Many martial artists have discovered the benefits of training with a wooden dummy. This practice was brought into the mainstream world of martial arts by the kung fu style Wing Chun. While every Wing Chun technique can be applied and trained on a wooden dummy, artists from other styles are also adapting their training to apply to a wooden dummy.
Wing Chun dummies can be prohibitively expensive, however, with retail models often costing upward of $1,000 or more! Fortunately, dummies can be built for much less, but it can be a bit of a project if you’re unprepared.
Here is a brief overview of building your own.
Locate good Wing Chun dummy plans – Some of the plans available are just basically blueprints. They show dimensions and measurements but don’t tell you how to build the dummy. For example, making the holes in the dummy’s body can be challenging as it requires cutting square holes in a round body. This may require a bit of extra instruction for someone who has never done any sort of drilling/sawing/filing/etc. before.
Consider having the arms made by a professional – The arms are the most complicated part of the dummy to make. The shanks that hold them into the body of the dummy must be square, and the arms themselves are tapered and cylindrical, and building them requires the use of a lathe. Most people do not have lathes, and renting one (not to mention learning how to use it) can be expensive. Fortunately, the arms can be purchased (either wooden dummy companies, or made by carpenters) for relatively cheap, often around $60 per arm.
Consider using PVC for the body – 8″ PVC pipe has an outer diameter of 8.625″ which is perfect for a Wing Chun dummy (8.5-9.5″ diameter is the acceptable range). Some people may initially complain about using plastic instead of wood, but the plastic is just as hard, exactly the right size and shape, and significantly easier to work with. Cutting square holes into PVC pipe takes a little time. Cutting square holes into a solid piece of 8.5″ diameter wood takes forever, especially if you’re not accustomed to working with wood. And PVC is much cheaper, too.
Take your time – Building your dummy can be fun and rewarding, but don’t rush it. Double-check all your measurements before you cut anything.
Building your own Wing Chun dummy can be rewarding and affordable. The cost of building your own is generally significantly less than half of buying one retail. Be mindful of it and it will reward you for years.