4. Iron Head
Tie Tou Gong
There is a reason head-butting is forbidden in sports such as mixed martial arts—the risk of traumatic brain injuries. The iconic Shaolin “Iron Head,” however not only recommends these sort of blows but prescribes them as a regular training regimen. Students strengthen the frontal bones, temporal bones, and top of the skull to a near superhuman rigidity, rivaling that of stone.
The objective is fairly basic: Knock objects into your head, and your head into objects slowly and gradually over years to strengthen the bones in the skull. With dozens of micro fractures, combined with healing and repetition, the bones reshape to the pressure, and can become incredibly resilient. However, this can take dozens of years of daily practice to achieve, each time with the risk of permanent injury.
The first basic training regimen recommended in the methodology of the Shaolin involves wrapping one’s head in silk and gently banging the head against a stone wall. After one year, the student will remove a few layers of silk and continue the process for a minimum of 100 days; after that, the silk is removed completely. From here, students will practice with more extreme methods, such as knocking their skulls together for hours, cracking frozen blocks atop their heads, and even sleeping in headstand positions. Specific exercises and techniques to strengthen the temples, mouth, and eyes follow this technique as well.
In a rare example, a Shaolin monk has held an electric drill to his temple for 10 seconds and emerged unscathed.