Bruce Lee's Wooden Dummy Sets

By By John Kreng and Tsuyoshi Abe

JKD Free-lance Dummy Sets and Jun Fan Wing Chun Dummy Sets at the Inosanto Academy Today
It is widely known that Bruce Lee studied Wing Chun Gung Fu under Yip Man when he was in Hong Kong and then later did research on other styles and systems to formulate Jun Fan Gung Fu (JFGF) and later called it Jeet Kune Do (JKD). JFGF is a base system of progression of JKD, and Bruce Lee was known to practice and teach his martial art with a non-traditional approach. He was against forms; he felt like doing forms was like learning how to swim on dry land. Although he did not especially encourage his students to focus their training in forms, he went through the phase of training in forms himself and according to Sifu Dan Inosanto, "He was a very good forms person." Lee's belief was to practice with a partner to feel the energy or to hit something with substance like a heavy bag or focus gloves because combat is not a set pattern and should be more alive.

But if you don't have a partner to practice with, what do you do? You could shadow box, hit the heavy bag, do supplemental training like weight training, jogging, etc. One of his favorite ways to train by himself was with the Wing Chun Wooden Dummy (Mook Jong). On the traditional Wooden Dummy set in Wing Chun there are ten sections which
compromises all 108 moves that you can perform on the apparatus. Bruce Lee learned only the first 6-3/4 sections at Yip Man's kwoon. Later, Lee taught traditional Wing Chun dummy form to only a select few students. One of those select few was Dan Inosanto.

After Bruce's death, Dan Inosanto went to Hong Kong to learn the last four sections, among other things. Since then Inosanto has studied under seven other Wing Chun instructors besides Bruce Lee and James Yimm Lee to update his skills and knowledge in Wing Chun. When Bruce was in Los Angeles he created his method of practicing with the wooden dummy. He had several different ways of calling it -- "JKD Free-lancing Sets on the Dummy," "Shadow Boxing with the Dummy," and "Expressing One's Self on the Dummy." Lee's method is structurally different than traditional Wing Chun in that it is performed in a right or left lead and with more of a modern boxing approach.

Inosanto on Bruce Lee's Approach
Inosanto explains Bruce Lee's approach to the wooden dummy. "Sifu Bruce preferred free expressing himself on the dummy. Sometimes having no set pattern at all. For example, sometimes opening like Dummy set #7 and ceasing like Dummy set #3, with the middle section looking like Dummy set #5. Sometimes he isolates the set like #4 and we'd work on it. At other times his workout didn't resemble anything that looked like traditional Wing Chun. But then in the next few minutes he would return to what resembled Wing Chun. Then a few minutes later it would be like kickboxing. Sifu Bruce believed you should use the dummy like you used the heavy bag in boxing, using your imagination and working on angles, leverage, and precision of motions."

Other than Jun Fan Wing Chun Dummy sets and JKD Free-lancing Dummy sets, several combinations of techniques on the dummy were taught to Inosanto by Bruce Lee. He learned, practiced, and taught to his students the usage of the Wooden Dummy. Although he did not have any Wooden Dummies at his L.A. Chinatown school, Lee taught Inosanto how to use the Dummy at his L.A. home. At the time they did not have any names or numbers which made it very difficult to practice, remember, and pass on.

The Dummy Sets
Inosanto put together a dummy set, which consists of about 150 moves that Sifu Bruce taught him on the Mook Jong. The set is composed of many Jun Fan JKD basic techniques. Each technique is isolated and repeated 1-3 times in the set. This set is completely different from what Inosanto passes on to his students at his academy today. Inosanto teaches the JKD Free-lance dummy sets and Jun Fan Wing Chun Dummy sets as modified and taught by Bruce Lee.

The JKD Free-lance dummy sets are numbered in 1 to 12 sections, but have no set patterns as the end result. These techniques, drills, or component parts are for the practitioner to perform in any order they want. Bruce Lee didn't want Inosanto to teach them as set #1, set #2, set#3, etc., but to be able to freelance the material in any order.

However, Inosanto felt the numbering of the sets helped him in understanding how to freelance and understand the structure better, so he could retain the order of the materials as close as possible, the way he was taught.

In a letter Bruce Lee wrote to James Yimm Lee, dated August 6, 1965, from Hong Kong; he writes...
"Make use of the wooden dummy and equipments available at own
kwoon. It will be a challenge to you to CREATE ways and means
to better the training method- use karate, judo, aikido, or any style to
build your counter-offensive. It will be interesting."

Click here for Feature Articles from this issue and others published in 1999 .

About By John Kreng and Tsuyoshi Abe :
John Kreng is a writer and martial artist based in Burbank, California. He was the Coordinating Editor and supervisor of the 1998 WushuKungfu Bruce Lee Special Issue.
Tsuyoshi Abe is a certified Full Instructor under Sifu Dan Inosanto and
has been studying Jun Fan JKD since 1985 starting with Taky Kimura. Mr.
Abe also works as a stuntman and fight choreographer in films. He can
be seen in Rapid Fire, Lethal Weapon 4, Blade, Red Corner, and The Mystery Man.

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