Vietnam’s vovinam takes on the world

Update: 10:00 | 04/02/2019

Traditional martial arts have been developing for centuries in Vietnam, with hundreds of styles nationwide, including Nam Hong Son, Tay Son Binh Dinh and Vovinam. Vietnamese styles have become popular around the world thanks to their typical characters and practicality.

Vovinam is the most popular style of martial art in Vietnam, as well as around the world. On its 80th anniversary in late December, the Vietnam Vovinam Federation confirmed there were more than 2.5 million practicing the martial art in 70 countries and territories. The strong growth of the art form can be seen through the establishment of the world federation, as well as continental federations in Asia, Europe and Africa.

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Vovinam is the most popular style of martial art in Vietnam.

Master Nguyen Loc founded the martial art in 1936 and introduced it to the public two years later. Loc highlighted his so-called ‘revolution of mind’ to trainers, who are asked to always renew themselves and help others.

Vovinam involves the use of different body parts such as hands, elbows, legs and knees. Trainers also learn to use weapons, including swords, knives and fans. They also practice attacking and defensive skills.

Vovinam began to spread in 1970 and has developed in many countries with hundreds of schools in Poland, Belgium, Russia, France, and ASEAN members.

The first world championship was organised in 2009, marking a turning point in its history.

Nam Hong Son is a martial art that has existed for nearly 100 years and is practised mostly in northern Vietnam. It has become hugely popular in Hanoi with thousands of trainers.

The martial art was developed as a combination between Vietnamese and Chinese styles by master Nguyen Nguyen To in 1920.

In their first three years, practitioners learn Chinese styles. They later introduce Vietnamese techniques, as well as improving their strength and inner force. The martial art is home to many famous masters, including Mui Den, Ca Nham and Ba Den, who traveled around the country to compete.

After nearly a century, the martial art has changed to make it more dynamic and effective but many original performances are still in existence.

According to master Bui Dang Van, Nam Hong Son’s beautiful moves and special techniques attracted attention in Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany.

The martial art has also made its mark on the national film industry. Van and some other masters have been chosen as martial art directors in a number of movies. He is one of the first masters to open centres which choreograph stunts and train actors since 1993.

Inner force and strength are also important in this art form. The best masters could lie on broken glass while being run over by a truck, or let sharp spears stab their throats.

Master Laabi Hatim from Morocco has practiced Vietnamese martial arts since 1980. He said he was initially attracted because it showed the rich culture of Vietnam but was also a really effective form of combat.

Hatim is just one of many foreigners who train in Vietnamese martial arts. He flies to Vietnam and visits Binh Dinh to learn more every year.

In a congress of the Vietnam Traditional Martial Arts Federation last June, delegates spoke about solutions to maintain and develop Vietnamese styles in the coming years.

Federation President Hoang Vinh Giang set a target that martial arts would spread to 100 countries by 2030. They would promote the art forms in local schools, colleges and universities. It was also suggested that police officers and soldiers be trained in some of the Vietnamese martial arts.

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The first Vovinam (Vietnamese martial art) Viet Vo Dao Grand Prix was held successfully in Algeria on May 4-5.
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Source: VNA

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