I started learning a martial art about 5 years ago, and I did it for 2 years. I very liked it, however I had to stop.

I didn't want to lose what I've already learned, so I kept practicing. Alone. Doing the forms, punching, blocking, kicking in the air, imaginary enemies etc.

Sometimes I stopped for a few months, because of university and other things.

I feel like I kept myself in a good shape, I still remember almost all the things.

One day I will continue to practice like I did before, but I want to finish my studies and have a good job.

My question is, is it worth practicing alone? How should I do it in the most efficient way?

(A wooden dummy would be awesome but that is way too expensive.)

I really would like to practice with somebody, however I don't know anyone who lives near, and I don't know any place we could go to practice.

  • 1
    What style did you study?
    – アキオ
    Jul 16, 2013 at 19:47
  • Wing-Tsun Kung-Fu
    – otisonoza
    Jul 16, 2013 at 20:06

8 Answers 8


Okay well if you do wing chun that is great, so do i! Yes it is definitely worth practicing alone. Here are some of the things i do:

Get a 3 section wall bag and a wet towel (with somewhere to hang it). Assuming you have correct form on your sun fist punch, you should practice punching the center of a wet towel with out any water flicking back onto you. And with the wall bag (if you can not get one or have no where to put it, wrap towels around a tree) repeatedly throw a strike of any kind and a block to accompany it. This is good for muscle memory for striking and blocking. For example, tan sau and straight punch, switch to bong sau with turn and back fist, then lap sau and low punch. Basically just combine attacks and blocks as you hit the bag. Also practice chain punching and following up with kicks and strikes from different directions.

Also do you know the forms Siu Lim Tao, Chum Kiu or Biu Jee? Practicing the forms slowly, as in taking half an hour to complete the form, will be excellent for training your stances. If you are proficient with Siu Lim Tao, try doing it on one leg.

Also footwork drills are very important. Repeatedly practice short steps, long steps, (both with and without switching feet), changing direction, moving sideways etc. A good footwork drill (and later on, handwork drill as well) it to imagine a clock on the floor. Your opponent is at 12 and you are at 6. Start in neutral wing chun stance, practice stepping to different numbers, whilst keeping your front foot and your stance facing 12, and then step back to 6. After a while, start doing this with an attack as well, just remember you always want to be facing your opponent at 12 and make sure you have your weight aligned properly on each foot. If you have not done this before, start slowly.

You will be glad to know you can become a good wing chun practitioner without ever sparring or fighting, all it takes is dedication. And you can practice anywhere, you can practice wing chun standing still, at work, in the shower. If you want room, go find a park or field, or a small woods or forest somewhere.

  • Thanks for your answer, it's encouraging. I only know the Siu Lim Tao and Chum Kiu forms, but I know applications from Biu Jee and Muk Yan Chong, and I know a bit of Chi Sau too. Doing the Siu Lim Tao on one leg sounds very interesting, I'll give it a try. :)
    – otisonoza
    Jul 17, 2013 at 15:03
  • Disagree with comment about being a good Wing Chun practicioner without sparring. We should never seek to fight, by my definition of fight (attempting to injure/kill each other), but without sparring there is no way to develop the timing and spatial awareness you need if you were forced to fight. Jun 19, 2014 at 14:19
  • 2
    Also, what is the purpose of the water not flicking back on you when you hit a wet towel? What are you supposed to do to make that not happen? Sincerely curious, since this is not a drill I've ever done in Wing Chun. Jun 19, 2014 at 14:20
  • Apologies for such a late reply. The towel has two purposes. Speed and precision. Hit it too slowly (not actually slow, just, slow for a strike?) or hit too far forward like you are going through the towel, and you get water on you. It helps you learn the right distance to hit, helps you learn control as trying to push through with the punch (which leads to elbow injuries) will get water on you, and again, strike fast enough and you wont get wet.
    – アキオ
    Mar 16, 2016 at 10:09

Practice on your own is pretty much an unavoidable element of the martial way past a certain point.

Other than developing your body through conditioning exercise (Bruce Lee's plyometrics are a good starting point), you can develop your body through breathing exercises (the Systema DVDs about breathing are pretty interesting and insightful).

It is important to develop a visualization ability as well. When working your forms, "see your opponent". Read these few pages from the manga Baki, Son of Ogre, to see a rather good example (if a little extreme) of what can be done with visualization. You can develop visualization with shadow-boxing and with form practice. Visualization is also helpful in building the neural connections to remember the applications / fighting aspects of your forms.

Finally, you can do sensitivity work without a partner, for instance by holding a ball against a wall and rolling it, kind of like n this video where you see a guy rolling a Pilates ball against a wall with various parts of his body.

Practice on your own also builds a certain kind of mental resilience. For me, this last one has proven the hardest to build, but the most valuable.


Without sparring partners and a coach, your best bet for solo practice is strength and conditioning work with a little heavy bag work, forms practice, and the like.


Actually there are many skills that can be developed through solo practice and some of them even benefit from the isolation. Evasion skills, such as those gained through Parkour or Ninjutsu training allow you to develop tools of self-defense without resorting to fighting and improve both physical skills as well as timing and strategic thinking. Speed bags, such as those that boxers use, can also allow you to train for dodging punches; hanging bags filled with sand can simulate multiple attackers.

As far as dummies go, there are some types of wooden man that can be hung from a rope allowing you to learn to judge the forward and backward movement of a technique. As for the wooden man itself being too pricey, a serviceable one can be made from PVC obtained at your local hardware store.

  • I would recommend getting something physical to punch like a punching bag if you have one. Imaginary targets are good but a bag will help you to practice at the correct distance for your art, like extending your arm the right length for a more powerful punch and parrying and all that.

  • Watching videos on your form of martial art might help you remember them really well. They are not good for learning though. I do krav maga and had to stop my class. I watch videos so I remember to do my techniques correctly. Focus on your stance and make sure you stay in it when shadow boxing.

Theres only so much you can do without a partner unfortunately, With a partner you can practice counters, blocks, and grappling to get an effective training session in.


I've given an anwser to a similar question detailing the structure of my solo training routine. https://martialarts.stackexchange.com/a/4288/3064

To answer your question if solo training is useful in my opinion, and I think this question is one of those that generates a lot of opinions and point of views which may all be different but none the less valid up to a point.

My personal take on the issue, which stems from my other activities in life where during various circumstances I was self learned in a lot of areas and advanced to a quite good level in some (e.g. my primary career for example).

I would say that any learning is better than none. At least you get a good physical activity and just for that it is valid to practice alone.

There are some benefits with solo practice which should not be easily dismissed in my opinion:

  • Easier time management and place of training management (since you are solo no other person needs to be there with you, you can do it in a dump 2x2 room if you so choose)
  • Ability to practice a drill or movement to your heart content (no partner to switch or complain about doing the same thing for 1000 times)
  • Ability to practice the perfect body movement, balance precision

To me practice with a partner is the adaptability of a general style to a specific opponents body type, so a trapping technique is a specific trapping technique for each opponent body type regardless of the same set of movements being used.


Cheap and highly efficient. If you rehearse your techniques in your head instead of physically doing it( which can be tough without a partner), in one year at an hour a day you will only lose 1% of your applicable progress. Not bad right?

  • 4
    Mental rehearsal is great, but it doesn't allow you to retain 99% of your skill over a year of not training with partners unless your original skill level was abysmal. Nov 30, 2013 at 10:35

I find it really hard to do it alone. I've stopped for half a year now because of it. Just lost the motivation I guess. Need to get back to watching Ip Man movies lol :)

  • 2
    This does not answer either of the questions: is it worth practicing alone? How should I do it in the most efficient way?
    – mattm
    Jul 6, 2017 at 1:20

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