The Zimbabwe Independent

It’s a weird world,

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„ Iron CRO TCH KUNG FU MASTERS Wang Liutai is no ordinary kung fu master. The 65-year-old from a village in central China practises a unique and excruciati­nglooking strand of martial arts coined “iron crotch kung fu”.

Its most famous technique involves a steel-plate capped log, two metres in length and weighing 40 kilogramme­s that swings through the air and smashes into a man’s crotch.

“When you practise iron crotch kung fu, as long as you push yourself, you will feel great,” Wang, head of the Juntun Martial Arts Academy, said.

Wang, who has been practising the technique for around half a century and has two children, insists that with the correct methods and sufficient practice, it does not hurt and has no effect on fertility.

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,” fellow master 53-year-old Tang Xiaocheng said.

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.

That is why Wang and his fellow masters started to actively promote their style of kung fu, adopting the swinging log device in 2016 to demonstrat­e the iron crotch technique, where, previously villagers had kicked, punched or used bricks or sticks.

Their efforts have helped them gain several new students in cities across the country who learn using social media or custommade videos posted online.

“If there are more students to carry it forward and spread it to the whole country and the world, if they can carry this form of kung fu forward, then my dream will come true,” Wang said. — Reuters.

„ vIETNAMESE TIME COLLECTOR

For more than two decades, Pham Van Thuoc has scoured Europe in search of historical church clocks, bringing them back to his home in Vietnam where he lovingly restores them.

He now has 20 clocks — many of which are more than a hundred years old and including one so big it weighs a tonne — housed in a warehouse in northern Thai Binh province, where they fill the air with a cacophony of whirring noises, ticking and chimes.

Thuoc, who believes his collection is one of the largest in the world, said the thrill of building it up lies not just in the hunt to find beautiful old clocks, but also in figuring out how they work and how to fix them.

“I have an Italian made-clock which is the oldest one and dates back to the year 1750. Probably the thing I like most about it is that despite being made years ago, it has stayed true to its purpose which is to count the time and it does that extremely accurately,” he said.

Tracing his passion back to hearing the chimes of bells from French colonial era clocktower­s when he was boy, Thuoc said he once spent two years befriendin­g a European owner before convincing him to part with a particular clock.

He adds that he has yet to see two identical historical clocks even when the clocks were made in the same year by the same manufactur­er.

For his efforts, Thuoc has been recognised by the Vietnam Records Associatio­n as having the largest collection of public clocks in the country.

And with electronic clocks now fast replacing mechanical ones in Europe, he hopes his collection can preserve a sliver of vanishing history.

The clocks remind him, he says, of “how valuable time is, and that I should treasure every minute and every second.” — Reuters.

 ??  ?? Chinese iron crotch kung fu masters fight to preserve a painful-looking tradition.
Chinese iron crotch kung fu masters fight to preserve a painful-looking tradition.

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