Black Belt’s correspondent in the Far East goes to Vietnam and delves into vo co truyen, a system that encompasses kickingI punchingI forms and weaponsK
Through the research I conducted in country, I learned that vo co truyen contains elements derived from three “religious” disciplines — Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism — but because Vietnam is a communist country, being overtly religious can be problematic. Perhaps that’s why, when I asked my friend Linh Le Trung, an instructor in Hanoi, he said, “I think vo co truyen is not related to religions. Some masters can use the knowledge of religion in the martial arts because they believe it, but most masters of vo co truyen do not.”
Within vo co truyen exist numerous schools called mon phai, and one of them, according to Trung, is vovinam, the Vietnamese art most Westerners know. (He also said, “In China, Shaolin is a mon phai, and wing chun is a mon phai.”) All the mon phai have different origins ranging from indigenous Vietnamese styles to systems imported from China, he said.
In my opinion, vo co truyen looks a lot like kung fu, and in fact, it dates back to the period of Chinese domination of Vietnam. During that time, many aspects of Chinese culture were incorporated into the local culture. So it seems fairly certain that at least part of vo co truyen comes from China.
I LEARNED that Trung, despite being only 29, possesses a broad knowl ϐ Ǥ He started training at age 6 under a master named Bui Dang Van, who still teaches students in Hanoi’s Quan Thanh Temple.
When Trung was 12, his family moved to Saigon for two years. In the new city, he trained under Nguyen Huu Phuoc. Now he teaches in Hanoi under Van. Part of his workload is running vo co truyen competitions at the district, city, regional and national levels. As you’d expect, he’s quite familiar with how the tournaments operate, his knowledge no doubt augmented by the fact that he won gold medals at the North Vietnam Championships in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012, along with silver medals at the National Championships in 2009 and 2010.
Back in 2009, I trained with Trung at Quan Thanh Temple, where he was a senior student. On this trip, I followed Trung the teacher to his classes, where he was seeing to the needs of his own students. Their training took place in
the courtyard of a community center. Surrounded by a high wall and sport ϐ ǡ had an oddly medieval feel — it was like being on the grounds of an ancient Ǥ ǡ ǡ Ǧϐ ǡ like apprentice monks.
ǯ ǡ ! " ϐ military-like ranks. When he was satisϐ ϐ ǡ them through their forms.
The routines appeared similar to ǡ # - niscent of the horse stance and bow Ǥ ǡ Ǥ ǡ ǯ ϐ into their palms. The forms included ǡ $ ǡ # - ing that he deserved his championship wins. I was impressed by the general ǡ # ǡ - ity to kick above head height.
ǡ ǡ rode across town to his next class. This ǡ $ ǡ Ǥ ǡ had me teach them. I went over some kick-catching techniques from san da and a couple of basic takedowns.
TIME AND TIME AGAIN during my ǡ ' ǡ ǯ# - antly surprised at the kindness of the students and teachers I’ve met. Although we often lack a common ǡ ǯ friends. Living the martial life is a unique experience in that you dedicate ϐ Ȅ ǯ ϐ Ǥ people and share techniques.
ǡ ϐ his self-defense art to a new genera ǡ Ǥ # ǡ real beauty of the martial arts.
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