The Ving Tsun wooden dummy, or jong, is one of the few essential pieces of equipment for training in the system, along with the wall bag, pole and knives. The way we view the dummy is that it is a well designed assemblage of obstacles which are carefully placed in order to stop our movements, hence giving us an opportunity to develop our structure. The dummy teaches us how to recover from bad positions, how to move around an opponent, develops power in our strikes and defences, toughens our arms and legs especially the feet, but the most important and best to focus on is development of the structure. The dummy form we practice is a series of ideas being programmed in and honed. It is not a series of moves as used in a fight.. that would be nonsensical. It is important to have smooth, flowing movement within each section, but it is not relevant that we move from one idea to the next in any special way. Although we can occasionally train the dummy form in a rapid way, there is not much value in this, as the structure is then not being developed, and it is largely a waste of time to go fast.. though we may feel it is impressive. Movements within the sections may be fast, but to flow between movements quickly is disadvantageous. For example, in the 3rd section, the pak sau actions.. each one is designed to be trained separately, developing our structure for the pak sau so that if someone resists against it we can hold our position and gain the hit with the other hand. There is no practical reason to do 3 or 4 pak sau actions in rapid succession, and if we do so we miss out on the benefit from the dummy. We do one pak sau, then centre ourselves, then another. Incidentally, we do 4 pak sau in this section for balanced training, and we pak off the front hand which makes better combat sense. The more advanced on the dummy we get, the slower we go!
We put a lot of work into the development of our dummy form. Hundreds of hours into this project alone.
The initial change was in the first section to face the dummy before performing the gan-da and quan sau actions, each with their appropriate pivot, axis point and heel pivot respectively. It simply didn’t make sense to me to train the quan sau without turning as we do in practice. To train it on the dummy without turning is to program our quan sau to lose it’s structure. The same goes for the gan-da action. The structure is much better developed for both these actions on the dummy by facing first and then pivoting with the movement. In reality, we only try to pivot.. the dummy arms act as obstacles to stop our movement, thus we develop our structure from contact points to the ground. When working on the dummy we can hardly manage to turn at all.. the pivot is there in intent only. When practicing the air dummy form, which we do whenever we have worked on the dummy, the movements can be completed so we are shifting to the optimal angle. The reality of the movement, what operates on the opponent is a combination of the two, dummy and air dummy. Both are necessary. Without the dummy training, the structure will not be what it could be. Without the air dummy, the movement will be restricted.
Our first movement on the dummy is tan sau. We stand central to the dummy, and at a distance where we can reach the dummy with our fingertips but not the heel of the palm, unless we strike with a wrist snap, then the heel of the palm reaches. This means that our arms work properly on the dummy, eg fook sau has our forearm running along the dummy arm, and as the fook is pulled in towards the centre and forwards it’s action is topped as the dummy arm squishes in between the bone and muscles, stopping the fook before our hand hits the dummy post. Interestingly, at this range, our low centreline punch cannot reach the dummy post and will stop short, even when being driven with power eg in the third section. With the first movement, we are sinking the elbow forward and simultaneously twisting the forearm to open out from the centre. As the outside edge of our arm rotates out from the centre, it reaches the dummy arm. We do not allow our arm to be deflected back in towards the centre, so the twisting action of the forearm is stopped before it has turned 90 deg. The forward action is also stopped by the dummy arm, which makes a wedge shape to lock onto the wedge shape of our forearm. Added to this, we are also turning towards the tan action, as we must do in practical application, and this increases the blocking action of the dummy arm to our movement. Through this practice, the initial part of the tan sau action is made very strong, as the work on the dummy strengthens our structure from the contact point to the ground. In the air dummy form, we complete the tan sau with our body turning to the angle, the forearm twisting through 90 deg and elbow sinking forward, and the wrist snap at the end of the movement. We also then continue with a finishing move so that our finish can be snappy and powerful. In the dummy form this is impossible as the action is stopped in the first instance, almost before it has really begun. Again, to make the tan sau effective, we need both, dummy and air dummy, as well as practical applications training of course.
The fook sau movements on the dummy I consider to be the contact or deflecting part of the punch (da). The movement is stopped by the dummy arm before the fist is even made, thus developing our ability to sink the punch, to deflect the opponent’s arm, strengthening our structure and our understanding of it.
Another innovation on the dummy form is regarding the finish between each section. At the time I was working this stuff out, I estimated I was doing the finish almost 15000 times a year. That’s a lot of reps to be doing something only on one side. So I decided to practice the finish on both sides. We practice each side of the finish in the first two sections, then both sides of it after each section thereafter.
Of course, the finish isn’t practiced after the 3rd section, and it is modified in the 5th section. All other sections have the finish both sides. Immediately the form felt more balanced, is a little longer and considerably more work, all plusses!
The finish contains some great material which deserves our attention and effort every time we practice. Skipping through it or doing the finish half-heartedly is very bad practice.. we don’t want a half-assed movement in the fight, do we.
In the fourth section, I decided that rather than train the one kick high into the dummy body and with a quan sau, which is to block an incoming round kick, we would practice the kicks at the appropriate range and arm action for each kick.
The first kick we do close to the dummy, using a high gan sau and ascending heel kick with the same side leg. The high gan is to intercept their kick round the knee or inner thigh while we break their standing knee with our kick. The range is just out of punching range.
The second kick we do at a slightly further range from the dummy with a quan sau forward 45deg, which would be to collect their shin, and a snap kick with the edge of the foot on the opposite side leg, pivoting on the toe just a little. From this range, the ascending heel kick won’t reach their back knee. With their standing foot turned for their round kick, the knee is vulnerable and the snap kick does the job nicely. Initially the foot feels vulnerable turned so far, but after a while full power can be delivered to the dummy leg with no problem. This quan sau is soft, absorbing.
The third kick we do with a quan sau to the side and a side kick with the heel, done with a toe pivot on our standing leg. This is a very powerful kick. The pivot serves to deliver the quan sau to their instep with a damaging strike, as well as to drive the kick.
Each of these kicks have their own range, and each kick will only reach the dummy leg effectively at it’s own range. This way we train ourselves to feel the range appropriate for each kick. Also, when we toe pivot for the snap kick and for the side kick, we then heel pivot to bring us back in front of the dummy for the next movement. In practice this means we will most efficiently move in to finish after employing our block-kick combination. The appropriate pivot point brings us immediately into striking range, thus saving us two movements. Working the pivot points on the foot this way makes our movements more efficient, simple, direct and effective, satisfying all critical criterion for improvement in the system.
We kick to the knee of the dummy leg, so that we have programmed our kicks to hit the target. This way the kicks are likely to work. It is an aspect of consistency in training. Each part of the system supports each other part. The system is a synergistic whole, so one part of the training cannot be undermining another.
The 5th section underwent a lot of change. After doing a lot of research into the po pai action, including testing, I decided to reject this as a valid part of my method.
For one thing, against a larger opponent, it’s not a great idea. We did a lot of testing with weight vests, and much heavier guys were surprised to find po pai didn’t work when the smaller guy had the 30kg vest on. When the bigger guy had the vest on, the smaller guy simply bounced off!
We can also be left in a bad position if the opponent turns out to be very tough and can take the po pai.
It also isn’t a great idea if the opponent can handle themselves. It doesn’t take much to ruin the po pai and leave us in an extremely vulnerable position. It is a golden rule for a reason that we don’t put two hands forward simultaneously.
VTK is designed to work against opponents who are larger than us, stronger, faster, smarter and even more highly skilled. Po pai fails on all these counts.
So what about the po pai section in the dummy form?
Condsidering a lot of the dummy training is about recovery from errors, it seemed to me that we are recovering from a wrong bong that is failing to deflect or is being overpowered, maybe by a larger opponent. When we feel the pressure of the dummy arm stopping our movement, ie the wrong bong failing, we immediately release it and change to a cover hand or biu sau, which must move to the other dummy arm in order to flow with our positioning. To keep our arm on the same dummy arm will mean we will have to move our whole body around to be able to have a position that makes sense, and this is not relevant to the action in practice. Moving away in order to keep our arm in contact with the same dummy arm will ruin our action and distancing. Our arm flows from wrong bong on one arm to biu on the other arm very smoothly, and doesn’t affect our sticking at all, in fact it enhances it. Again, so much of VT is not what it seems.. As soon as we begin our change from bong to biu, the opponent’s arm has already been moved, so in effect the dummy arm we were in contact with is no longer there! The other arm is where their arm will move to, at the very least. Remember that it is not so much the arm that we are turning, as their centre. Our movement from bong to biu attaches to their centre and turns them so they are not facing us. To be attached to sticking to the dummy arms is a way of chasing the hands. Let go of the dummy arm.. which isn’t even there.. to chase the centre.
The dummy training requires us to use our imagination. Much of it is not at all what it seems..
The footwork for this movement is important and very much integral to the effectiveness of the action as a whole. As the arm is changing from wrong bong to biu sau, the opposite foot takes a very small arc as the waist turns to face for the biu and strike. The other, now lead foot moves in behind the dummy leg.
The other action is a bong sau which is failing. This is dealt with by using the clearing under action from biu ji, moving slightly away sideways with the same side foot and simultaneously striking the post with the palm. For this action our clearing arm is already on the opposite dummy arm from us so the distancing is correct.. and this also suggests the arm needs to move for the wrong bong action.
These responses to failing bong and wrong bong work very well against opponents who are larger, stronger and quicker than us. It is also very simple, direct, efficient development as well as being more effective.
These developments were worked out with a great bunch of guys who were all involved in the development process, and some of them very skeptical thinkers indeed. We have been practicing the dummy form this way since 2012, and although we are still very much open to change and development it rarely happens these days. This form is very productive to train.
The rest of the form speaks for itself as can be seen on the YouTube channel linked to this website.
It’s quite standard for Wong Shun Leung lineage, with a few tweaks here and there to suit training in our method and with some changes to promote consistency in the system.