Archive for the ‘English’ Category

A Humble Room on Top Floor of Tổ Đường

Posted: Tháng Chín 14, 2014 in English

In 1968, the house at 31 Sư Vạn Hạnh (Tổ Đường) intitially has only a ground floor. In 1992, the housing structure was added another level and the open top balcony area. A few years later, upon the open top balcony, the altar hall was constructed with a joint office for Grandmaster Lê Sáng to work and rest. This project was managed by Master Kiều Công Lang’s construction company.

Upon entrance to the 3rd floor, you will see the Founder’s altar hall. Walking along the balcony, passing the altar hall you come to the Grandmaster’s living quarter. The room is hardly spacious; the steel singles were nailed to the roof as ceiling; the space area is 4.2m x 3.5m and the restroom 1m x 2.4m. Initially, the room has only an automated fan; and not until 2001, an air conditioner was put in.

The tiny space of the private quarter is quite airy with one entrance, one window parallel to Sư Vạn Hạnh street and another window parallel to Nguyễn Chí Thanh street. Stepping into the room, on the right side is the altar of Grand master’s parents. On the left is a leaning chair where he sleeps and rests, placed facing Nguyễn Chí Thanh street. A number of books, newspapers, magazines, pens, tea pot… set on a rectangular table located on the left (along the window facing Sư Vạn Hạnh street); next to a small chair with its back placed against the wall, for a guest; In front (of the chair) is the TV, a VCR, and right below is a feet-rest stool. Surrounding the room many photos and images are hung on the wall, a bookshelf full of books (not including the several bookcases in the Founder’s altar hall. Grandmaster reads many different types of book ranging from philosophy, region, history… to many saga of classic writings of eastern and western cultures.

He values books preciously. In a poem title “the soul of books” (Hồn Sách) he opened it as follows:

All essence of heaven and earth distilled to this

These pages so thin yet they carry loaded thoughts,

Pen may be senseless, but the soul takes command,

Writer not here, but these words are my substitute teacher…

During a conversation at Tổ đường, Grandmaster recalled: “On the journey from Hà Nội to Sài Gòn, I brought a long a number of precious books. Later, I kept those books along with a number of documents and writings of the Founding Master in several wooden chests. During Mậu Thân new year (1968), my mother was concerned about the house may get burned down and she brought it to be kept at a neighbor’s home. Unfortunately, the neighbor’s house was burnt, while my rented house on Minh Mạng street (now called Ngô Gia Tự street) remained unharmed. Those book chests, I miss them dearly!…” On 24-10-1993, Grandmaster autographed the Chu dịch (set of 2 book volumes) authored by the respected Sào Nam Phan Bội Châu, published by Khai Trí Bookstore in 1969. This set of books are still kept at my private book collection as a precious heritage.

Within this tiny room, for the past 15 years, Grandmaster has read multitude of books, contemplated deep thoughts, wrote and updated võ đạo teachings, inscribed memoirs, created beautiful poems… In the early morning or at unoccupied times, Grandmaster came to the stone table set in front of the Founder’s altar hall to relax and read newspapers. Besides the guest room, at this stone table set, he received guests and welcomed his visiting students. The plant pots stay constantly green, thanks to Grand master’s daily diligent care and love. Occasionally, he came down to shop for household items or to walk around at Hòa Bình park near Tổ đường.

He also loved flowers and ornamental plants. About a month before he was hospitalized for the last time, Grand Master requested to buy more plants and Nguyễn Tấn Trung brought in over a dozen of potted plants including miniature coconut tree, Bougainvillea, Ixora… Tấn Trung recalled emotionally: “That day, Grandmaster was particularly happy!” While giving care to the new plants, he said: “Arrange, decorate these lovely plants. When I move on, I will be contented…”

In this tranquil space, living alone in this top floor quarter, no doubt, more than once he was feeling lonely in his old age, particularly at late night. Occupied by my own life, I did not have many chances to visit Grandmaster and talk with him as much as I would like… That would be my sore regret!

After going through “peritoneal dialysis” at the hospital for some time, he asked master Sen to clean up the room so it would become the memorial place for his parents and for him. He said to master Sen: “Remember me until you pass on, that should be sufficient!” After cleaning and sorting, master Sen invited me and master Khoa to see the room. However, upon his returning (from the hospital), he moved back a couple bookcases, put up some photos and rearranged the room according to his liking.

After his passing, what did he leave behind? “Things of this world I’ll leave behind, press on my journey with empty hands” (Thanh thoát poem). According to the inventory of October 07, 2010: A small amount of cash, souvenirs, gifts, photos, 75 potted plants… several bookcases with over 500 valuable books. Personal belonging includes nothing of high value: 2 leaning chairs made of rattan, 1 old luggage, 1 TV, 1 VCR, 1 small refrigerator, 1 tea table, 1 auto-fan, 1 air conditioner… However, the spiritual value of his belonging is so vast, difficult to measure and estimate. His contribution includes the enhancement and systematization of the võ đạo teachings with universal humanity values and the technical system of Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo left behind by the Founding Grand master Nguyễn Lộc.

I hope the Council Master Trustee will keep this room as the “memorial chamber of the Grandmaster” that will help masters, instructors, and all students everywhere who visit Tổ đường can visit and see Grand Master’s living quarter where he worked, rested and imagine a humble life he has lived.

English version by

Bộ quần áo Thầy mặc vẫn còn đây!

Bộ võ phục Thầy thường mặc trong dip lễ..

Một góc phòng nghỉ của Thầy

Những bức ảnh treo trên tường do Thầy chọn lựa

Những quyển sách Thầy vẫn thường đọc

Bút tích của Chưởng môn

bia sach OK copy


I had cried all my tear and lost my laughter for the sorrow of life,

But I have returned to the kind and pure soul of GENUINE HUMANITY,

escaped from the dark and wickedness of INHUMANITY.

From all mental affliction and physical suffering sowed upon me,

I gathered the MOST BEAUTIFUL flowers of unbounded LOVE and FORGIVENESS…

Founder Master Nguyễn Lộc

Reflection on Founder Master Nguyễn Lộc’s Last Edict


1. Within the Vovinam family, the disciples, besides training and practicing martial arts, get to participate in discussion activities to gain a deeper understanding about our discipline’s history. According to many senior masters, Founder Master Nguyễn Lộc has a passion for arts and literature and maintained close ties with artists of different types. As a little known fact, he had a knack for tap dancing (1). During the last three years of his life (from 1957 to 1960), he used to paint scenery on the lids of water reservoir (nắp chum) and continued developing Vovinam martial arts through his writing.

Apart from sharing his wisdom and insights on techniques and development strategy with his senior masters, he also shared his thoughts on martial art and philosophy in writing with a few of his close and influential artist friends in order to promote a widespread of the discipline’s teaching. Even though more than a few of his friends have suggested that his writing should be published, but he refused and, and at the end, he personally set them all to flames. The Founder Master did not want his writing to be regarded as the “ultimate standard” or “golden rule” to be followed rigidly by the following generations, as rules and standards tend to be viewed as constraints on one’s creativity, and Vovinam always encourages its disciples to strive and improve themselves constantly.

According to a senior master: “Even though the Founder Master always encouraged his disciples to expand their general knowledge and improve their professional skills, his notion of maintaining văn võ song toàn, a parallel aptitude for both letters and martial arts should be interpreted flexibly. ‘Văn’, in this case, does not strictly imply merely academic credentials but it’s rather an emphasis for the love of arts and literature (writing, poetry, music, theater, paintings,…). This effort, on one hand, breaks up an archaic prejudice that favors scholar elite over the martial elite; and, on the other hand, it softens the image of muscularly brute, a stereotype often being associated with people of hard labor including martial art practitioners.”

After the Founder Master passed away, his family and disciples discovered some of his personal artifacts including a short essay about his life summarized in 5 sentences and 76 words. This short essay is later known to the disciples as the Founder Master’s last edict.

More than 15 years ago, the Founder Master’s last edict was placed beside Grand Master Lê Sáng’s office desk (on 2nd floor, at the Altar Hall on 31 Sư Vạn Hạnh, District 10, HCM city). In June 2011, Master Nguyễn Văn Sen requested Master Vũ Trọng Bảo to create a calligraphy rendition of Founder Master Nguyễn Lộc’s last edict along with Grand Master Lê Sáng’s last instructions. These magnificent calligraphy stokes is now on display solemnly at the Founder Master’s Altar Hall.

As a faithful disciple, I would like to share a few of my thoughts on the Founder Master’s last edict as seeds for further discussion. Sentiment expressed here is also my personal reflection in spirit of self-improvement!

2. Founder Master Nguyễn Lộc was born and raised during the French colonization era in Vietnam. He resisted numerous temptations that were sanctioned by the colonial regime that aim to weaken the will power of the youth and felt a deep and painful agony as he witnessed the poverty and moral corruption during this chaotic period, and screamed aloud: “I had cried all my tear and lost of my laughter for the sorrow of life”. These words summed up the excruciating torment he directly felt and experienced. The “I” in his utterance reflects the sentiment of the mass at the time. If life is uneventful and absence of sorrow, there would not be great philosophers who devote their whole lives to the quest of lifting people out of suffering.

In the early 19th century, the famous poet Nguyễn Du had lamented:

“Living through a chaotic time,

my heart wrenches for all malice I’ve seen”

Mankind suffering is viewed as an vast ocean! “…The repeating stages of life: birth, aging, diseases and death playing out everywhere has haunted Siddhartha; Life decadence and cultural degradation has challenged Confucius and Laozi. For Plato, suffering is the moment he witnessed the unjust death of his teacher. He could not understand why a good and decent man like Socrates was forced to death. As it remained a burning question for him, he spent his remaining life looking for a different social structure that ensures a decent and fair life” (Bùi Văn Nam Sơn). God, the creator of the universe, per Catholic faith, “regretted for having created man on earth, and sadness reigned in his heart upon human decadence”, according to the Book of Genesis. For the same reasons, prince Siddhartha left his comfort living in the palace to take on the quest for meaning of life and ways to reduce suffering; and Jesus Christ sacrificed himself on the cross to save mankind…

3. As he faced the harsh reality, he found traditional wrestling techniques, a set of natural  and human basic human instincts as the foundation for creating Vovinam basic techniques. His journey back to “the kind and pure soul of GENUINE HUMANITY” or to back to innocent of childhood, as juvenile age is viewed as a heavenly time in Vietnamese culture, angelical time in Western culture, and old Chinese teachings believe in complete innocence at young age: “Children are naturally kind-hearted.”

Young boys and girls are basically pure and innocent. They treat people with sincerity, the notions of hatred, exclusiveness, jealousy,…have not yet creped into their mentality at this age. They possess GENUINE HUMANITY and have not been exposed to complicated emotions as of the alduts. Why did Founder Master used “pure soul” instead of the more popular and widely used phrases like “grand heart” or “pure heart”? According to the Sino-Vietnamese dictionary by the late Vietnamese scholar Đào Duy Anh, soul is spirit or mindful intention; and in religious interpretation, soul is the divine being that rules the human body.

“Kiều said: For truly talented ones,

When they die what deteriorates away is their body, what remains is their soul”

(famous poet Nguyễn Du)

Death takes away the body; however, the best part of a human being is the soul or spirit remains beyond death. So, when the Founder Master mentions of “soul” he emphasizes on human consciences with ability to tell apart right from wrong, be happy when accomplish an altruistic act, and feel shameful when commit a bad deed. Soul, in this context, is not simply the spirit after death.

Returning to “the pure soul of the GENUINE HUMANITY” can be understood as the Founder Master’s quest for “truth – beauty – goodness” in life. A pure soul represents truth, no wickedness. Honesty and purity are also considered as a form of beauty. Living with a kind heart, loving everyone and being helpful to others, conducting one’s life with decency are acts of goodness. Of course, living a life of kindness also symbolizes truth and beauty. Truth – Beauty – Goodness are crucial values of Vovinam disciples as summarized in: “To live, to let others live, and to live for others”. To live properly (healthily, vivaciously, and lucidly) is to live truthfully. To let others live is not taking advantage or interfere with others’ lives unnecessarily and let them thrive as individual in their own (goodness). To live for others is to be ready to help others when needed and making sacrifice for the right cause is also the beauty of a Vovinam disciple.

4. As Founder Master returned to his childhood, he had realized the true values of the “GENUINE HUMANITY”. Since that point in time, he was determined to never conduct his life in decadence as many he has personally witnessed. In contrast, he has broken away from the vicious circle of the darkness and sin of “INHUMANITY” (decadence, cruelty, stubbornness…) Although he lived among the “dark and wickedness of INHUMANITY”, but he did not let himself be consumed by the tornados of decadence, but emerged from it all, like a lotus blossom growing out of a muddy pond, rising above superficiality and unfairness in life…

How can one rise up like a sweet lotus emerging from the pungent pond? Through Vovinam he has discovered a methodology that enables an individual to train physically and mentally, to improve oneself. The self training method is actually simple but it requires personal determination; and it has a significant societal consequence as when an individual becomes a constructive citizen that also effectively contributes to making the society better as a whole.

As one train physically and mentally, the determining factor for success is self-discipline. Self-discipline is not simply understanding and willingness to follow organizational policies and rules, but it is also a the awareness and self-motivation to improve oneself. Who else but yourselves who can help you overcome mental and physical weaknesses? As French people say:  “Aide-toi, le ciel t’aidera” (Help yourself first, God will help you). Asian philosophy teaches: “Use all your resources, let God take care of the rest”​.

As he identified negative influences and emerged from the moral corruption, the Founder Master had never turned away from life reality, instead he sought to understand the social movements, how to bring about positive changes, and engaged in a human development concept. Although he had high expectation for achieving technical astuteness, his training methods were flexible, always respected individual differences and show genuine care for every disciple. Master Lê Văn Phúc (who practiced Vovinam with the Founder Master in 1951 in Ha Noi) talked about what he learned from the Founder Master:

“…It is important for you, my brothers(2) to constantly improve our working methods to adapt with situations and enhance our discipline to be more logical, and up-to-date. If you see any rooms for improvement under my leadership, it is your responsibility to make it better(3)”.

These words show his sincerity, a respect for democratic ideal, not inflexible and restrictive and always encourage ideas for improvement from his students while displaying a genuine humility, an admirable character of a teacher. For that reasons, different ideas and perspectives among his students when debating and deciding were deemed important and necessary. Team collaboration among disciples to find solutions contributing to the discipline and to the society(4) were also strongly encouraged. However, it is not advisable that disciples ganging up for their own interests, fostering exclusiveness, bullying others, or harassing others who may have different viewpoints are not to be tolerated. In other words, disciples should avoid all forms of greed, hatred and negative obsession.

5. Once emerged from the blurry line separating right from wrong, propriety and inappropriateness, the Founder Master has gained a balance in his life that gave him the ability to endure and stay patiently optimistic as he knows “we may not live among angels, but we still have to live among our own humankind” (Tzvetan Todorov). Where is his solution? It is to act with LOVE and FORGIVENESS for only BENEVOLENCE and TOLERANCE, the courage to rise above selfishness to accept the both perfects and imperfects, is the only way to close the gaps of incongruity. Only true tolerance can bring everyone together. To live in harmony with other people is to help oneself emerging from all the negativity and pain in our lives. This type of profound realization comes with time and experience as an old Vietnamese adage reminds us that with love any mistakes can be tolerated and with hatred any goodwill intention can be doubted,

In love, trái ấu (Trapa, a fruit of strange shape) is perceived as perfectly round,

In hatred, bồ hòn (Sapindales, a fruit of smooth round shape) is perceived as crooked

If there is no love, no forgiveness and no patience for one another, how can there be understanding and collaboration? “Forgiveness is the hardest thing, yet it’s the noblest thing”. When you forgive others, you also forgive yourself, as none of us going through life and never make a mistake or never hurt anyone! It is believed if each and everyone of us reflects upon our thoughts, statements and behaviors before we go to bed, there would be less pain and suffering in our lives.

6. “To love and to forgive” is the first lesson every Vovinam disciple learns. Through “nghiêm lễ” (to greet the Founder Master’s portrait and each one another), Vovinam disciple shows respect and benevolence to others. The hand represents strength, like a powerful sword. Putting hand over heart depicts that even when danger is near, Vovinam disciple accepts the reality with calmness and patience as there is simply no way to avoid challenges and difficulties in life. Only through tolerance and wisdom can one opens his

heart to forgive others.

It is said: “Happiness lies in the patience”. In life, there are moments where we let our impulsiveness destroy friendship or love. For leaders and senior masters, “LOVE and FORGIVENESS” have an important meaning: “to forgive your subordinates is to be forgiven by superior” (revered poet Nguyễn Du).

At the worst point in agony, the Founder Master found “GENUINE HUMANITY”, his patience has helped him “gathered the MOST BEAUTIFUL flowers of LOVE”. His life time devotion was Vovinam. What is the “MOST BEAUTIFUL flowers of LOVE” if it’s not Vovinam that he had invested all his time, energy, effort and passion cultivating? For him, Vovinam is not only a self-defense martial art. He expects that the physical training and philosophy of Vovinam will contribute to building generations of well-rounded Vovinam disciples (with talent, kind heart, healthy and able body,…) to serve the discipline and society at large.

Techniques and ethics (Vovinam philosophy) are intertwined in small as well as great matters. Two training partners who drill together tend to develop a friendship from physical interaction and from working together. Friendship, understanding, and common ideal form a Vovinam bond. Since the beginning, Vovinam disciples are encouraged to use this type of genuine relationship in treating other people in our lives.

Once the Vovinam disciple is aware of the ethical responsibility, one will be inspired to improve his techniques and master the strength and accuracy so that he can ensure safety for the partner in training and even for the assailant in case of self-defense response to an attack. Honing one’s skills, as in perfecting a certain technique or practicing timed delivery a certain move effectively… is actually working toward achieving truth, beauty and goodness. In other words, Vovinam aims to develop a person physically and mentally for good health, building characters, enhancing one’s individuality, and to use the martial skills only for self-defense and not for solving personal conflicts by force…

As one joins the Vovinam family, through hard conditioning and difficult physical training environment, the LOVE and FORGIVENESS will gradually permeate through one’s consciousness. “LOVE and FORGIVENESS” will eventually grow and transcend into “unbounded LOVE and FORGIVENESS”.

7. Regarding the relationship between Vovinam philosophy and techniques, a senior master has explained further: “Wrestling is the basis for all Vovinam techniques, although these are separate moves for escaping and subduing other in defending against someone’s attack, they are only a part of a self-defense mechanism. Therefore, all moves in Vovinam are, in some ways, meant to augment wrestling. Wrestling is a term for indicating an act of take down, methods of taking away the balance of the other person, so the use of hands, feet, shoulders, and other body parts in combat in short and long range can be thought as a form of wrestling. Leg wrestling methods (“quặp cổ” is the term used by the Founder Master  Nguyễn Lộc to describe techniques that use one’s legs to cease and take down someone) is the signature and highest form of Vovinam wrestling techniques. Wrestling with flying legs can be dangerous for both sides, as these require lots of practice and should only be used in defending life-threatening situations as one should always restraints our action by Vovinam ethics”. In fact, nowadays, the leg wrestling techniques have been modified to be less lethal and used mostly in exhibition performance only.

8. The brief essay verses that the Founder Master has written has became a dictum, a moral edict for the Vovinam family. This lesson shows a pathway for all Vovinam disciples to follow, and from which each individual can hone techniques and philosophy to enhance oneself in becoming a constructive member of the discipline and of their country.

I also want to differentiate the two terms: “môn sinh” (student) and “môn đồ” (disciple). Môn sinh is a practitioner actively involves in current activities, while môn đồ are those who may not practice Vovinam any longer but had had a few years of training and still care for the well being of the discipline, and contribute in form of research efforts, and promote Vovinam, etc. Whether you are a Môn sinh or a môn đồ, all “Vovinamese” are connected to the discipline, and interlinked with other disciples by a special and fervent bond of “Vovinam camaraderie”.

If ultimate goal means the end goal, then according to our Founder Master: “unbounded LOVE and FORGIVENESS” must be the aspiration for the Vovinamese.

1/6 – 31/7/2011

Disciple Nguyễn Hồng Tâm

English version – translation by Lê Đức Hòa

(1) Tap dance – a popular dance in the 30’s-60’s. Dancers wear a pair of shoes with metal tap on the heel and toe.

(2) When the Founder Master taught the students, he asked them to call him “anh Lộc” (big brother Lộc) and he called them “em” (younger sibling) as it was a brotherhood based relationship. The notion of master and students got started when Grandmaster Lê Sáng accepted new students in 1958.

(3) Vovinam magazine 1971.

(4) Grandmaster Lê Sáng (1920-2010).

Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo arrived in Japan

Posted: Tháng Sáu 28, 2013 in English

In recent decades the people of Japan have made series of great impressions upon the world in different areas including culture, arts, technology, and martial arts. As for martial arts alone, the renowned budos such as Karate, Aikido, Judo, Jujitsu… are all from Japan. So rich in great martial art traditions that these budos have spread easily to almost every country in the world. Japanese martial arts on the international level, in terms of quantity as well as popularity, still reign supreme. As such, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to introduce a new martial art to Japan as it is as futile as carrying firewood to the forest. However, Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo discipline has just successfully arrived in the Land of Rising Sun and is showing very positive and encouraging signs of growth. Without any external push, Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo was introduced to Japanese by the stars of Japan. Details of this story are quite intriguing because it’s made up of a perfect set of elements for a great tale including fate, good intention, and individual talents.

The main character in the story is a special person. When the name of professional wrestler Fugofugo Yumeji is mentioned, not too many Japanese people do not know about him. Besides the long stagename, his unusual outlook is eye catching. Most of his head hair is shaved off, leaving only a small cap-like bunch on top that is dyed in gold blond; back of his head fashions a long black ponytail; and his face grows bamboo root like beard also dyed in gold blond… All that, plus his bulky appearance, makes him looked terribly formidable and scary. His name and character have been talked about in Japanese press and he’s well known especially among fans of the professional wrestling world. The long name, Fugofugo Yumeji (富豪富豪梦路), literally means “Rich-man-rich-man’s dream road,” indicating a life-long pursuit to become a wealthy man. His nickname is merely “occupational”, mainly for entertainment values and to attract attention of his dire-hard fans who adore his professional wrestling performances which typically are sensational in nature. His actual name, however, is Fujisaki Tadahiro, but most people are accustomed to calling him by the short and intimate alias, “Fugo,” which literally means, “Rich man.” I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Master Fugo on the Internet, and only after a few exchanges, I’ve discovered that he’s a very different man from the superficial image that he’s portrayed for himself. On the contrary, Master Fugo is a very talented artist, an astute and thoughtful individual, and especially he dare to do what he thinks.

Ông Fugofugo Yumeji trong thế giới đô vật chuyên nghiệp

Master Fugofugo Yumeji in his Professional Wrestling world

Graduated from Kyushu Sangyo University, Master Fugo specialized in graphic design. As a professional artist, he paints beautifully and designs many creative artworks commercially. Moreover, in the field of film production, Master Fugo has starred in supporting roles for eight movies released in Japan. Of his 44 years, more than 35 years has been devoted to martial arts career, in which he finds his most intense passion and by far the strongest source of inspiration. As a young man, he has been trained in Karate for many years up to black belt with 2nd dan, he’s then transitioned into professional wrestling for more than 20 years until present. His name and images have appeared regularly on TV shows featuring wrestling matches. He also participates in wrestling matches internationally, touring many countries including various places in Japan, Australia, Hawaii, Thailand, Nepal, and Vietnam. Certainly, it can be said that Master Fugo’s life style is very diverse and unique. Through an exchange, he has confided in me his worldview by saying, “Living in this world one must have uniqueness, otherwise, life is simply pointless.”

Vài mẫu thiết kế và tranh do ông Fugo sáng tác

Samples of Master Fugo’s artworks

As fate would have it, professional wrestling has led Master Fugo to Vovinam, a new and exciting discovery that has drawn him in so passionately. In July of 2011, he’s traveled to Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam to participate in a professional wrestling match. During this stay, without any planning , he’s purchased a ticket to see a local martial arts program , not realizing that the event he’s attended happens to be the 2nd World Championship of Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo. Never has he realized that this event would turn out to be a major turning point of his martial arts career. Before arriving in Vietnam, he’s never even heard of the existence of Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo discipline, but apparently he was mesmerized by what was happening before his own eyes. Seeing images of Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo students from many countries around the world competing on Vovinam techniques and forms…, he’s both surprised and excited witnessing Vovinam martial artists launching and bouncing high in the air to execute offensive leg techniques so extraordinarily and spectacularly. Admiring the unique moves of Vovinam so much that, by the very next morning, he ventured out to locate and sign up for a Vovinam class.

Thầy Đồng Tiến Đạt, người khai đạo cho Võ sư Fugo

Thầy Đồng Tiến Đạt, Master Fugo’s Vovinam teacher

Through introduction, he’s met with Senior Master Nguyễn Văn Chiếu and later directed to train at a dojo inside a high school campus located next to the Galaxy Cinema theater in District 1. Recalling the early days of training at the dojo, most of his classmates were very young and they were looking at him with curious eyes, which has made him feel out of place. Nevertheless this has not made him flinch nor feeling discouraged. Having extended his stay in Vietnam a little longer, he’s spent more time training and practicing diligently and was initiated by thầy (teacher) Đồng Tiến Đạt, a capable senior instructor. Thầy Tiến Đạt is much younger than him, however, Master Fugo respects him specifically for his gentle temperament, contrasting with the stereotype of rough and tough martial art people that he knows. Thầy Tiến Đạt has accepted him unconditionally and treated him very kindly. He recalls fondly of the delicious Vietnamese dishes that thầy Tiến Đạt’s mother has personally cooked for him.

Master Fugo then returns to Tokyo for prior commitments; but his journey with Vovinam has only just begun. In October of the same year (2011), he returned to Vietnam with two students Watanabe Noris san and Soichiro Ogawa san. Very determined to absorb the essence of the new martial art, Master Fugo confides, “I would like to learn and take Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo back to Japan.” In the following 3 months into Spring, these Japanese fighters have stayed in Vietnam to accomplish one single objective: to train and acquire the essence of Vovinam techniques. During this time, thầy Tiến Đạt was still giving guidance to them, but they also got trained by several other excellent instructors and masters. Master Fugo states that, “I have been training Karate since I was a little kid and practicing professional wrestling for many years, so I know punching, kicking, and basic acrobatic techniques very well”. However, among many Vovinam techniques that impresses him the most is the ability for an individual to launch the body high in the air to attack, then lands softly and safely afterward. Master Fugo remarks in an admiring tone, “…if only Karate has flying attack techniques like that, and, if only professional wrestlers can kick effectively like that.” He further analyzes , “one of the unique features of Vovinam is the combination of the upper arm and the lower leg movements to create a powerful synergistic force”, and further says , “I feel Vovinam techniques are well choreographed in a sophisticated and systematic way.” In addition, Master Fugo also believes Vovinam style exudes a youthful and friendly spirit. Vovinam style is as fluid and agile as “break dance”, and not so stiff and formal. The relationship between teachers and students as well as fellowship among students are as close as family ties, friendly yet not too strict. The technique demonstration and performances sometimes include a bit of levity for entertainment, not just pure winning or losing. He mentions the youthfulness and friendly relationships are essential elements in our lives.

Võ sư Fugo tập luyện kỹ thuật Vovinam

Master Fugo training Vovinam techniques

Võ sư Fugo tập luyện kỹ thuật Vovinam

Master Fugo training Vovinam techniques

After nearly 3 months of arduous training under the guidance of many excellent masters and instructors in Vietnam, Senior Master Nguyễn Văn Chiếu certifies that Master Fugo has satisfied standard qualification worthy of a Red Belt. With the certification, Master Fugo can begin training new students upon their return. Back in Japan, Master Fugo immediately began building the first generation of disciples.

In March 2013, Master Fugo returned to Vietnam once again for 10 days to hone his Vovinam skills. Accompanying him on this trip were Watanabe Noris san and Nichiryu Kambe san. Particuarly, Kambe san has been a trusted collaborator through Master Fugo’s professional wrestling life. Once held a Judo black belt 2nd dan and also is a professional wrestler, Kambe san is no stranger to the martial arts world. As a genuine Buddhist practitioner, Kambe san has always kept a calm demeanor.

Ông Nichiryu Kambe

Nichiryu Kambe san

Many colleagues and friends in the professional wrestling world has shown enthusiastic support for Master Fugo in his pursuit of a Vovinam development plan in Japan, but he’s never underestimated the challenges that lies ahead . He has admitted that, “In Japan, currently many people do not know Vovinam; and they feel Vovinam is Vovinam, not Karate, and not Judo.” In reply, Master Fugo modestly suggests to them, “Train Vovinam then you will understand. Do not just stand around and watch – just do it! “

In an effort to introduce Vovinam to the Japanese people, Full Contact Karate Magazine, a famous monthly martial arts magazine that has a large readership, has graciously published 2 essays in 2 consecutive release periods, presenting Master Fugo on the front page cover along with very thoughtful technical analysis. Several other newspapers and magazines have also begun to help readers becoming more familiar with Vovinam. It appears that Master Fugo’s determination and intense passion is gradually gaining confidence from the public; and among his new students, there are individuals who have been trained with traditional Japanese martial art disciplines. Just few months after commence of the movement, Master Fugo has confided to me that Tokyo now has 2 regular Vovinam classes and another 2 classes being formed, with a total of about 50 students, and 20 of them being trained regularly. He also plans to open more Vovinam classes and will continue to be the messenger promoting this great martial art across Japan. He believes, with time, the Japanese people will be more accepting & embrace Vovinam discipline once they have become acquainted with the values of the Vietnamese martial arts and how it can contribute to their individual martial art skills and good health.

Sinh hoạt Vovinam tại Tokyo, Nhật Bản

Activities of Vovinam classes in Tokyo, Japan

Sinh hoạt Vovinam tại Tokyo, Nhật Bản

Activities of Vovinam classes in Tokyo, Japan


Sinh hoạt Vovinam tại Tokyo, Nhật Bản

Activities of Vovinam classes in Tokyo, Japan

Sinh hoạt Vovinam tại Tokyo, Nhật Bản

Activities of Vovinam classes in Tokyo, Japan

Sinh hoạt Vovinam tại Tokyo, Nhật Bản

Activities of Vovinam classes in Tokyo, Japan

Sinh hoạt Vovinam tại Tokyo, Nhật Bản

Activities of Vovinam classes in Tokyo, Japan

The Vovinam’s blue uniforms are showing up more frequently in Japan and the students are wearing them proundly. Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo has arrived on the Land of Rising Sun (扶桑), an idea that only exists in dreams, now has come true. Fate and chances in life are truly unpredictable. If fate did not bring Master Fugo to attend the Vovinam Championship event, the story of Vovinam Japan would never have existed . Indeed, this Vovinam Japan story come together by elements of serendipity, a common aspiration of all Vovinam disciples, individual talents, goodwill, openness, and an entrepreneur spirit of Master Fugo. This serendipitous event, without a doubt, has contributed to the history of Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo.

Báo chí Nhật đăng tin Vovinam

Vovinam in Japanese press

Phù hiệu và hình ảnh Vovinam

Logo and images of Vovinam

Võ sư Fugo tham gia giải Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo Á châu

Master Fugo at World Martial Arts Festival in Iran

Written by Hoài Nam
June 26, 2013

As the waves constantly cresting and rushing one another forward, the learned one teaches and guides the unlearned ones, gradually Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo disciples spread Vietnamese martial arts to many places in the world. The early arrivals on a new territory open martial art classes and training clubs; and that’s how the Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo movement organically build up their presence in the past. Recently, in Taiwan, images of youth, children appearing in Vovinam blue martial art uniforms, and they saluted one another with all the solemnity. These beautiful images start showing up on a Facebook member’s home page who has an unmistakable nickname, written in Vietnamese: “Vovinam Đài Loan” (Vovinam Taiwan). Could not contain my sense of curiosity, I want to learn how Vovinam was introduced to the island. The story of Vovinam Taiwan is particularly interesting because unlike other cases, the first sprout of Vovinam seed on the island nation appear to be an act of self-germination.

Through Facebook, I sent a short message in Chinese to Vovinam Đài Loan expressing my desire to ‘befriended’ and also admitting that I’m not fluent in Chinese, and that the sent message was only a result of machine translation. Vovinam Đài Loan responded quickly in English. From then on, we discussed many things and that’s how I gain a better insight about the people and events of the Vovinam Taiwan story.

Behind the Facebook nickname “Vovinam Đài Loan” is a dynamic young Taiwanese man with an intense passion for Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo. At age 29, Peng Shu-Chun (彭蜀鈞) is a teacher in Xigang district (西港區) of Tainan city, Taiwan (Republic of China). No stranger to martial arts, Shu-Chun trained Taekwondo for 17 years, learned Chinese Hung Gar Kung, a well-known Chinese martial art discipline for 14 years, and has also studied Karate for about 1 year. Earned his black belt 3rd dan in Taekwondo, he had been a coach for nearly 10 years. Graduated from the Chinese Culture University, department of Chinese martial arts and dance, Shu-Chun currently teaches physical education and teaches Vovinam martial arts.

Since 2011 he began to take notice of Vovinam martial arts on the Internet. Never been to Vietnam and does not have access to any certified coach or Vovinam martial arts master previously, he has been self-learning Vovinam techniques through Youtube videos. Taking advantage of his wealth of martial arts background, and a deep passion for Vietnamese martial art, he absorbs Vovinam moves quickly and practices what he learns from the recorded video clips. In addition, Shu-Chun spent many hours studying võ đạo teaching (budo), and translated them along with other technical materials so that he can pass them on to his students. He said that, after my research and self-study, “I found Vovinam’s teaching to be well organized and comprehensive, consisting a good variety of martial arts skills”. He was particularly impressed with the fluent moves and it’s very applicable techniques. Shu-Chun also admits, “since then I also realized that my martial arts knowledge is limited and lacking”. With what he has learned, he has started to teach Vovinam to children in elementary schools where he teaches physical education.

The story of Vovinam Taiwan is still at a very early stage as its history is being written every day. Shu-Chun enthusiastically shared with me that he now has an instructor who is fluent in Vovinam techniques of the formal training program. It was a very rare coincidence when he met someone known as Fan Wen Jun. Intrigued by the insertion, I inquired further and learned that they made contact through Facebook and met for the first time 2012 at a McDonald’s restaurant. According to Shu-Chun, this meeting “has changed my overall opinion of the martial arts.”

Shu-Chun Peng and Phạm Văn Tuấn’s first meeting

Shu-Chun Peng and Phạm Văn Tuấn’s first meeting

The instructor that Shu-Chun mentioned is a young man, only 23 years old, named Phạm Văn Tuấn (Fan Wen Jun in pinyin) who is also known on Facebook as “Tình Phiêu Lãng” (“drifting love”). I contacted Tuấn and received a quick reply. I later learned that Tuấn has come from Vietnam and has been working in Taiwan for two years. He recalls of his two Vovinam teachers with great respect, who taught him Vovinam techniques and instilled in him the honor code of Vietnamese martial arts (Việt Võ Đạo) while he was still in Vietnam. Master Nguyễn Hoàng Đạo is the head of Vovinam movement of Thái Bình province and was his first teacher. After arriving in Hà Nội to study, he continue practicing Vovinam under tutelage of Master Lý Chiến Thắng in Từ Liêm district, Hà Đông, Hà Nội. Tuấn recalls fond memory of his two teachers with admiration saying “both teachers were fantastic.”

Phạm văn Tuấn (dưới), Bành Thục-Quân (Trên)

Phạm văn Tuấn (bottom), Shu-Chun Peng (Top)

As the sail catching wind, Peng Shu-Chun and Phạm Văn Tuấn complement each other extremely well. Despite the language barrier, Peng Shu-Chun has not mastered Vietnamese language; and Tuấn is not fluent in Mandarin Chinese, however Shu-Chun’s desire to absorb Vovinam techniques and knowledge while Tuấn is very willing to impart his knowledge, knowing that he’s indirectly helping the development of Vovinam in Taiwan. Tuấn works in Kaohsiung City; and every Sundays and when his time permits, he takes the train to Tainan, traveled about 1 hour to meet up with Shu-Chun. They practiced Vovinam profusely for hours. Shu-Chun admires the techniques that Tuấn imparts to him and cherish this special relationship, while Tuấn recognized that Shu-Chun is full of devotion and enthusiasm. As Shu-Chun’s skills are being honed, Tuấn noted Shu-Chun is very “studious” and a fast learner. Furthermore, among Shu-Chun’s many strengths, management and networking are certainly his strong suit.

With solid technical skills under his belt, Shu-Chun has started to open new mainstream classes in Tainan. Besides the classes he taught at elementary schools, the first Vovinam class has been operating regularly at Tainan Municipal Xigang Junior High School (臺南市立西港國民中學), which currently has 12 registered students. The Vovinam initiative receives support from many teachers, friends, and parents; but the road is never completely smooth. Some resistance come from people who has not been exposed to Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo discipline, but Shu-Chun would not be discouraged by it. Taking steps to get organized, Shu-Chun officially registered Việt Võ Đạo Taiwan Association and has plan to open many more schools in the future, not only in the local region, but also in Taipei and other areas in Taiwan. Shu-Chun plans a trip to Vietnam next year to visit and learn more Vovinam; and in the future he wishes to travel to visit the international Vovinam friends that he “met” on Facebook.


First formal Vovinam class in Taiwan

The story of Vovinam Taiwan is particularly intrigging because Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo apparently possesses a kind of soft power, only through the Internet, it has the ability to win over admiration of a martial arts coach who has plenty experience of mainstream and well-known martial arts of the world. Peng Shu-Chun builds and develops Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo on the island nation where there are already rich traditions of martial arts from China, Japan, and Korea. From the unique relationship between Peng Shu-Chun and Phạm Văn Tuấn, they had sowed the first batch of Việt Võ Đạo seeds and these good seeds started to germinate on the soil of Taiwan.

Hoài Nam

Vovinam Đài Loan

Vovinam in Taiwan

Hướng dẫn

Strolling Tết Market with Grand Master

Posted: Tháng Mười Hai 31, 2011 in English

“Don’t worry, I’m alright, and will not be coming back to hospital anymore!”, Grand Master Lê Sáng expressed optimism with a few disciples” as we were going to Tết shopping in the morning of February 2, 2010 (tháng Chạp or 29th day of 12th lunar month). Master Nguyễn Văn Sen sentimentally recalled those words of the Grand Master as we talked on the morning of February 1st, 2011 – which happened to be on 29th day of tháng Chạp, at Tổ đường.

Though the Grand Master still practiced breathing exercises regularly, due to his advanced age his effort yield minimal desired result. From mid of January 2010, his cardiovascular instability makes his limbs swollen. Based on the advice of Dr. Võ Quốc Trung, on Jan 28 2010 he was submitted to Nguyễn Trãi hospital for treatment. After half a month of treatment, he was discharged. Receiving this news, we were all delighted, as our Master will be home enjoying “Tết festival” with us at Tổ đường. Frankly, we were not concerned about providing care for the Master at the hospital during Tết celebration, but in our hearts and in many other fellow students’ hearts as well, we wish to gather at Tổ đường to offer sacred incense to the Founding Master Nguyễn Lộc, as we always do in the morning of the 2nd day of Tết, as a tradition of our discipline.

About 10 am on February 2, 2010, Master Nguyễn Tôn Khoa finally completed the check-out procedures to discharge him from the hospital, while Master Sen, his wife, Master Khoa, Master Võ Văn Tuấn, Master Lê Văn Hùng and I were present at the hospital since 8 am. When Grand Master get situated comfortably on Master Tuấn’s 7-seat car, we discussed among ourselves, since this Tết festival Grand Master does not have plan to travel anywhere due to his health conditions, we can drive Master to Tết flower market and do some Tết shopping – an indispensable activity during the preparation to celebrate Spring Festival. We brought up the idea to our Grand Master and he gladly agreed. So, Master Tuấn became the chauffeur, while Master Sen and Master Hùng closely accompanied Grand Master.

Our car commenced from Nguyễn Trãi hospital to Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai street and run into a traffic jam at Lý Thái Tổ roundabout, the traveling speed slowed down quite a bit. Have the opportunity to watch the bustling streets, busy sellers, buyers… everyone is preparing to welcome spring, with a rapidly changing urban landscape on these days, the Grand Master was very happy. From Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai street, the car headed toward the Thống Nhất Palace (Unification Palace, formerly known as Independence Palace), veered toward the Nhà thờ Đức Bà (Notre Dame Cathedral), then moved down to Đồng Khởi street and finally got into Nguyễn Huệ boulevard, so our Grand Master can see the flower decorated street as it is in the final stages of preparation. Witnessing the jubilant scenes of vibrant, lively city center and familiar places, Grand Master could not hide a regret that he will not be able to contribute much anymore to Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo and for the people of Vietnam…

Knowing that Grand Master loves plants and trees, after strolling around the flower market on September-23 Park, Master Tuấn drove him to the Đông-Tây (East-West) Avenue to admire more flowers and bonsai plants… Seeing the garden full of flowers showing colorful petals, he appeared to enjoy it thoroughly…

At 11 am, the Grand Master seemed tired, the masters took him back to Tổ đường to rest. On the way, while being cheerful Grand Master expressed a sense of nostalgia when he recalled some good old times including the discipline traditions such as wrapping and cooking bánh chưng together (a type of rice rolled cake specifically for Tết), sharing pork meat with members for Tết celebration, cordial year-ending party… all that took place among the disciples prior to 1975. Then he sighed: “our discipline of the old days was solid and steadfast in solidarity!” Master Tuấn reminisced: “Listen to Grand Master’s recollection of the good old memories that I was personally participating, I have a plan in mind, when our Grand Master is fully recovered, I will discuss with the masters to restore these discipline traditions because this type of activity is certainly within our control.” Unfortunately, now our Grand Master had gone forever… From that memorable day it has been a full year, but his optimistic and cheerful attitude and his vigorous life perspective, with his powerful words still remain pristine in my heart”.

On 29th day of tháng Chạp last year, our Grand Master went to Tết fair and festival; On the 2nd day of last new year, though not feeling very well, he was still cheerful welcoming a number of senior masters at the founder’s altar hall for about half an hour. Today, again on 29th day of tháng Chạp , my Master would not be able to stroll the Tết market with us anymore and on 2nd day of Tết this year… I shall miss my Master’s cordial and warm words of wisdom…


Disciple Nguyen Hong Tam

English version – translation by