fu movies like "Descendant of Wing Chun" and "Rumble in the Bronx," and I've always thought it would be cool to have one. Besides, anyone who has their own wooden dummy must be a serious martial artist. A few things always held me back from getting one. First, I don't study Wing Chun kung fu, the art that the wooden dummy is typically associated with. I study 7 Star Praying Mantis and Northern Shaolin. Second, the cost. Those things are pricey. I have a wife, two kids and a mortgage. How could I ever justify spending close to $1,000 on a wooden dummy? To use the dummy, I knew I would have to learn some Wing Chun (more on this later). And if I was going to have a wooden dummy, I realized I would have to build it myself. So the journey to build my own wooden dummy began. READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE
Step 1: Get yourself a log for the body. I looked in the Yellow pages for a rough cut lumber yard. The log needs to be about 5 feet tall with an approximate 9 inch diameter. Total cost was $38.00

Step 2: Download the plans. I combined the plans from the following two sites to come up with my final set of plans.

Step 3: Prepare the body. The log I purchased was very rough so I had to sand it A LOT. After sanding, I filled in any cracks with wood putty and then sanded the putty smooth when it was dry. Cost of sand paper and putty: approx. $15.00 Total cost so far: $53.00

Step 4: Transfer your measurements to the body. This was a little tricky but I soon figured it out. The first thing you need to do here is draw a straight center line

down the length of the body. You will then use this center line as a guide for your other measurements. Make marks for the center arm hole, the leg and the holes in the back where the supports will go. Locating the correct position of the top arm holes was a little more complicated. I ended up having to make an adjustable protractor to find the correct position. Download a PDF of how I did all of this here.

Step 5: Build the leg. The reason you build the leg first is so you can use it as guide when cutting out the leg hole. Use the plans in the above PDF to make an overlapping joint for the leg. To build the leg you will need a 2x3 that is eight feet long, two 1x3's that are also 8 feet long, some wood glue and some drywall screws.

Step 6: Cut out the hole for the leg. I used a 1 inch spade bit to drill the holes. Actually I had two spade bits. The first is about 6 inches long to get my holes started. I finished the holes with an 18 inch long spade bit. The leg hole is at a 15 degree angle so I used a scrap piece of wood with a 15 degree angle on one end as a guide for my drill as I was drilling. After I had the holes drilled out, I started chiseling. I would chisel down about an inch and then check to see how my leg fit. I used this process the whole way down to make sure that I kept the leg at the correct angle.

Step 7: Cut the hole for the lower straight arm. This is the same process as the leg hole but this one is easier because the hole is straight. use your spade bits to drill down through the body. Then chisel out the square hole for the arm.

Step 8: Have the arms made by a professional. After I downloaded the plans, I faxed the dimensions off to a wood worker to make the arms. I don't have the proper equipment to build them and i wanted them made from oak. The woodworker took about 3 weeks to make the arms and they turned out great. Cost for the arms: $112.00 Total cost so far: $167.00

Step 9: Cut the holes for the braces in the back. These holes are pretty basic after you've already done the leg and arm holes. Just take your time and make sure that they are straight so your dummy doesn't hang at an angle.

Step 10: Cut the holes for the top arms. Cutting these holes really freaked me out but if you take your time there is nothing to worry about. I rotated the body so I would be drilling straight down and I drilled the first hole. I then chiseled it out square. For the second hole I rotated the body in the other direction so I could drill straight down and I made sure to take extra care when chiseling the hole out square. The holes actually overlap in the middle of the dummy and if you're not careful you can remove more wood than you want to.

Step 11: Mount your dummy. I mounted my dummy directly to the wall but you can also make a stand so your dummy is a little more portable. I'll be adding plans on how to make a stand in the future. I'll cover how to mount your dummy to wall here. The first thing I did was mount 2 2x4's with lag bolts horizontally to the exposed studs in my garage. These 2x4's spanned 4 studs each so they were 54 inches long. I then mounted 2 4x4's vertically to the horizontal 2x4's. The smaller, more flexible cross braces were then mounted through the dummy and horizontally across the 4x4s. You can actually adjust the height of your dummy based on where you mount the cross braces to the 4x4s. One thing that I learned here is to put soap on your lag bolts before you screw them into the wood. When screwing in those bolts, you build up a lot of friction and the bolts can snap. Cost of wood for the wall mount and hardware: approx. $30.00 Total cost of wooden dummy: approx. $197.00

Well there you have it. Go start building your own wooden dummy. I discovered that if you have some basic carpentry skills building one isn't hard and is actually kinda fun. Good luck!

Wooden Dummy Construction

Mook Yan Jong - (pronounced mooHk yàHn jàng) literally translates "wood man post", but is usually just called a "wooden dummy" in English, or "jong" for short. The dummy consists of a body with two upper arms at shoulder level, a lower arm at stomach height, and one leg, suspended on a framework by two crosspieces. Here are the plans:

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Front view, without arms and leg. Top View Side View

Teak was often traditionally used for all parts of the dummy. But, since solid blocks of this exotic hardwood are increasingly hard to find, you can use almost any strong hardwood - one that’s heavy, strong and dense, but not brittle. Some softwoods may not have enough strength to withstand the force applied to a dummy, or have the proper weight. Another problem with softer wood is that over time, as the arms and legs are struck repeatedly, they become compressed and more "sloppy" in their movement. Because it’s difficult to get hardwood in a piece large enough, you might try laminated wood (although the look will be different with all those lines running through it). Avoid wood with pitch in it, and the wood should be well seasoned - dry all the way through - to avoid cracking. Try to find wood native to your area since transporting it from a different climate, especially with different humidity, can cause cracking. Even with these precautions wood will still sometimes check or split, in which case you might use a wood fill or banding.

Use hardwood for the body so its weight will correspond to that of a human body. This way if you can move the dummy you can also move a person. The body has a round cross section of about nine inches in diameter. Anything smaller doesn’t give the needed weight and requires adjustments in the length of arms and leg. The height of the body is five feet. Make the cross section as close to a perfect circle as possible. Irregularities in the surface could cause damage to hand, fist or foot. The body should be smooth, though not necessarily polished, to avoid splinters. Slightly taper or round off the top and bottom of the body to remove hard edges. One of the hardest parts of dummy construction is cutting the square holes for the arms. First drill circular holes, then square them with hand chisels. In order to give both arms room to pass through the dummy, the left arm (facing the dummy) is slightly higher than the right. The holes intersect at their outer edges where they cross in the exact center of the dummy. An advantage of hardwood is that you’re less likely to tear up the center of the dummy as you cut these overlapping holes.

The arms should be the same material as the body, since they need as much strength. Stress on the arms is at the point where they enter the body. Turn the arms on a lathe, rather than make them by hand, since a smooth level surface is essential. All three arms are identical Each is twenty-two inches long, divided into two sections: one eleven inch half goes through the dummy body and out the back, the other eleven inch half sticks out from in front of the dummy. All three arms are set parallel to the floor. The visible half of the arm, extending from the dummy, is cylindrical - though wider at the point where it leaves the body and tapering smaller towards the tip. The widest part, closest to the dummy, is two and a half inches in diameter. The amount of taper differs, but a loss of about an inch, down to one and a half inches in diameter at the tip, is average. Slightly round off the tip end so there are no hard edges. The inner hidden half of the dummy arm has a square cross section. Though it’s far easier to make the inner half cylindrical, this would allow the dummy arm to spin on contact - unlike a real opponent’s arm. This half of the arm can be either in line with the outer half, or offset from center so one corner of the inner half touches one edge of the outer half while the opposite corner of the squared inner half is inset from the edge of the rounded outer half. While this offset is more difficult to make, it allows the dummy arms to be adjusted to different angles simply by switching or turning the arms, causing the width apart at the tapered ends to be changed. While the distance apart at the tips depends on your own body - the upper arms point at your shoulders when you stand at an arms length away from the dummy - the average is about eight and a half inches. The upper arm is nine inches down from the top of the dummy. The lower arm is eight and a half inches down from the upper arms, extending straight out from the center of the body. The holes cut in the body for the arms should provide a fairly tight fit, neither too tight or too loose. Your technique on the dummy can be judged by the sound of the arms moving in their holes: a dull thud indicates tension in the arms, caused by holding back power, while a sharp "clack" shows power has been properly passed to the dummy without force being reabsorbed into your own arm. Extend the dummy arms through the body and out the back two inches. Secure the arm in place with a removable pin or wedge.

The leg is divided into two sections: one half extending through the dummy and out from the front center of the body to a "knee joint", the other half extending down towards the "ankle." The leg is the least standardized part of the dummy. The upper part of the leg may come straight out from the dummy, parallel with the floor, or it may extend downwards at an angle.

The lower part of the leg may come straight down, at a right angle to the floor, or it may extend forward at an angle. It is meant to correspond to your own leg, if you were to stand with one leg forward, so keep this pattern in mind when making your wooden leg. Use the knee joint as your guide and have it roughly at the same height as your own knee. The upper section of the leg is twenty-two inches long: one half of which extends through the dummy and out the back, the other half extending out in front. The part that passes through the dummy must be smaller than the part that is visible, so the leg won’t slide back up into the dummy. The lower "hanging" section is about thirteen inches long. As with the arms, the leg is secured in back with a removable pin or wedge. The diameter of the leg is not standardized, since it was traditionally made from a hardwood branch with a knot and bend where the knee would be. This makes a functional, and pretty, leg, but suitable tree limbs are hard to find. A square cross-section leg with a joint at the knee is much easier to construct. Anything less than two by two inches will be too weak to stand up to steady use. Round the edges slightly so kicking the leg is easier on the feet. The section of the leg extending through the dummy must be cut with a square cross-section, to eliminate any rotation of the leg in its hole. The leg leaves the dummy at a point roughly sixteen or seventeen inches from the base of the body. Because the angle of the leg can vary the hole may be raised or lowered as needed. The bottom of the leg should line up with the bottom of the body, about six inches above the floor. Stress points are at the knee and where the leg passes into the dummy. Use a strong hardwood, since the leg must withstand a great deal of kicking force. And, as with the arms, it’s a good idea to have a spare leg on hand.

The dummy is suspended above the ground by two crosspieces or slats, each one inch wide by two inches high. No matter what wood is used for the rest of the dummy, these crosspieces must be a strong hardwood since they receive most of the force given to the dummy. On the other hand they must not be too brittle, otherwise they will crack rather than flex under stress. Stress points are at the spot where the slats first pass into the dummy. It’s a good idea to have an extra set of crosspieces on hand for the inevitable day when one cracks. The crosspieces should be no less than five feet long, so they are long enough to flex when the dummy is moved forward or backward, and long enough to extend out several inches on either side of the framework. The top crosspiece is six inches down from the top of the dummy, the bottom crosspiece is nine inches up from the bottom of the dummy. At this distance apart they provide support so the dummy does not tip forward or backward when moved. Also, if the top crosspiece is any closer to the top of the dummy it gets in the way of a neck-pull.

The crosspieces must be cut perfectly parallel to each other, the top directly over the bottom, otherwise they will bind, and not slide, in the supporting framework. They should also pass directly through the center of the dummy for best balance [In Moy Yat’s book "108 Muk Yan Jong" he illustrates plans with this hole cut towards the back of the dummy. Since I haven’t used a dummy like this I can’t say how it would affect performance, if any, though it would probably increase torque on the crosspieces.] Attach stops so the dummy body won’t slide on the crosspieces - the body and slats should move together. Put another set of stops on the crosspieces to keep the dummy from sliding all the way out of the framework on either side.

Mount your dummy on two sturdy parallel upright wooden posts (four by eight is a good size) about five feet apart, or on any framework that adequately supports the weight of the dummy while allowing for it’s movement. Attach these supports securely to floor, walls, or ceiling. Set them far enough out from anything behind to allow for forward and backward movement of the dummy. There are two kinds of dummy: "alive" and able to move in all directions, or "dead" and set into the ground or on an immovable frame. [As I typed this late into the night, my wife, passing by on her way to bed, told me her version, "There are two kinds of dummy: the ones who teach Wing Chun, and the ones who learn Wing Chun."] The live dummy is an innovation necessitated by life in crowded Hong Kong apartments, where there was no place to plant a dummy in the ground. The live dummy gives a sense of the movement of a real opponent and lessens the chance of injury. Any force given to a dead dummy can’t be passed to the dummy, but is reabsorbed back into the student’s own body. "Life" in the dummy is provided in two ways: by flex in the cross slats when you move the dummy forward or backward, and by these slats sliding in the framework when you move the dummy side to side. Although the dummy should be suspended about six inches above the floor, the actual height of the dummy from the floor depends on your own height: the upper arms point at your shoulders; the lower arm points at your stomach (so in a low bong sau the middle of your forearm contacts the lower arm of the dummy); your knee, if you stand with one leg forward, is the same height as the dummy’s "knee." You can make the dummy portable by cutting downward pointing L-shaped slots in the uprights to hold the crosspieces. You can then lift the dummy in or out of the top of the slot and then drop it into the bottom of the upside-down "L" to keep it in place. These slots also provide a way to adjust the height of the dummy. Cut the bottom of the slots at the lowest height needed for the dummy then, to raise the dummy, insert wooden risers in each slot. You can also support the crosspieces on L-shaped brackets attached to the front of the uprights, and adjust the height by using multiple brackets.

You don’t need to use oil or stain to finish the dummy, natural oils from the hands and arms will eventually seal and color the wood. Never kick the arms, as shoes can damage the finish and scratch the wood.