22/03/2005 00:00 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

A life devoted to martial arts

At the age of 105, veteran martial arts master Pham Co Gia remains very clear-minded and healthy. She can recall almost all the happenings in her life. As she grows older, her health deteriorates to some extent but when she talks about martial arts, her eyes brighten and her voice becomes resounding.


At 105, she still practices martial arts everyday.


Happy in the care of her relatives.


Still able to read without glasses.

At the age of 105, veteran martial arts master Pham Co Gia remains very clear-minded and healthy. She can recall almost all the happenings in her life. As she grows older, her health deteriorates to some extent but when she talks about martial arts, her eyes brighten and her voice becomes resounding.

Two years ago, when she was invited to take the leading part in a ceremony in honour of celebrated figures in martial arts, veteran master Pham Co Gia surprised all the participants with her flexibility and outstanding disposition of a representative of the spirit of the Vietnamese martial arts. Nowadays, she seems to forget her age when performing sharp and determined moves, and at that time her face brightens with the passion for the martial arts, to which she devotes the whole of her life.

Pham Co Gia was born into a Hue family knowledgeable in the martial arts tradition. Her grandfather was a martial lord of the Nguyen Dynasty. Her father, master Pham Tang Dai, was famous in the South while her uncle was a martial arts master of the Binh Dinh Military Institute. However, it was a tradition of her family not to allow females to learn martial arts. That is why she, at the age of eight, had to stealthily learn the arts when her father taught his disciples and gradually she became better than them. Knowing that, her father decided to teach her the arts that have accompanied her throughout her life. She became a master when she turned 17 years old and started to teach martial arts at her father's training centre. Later, she alone made her way to Binh Dinh, credited as a homeland of martial arts in Vietnam, and this marked the start of her journeys throughout the South participating in demonstrations and competitions. She did not let any opportunity pass by to learn the arts from other schools. She established a martial arts school, called the Pham family's, when she was 40 years old, from the crystalization of her family's essence in combination with typical points of others plus her unique creation. In 1945, she took part in the resistance war against the French, both teaching martial arts and acting as a commando. She was arrested 12 times, but she made 12 successful escapes. In 1990, the Vietnam Traditional Martial Arts League was established, and she joined it as a member of its first Advisory Board. Gradually, she became the head of the board and member of the advisory board to the Ho Chi Minh City branch when she was over 100 years old. For decades now, she has been striving to nurture various generations of practitioners of which many have become successful. She is now living happily with the family of her nephew. Without her own family, she takes practitioners as her children and grandchildren. She lives in great harmony with all the generations and keeps no secrets to herself in teaching her disciples. Even on her sick bed, she always reminds her followers to "strive to develop Vietnamese martial arts," and refuses any preferential treatment although she has made great contributions to martial arts.

The Pham family's martial arts school by master Pham Co Gia is regarded as unique with exclusive and effective sword and bare hand moves. The school now counts thousands of followers, and sends a large number of competitors to national teams for international tournaments.

Story: Van Quy