Don't mess with 'Gongfu Granny'

Since photos and videos of 94-year-old Madam Zhang practising gongfu went viral in China, she has become a social media sensation. She once took down two robbers and scared off the third.
Since photos and videos of 94-year-old Madam Zhang practising gongfu went viral in China, she has become a social media sensation. She once took down two robbers and scared off the third.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

SHANGHAI • Affectionately known as "Gongfu Grandma", Madam Zhang Hexian fights local bullies and protects her fellow villagers in her hometown of Ninghai County in China's eastern Zhejiang Province, never letting her age slow her down.

Madam Zhang, 94, started learning gongfu from her father when she was four. Photos and videos of her practising gongfu went viral in China recently, turning her into a social media sensation, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

Madam Zhang said her father taught her gongfu, helping her to pick up basic martial arts skills such as pushing palms and how to throw a punch from an early age, CNN reported. Since then, gongfu has become a daily routine for Madam Zhang. According to her son, Mr Feng Chuanyin, she still gets up at 5am every day to practise gongfu moves.

Since the death of her husband - a fellow gongfu student she met at age 14 - several years ago, Madam Zhang has been growing her own vegetables, chopping wood and cooking meals all by herself.

Mr Feng said she owes her good health to gongfu. "My mom has never been to the hospital, and would recover from occasional colds after some sleep," he told Xinhua. "She never takes health products such as vitamins or supplements."

Aside from helping her maintain her health, Madam Zhang's gongfu practice has also helped her deal with the local bullies. She once came across three robbers on a mountain and dared them to fight her, taking two of them down swiftly before they could react. The last guy fled the scene after realising he had no chance with her, she said.

Now, she is passing on her crime-fighting gongfu skills to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Said Mr Feng: "We practise gongfu for health reasons and selfdefence. My mom tells us that attacking others is absolutely unacceptable."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 26, 2017, with the headline 'Don't mess with 'Gongfu Granny''. Print Edition | Subscribe