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Smashing your balls with a brick: the weird art of tie dang gong

Last week a news video from China has been posted and reposted endlessly online thanks to its WTFactor. In it, retired railwayman Zhou Chengli demonstrates his daily training routine: he goes to the local park, flexes his muscles, stretches, use the publicly available equipment – then he proceeds to repeatedly hit his own balls with a hammer, a lead weight and a brick. The people passing by stop and watch perplexedly, then they cheer when it becomes clear that the man isn’t feeling any pain. In typical Web fashion, the universal response was along the lines of  «WTF OMG LOL LOL», which doesn’t really help much to understand what the video is all about. A little research however is enough to give the show a whole different meaning.

The man in the video is a practitioner of tie dang gong, whose literal translation is ‘iron crotch’ but really means ‘iron penis’. It is one of the many forms of “external hard qigong”, a branch of kung fu meant to harden specific body parts – like in ‘iron stomach’, ‘iron hand’ and so on. Tie dang gong, of course, is focused on hardened genitalia.
To be invulnerable down there may offer an advantage when you are fighting with someone who kicks you in the balls, but the rationale behind iron crotch is in fact a bit deeper. The teachings of nei-dan (translated as ‘internal alchemy’) are all about nourishing three “life forces”, among which the jing. According to some interpretations, jing is nothing else but sperm – which is to be accumulated in the testes without wasting it with ejaculation.

The two traditionals semen build-up techniques are single cultivation (masturbating without coming) and dual cultivation (having sex with someone without ejaculating). As any man will tell you, however, this is a pretty hard cultivation to attend for a prolonged time… and here is where tie dang gong comes in.
According to Taoist scriptures all there is to abstinence training is simply to intensely work the genitals – so many practitioners find it easier to use their private parts for a whole different sort of stimulation. Like lifting weights, pulling trucks or dangling kids from them. As strange as it sounds, there are iron crotch courses available throughout the West: one master Tu, in example, promises to get you to lift over 150 kilograms with your balls, and has the videos to show it.

The purpose of tie dang gong is, in theory, to render the whole body stronger and fitter. Enthusiasts swear that it also make the penis bigger and more virile, reversing the loss of lust associated with age. But, as with all spectacular martial arts feats, the truth is a bit different than it appears.
The key fact is that there is nothing remarkable in lifting stuff with your genitals: the ligaments at the base of the penis are in fact very strong and not especially sensitive. In iron crotch almost all the weight is suspended by a silk ribbon secured at the root of the penis, not the scrotum – while clearly risky in case of a slip, really anyone can lift a considerable weight like that.

Moreover, the more spectacular lifting and pulling demonstrations actually use a “safety” pass of the ribbon around the waist. Since nobody is so immodest to go peeking under the robes of the “athlete”, this allows a wide margin of cheating. Ditto for the ballbusting shows: when you see a Shaolin monk kicked between the legs, he will customarily have his genitals pulled up against his belly so that most of the impact is directed to the much less vulnerable perineum.
But what about Mr. Chengli and his brick? Is this just another trick? Not necessarily. As many BDSM enthusiasts know well, longtime fans of the erotic practice of ballbusting grow inured to pain with time, both for the cumulative nerve damage sustained getting kick after spike-heeled kick, and for the simple accustomization to such treatment. Also, some men just do not feel pain down there – a medical curiosity that comes handy in cases like this. Below, anyway, you can witness Zhou Chengli show yourself. And cringe.

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