Not politically correct but in this case perfectly applicable. We're referring of course to the Life Size Dummy you work out with. Did you say you don't have one? You should. Absolutely and positively. First of all it gives you life-like targets to strike and to do it with power. It lets you know if you've really hit the target or missed. And if you've missed, by how much.

When we learn the basics of the Art, we learn them in the air, not striking anything. We learn proper form, balance and all of the principles involved in accuracy, speed and power. In time you gain a rhythm and as you progress into the techniques your rhythm becomes smoother and more sophisticated. It's the way the Art is taught and always has been.

Remember the first time you took a combination you learned in the air and then tried to apply it to the body of your workout partner? Everything changed didn't it. Suddenly most of the movements had to be altered from what and where you thought they were, but in time they smoothed out again and through disciplined, repetitious exercise you were eventually able to whiz through those movements with blinding speed. Naturally you couldn't make any contact or you would be minus one workout partner. But it's still a good way to learn and perfect the movements.

Somewhere along the line you've got to hit something with resistance, something that stops the blow, something that lets you know if you're on target, something that disrupts the flow, something that challenges your balance, in other words, something that changes just about everything. How'd you guess? A Life Size Dummy. They're great and they don't hit back. Actually, that's the only drawback. However you can make them hit back if you put a person behind the dummy and he takes a swing at you so you are forced to block, which is the reason they were intentionally designed without arms.

Let me give you a little background on our dummy building history. The first full size dummy I built was somewhere back in the sixties. He was constructed of wood, wrapped with old discarded clothes and bound with cord. He took a couple of days to build and lasted less than a couple of hours at the dojo. He was pathetic. His name was Frank N. Stein. Later, came Frankie the second. He was constructed out of galvanized pipe, wrapped with cut-up moving pads and again bound with cord. You have to remember, this was before duct tape was available.

Frankie the second was screwed as tight as a couple of pipe wrenches could tighten a series of threads but it didn't take the "animals" at the dojo long to loosen him beyond usefulness. He fell apart and died. Then came "Crazy George", dummy number three. Actually crazy George our student came first, then dummy number three, who picked up the name for the same reasons the student did. You couldn't seem to hurt either of them. Even at that, Crazy George the dummy didn't last nearly as long as Crazy George the student, even though he was welded at the joints. The dummy that is, not the student. Crazy George, the student, was welded somewhere between reality and a spinning heel kick. One of Ed Parker's old Blackbelts, Randy Streator kicked Crazy George, the dummy, so hard he broke one of the welds in the chest. The same kick to Crazy George, the student, would probably only have gotten a grin out of him.

After Crazy George (the dummy) was killed not much happened in dummy building until PVC pipe and duct tape came along. With glue that literally welds the joints it became feasible to try it again and enter Mr. Silverman. This dummy was finished so completely with duct tape he was totally silver, thus the name. If you'll recall from the Orange belt video we showed the PVC skeletal structure of the dummy we were using at that time. It looked something like this:



There was a built-in flaw in this design where the arrows point. The hip joint couldn't take the tremendous torque put upon them by the kicks and eventually broke, each and every time. There was another problem with the way the dummies were mounted on the plywood bases. They were mounted permanently and there was no easy way to dismantle them for storage and they took up quite a bit of space. Thanks to one of our students ingenuity we can now store several of them in a relatively small space. We have also solved the problem with the hip joints.


Figure 1

Figure #1 shows the new skeletal structure. You'll notice among other things that we are now mounting at the edge of the plywood base. It eliminates having to negotiate the edge of the three quarter inch piece of plywood and the dummy is never going to fall forward anyway. There are other considerations for front mounting which you'll see later. The real advantage in this design is having eliminated the use of a PVC elbow joint at the hip. Now the line runs straight up legs, through the hips and into the torso. With the new mounting system we can also incorporate a galvanized pipe through that entire area.


Figure #2 shows the lower extremities wrapped as well as the head attached to the shoulder cross-member. We found, if you wrap the entire torso before building the head, all that will be holding it on is tape and eventually you'll tear it off and possibly break his neck, as we have done. Notice also in figure #2 the pipes standing alongside his legs. These are the reinforcement system that screw into the flanges secured to the plywood base, then the dummy is slipped over the pipe.

Figure 2


Figure 3

Figure #3 shows the finished product with one more addition. We've made him four inches taller by using PVC spacers slipped onto the pipe before we slipped him on. This way, people of varying heights can use the same dummy.

Figure 4Figure #4 is a close-up of the kind of flange you'll need. For esthetic reasons you'll want to build the hips out a little further as we did after this photo was taken.

Material-wise we have found that PVC is feasible and very practical, especially price-wise. As far as durability is concerned, we have been beating on this guy for some time now and he's holding up beautifully. The cost of putting a live-size dummy together made out of PVC, excluding the plywood base but including everything else, which is the PVC, glue, flanges for the base, screws nuts and washers for the flanges and the pipes for mounting plus about three point two miles of duct tape, is about $39.00. We've found that the best wrapping is used carpet. We got ours free from a local carpet store. They really have no use for used carpet and just gave it to us. But be advised...... a dummy made out of PVC is going to break! No matter what you do to reinforce him, in time he's going to break and repairing them is no simple matter. We have found that when it does break it's best to throw it away and build a new one from scratch, saving the hardware of course. But there is an alternative.

Figure 5Enter ULTRA-MAN. At a cost of about seventy five to ninety dollars, depending on your resources and what kind of contacts you have, you can BUILD what we call, "ULTRA-MAN" (Fig #5). He's .068 gauge, one and a quarter inch square tube steel, four-way welded at all joints, on twelve inch long pegs, of one inch square tube steel, four-way welded onto a nine by twenty-six, quarter inch thick steel plate, with another plate under the plywood base which is drilled and tapped for six, quarter inch no.18 hex head bolts. He's clean, he's simple and above all he's immortal. This guy is never going away. He'll be here long after we're gone.

Ultra-man has more weight than a PVC dummy and by using a mounting peg one quarter of an inch smaller than the square tube you used for the internal structure, you'll get just the right amount of movement when you strike him. You don't want him as solid as as the rock of Gibraltar.

The materials and dimensions we used are:

Two - 541/2" vertical lengths of 11/4" square steel tube.

Two - 8" horizontal lengths of 11/4" square steel tube.

One - 7" neck and head piece of 11/4" square steel tube.

For mounting:

Two 12" long 1" square lengths (solid or tube).

Two 9" X 24" X 1/4" (approx) steel plate.

Drill the holes in the top plate larger than the ones on the bottom, which will be drilled and tapped to accommodate 1/4" hex head bolts. To determine the length of the bolts you will have to measure the thickness of your plywood base plus the steel. For added strength, we doubled our plywood base thickness to 11/2". Drill the holes in your plywood base much larger than the holes in the steel or you'll go crazy trying to line them up. We made them 3/4" and it still just narrowly worked. You can tighten the plates, using the bolts, to eliminate any unwanted movement between them.

The above dimensions will build a dummy approximately five feet nine inches tall when mounted on a double three quarter inch plywood base. You can also use the same height adjustment system described earlier by having a series of the inch and a quarter square tube cut for spacers. In the final wrap it's a good idea to incorporate a layer of foam over the striking surfaces that will be struck by the hands. Your students will thank you and you will thank yourself.

Figure 6Figure 7

Figure #6 shows how we built the hips and shoulders out and established the head before he was filled in and the face was built on. Figure # 7 shows all four of our guys from the smaller on the extreme left (mostly used by the women) to the tallest (black top, white pants) for the giants in the class. With a dozen people working on this set-up at the same time you are never more than two people away from your next turn which is barely enough time to catch your breath. It really helps keep the energy of the class up, not having to wait too long to hit something.

A heavy bag will give you resistance for building power in your strikes but lacks the reality of hitting a target. The life-size dummy gives you resistance and targets. If you only practice in the air or with a partner, that you can't make contact on, you're only going two thirds of the way in your training. You've got to hit something that has substance or you'll never know what it feels like to have your timing, balance, coordination, stability, accuracy and sped change all in the same blink of an eye. When you have felt all those things being instantly altered you can begin to work your way back to the smoothness you once felt and it doesn't take as long as you might expect. The one place you don't want to find out how disruptive it can be, is on the street. You will also find out which of your blows have natural power and which have to be worked on.

Last but not least, is the exhilaration of sight, sound and feel that you get when your knuckles penetrate, your kicks jolt, your forearms slam, your chops fracture, your heel-palms smash, your middle fingers pierce and your knees wallop, when you've done a perfect series of techniques on your ever willing life-size dummy. Kind of makes you want to salivate, doesn't it?

We'll be using the dummies extensively in our new training video featuring DRILLS, coming soon.



Ultra ManUltra Man

We supplied the membership with the specifications, material list and diagram for building your own Life Size Dummy. When we ask our video students if they have built one yet, the list of reasons they haven't, is almost as diverse as the number of people asked. Many said they simply didn't have the time, place or resources to build their own from scratch.

Many have vowed to do it in the future but asked if there was any way of just buying one instead. Until now the answer has been no. Now we are happy to report that we have made arrangements with a national manufacturer of boxing and other fighting equipment, to manufacture them, to our specifications and design.

The prototype is here and we've been trying to kill him since the moment he arrived. No luck. He's has a square channel, four way welded steel frame, covered with a foam you can beat on all day long without causing yourself discomfort and without showing the least bit of wear or tear on him. His torso and head are encased in a fitted, rugged, heavyweight canvas shell. HE'S MAGNIFICENT! WE LOVE HIM!

In keeping with our latest design he's geared for height adjustments, the foam however is really much better than wrapping carpet around the steel frame. We would advise you to do the same if you are going to build your own. Wrapping carpet around the frame makes it almost as hard as the steel itself. We tried foam early on. We didn't like it because it was not dense enough and we were striking through it. We didn't know about the various densities of foam.

Some like him naked but we like to put a gi on him. We like being able to grab hold of something when we feel like it and we want to see both of the pant legs pop up when a ball kick is delivered directly to the center of the groin. It's a visual we enjoy. It tells us if we are on target.

He is also designed for easy storage in a small amount of space. The steel base that he slides onto is in two pieces for maximum stability when mounted upon your plywood foundation. The two piece steel base bolts together, sandwiching your plywood foundation between them.

Now for the best part. The Kenpo Ultra Man is available, delivered to your front door. All you have to supply is the plywood base. We also have a size 5 lightweight black uniform for him, or you can use an old one you might have lying around or any clothing that will fit. Visit the Karate Connection Online Store for pricing, or call us at (714) 229-0372.



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