Article by Emanuel Giordano
The wooden dummy is a tool often associated with Chinese martial arts. Popularized by a series of Chinese films, it is actually present in various martial arts, often adapted to the purpose of the training required. There are wooden dummy for the martial arts with bare hands, and wooden men for the armed ones, some have no moving parts, others are rich in joints. Okinawan Traditional Karate (and for a time also the Japanese one) has its own wooden dummy, which is called kakete-biki or, sometimes, kakiya.
This tool, originally, was composed of a wooden trunk to which, by means of a pin, a movable arm was connected, capable of rising and lowering when necessary. To simulate the resistance of the human body, a ballast was placed at the opposite end to that where one trained. The trunk was also covered with a padding, in order to allow the karateka to be able to hit it while performing the various techniques. Although you can still see kakete-biki made in this way, the tool has undergone an evolution over time, replacing the weight with elastic cords, and allowing greater mobility of the arm, in order to improve the quality and variety of training. Today it is possible to make various types of kakete-biki, sometimes using walls or columns as a base, and springs and elastic bands to allow the mobility of the arm and provide the necessary resistance. In the dojo of my master, Maeshiro Morinobu sensei, and at the Shidokan Shorin-ryu honbu dojo, there are kakete-biki in bamboo and rubber, or in metal, made according to different techniques, and bolted directly to the wall.
PURPOSE AND USE
The kakete-biki is used for solo training, and simulates the opponent's arm, in order to be able to train various exercises alone. It is thus possible to practice junbi undo alone (the junbi undo of our school is always practiced with a partner), to train basic and more complex techniques, including tuidi (joint manipulation). You can also train muchimi-di (sticky hands), by following a grip on the "wrist" to the various techniques, be they defense or attack. In short, just like in other martial arts, the wooden dummy of Karate serves to make up for (as far as possible) the lack of a training partner.
IS IT A FUNDAMENTAL TOOL LIKE THE MAKIWARA?
The answer is simple: no! First of all, no master of the past indicates it as a fundamental tool for the practice, unlike the makiwara. From a practical point of view, however (and this also explains the previous point), the motivation is simple and obvious: 99% of what can be done with a kakete-biki can be done better with a training partner, while the opposite is not true. In fact, the kakete-biki is a tool FOR SOLO TRAINING, and so it is still taught in Okinawa. If you don't have a partner available, and you want to train a technique, you can do it with the kakete-biki! The makiwara, on the other hand, does not replace anyone, but is a tool with various specific purposes.