Introduction: Karate Wooden Dummy

This Instructable will show how to make a wooden dummy; a centuries old training aid for martial arts to develop powerful blocks and hand speed. While originally from the Wing Chun style, this version is slightly tweaked to make it more applicable for Karate's straight in techniques.
      I am a 4th Dan black belt instructor in Isshinryu karate, and I make this a part of my regular training routine. This is the second one that I have built, the first one that I built to a similar design having lasted in good condition through 5+ years or training. In fact, the only reason that I build this second version is so that I would have one that folds so I can put it in my car to take to class. The cost is very reasonable at $106.56 +tax (possibly a lot cheaper - see parts list), when compared to the $902 for a wooden dummy from The attached PDF gives dimensioned drawings of the wooden dummy, as well as multiple 3D views.
     See below for a video of some of the drills that I use it for - you will see that it is very versatile. Also be sure to check out step 9 for extra features. I am planning on building several of these in the future that I can leave permanently at my school, so if you have any ideas for improvements please feel free to post.

Step 1: Parts List

Below is a list of everything you will need to make this project.

Unless otherwise noted, all item numbers are from Lowe's. Just go to and enter the item number in the search bar to see exactly what I am talking about.

1. 10-foot 10"x2" board, cut into a 6' section and a  3.5' section (Item #78045, $9.45)
2. 2 10-foot long 2"x4" boards, cut by your friendly Lowe's representative into the following pieces:
     (Item #27172, $4.27 each)
          a. 4" piece (x4)
          b. 9" piece (x2)
          c. 5.75" piece (x2)
          d. 19" piece (x2)
          e. 3' piece (x1)
           f. 5' piece (x2)
3. 12"x24"x1" Red Oak board (Item #9355, $12.96)
4. 4 3/8"-16X3-1/2 Grade 8 bolts (Item #136102, $1.46/2 pack)
5. 4 Flat washers 3/8-16 Grade 8 (Item #136056, $1.09/pack)
6. 4 Hex nuts 3/8-16 Grade 8 (Item #136068, $1.21/pack)
7. 3 3" 5/8R Satin brass door hinges (Item #308904, $2.17 each)
8. 3" screws, approx. 41 (Item #112363; buy from local store where you can buy just what you need by weight)
9. 1.25" screws, approx. 8 (Item #227168; same as above)
10. 3 Rubber bands (From, item ULG1047, $1.89/bag - should just have some lying around :) )
11. Large cloth makiwara (from, Item #20-85, $30.79)
12. Small cloth makiwara (from, Item #20-84, $24.59)
         Note: The makiwaras make up most of the expense of this project. You could
         substitute cloth over foam similar to my Homemade Leg Press machine instructable
         for a lot less cost.
12. 60" straight bo staffred oak, cut into 3 equal sections (from, Item #30-60, $24.99)
         Note: I used this to be sure it was extra sturdy, but after using it I think standard 1" dowels
         would work just fine and cost a lot less (Lowes, 2 of the 1"Dia. x 36"L Oak Round Dowels,
         item #19425, $4.25/each)
13. Optional: Minwax wood finish, English Chestnut 233 (Item # 74469, $4.77)
14. Optional: Minwax polyurethane, clear semi-gloss (Item # 45870, $6.47)

1. Drill
2. Measuring tape
3. 12" drill bit extension
4. Various drill bits, including a 1-1/8" spade bit
5. Small hand saw
6. Protractor

While building this wooden dummy, you will be using several things that could be potentially dangerous. For chemicals (stain, varnish), make sure to only use them where there is plenty of ventilation and no open flames around. For the tools (drill, saw), make sure you have read the owners manual for your specific tool and know how to use it, and wear the appropriate protective clothing (safety glasses, gloves). For safety in using the finished wooden dummy, this instructable assumes that the person building it has been trained in its use at a qualified martial arts school.

Step 2: Staining

This step is optional, though I think it made for a much nicer looking finished product. Pick out the stain and clear coat finish of your choice, and follow the direction on the can. For myself, I chose Minwax wood finish, English Chestnut, and Minwax polyurethane, clear semi-gloss. I only stained the three main pieces, and left the rest their natural color to give a contrast. I applied the stain with a foam brush and let it set for 10 minutes before wiping off the excess. I let the pieces dry overnight, and then applied a coat of varnish. Letting it dry for 4 hours, I gave it a very light sanding with 220 sandpaper, and then applied another coat. After that, I gave it one last light sanding to finish it off. I also varnished the pieces that I had not stained, just to give it a uniform look. Make sure you chose a well ventilated area for this, the fumes can get pretty potent.

Step 3: The Main Frame

The first thing to do is get the main frame fastened together. I used hinges so that the wooden dummy can fold for travel/storage. If that is not a concern to you, you could use shelf brackets. However, when using it I have not noticed any loss in stability by using hinges.

It is helpful for this step to have someone help you hold the board upright as you screw in the hinges. All three hinges should fit right next to each other to fill up the entire width of the board. I just used the screws that came with the hinges.

Step 4: The Supports

Once the side supports are installed, the project will be able to stand on its own for the rest of the project.

1. Taking 2 of the 4" pieces, drill 3 pilot holes each and then screw them into the sides of the 6' board, so that the top of the pieces are 18" from the top of the 6' board.

2. Drill a 3/8" hole in each piece for the bolt (reference photo).

3. Drill a 3/8" hole in the end of each 5' board, and bolt them to the outside of the 4" pieces you just installed.

4. Mark where the 5' boards meet the base board to confirm the location for the other 4" pieces. It should be around 29.5" from the front.

5. Give the second pair of 4" pieces the same treatment from bullet 1.

6. Holding the other end of the 5' board where it should be on the lower 4" pieces, drill a 3/8" hole through both pieces at the same time. IMPORTANT: It is necessary to do it this way - if you drill through one piece at a time, it is almost a guarantee that the holes will not match up perfectly.

7. Bolt everything together to finish this step.

Step 5: Middle Punching Board

The middle punching board will hold the arms, as well as the main makiwara pad.

1. Take the 1'x2' oak board and align two 19" boards and the two 5.75" boards on it as show in the photo.
            (the bottoms of the two 19" boards aligned with the bottom the 1'x2' board, with the two 5.75"
             boards between them. The lower 5.75" board should be 4" up from the bottom.)
     Getting someone to help hold everything in place, flip everything over so you can screw it together from the front.

2. This will take some educated guess work, so take your time to get this right. Starting at the bottom where you can see the 19" boards, and drill pilot holes and screw them to the 1'x'2' board with the 3" screws. Continue on and screw together the rest of the pieces from there. I used 3 screws each for the 19" boards and 2 screws in each 5.75" board.

3. With someone's help to hold the assembly, screw it to the main 6' board from the back. I used 2 screws for each 19" board and 2 screws for each 5.75" board. This assured that the screws in the back would not run into the screws holding the 1'x2' board in place.

Step 6: Arm Holes

This step is the most difficult, because it is accomplished mostly be dead reckoning. I have not included dimensions on where to locate the holes for the arms on purpose, because I attempted to transfer dimensions from my old wooden dummy to the new one, and it quickly became apparent that it would not make it come out right. Based on that, I do not want to try and give dimensions that may result in arms that are too narrow/wide/etc.

Using the photos below as a guideline, drill your first hole for the right upper arm through the 1'x2' board at about the right angle. Before you go ahead and drill through the 6' board, stick one of your wooden arms in the hole and mark on the 6' board about where the hole should be to get the right angle. I had a 40 degree spread between my arms, or 20 degrees off center for each arm. A protractor would help for this step - I just used an app that I had on my phone and it worked out fine. After you drill the continuation hole through the 6' board, repeat this process for the left arm. I tilted mine up a little on purpose so that I could have a slight variety of heights to block with depending on how close to wooden dummy I am.

The lower leg is very straight forward - just drill a hole dead center and straight in just below the large makiwara.

Step 7: Upper Punching Board

This step is a relatively simple affair. Taking the smaller makawara board, screw the two 9" pieces to the top and bottom. Then screw the assembly to the main 6' board 2" from the top, using 4 3" screws per 9" board.
Make sure through all of this you are remembering to drill pilot holes first.

Step 8: Base Board

The last step, and an easy one, is to attach the base board to keep the wooden dummy from rocking from side to side during use. I just used 5 3" screws in the pattern shown in the photo. I know it is a bit of trouble, but I would have the wooden dummy sitting up straight on the ground as you do this, to ensure that you are attaching it on perfectly straight and it touches the ground without a gap on each side.

And that's it! You have completed building your own wooden dummy! Continue to the next step for hints on use and care.

Step 9: Extra Features

In this step I am going to show two features from my previous wooden dummy that you may enjoy.

For the first feature, I made it so that the height was adjustable for the user. I had everything fastened to a secondary board that bolted to the 6' board, with 2 sets of holes so that it had 2 height settings about 8" apart.

The second feature was a third hole for an arm at the top, going straight in. In this hole I placed a Power Twister exercise bar ($19.95 from This allowed for some very effective parry/strike combos. See photos.

Step 10: Use and Care

As a reminder, this project assumes the builder has already been trained in how to use a wooden dummy, or at least the proper ways to block and punch to avoid injury in training. The user assumes all responsibility when using and training on this device. With all that said, see below for tips on its use:

1. As you are inserting the wooden arms, wrap a rubber band around them on the part that is between the 1'x2' board and the 6' board. This will provide friction to prevent the arms from sliding out during use.

2. The base board is just the right width to lay several cinder blocks on to prevent  the wooden dummy from moving too much during use. I would lay a towel or piece of rubber matting down first to protect the wood. If you will notice in the video, I have a couple bags of concrete mix weighting it down.

3. The safety of any device is dependent on it being in good condition. If a part starts to get worn or cracked, replace it immediately. However, the way this wooden dummy is built, you should not have to worry about that for a long time.

Be sure to watch the youtube video linked in the introduction for a few drills that work well on this wooden dummy. And as I mention before, if you have any ideas for improvements, do not be shy about posting!

Thanks again, and see you next Instructable!

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