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WATCH | Crouching tiger, iron ... crotch? Ancient wince-inducing kung fu faces 'extinction'

10 December 2020 - 12:22 By Reuters

Wang Liutai practises the ancient art of “iron crotch” kung fu, which involves smashing the crotch with a steel-capped log or other heavy object. For some reason, it has been struggling to draw new recruits. 

Iron crotch's most famous technique involves swinging a steel-plate-capped, two-metre-long log through the air to smash into a man's crotch.

“When you practise iron crotch kung fu, as long as you push yourself, you will feel great afterwards,” says 65-year-old Wang.

Wang is the head of the Juntun Martial Arts Academy, and has been practising the terrifying technique for about half a century.

He has two children, and insists that with the correct technique and plenty of practice, it doesn't hurt the practitioner or harm fertility.

“Please don’t worry about this. We have done a lot of training. Now we have over 1,400 people in our village. If practising this damaged this part of the body permanently, then over time no-one would do it. With this, the more you practise, the stronger you become. Without such practise, who would dare practise iron crotch kung fu? The method we use is: internally we practise breathing, externally we practise muscles and bones,” Liutai says. 

Swinging a 40kg tree trunk into the crotch is just one aspect. It's part of a kung fu branch called Tongbeiquan, which is mastered by taking hits to the body's weakest points while using qigong breathing techniques to inure oneself to pain - the idea being that once you can take a whack to the crotch, you can pretty much take anything.

It also encompasses attack techniques and resisting pressure.

Iron crotch is only one element. We also have iron throat, iron head, iron chest, and iron back as well.
Tang Xiaocheng

Fellow master Tang Xiaocheng explains how the crotch is not the only area targeted.

“For example, our eyes, nose, throat, back of the head, chest, crotch, everywhere of our body needs to be hit and patted. This is very helpful for improving one’s physical condition. Iron crotch is only one element. We also have iron throat, iron head, iron chest, and iron back as well. After completing all the necessary training and study, you can reap the physical rewards.”

Tongbeiquan kung fu has been practised for 300 years in the village of Juntun.

Some are worried that fewer people are taking it up - and it might not survive. Tang says there were once about 200 regular Tongbeiquan practitioners, now there are just more than 20. For iron crotch itself - numbers have dropped from 80 to just five people who can still do it.

Wang and his fellow masters have started actively promoting their style - adopting the swinging log for demonstrations, where previously villagers relied on kicks, punches, bricks and sticks.

They've gained several new students across the country, who are learning using videos and social media.