Carnal Knowledge

Curious about a holistic approach to sexual vitality? Perhaps the future of your love life can be found in the distant past—with a lesson in sexual kung fu.
Photo by Morgan Maassen

By Dimitri Ehrlich

Many centuries ago in China, Taoist priests evolved a series of exercises aimed at extending a man’s ability to make love for hours at a time—although the goal was not merely to please wives and concubines. The intention of Taoist sexual practices was nothing less than immortality. Today, we realize that even if you perform like an athlete on the mattress, you’re not going to live forever. But perhaps the idea wasn’t literal “immortality,” but rather making it  possible to maintain the sexual drive of a teenager even into old age.

As a lifelong martial artist, I had the good fortune some 30 years ago to meet a tai chi master who told me about the basic principles of Taoist sexual kung fu. For men, one key is learning to control the process of climax. This took some time, and getting yelled at by a disappointed girlfriend, but eventually I found there were some things other than trying to think of the 1966 Mets lineup that could prolong lovemaking, if not for hours then at least long enough to make sure everyone involved went to sleep happy.

For those interested in how to learn specific exercises, from vaginal weight lifting to penis pull-ups, there are several books, such as Taoist Secrets of Love: Cultivating Male Sexual Energy and Healing Love Through the Tao: Cultivating Female Sexual Energy, by Mantak Chia. These books teach you how the Chinese theory of the Five Elements can determine sexual compatibility with partners, how to activate your yin and yang meridians and how to give and receive sexual pleasure in extraordinary ways.

Of course, learning how to work with chi (energy) during sex isn’t as easy as popping a little blue pill. The training can be hard work: In one method I learned, called nei kung, we cultivated energy by holding stances for up to one hour. Sometimes real pleasure requires serious pain.

About 20 years ago I attended a workshop with Mantak Chia, where his wife, Maneewan, shared the secrets of becoming a multiorgasmic woman and cultivating female sexual energy. Some of these techniques involve controlling menstruation and a kind of superpowered Kegel method. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the workshop would be so explicit, and thinking it was more of a spiritual retreat, had invited my mother to join me. (You don’t know what awkward is until you find yourself in a room with your mom learning how to suck a ceramic egg into a vagina.)

Whether you’re motivated by the idea that various sexual positions can have healing impact, or you’re curious about experiencing a full-body orgasm, the art of sexual kung fu is a tradition with plenty to explore. As with anything in life, becoming an expert requires effort and practice. On the upside, even mistakes can be pleasurable, and sometimes failing can be the climax of your day.