Homemade Grappling Dummy

Updated: 11/12/2007

The Why

I go to class 2 times a week (that's all it's offered in my area... and there are no other schools nearby). Of that class, it's about 45 minutes of drilling and 15 minutes of rolling. I just do not feel that 45 minutes 2 times a week is enough to perfect a move or technique in the timeframe I would like. I also saw the prices on the grappling dummies you can buy online. I just can't imagine spending that kind of money when I can do the leg work and make one for a faction of the cost.

The How

I am going to run you through how to do this without much leg work. I've already done that for you =) I will list out what you need, what I paid, how to put it together... everything. So, lets get started.

What to buy

Qty Item Description How much Price Where
1 4/0, 4/0, 4/0, 2/0 Heavy Gauge Wire This is fairly heavy duty electrical wire. You get 4 wires in one bundle. I ended up using all 4. 7 feet $4.49 per foot Hardware Store
1 3/4" PVC Just normal PVC pipe. It's about 8 feet long About $2.00 Hardware Store
1 Multi-Purpose Poly-Cord This is to hold the PVC together for the joints. I used 5/32 thick cord. You get about 50 feet in a roll About $4.99 per roll Hardware Store
5 Duct Tape I used Outdoor 3M Duct Tape. It's 55 years long per roll. 5 at 55 yards = 275 yards $7.96 per roll Hardware Store
1 Mop Head Used one of those old fashioned string type mops (not the new sponge ones). Just 1 mop About $1.00 Dollar store
1 1 inch High Density Foam Sheet It's about 2.5 yards long (approximately 90 inches) and 24 inches wide and 1 inch thick. 1 Sheet About $11 per yard Craft Store
1 2 inch High Density Foam Sheet It's about 2.5 yards long (approximately 90 inches) and 24 inches wide and 2 inches thick. 1 Sheet About $20 per yard Craft Store
1 3 inch High Density Foam You don't need as much of this as the 2 inch foam. I got about 24 inches 24 inches About $30 per yard Craft Store
1 4 inch High Density Foam Again, you don't need as much of this as the 2 inch foam. I got about 24 inches of this also. 24 inches About $40 per yard Craft Store
1 Cotton Sweat Shirt Just some cheap cotton sweat shirt. Nothing special. Just 1 About $7 Wal-Mart?

Total cost: About $150ish depending on tax and all that jazz.

Hint 1: The foam will probably be your most expensive part. I don't know about your area, but in mine, there are flyers that come in the local paper for the Jo-Ann Fabric store (my wife keyed me in on this). They give you 40% off one item. That is a big savings when you are taking about $100 for just the foam itself. You could go get 4 Sunday papers and go in 4 times to get 40% off each foam purchase. =) That would bring the total cost of the dummy down to around $100.

Hint 2: Cutting the foam is very easy if you have one of those electric knives. It cuts like butter. Scissors are just to clumsy.

Finished weight is about 50 lbs.

Lets get started

Here is what the Heavy Gauge Wire will look like when you go to buy it.

The first thing we need to do is cut the Heavy Gauge Wire into the proper length. You may have to adjust this if you want something smaller. I am 6' 3" tall, so I wanted something about my height. The measurements are to get a dummy about that big.

Legs: 100 Inches
Arms: 70 Inches
Torso: 36 inches

This is going to give you a dummy about 6' 5" tall. I wanted a dummy a bit taller than me (I'm 6' 3") since it will allow better movement and will give me more room to perfect my technique. I will probably make a smaller one at some point, but this is a good starting point. So, given the dimensions of the dummy, you'll want to scale it to how big you are.

After you cut it you'll end up with something like this:

You are now ready to start assembling the pieces. Get your duct tape ready!

Assembling the Legs

Here is a picture of the duct tape I used:

The first thing to do is to put the legs on the torso. It's about as much fun as watching paint dry as you have to get it very sturdy! Here is what it will look like once you have it all set.

Basically, I found the middle of the 100 inch wire... then I just rounded the wire, held the wire towards the ceiling and just starting wrapping the tape around it. Every once in awhile I would test the strength. As long as I didn't hear the tape crackling like it was going to give way, I figured it was good. It felt very strong.

The PVC for the Legs

I cut 4 pieces of PVC to accommodate the joints. Here are the lengths:

Thigh: 16 Inches
Calf: 13 Inches

So you will have two pieces of PVC at 16 inches and two pieces at 13 inches. Four pieces total. I then used a drill (with a 7/32 drill bit) to drill 1 hole in one side of each of the PVC (there is no need to drill all the way through both sides). Here is what it will look like:

Now, take one of the 16 inch pieces and one of the 13 inch pieces and connect them with the rope. I left about 2 inches of space and knotted each end (I also melted each end of the rope with a lighter so I was sure it would stay secure). I then slid the PVC up on each leg. Just make sure the 16 inch PVC goes on first.

Here is a picture of the Poly-Cord I used:

The following picture is on a close-up of how the rope is connected:

Here is how it will look once it's totally on:

And the final look of the legs with knees bent.

You will notice (around the ankle area) that there is a truckload of duct tape. That was my initial mistake. I had to connect an extra 10 inches of wire so that the legs would be long enough. I got into the Dummy's guard and the legs just were not long enough for me. So I attached the "feet" to make them a little longer. I've already taken into account this extra length when I told you how long to cut the wire... so when you cut the legs at 100 inches, you won't have to attach feet. The only thing I recommend is to wrap some duct tape near the bottom of the PVC (near the ankle) so it won't slide.

The legs are done at this point (at least for the internal frame portion).

Assembling the Arms

This is done in the same way as the legs... it just goes near the "head" of the torso.

Basically, I found the middle of the 70 inch peice of Heavy Gauge Wire, put it on top of the torso wire (10 inches down from the top of the wire) and started wrapping. It will end up looking like this:

The PVC for the Arms

Again we'll need to cut 4 pieces of PVC to make the joints. The following lengths were used for my dummy.

Forearm: 11.5 Inches
Upper Arm: 13.5 Inches

You will drill holes in the PVC in the same way as you did for the legs. I won't repost pictures as you can refer to the Legs section for how to drill the holes. You will also put the rope in the same way you did with the Legs. The end result will look similar to the following:

Just a note is that you will notice duct tape at the "hand" area of the arms. This is so the PVC doesn't slid down the arm. If it slides, it will not allow the elbow to move properly.

The Head

I got a mop from a dollar store (and seriously, it was a buck). I then cut the handle to about 8 inches (about the length of the "neck" area of the wire). Here is what it looks like cut:

I attached it to the wire with more duct tape.

I then balled up the mop, but an old sweat shirt on it (to give it some more bulk) and duct taped that ... shaping it as I went. The final outcome was as follows:

The head doesn't have to be perfectly symmetrical (yet). We will fix that with the high density foam. For the time being, just make it round so it can be covered. The foam is much easier to handle and form the way you want it.

Foaming the Body

The following pictures are going to be of the process of foaming the body. Things to keep in mind:

The Arms and Head

Again, used 2 inch foam for these.

The following picture is of the completed arms and head. Remember, use a separate piece of foam for the upper arms then insert a 1 inch peice for the elbow. This makes it so the foam has less chance of ripping when bending. I then bent the arm like an elbow would bend. The tape pulled apart a little. I taped that up and bent it a few times to see if there was any "ripping" sounds. I heard nothing.

The head was easy. I put the foam on and instead of gently wrapping the tape like I did with the arms... I did it very tight to make it as hard as possible. It's a head after all. =) Forming the head with the foam was easy. I measured around the sweatshirt I already put on, cut the foam to size and wrapped it.

The head ended up very nice and study... and very symmetrical. Once the neck is in place, it will complete the look.


These I also wrapped fairly tight. Feet are hard, so I tried to make them that way. Before I wrapped them in foam, I straightened them out. Once wrapped, I bent them into position. The tape pulled away a little so I retapped that part. After that, I had very workable feet.


Again, I used the 3 inch foam for the calves and then attached them to the feet.

The thighs I used the 4 inch foam and attached them to the calves. Remember, use a small peice for the knees before you tape them together.

I did the same thing with the knees as I did with the elbows. I bent them and repatched were the tape pulled away. This gave the legs a decent tapered look.


The torso did not feel very solid to me. And I knew it was going to be the heaviest part of the dummy. So I went ahead and reinforced it with the 2/0 wire I got when I purchased the 4/0 wire.

I then duct taped that to the entire torso so it was very solid. The following picture is of the torso wire being fully taped.:

Also note that the neck is also done. I used 3 inch foam for that.

For the actual torso, I used 1 firm pillow. I put the pillow in a pillow case and stuffed it with the 2 inch foam I had left over. I then taped it to the body frame. After it was taped somewhat, I then wrapped the entire thing with 1 inch foam and taped it completely. I filled in the ball-and-socket joints (hips and shoulders) with extra foam I had and taped that together. The outcome was as follows:

I finished it off by taping any foam exposed. The finished dummy looks like this:

He is fairly sturdy and can move into a lot of positions.

I hope you found this helpful. I do want to give credit to those that have done this before me. I used some of each design to build my own.



I don't mind folks using this and linking to it on their own website.. just don't sell it and give credit where credit is due.

Thanks for viewing,


You can email me questions or corrections: mamoth@gmail.com

The last thing to mention is that I did not include all the pictures I took on this page but you are welcome to view them: http://wtfe.net/dummy/pics/