VietnamCulture and HistoryTraditional Vietnamese Sports

Traditional Vietnamese Sports

Vietnam may have appeared to you like a traditional country in terms of clothes (Ao Dai), cuisine (Pho), or architecture (Imperial City of Hue). However, Vietnam is also a country with a wide range of traditional sports that benefit both the players’ physical and mental health, such as human chess, dragon dance, etc. This blog will take you through a tour of introduction to some of the popular traditional Vietnamese sports.

Wrestling-Traditional Vietnamese Sports

Wrestling is one of the most famous traditional Vietnamese sports, which is very popular in villages in the North. Back then, it was a favorite sport of farmers, which was often held in spring festivals in Tet. In those days, wrestling was a distinctive event that attracted all the villagers. People gather around the ground and cheer as the two wrestlers compete. Drums also boost the atmosphere.

traditional vietnamese sports wrestling

Traditional Vietnamese Wrestling

The rules of traditional Vietnamese wrestling are relatively simple. A match often starts with a short ceremony. The two fighters then come up and perform a dance in order to show their respect and gratitude to the ancestor of wrestling. After the ceremony, the fighters greet each other and shake hands. Then they start the competition. Fighters need to be not only strong but also fast. No striking is allowed, and the fighter will win by throwing and sweeping the competitor to the ground.

Vovinam-Traditional Vietnamese Sports

Vovinam was invented by Nguyen Loc in 1936. However, it was not until 1938 that this type of art publicly known. Vovinam is created based on the traditional wrestling of Vietnam. It involves the use of the hands, elbows, legs, knees, and weapons such as swords, knives, chisels, claws, and fans.

traditional vietnamese sports vovinam


So far, vovinam is the most developed type of martial art in Vietnam. Not just a traditional Vietnamese sport, Vovinam is also a global favorite. There are approximately 60 schools teaching Vovinam around the world, and there are Vovinam World Championships as well which was first held in 2002 by Vovinam World Federation.

Boat Racing-Traditional Vietnamese Sports

Boat racing festival is annually held in lunar January 2nd. Besides wrestling, boat racing is a popular activity taking place in the North of Vietnam. Since Vietnam is an agricultural country, the boat racing festival is not only for cheering up in the spring holidays but also to express gratitude to the Water God, wishing a peaceful new year with abundant harvests.

traditional vietnamese sports boat race

Boat racing in the spring festival

There are dragon boats packed with up to 30 people. Rowers then try to row the fastest they can to be the first team to reach the finish line. Boat racing requires excellent coordination and good spirit among team members in order to reach the goal in the shortest time. Therefore, boat racing is both for physical and mental practice, just like many other traditional Vietnamese sports.

Tug of War-Traditional Vietnamese Sports

Tug of war is both a sport and folk game that is relatively simple and very popular worldwide. The rule is very easy to get. Tug of war is a competition between two teams in which each pulls at the opposite end of a rope until one team drags the other over a central line.

traditional vietnamese sports tug of war

A tug of war game in Tet holiday

The game is often held in spring festivals or any traditional festival in Vietnam. It is also a popular choice for kids whenever they gather and want to join in a simple competition together. This folk game, and also sport, was added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity icons in 2015.

Cow Racing-Traditional Vietnamese Sports

Cow racing festival is a festival of the Khmer community in Southern Vietnam. It is often held on the 15th of the 10th month, according to the Khmer calendar (around the end of September and early October). Cow racing takes place in Bay Nui, An Giang Province. The competitors are determined by drawing at the beginning of the race. When the race starts, the rider controls the cows by tow and uses their skills to make them run as fast as possible by slashing.

traditional vietnamese sports cow racing

Cow racing festival in An Giang province

The racing route is 120 m long, is often very muddy, and includes two laps, which allow the rider to show their techniques in controlling the cows. The atmosphere of the race is largely boosted by the clapping and the cheering of the audience. This makes the festival one of the fascinating ones compared to the others.

Summary of Traditional Vietnamese Sports

Since Vietnam had to undergo hundreds of years of war, sports has become one of the crucial aspects of the Vietnamese people’s life to enhance physical as well as mental health. Besides, the most important thing in traditional Vietnamese sports, the same as in other countries, is the warrior spirit. Whatever sport you join in, do maintain sportsmanship and you will have an unforgettable experience.

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