BEIJING (Reuters) - Parents in Beijing are taking no chances over the safety of their children after a series of attacks on schoolchildren frightened and angered China.
A growing number of parents have turned to self-defense classes for children more used to wielding electronic games than their fists.
Six times since March, angry and apparently deranged men have attacked Chinese schoolchildren with knives and, in one case, a hammer, killing 27 people and injuring more than 80. Officials have vowed to "strike hard" against the problem and schools have added security guards, but many parents think that's not enough.
Admissions to kung fu schools in Beijing have risen by at least 20 percent since April, China state media reported.
At the Changzhen Kongfu school near Beijing's university district, more than a dozen 7- to 12-year-old children were learning martial arts techniques meant to help them escape potential danger.
"There have been many changes recently. Before, only one to two students will come to consult, but since last week, we have received about 30 inquiries," said Zhang Xiaohang, the chief kung fu instructor at the school.
"A lot of parents register their children for the self-defense class as soon as they arrive, without hesitation. Parents are putting much more emphasis on children's safety."
Zhang now teaches about 10 classes per week and instructs more than 60 kids.
For pudgy 12-year-old Deng Zhiheng, the lessons serve two purposes.
"I am a little bit fat so I want to lose some weight," he said.
"Second of all, there have been many school attacks recently and I want to know how to prevent such attacks. So it is best if I learn these skills."
The class mainly focuses on teaching children how to respond to threats calmly and react quickly.
Self-defense techniques emphasize avoiding confrontation and escaping to safety, Zhang said.
Editing by Lucy Hornby