Qigong/ChoyLeeFut > Chan Tze-Tan, Master of Iron Crotch Qigong
Chan Tze-Tan, Master of Iron Crotch Qigong
by Howard Choy
Sydney Tai Chi & Qigong Centre, Australia
Ever since I first saw an old 1950's photograph of a Shanghai man lifting three bricks tied to his private parts, I was fascinated by the Daoist Qigong exercise called "Tie Dang Gong" (Iron Crotch Qigong). At the time, I wondered why anyone would subject himself to such a torture and what for?
I was told by the owner of the photograph that it was a secret Daoist technique taught only to the most trusted disciples. He said that he did not know the method himself but he was told that once the technique has been mastered, it would make a man invincible both in bed and in the battle field.
I was disappointed that no one at that time knows exactly clearly how the exercise was done. That was more than 15 years ago. Since then, I have been looking for someone who could show me how to do it, without much success. Except seeing a member of the "Tokyo Shock Boys" pulling a cart with his private parts as part of a comedy routine. I doubted it was genuine. Another instance I saw was a Shaolin monk being kicked in the groin. I was told by someone in the know that it is a trick too because the kick was delivered upwards into the crotch and if you pull your genital up and tape it tight against your belly before the demonstration, it won't hurt.
Last October, I was in Hong Kong, browsing through the Qigong and Feng Shui books in a small Chinese bookshop off the famous Temple Street, where the night markets are held. I came across a brochure on one of the shelves, entitled "Qian Dao Yaun-Yang Dan Gong" - Exercise suitable for men only. The title can be translated as "The masculine way to cultivate the elixir of the original yang (male) vitality". I was intrigued and when I opened the brochure, there it was again a (censored) photograph of a man, lifting not just three bricks, but 350 lbs of weight from his crotch! I noted that the man in the photograph was called Chan Tze-Tan and he is a Qigong Master specialising in the art of "Tie Dang Gong".
I held my breath and went up to the woman standing behind the counter and asked "who is this man and where can I find him?". She replied matter-of-factly, "That is my husband and he will be back in five minutes". I had to leave Hong Kong that same day, but not before I struck up a friendship with Chan and promised to return.
Two months later, on the first day of the New Year,1999 I came back to Hong Kong to interview him. Without a hint of bashfulness or secrecy, but with a generous heart, Master Chan not only explained the theories and the practice but he also demonstrated to me, in the privacy of his studio, how "Tie Dang Gong" is done. I have watched him at close quarters and have tried it out myself (with a much lighter weight to start with, and with 35 years of Qigong and kung fu experience behind me). I am convinced that there is no trickery involved. Master Chan can lift heavy weights tied to his penis with a piece of silk by doing Iron Crotch Qigong.
What is even more remarkable is that he is willing to teach this skill to anyone with the correct attitude. That is, with the aim to improve health and longevity and not for sexual prowess. The high cost that he charges for his tuition ensures that no voyeuristic or superficially-curious students need apply.
Master Chan is 53 years old. He was born in Hubei and moved to Hong Kong when he was 10 years old. Chan grew up in Temple Street, Kowloon, where his parents sold books. At that time, there were many itinerant martial artists selling herbal medicine and Dit Da oil by performing Kung Fu routines and external hard Qigong like Iron Palm, Iron Stomach and Iron Crotch, whereby they toughen their body parts to avoid injury while fighting. Chan made friends with the children of these martial artists. Out of curiosity, he learned some of their methods but was not very good at it because he was too young and too distracted to be motivated.
At 18, he started making a living out of carving furniture and gradually gave up practicing martial arts. When his father died 10 years ago, he took up the book-selling business again. In the shop, he had time to read about Daoism and the mysterious culture of China. It was the Daoist theory of health and longevity that motivated Chan to resume his practice of "Tie Dang Gong". Chan said, "When I was small, I was weak and skinny. After I practiced martial arts, I became very tough. But later, I picked up some bad habits. For years, I smoked, drank and played mahjong day and night. So I was weak again. Then I decided to resume practicing martial arts and often went to China and Taiwan to meet Daoist Qigong masters and philosophers there. Gradually, I perfected my skills and became stronger."
As with traditional Chinese Medicine, Master Chan says that the Daoists often emphasize the importance of the kidney in the well-being of a person. The kidney refers not only to the kidney organ, but also to the original vitality (or substance) of a person. The kidney stores the jing (or essence) which is often seen as the "capacity" of a person to perform sexually and physically. In modern medical language, we can say that the jing is made up of various hormones manufactured in the body and stored in the kidney. Some of the ingredients needed for the manufacture of kidney jing come from the semen stored in the testicles.
When we over-ejaculate or when the testicles deteriorate due to old age and lack of stimulation, the physiological well-being of a person also suffers. So, according to the Daoists, if a man can control his ejaculation and if the testicles are strong, then the man's body is also strong. "Tie Dong Gong" aims to toughen the testicles not by striking against a hard surface but by lifting weight with the whole of the body expressed through the genitals. After the weight is lifted, it is important to swing the weight like a pendulum while concentrating on the qi at the lower dantian. Before attempting to lift the weight with the genitals, you need to master the qigong technique of sending the blood and the qi to a particular part of the body or to a particular acupoint by guiding it with your breathing and your mind.
In Daoist Nei-dan (Internal Alchemy) Qigong, the aim is to cultivate the jing to nourish the qi, cultivate the qi to nourish the shen (spirit) and cultivate the shen to return to the original void.
To some practitioners, to cultivate the jing means literally to produce more semen and hold it in the scrotum without ejaculation. To them dual-cultivation (sex with a partner without ejaculation) and single cultivation (masturbation without ejaculation) are too dangerous and too tempting. It is safer from a mental point of view, to lift weights with ones private parts.
Master Chan teaches his students the "Tie Dang Gong" in two parts. The first part deals with qigong, meditation and massage to strengthen the kidney and the back. The second part deals with special meditation techniques and massage of the genitals for preparation of weight lifting. Master Chan says he always starts the exercise with at least ten minutes of meditation, followed by a thorough massage of the genital region. To do the lifting, he would tie the end of a metre-long piece of silk, in a special way, around the testicles and the base of the penis, and then he would attach the other end to the weights. He would then mentally concentrate his qi at the lower part of his body, especially around the genital region, before lifting. Afterwards, he would reverse the procedure by untying the weights, repeat the massage and sit in meditation for half an hour, to send the concentrated jing qi upward, before finishing the practice.
To build up and maintain his qi, Master Chan would lift weights under 100 lbs each day. He only lifts heavier weights for demonstration because they require a lot more energy and could easily lead to over-exertion and injury. Over the years, he has been injured several times, causing his testicles to swell badly. Master Chan says that most of his students can lift 50 lbs after they have completed his course.
Just as a weight-lifter would take vitamin supplements to build up his body, Master Chan drinks herbal wine, which he has made himself, daily to compensate for his energy loss.
In his interview with Angelica Cheung of Hong Kong's Eastern Express newspaper, he says, "Because I am very energetic after practicing qigong, I often have sexual urges. When the urge comes, I sit and meditate to turn the urge into body energy. I never play around with other women and only have sex with my wife. According to Daoist "Sex Skill", the man and the woman exchange hormones when having sex and the hormones convey their thoughts. If a man has sex with a prostitute who only wants money, the thought in the woman's hormone would harm the man's health. If one does this often, the harmful factors would accumulate and form diseases like cancer. So, only have sex when you and your partner both want to."
Master Chan is very forthright about the morality associated with doing Qigong with one's private parts. He told me he was asked once by a group of very wealthy Taiwanese businessmen to teach them the "Tie Dang Gong" so they can use it to deflower more virgins to reverse the aging process. He refused although they offered him a huge amount of money. He says that it is the precise reasons why Daoist classics on the subject are often couched in mysterious language and symbols - to protect the precious knowledge from being misused. Mastery of a Qigong technique does not automatically lead to better health and well-being, unless one has a relaxed and guilt-free state of mind.
Because the sexual energy that we have around is so powerful, we need to channel it carefully so it does not back-fire on us," says Chan Tze-Tan, Master of Iron Crotch Qigong.