Iron Crotch

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Here on Language Log, we have devoted a considerable amount of attention to the terminology related to kungfu:

"Kung-fu (Gongfu) Tea" (7/20/11)

See also Ben Zimmer's masterful article on Visual Thesaurus:

"How 'Kung Fu' Entered the Popular Lexicon" (1/17/14)

Now we have documentation for another type of kungfu that has hitherto eluded us:

(YouTube video here.)

At first I thought this was some kind of put-on, but since it appears on the Twitter account of Global Times, a national Chinese newspaper that is published under the aegis of the People's Daily and is usually stodgy, stuffy, and somber, I had to take it seriously.  All the more so inasmuch as the kungfu master who practices and teaches this technique, Wei Yaobin, claims that it is beneficial to his health.

Lest swarms of Americans begin to take up this method in emulation of the master without understanding the risks attendant upon it, I decided to investigate the phenomenon just a bit beyond the sensational video demonstration tweeted by Global Times.

First task:  what's the Chinese for "Iron Crotch Kungfu"?

Tiědāng gōng 铁裆功

Google Translate renders that as "iron crotch power".

Curiously, Baidu Fanyi translates it as "Treamtent [sic] of impotence and prospermia", but also lists the following alternatives:  "iron crotch; iron crotch work; iron crotch power; iron cross function".  If you don't know what "prospermia" is, it is entertainingly described on this TCM website.

There really is such a thing as Iron Crotch Kongfu in China.  (It's far more real than Kung Fu Panda.)  Here's an article about Iron Crotch Kongfu that includes another video (with microscopic English subtitles) and several stomach-turning gifs.  The demonstrations took place on the streets of Luoyang, the important city in Henan Province near which the Shaolin monastery with its world-famous fighting monksis located.  The master of Iron Crotch Kungfu, Wei Yaobin, honed his gonad-numbing skills in that atmosphere of miraculous martial arts practitioners.  The whole thrust of the article is that Laowai ("foreigners") who witnessed this miraculous display of Chinese masculinity were stunned; the message being imparted is that they shouldn't mess with China in the Southeast Asian Sea.

The article also features a goofy looking foreigner dressed in kungfu garb saying:

nǐ zuì hǎo méiyǒu dàndàn 你最好沒有蛋蛋 ("You'd better not have any eggs")

At this site, there is a video featuring Western martial arts experts demonstrating "100 Ways to Attack the Groin".  Master Wei is putting those Western martial arts experts on notice:  even if you have a thousand ways to attack the groin, this Chinese man will not fear you.

Master Wei Yaobin's prowess is also featured in the Western press:

It seems to me that this sadistic kungfu technique is akin to what killed the most famous Western kungfu master, David Carradine, autoerotic asphyxiation.

Perhaps the most blunt comment on the Global Times video came from a colleague who is one of the world's leading specialists on Taoist cultivation:  "yuk! What are they? – eunuchs?"

[h.t. John Rohsenow; thanks to Fangyi Cheng and John Lagerwey]


  1. Mark P said,

    February 23, 2017 @ 11:02 pm

    Could this spell the end of America's Funniest Videos?

  2. Bob H said,

    February 24, 2017 @ 1:37 am

    High-school boys achieve the same effect by slow-dancing with pretty high-school girls.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    February 24, 2017 @ 12:58 pm

    From Jichang Lulu:

    Thanks for this great discussion of the tiedang gong. I'm reminded of the homophonous 铁裆公 or 'Iron Crotch Duke', an electronic device that was claimed to inguinally ferrify the user for a few hundred yuan and without the sort of training demanded by the ancestral technique. It came with a remote.

    A picture of the contraption can be found towards the end of this blog post, with my (French) translation of a technical description. The links have perished, and I can't locate the original Chinese text, but other mentions and pictures of the device can be googled up. That version comes with a CD.

    As it was the case with the Divine Ointment or the Time-Warping Soaked Towel I discussed here some time ago, 'Iron Crotch Duke' could be a generic name used by different manufacturers, or perhaps different repackagers of the same unsold stock.

  4. Robert said,

    March 5, 2017 @ 8:33 pm

    I have definitely seen this kind of "kung fu" some years before. One place it might have been was a credulous BBC "documentary" series called "Mind, Body and Kick-Ass Moves" that came out in 2004. Unfortunately I can't remember which episode.

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