Wooden Dummy (Muk Yan Jong)
Even though a variety of martial arts nowadays employ a wooden dummy for training, it is usually more recognised as being (associated) with the Wing Chun kung fu system and it is generally accepted that it originated from the Shaolin temple. A 'live' dummy is one which is mounted on the wall or a portable stand; whereas a ‘dead’ dummy is one which is sunk into the floor or ground. Prior to Yip Man’s era, most dummies where 'dead' dummies.
There is a story that goes as follows, when Yip Man moved into his Hong Kong apartment, there was no where to 'sink' a dummy into. So, he put the dummy to a wall-mounted frame. With this new mounting, there was also a type of 'give' to the force being exerted since it would move slightly, and it was found that this type of mounting was actually preferable to the non-moving "dead" dummies. A dead dummy is completely non-moving so you need to move more around the dummy. Practising with a 'live' or 'dead' wooden dummy requires a person to have a good command of their structure. Yan Jong Fa represents a big strong opponent, which you must move yourself around, or try to go behind him.
The Wooden Dummy also precisely develops hands strike lines, footwork, two handed movement, correct body structure, hand conditioning power (hand strikes & kicks). The Wooden Dummy is the most prestigious of the empty-hands Wing Chun combat techniques.
The Wing Chun kung fu system comprises three empty hands boxing forms (Siu Lim Tao, Chum Kiu, Biu Gee and a set of 116 wooden dummy techniques). The wooden dummy set is divided into eight sections. Muk-Yan Jong means Wooden Dummy. Yan Jong Fa means Wooden Dummy Techniques.
Usually Wing Chun practitioners refer to the dummy set as 108 wooden dummy techniques (Yan Jong Fa). (The number 108 is preferred by the Chinese culture as it corresponds to a special set of stars and is a lucky number)
The Wooden Dummy is a progression after the three boxing forms. In the Wooden Dummy form you practice the applications of the three forms in addition to extra moves that are not contained within the three empty hands boxing forms.
The Wooden Dummy (Muk-Yan Jong), is a very skilful set and is one of the main forms for advanced practitioners of the Wing Chun system. Unfortunately, many people have misunderstood or have been mislead into thinking that the dummy is only used to develop power (for example, like that used to break wood and bricks) and it is because of this that they have to try very hard to break a piece of wood. Doing so, either you damage or break your hands or the dummy. That should not happen!
The Wooden Dummy definitely develops the advanced fighting aspects of Wing Chun. Lots of hours are required to make your body, hands and legs listen to you. Lucas Castrounis believes that you should not get hooked on how fast you can learn all of the above forms. Learning the forms fast is not important if your body has not matured into the Wing Chun concepts and you don't have good command of your structure. Don't mislead yourself.