The Amazing Wooden Man Of Wing Chun

by SiFu Philip Holder
Last Updated: 13 March, 2014
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MUHK YĀHN JŌNG – Simple yet Complete

     The Wing Chun training Muhk Yāhn Jōng has become well known. You see it in movies about Bruce Lee, in movies done by Jackie Chan and in many others. Even those outside of the Wing Chun system know about the Muhk Yāhn Jōng. Many people from styles other than Wing Chun even purchase them. The problem is that most martial artists, even some within the Wing Chun system, don’t understand the Muhk Yāhn Jōng. For this reason, they do not get full benefit from it.

     The Muhk Yāhn Jōng is both incredible and beautiful in its simplicity. The fact that this simple device accomplishes so much is an amazing engineering feat. Once in a while, people will add a leg or some arms, springs, and other whistles and bells in an attempt to invent a new improved Muhk Yāhn Jōng. These attempts simply indicate that the person does not understand the classical Muhk Yāhn Jōng, (or he or she is primarily looking for a marketing device to set his or her product or organization apart from others). Although some people may think it good business to imply that they have somehow discovered something that others have not, it can be confusing to students new to the Muhk Yāhn Jōng. Those who truly understand the Muhk Yāhn Jōng realize that it needs no new attachments, batteries or buzzers.


     In Wing Chun, each training exercise has a specific purpose. The forms teach position and movement. The Muhk Yāhn Jōng translates the movements within the forms into ‘Root Applications’. This does not mean that there are only 108 applications within the Wing Chun System. It simply means that the movements taught on the dummy are the root or base applications from which all others are derived. Once these are mastered, others grow out of them with relative ease.


     One of the greatest misconceptions about the wooden Muhk Yāhn Jōng is that it is for toughening your arms. This is pure nonsense. I instruct my students that if they have a question about whether or not they are doing something right (in Wing Chun), they should simply refer back to the core principles of the system. One of the primary principles in Wing Chun is “don’t fight force with force”. In Wing Chun we deflect rather than smash an attacker’s limb out of the way. It is logical then to assume that we would not smash into the arms of the Muhk Yāhn Jōng. The object, in fact, is just the opposite. The goal is to work around the arms and find the path of least resistance. Those who smash into the arms are simply displaying a lack of knowledge about both the Muhk Yāhn Jōng and about the core principles of the system.

     Another misconception is that the Muhk Yāhn Jōng is primarily for improving hand positions. Although the Muhk Yāhn Jōng does have great value in this area, it has equally important value in training footwork, position, and angle. Students who train the Muhk Yāhn Jōng conscientiously will find that their footwork in both Chi Sao and in sparring will be enhanced dramatically.

     The Muhk Yāhn Jōng, like a form, is a prearranged sequence of movements. It has no specific, separate footwork training exercises. In true Wing Chun form (ref: economy of energy), the footwork exercises are part and parcel to, and contained within the sets themselves. When the footwork is done correctly the hands seem to fall into place easily. If the footwork is incorrect, the hand movements become difficult or impossible.

(NOTE: Wing Chun has a kicking dummy (Star Dummy) used specifically for kicking exercises that I will cover in another article.)

Three Armed Space Monster

      Although the Muhk Yāhn Jōng has three arms, the three arms do not represent fixed limbs. All three arms can, at times, represent one arm at various positions. The end of the arm(s) represent the elbow, not the hand. The presumed line of energy extends out from the elbow. This is why the arms are so short. As well, the leg represents the active lower limb or the leg in play at that time. A second leg therefore is not necessary (the Jong is not a one legged amputee). In fact it would be an impediment to footwork and movement around the Muhk Yāhn Jōng to include a second leg.

How Many Moves

     There has been some disagreement over just how many movements there are on the dummy. Again, in an attempt to create a ‘sales pitch’, there are those who may claim to know extra movements. Classically, the accepted number of movements is 108. In fact this number has more to do with Chinese numerology that it does with an accurate count of the movements. Because of this, debate over the number of movements is really a non-issue.

      In Chinese numerology, the number three and multiples thereof, as well as the number 108 have spiritual significance. For this reason, you will find that the movements in the Wing Chun forms and on the Muhk Yāhn Jōng are contrived to fit into these numbers primarily for their numeric and spiritual significance. It has little to do with the actual number of movements.

Muhk Yāhn Jōng Construction

     The dimensions of the Jong are not carved in stone. Remember, in days past, there were no facilities for mass production. Each dummy trunk was a little different. The critical factor is in the dimensions and relative spacing of the arms and the construction and pacing of the leg, relative to the arms. Basically, the trunk can be from approximately seven and a half to nine inches in diameter. On a classical Muhk Yāhn Jōng, the trunk will be about fifty four inches tall. The arms should protrude approximately twelve inches from the trunk.

Setting up your  Muhk Yāhn Jōng

     There is no specific height for the Muhk Yāhn Jōng. Just as you wouldn’t use the same settings for every person on an exercise machine the Muhk Yāhn Jōng needs to be set differently for people of varying heights. Your Jong should be set up so that the upper arm is at the same height as the crest or top of your shoulder when you are in front of the Muhk Yāhn Jōng in a neutral stance.


     The Muhk Yāhn Jōng can help you to vastly improve footwork. It can give you the tools to redirect energy effectively. It can help you develop the skills needed to find the path of least resistance quickly and easily. It will train you to close off all windows of opportunity to your attacker. In short, it can make you a more proficient practitioner and increase your overall skill level, if you know how to use it properly.

     If you know how to use the Muhk Yāhn Jōng, it can be a great training partner. If you do not, and you choose to buy one, it may become a very expensive coat rack.

Grandmaster Philip Holder

Courtesy of Grandmaster Holder (