The wooden man of ving tsun can help improve many things. Today we're going to talk about some of the value it brings to your training.
The wooden dummy is a tool that is brought in to help a person grow after they have learned biu ji. This is done for a few reason. First, technically, biu ji introduces circle step and taking angles. Siu nim tau is stationary. Chum kiu teaches to move in a straight line, shift and rotate, and biu ji teaches to get off the occupied line and enter on a new one.
The wooden dummy, with its arm and leg configuration forces a person to move off an occupied line and in on a new one. Since the wooden dummy does not move, it teaches (forces) the student to move when they meet an immovable - or strong - object such as might be presented by an opponent's weapon, strong block or strong punch.
Not only will the wooden dummy teach to step around, it will also teach each student how much of a step is needed relative to their body size and flexibility. The goal is to use this stationary tool to minimize any step needed; to only step as little as necessary. In this respect the wooden dummy is like a fine grit sandpaper that will do final sanding on an already shaped piece. The wooden dummy is the right tool when stepping is accurate and smooth, shifting is accurate and smooth, the hands do not come off the centerline more than a few inches (if at all), there is good faan sau, stepping is nimble yet rooted, groundpath is maintained most of the time, and the student can face the shape well.
The prerequisite skills (shaping) must already be in place or the wooden dummy will bring little value. Much like how fine grit sandpaper will be of little value when trying to shape a wooden sculpture.
But there's another interesting and hidden benefit. In ving tsun we teach that if the centerline is occupied that instead of trying to smash that occupying arm out of the way we instead move ourselves to a new line. When we do this, we try to move behind a shield - that is - we keep our hand in the same place and move around our hand instead of moving our hand around our body. We put our hand on the new centerline for protection and move our body into position. This principle is taught everywhere in the wooden dummy. Think of the times when we place a hand on one of the arms, keep the hand in position, and then step or shift around that hand in order to go in.
So the wooden dummy is trying to teach a style of movement where the ving tsun person moves around their hand. This method is more difficult but it's much safer, does not require fighting of a strong weapon or arm, uses overall less energy, gets a clean line on which to attack, helps train the elbow to come in, allows one to remain rooted, and makes the enemy try to hit a moving target whose hand never leaves the centerline. When all the costs and benefits are weighed, that small bit of movement brings such big value that moving to a new line as taught in the wooden dummy is an obvious strategic and tactical winner.
Next time you're practicing one of the ving tsun drills such as chi sau, try focusing on using this wooden dummy skill of moving behind your hand when the opponent occupies the centerline.