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How to build a reactive training dummy


Articolo letto: 363 volte

News > 6 Dragons Kung Fu

How to build a reactive training dummy

Make a reactive training dummy (the Hydra dummy)

The Hydra dummy is one of the reactive training dummies of 6 Dragons Kung Fu: this means that it is not only a static target / resistance but also a tool to improve our reactivity (reflexes, spatial memory, timing, etc.).

Note - This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

This training tool is absolutely not expensive and to build it we do not need advanced DIY skills (like, for example, in ther case of a Wing Chun wooden dummy, read How to make a Wing Chun wooden dummy) but it requires a certain space.

How to build the Hydra training dummy

What we need

Important premises

Before starting:

Even if the assembly of this tool is relatively simple and does not require any particular work tool, let's be careful and let's take all the necessary safety precautions

In any case, if we are minors we must ask for the supervision of an adult

The one shown in the image is the metal skeleton of the dummy, without the soft covers (during the explanation, we will see how to add them; without it would be uselessly dangerous)


The building materials

For all the metal components of our mannequin, the rule is to opt for the lighter and above all flexible ones; it is important to understand that:

Without any flexibility, the Hydra is unable to be responsive to our stimulations

If the compositive parts are too heavy, the structure inevitably becomes dangerous and unstable

A note by Master Kongling - Since the materials we use can be recovered at a low cost, we don't care if some piece breaks: it will be easy to replace it. That said, when used wisely, this dummy will rarely have problems (the model in the image, for example, is at least 15 years old).

The body (base and trunk):

6 robust metal modular shelves with holes (these are the stronger and less bendable ones)

About 16 stone tiles or sang bags (the heavier the better)

Eventually 4 plastic covers for the extremities of the modular shelves (at the base)

4 robust small chains of about

8 "S" shaped metal hooks or carabiners

12-14 screws and bolts (their diameter must fit the holes of the modular shelves)

The 7 arms:

7 light metal modular shelves with holes (these should be lighter and more "bendable")

1-2 longer chains

8 "S" shaped metal hooks or carabiners

12-14 screws and bolts (even in this case the diameter must fit the holes of the modular shelves)

The protections:

Each arm must be covered with very thick foam tubes or even paper towel rolls

In any case, in order not to damage the protections, it is necessary to wrap the metal arms with cardboard, bandages or rags, in order to create a sufficiently rounded thickness

The protections can be covered with professional materials (or eventually even with women socks)

A note by Master Kongling - The strong modular shelves should be all the same size and if possible even the lighter ones.

The measures of the reactive dummy

The correct references

As for the wooden dummy, the compositive parts should not be positioned at the same height for all the practitioners: they should be adjusted in relation to the student who will use it.

This, however, does not mean that we must be precise at the millimeter but generally speaking, that if we imagine a standing person (at attention):

The upper part should be at a height similar to the one of the practitioner

The superior central arm should be bent enough to force the practitioner to bend to avoid it

The 2 upper arms should be at the height of the shoulders

The 4 remaining arms can be positioned at the height we want (in relation to the training we want to focus on)

The indicative measures

The body:

175-185cm - Total height

100-120cm - Total arm length

50-60cm - The 4 robust small chains

200-300cm - The longer chains

200-220cm - The side of the base square that covered the supporting cross

The diameter of the protections depends on the material we use but even 10-15cm is not wrong

The angles:

All the angles of the modular shelves are at 90°

The only angle that is less than 90° is the upper arm that must "naturally" bend forward

The building details:

The base is a cross that is fixed centrally with 1 screw per side (the same screws that allows the connection with the central "trunk")

The ballast weights must be positioned near the center and the extremities of the cross

The trunk is made by 2 strong modular shelves fixed at the center with 8 screws (4 per side)

The trunk is fixed to the the base between the screws that connect its 4 compositive parts

The 4 small chains must be attached to the central structure in cross with the "S" hooks

The 6 intermediate arms must be positioned symmetrically and fixed to the central structure with 1 screw each

Each of the 3 intermediate left arms must be fixed above their respective 3 on the right side with a screw (with some play)

The elastic reactivity of the dummy is made possible by the long chain that passes inside and outside the back parts of the arms (as in the figure)

The chain that guarantee the reactivity is fixed to the structure throug the "S" hooks

The top arm is connected to the central structure (and the long chain) through 3-5 "S" hooks

The protections must be solidly fixed to the arms interlocking (or better with adhesive tape / glue able to withstand continuous stimulation)

Let's do not leave uncovered metal parts (especially the extremities of the limbs); in addition to this would be a good idea ti cover even the central part

A note by Master Kongling - We are not precise as normally because the Hydra dummy is functional but remains a prototype, if you need more details, you can check our DIY video course (where we also added the leg conditioning parts).

The charactiristics

Training possibilities:

Open hands pushing the metal bars

Bend, dodge, parry, channel

Concomitant / combined use of arms, legs, shoulders, head and knees

Slow but precise movements



The metal bends and returns the speed of the blows

Simultaneous attacks from various directions

Development of the ability to manage multiple instinctive tasks (read Concentration: reason and instinct)

Development of the ability to choose between dodge, parry, channeling, etc.

Development of the states of interaction (read Combat interactions: from the strong blow to the light touch)

Development of the ability to manage fast interactions (the number of limbs wor as a multiplcator od speed)

Low cost



Often is necessary to tighten the screws

If the protections are not well fixed internally, they slide down

We cannot hit at full power (and even medium is not reccomended)

The structure is relatively delicate


Final notes

A few conclusive thoughts:

This dummy (at the right moment) is very useful but it does not replace the others and it is not a crucial training tool for our practitioners (read also All the training dummies)

In the photo of the article we have removed the protections to better show the dummy's skeleton

The type of conditioning that we can achieve with this dummy is connected to instinctive defense, reactivity, multitasking, agility, timing, precision, coordination, trapping and (in part) counterattack; this to say that despite the relative resistance of its structure, it is not made to be attacked at full power

In any case, as we have mentioned (contrary to other dummies), if a part breaks it can easily be replaced, so let's not worry too much

In 6 Dragons Kung Fu, before arriving at the Hydra dummy, we start to train with a simple pole (read Basic Kung Fu exercises: Poles Training)


In the next articles of this series, we will see other types of training dummies and the exercises with the Hydra dummy.

In-depth video courses

DIY training tools for martial arts - A detailed and visual explanation about how to build all the most important training tools of 6 Dragons Kung Fu

Basic 6 Dragons Kung Fu Exercises - A video course regarding the fundamental 5 exercises you need to build real martial skills

In-depth articles

A reactive PVC wooden dummy - A training dummy capable of "reacting" to the practitioner's action

The Wing Chun dummy - Everything a martial arts practitioner needs to know about the wooden dummy


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

Have you ever built something with metal?

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