Martial arts have always been integrated into Vietnamese culture ever since ancient times, and even today, it still holds a place in many people’s lives. Let’s dive into it and discover the fascinating beauty of Vietnamese martial arts.
History of Vietnamese Martial Arts
Vietnamese martial arts are among the most popular traditional Vietnamese sports.
Ever since the dawn of history, Vietnamese people have had to fight back against invaders. Because of this, many fighting techniques were developed among the common people for defense. From the 15th – 19th centuries, Vietnamese martial arts exist in two primary forms: those practice by the ordinary folks and those that are used by imperial officials.
A critical milestone in the development of Vietnamese martial arts was the French colonization in the 19th century. Throughout this period, many people practiced traditional martial arts as a part of the anti-French movement. Even when the movement weakened, many masters continued to pass their teachings secretly.
However, when faced with modern weapons, martial arts slowly fell out of favor. Despite this, Vietnamese people still choose to practice it to promote and strengthen the spirit of sportsmanship and patriotism.
Vietnamese martial arts are now being practiced all over the world.
Nowadays, as many international martial arts schools are introduced to Vietnam, Vietnamese martial arts started to develop further by incorporating techniques from those schools while still holding the same core values.
Characteristics of Vietnamese Martial Arts
There are many schools of Vietnamese martial arts, but all of them adhere to the same values.
For Vietnamese people, practicing martial arts is not just about physical strength but also about developing one’s personality and moral values. In traditional Vietnamese martial arts, the five following traditional Confucianism virtues are the top priorities:
- “Nhan”: compassion
- “Nghia”: justice
- “Le”: good manners
- “Tri”: intelligence
- “Tin”: honesty
All the moves in Vietnamese martial arts are applicable and can be learned easily.
Vietnamese traditional martial arts emphasize the use of flexible stances that are suitable for our figure and physical strength. One of the fundamental philosophies is to use your disadvantage to work against a stronger enemy; weakness against strength, small number against a large number, and shortness against height. This resulted in practical stances, flexible attacks, and a strong defense.
Types of Vietnamese Martial Arts
There are many schools of traditional Vietnamese martial arts across the country, each with their unique characteristics. They can be put into three main groups: Bac Ha Sect, Binh Dinh Sect, and Nam Bo Sect.
Bac Ha Sect (Northern Vietnam) – Vovinam
Vovinam is now the largest and most developed modern Vietnamese martial art with over 60 schools worldwide.
Master Nguyen Loc founded Vovinam (Viet Vo Dao) in 1936. Vovinam can be practiced with or without weapons and mainly involves countering the opponent’s attacks using their own force. It was listed as an official SEA Games sport in 2011 and 2013.
Binh Dinh Sect (Central Vietnam) – Tay Son
Master Hoang Trong Ngu – leader of the Tay Son Binh Dinh School and a group of disciples.
Tay Son martial art is considered to be the root of most of the other schools under the Binh Dinh sect. The name comes from the Tay Son brothers, who were masters of martial arts during the Tay Son dynasty (18th century).
It is a combination of Chinese and Champa martial arts as well as techniques from other schools in Binh Dinh. It prioritizes strength, ingenuity, and practicality. With the recession of the Tay Son dynasty, many techniques were lost through time, though many are still preserved in other forms.
Nam Bo Sect (Southern Vietnam) – Tan Khanh – Ba Tra
Tan Khanh Ba Tra is among the most popular traditional martial arts in Southern Vietnam.
Tan Khanh – Ba Tra (Takhado) has its roots from Binh Dinh martial arts and was developed and perfected in Tan Khanh village, Binh Duong province. While Takhado bears many similarities to its ancestor, it also has many unique techniques.
One of the distinctive features is the combination of rapid movements to confuse the enemies, and the use of traditional farming tools like rakes or local materials like bamboo sticks as weapons.
Where to Practice or Observe Vietnamese Martial Arts
Kien Dao Vovinam Club
Kien Dao Vovinam Club often welcomes many international students.
Address: 59-61 Huynh Khuong Ninh Street, Da Kao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hours: 6 PM – 8:30 PM (Closed on Sunday)
Clan House of Vovinam Viet Vo Dao
This 4-floor apartment is the place of worship of master Nguyen Loc – founder of Vovinam and a place for gathering for all Vovinam disciples.
Address: 31 Su Van Hanh Street, Ward 3, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hours: 5:50 AM – 9 PM (Closed on Sunday)
Master Ho Tuong – Tan Khanh Ba Tra School
Master Ho Tuong has been offering free classes since 1995.
Address: Martial Arts Club, Cultural House of Youth, No. 4, Pham Ngoc Thach, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hours: 7 PM – 8:30 PM (Closed on Saturday)
Tay Son Binh Dinh Dojo
The dojo was founded by master Hoang Trong Ngu and his successors.
Address: Alleyway no. 13, Cay Tram Street, Ward 8, Go Vap District, Ho Chi MInh City
Opening hours: 8 AM – 8:30 PM (Closed on Sunday)
VNU Vovinam Club
Created by the students of Vietnam National University (Hanoi), VNU Vovinam Club is open to all Vovinam enthusiasts.
Address: No. 2 Pham Van Dong Street, Hanoi
Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 PM – 8 PM
Kinh Van An Show – Imperial Hue Martial Arts
The Kinh Van An sect provides a great variety of martial arts shows as well as classes for groups and individuals.
Address: Across from Vu Di Tea House (No 8, Thuong 1 Village, Thuy Bang Town, Thua Thien Hue Province)
Opening hours: 11 AM and 1 PM for public shows
Quang Trung Museum
Quang Trung Museum regularly holds Tay Son martial art performances.
Address: Temple of King Quang Trung (636 Provincial Road, Phu Phong Village, Tay Son District, Binh Dinh Province)
Opening hours: 7 AM – 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM – 5 PM
Summary of Vietnamese Martial Arts
It is no doubt that Vietnamese martial arts are an important part of Vietnamese heritage. If you are looking to learn about the other side of Vietnam’s diverse culture, definitely give Vietnamese traditional martial arts a try.
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