Inside the ancient dying art of Iron Crotch Kung Fu

Reuters recently published one of those stories I never knew I needed: a profile of Wang Liutai, a 65-year-old kung fu master with two children who is struggling to continue the dying martial art tradition of so-called "iron crotch kung fu."

I specify the number of children he has because Wang insists that the martial art, which involves swinging a 6.5-feet long, 88-pound steel-capped log into your crotch, has no impact on fertility if done correctly.

"When you practise iron crotch kung fu, as long as you push yourself, you will feel great," he told Reuters. Okay.

The iron crotch, mastery of which is gained by taking hits to the body's weakest points while using qigong breathing techniques to inure oneself, is just one element of the branch of Tongbeiquan kung fu that has been practised in Wang's village for the past 300 years. The style encompasses scores of attack techniques as well as resisting pressure, pain or hits to other sensitive areas.

"We also have iron throat, iron head, iron chest, and iron back as well," said fellow master 53-year-old Tang Xiaocheng.

The style of kung fu practised by those in Juntun village on the outskirts of the ancient capital of Luoyang was historically a fiercely guarded secret, but concern has grown that fewer and fewer people were taking it up and it might not survive.

There were once around 200 people regularly practising in the village, said Tang, but now there are just over 20. The number that can practise the iron crotch technique has dropped from around 80 to just five.

How this has not yet been turned into a Dances With Wolves/Avatar-esque white savior cultural appropriation movie starring Jack Black is beyond me. But hey, if you're looking for a new quarantine hobby…

Chinese "iron crotch" kung fu masters fight to preserve a painful-looking tradition [Martin Quin Pollard / Reuters]