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.

Liv­ing the mar­tial life is a unique ex­pe­ri­ence in that you ded­i­cate Ê Á±´b n ¼ O ´¼8 ¼ Ê ¼±8  t ¼ ot|¼ i Êb¼ Ê Á Y ®¼ ot|¼¡

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