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Vovinam History

1912 - 1960 - 1975

On May 24, 1912, Nguyen Loc was born to Nguyen Dinh Xuyen and Nguyen Thi Hoa as the oldest of the 5 brothers and sisters (Nguyen Thi Thai, Nguyen Dan, Nguyen Ngo, and Nguyen Thi Bich Ha). His father's family had settled in Huu Bang Village, Thach That County, Son Tay Province, North Vietnam, for generations. Later, his family moved to Hanoi. When Nguyen Loc started going to school, his father asked an old master to teach Nguyen Loc the traditional martial arts and wrestling techniques for health and self-defense reasons.

Nguyen Loc grew up in the period which Vietnam was still under the French colonial rule. At that time, young men either were seduced by the French into the lusty lives or join the revolutionary war against the French. Master Nguyen Loc believed that the only way to free Vietnam from the colonial rule was to train the Vietnamese young men to have a strong, invincible will for liberty and independence. That would must be produced by a strong body and a rational mind. Therefore, he began his missions to train the Vietnamese youth to have a moral and invincible spirit: "Live, Help others live, and Live for others."

Carrying on that belief, he diligently practiced and researched many Vietnamese traditional martial arts as well as many foreign martial arts. He also examined tirelessly many archives about Philosophy, Literature, History,... even Anatomy and Medicine. In addition, he always attended many tournaments and competitions or discussed martial arts with many famous masters. After his research, he founded a new discipline of martial arts, which he names "VOVINAM", understood as the "MARTIAL ARTS OF VIETNAM."

In the fall of 1938, he began to teach Vovinam to several friends. During this time, he continued to research and improved Vovinam's techniques. In 1940, He and his disciples demonstrated publicly for the first time in the Great Theater of Hanoi. The demonstration was very successful and attracted many spectators.

After the demonstration, he was invited by Doctor Dang Vu Hy, President of the Sport Friendship Association to teach Vovinam. The first Vovinam lessons began in the spring of 1940 in the Hanoi University of Education (E'cole Normal).

Many Vovinam disciples in the period of 1938-1940 often told of the tale of the "invincible spirit" of Founder Nguyen Loc. In the first demonstration, there was a high ranking French official, Colonel Maurice Ducoroy, attending. Because Col. Maurice Ducoroy, who represented the French colonial rule, was sitting in the audience, Founder Nguyen Loc did not let his disciples to bow to the audience. Instead he took his disciples to the backstage to bow to the ancestor's altar. During the demonstration, Dr. Dang Vu Hy invited Founder Nguyen Loc to Durocoy's seat so Ducoroy could award him a medal. Knowing that he could not refuse, Founder Nguyen Loc had to accept. But when he returned to the stage, he calmly put the medal into his pocket. His conduct had touched the patriotic feelings of the audience, especially his disciples.

Since then, Vovinam always led the demonstrations against the French and its rule, including the demonstration in the University of Hanoi and the Ministry of Agriculture. Consequently, French closed all the Vovinam classes and prohibited Founder from teaching Vovinam. This was a challenging period for Vovinam during its early time. However, Founder still secretly taught many loyal disciples at home, and continued to lead many public demonstrations.

Soon later, Vovinam cooperated with many patriotism organization to host many events commemorating King Hung (first King of Vietnam), Two Queens Trung as well as many charitable events... At the same time, many self-defense classes had opened and recruited tens of thousands of disciples. The enthusiasm for Vovinam in the public was indicated by the slogans: "Vietnamese practice Vietnamese martial arts", "Not a Vovinam disciple, not a Vietnamese patriot"...

At this time, since the independence war was necessary, many Vovinam techniques was very simple but practical. The training focuses on the endurance, speed, and strength. Most of the training sessions lasted about 3 months. In April 1945, many Vovinam instructors were sent to remote places to promote Vovinam.

After winning World War II, France returned to Vietnam in 1946 to reclaim its former colony. On December 19, 1946, the war against France broke out in North Vietnam. Founder Nguyen Loc led his disciples to join the war. Some disciples become famous and courageous commanders while some have fallen for the freedom of Vietnam. When Viet Minh (the predecessor of the Vietnamese Communist Party) began to consolidate their power by recruiting non-communist Vietnamese and murdering those who refuse, Founder Nguyen Loc immediately halted all his involvements with Viet Minh and urged his disciples to leave the Viet Minh. Knowing that, Viet Minh ordered the capture of Founder Nguyen Loc with the purpose to force Vovinam disciples to join the Viet Minh. Upon the dangerous situation: being wanted by both the Viet Minh and the French, Founder Nguyen Loc told his disciples to return to their hometowns to wait for an opportunity. He then took the remaining disciples back to his hometown, Huu Bang village. In his hometown, he helped organize the young men into militias as well as train the new militias in combative techniques. He also assigned instructors to the Military Academy of Tran Quoc Tuan. After his responsibilities were fulfilled, he then continued his journey and train the Militia Officers of villages of Che Luu, Am Thuong, Thanh Huong, Dan Ha, Dan Phu along the way... In March 1948, He came to The Catholic District of Phat Diem and assigned instructors to train Jesuit Militias under Chief Commander Tran Thien.

In August 1948, He returned to Hanoi and opened many Vovinam classes for the young men and women. In 1951, He worked with many dignitaries to found the Vietnamese Martial Artist Federation which offers many martial art classes for the public in the schoolyard of Hang Than, Hanoi.

In July 20, 1954, the Geneva Treaty divided Vietnam into two countries: the North Communist and the South Nationalist. This event posed a great challenge to Vovinam in general and the Founder in particular. If Founder decided to stay in the North, Vovinam would be falling into the hand of the Communists. If he decided to head to the South, many disciples would leave their families and hometowns behind, and Vovinam would lose many able disciples who decided to stay. On the other hand, the South was still an unknown land, and the Founder would risk losing everything he had built from 1938 and would start from scratch; and no one really knew what was awaiting.

Finally, Founder Nguyen Loc decided to migrate to the South and started Vovinam once again under unfavorable conditions. In July 1954, Founder and loyal disciples arrived in Saigon, and opened new Vovinam school here. Soon later, Vovinam was invited to train the South Vietnamese police in Saigon and Thu Duc.

In the middle of 1954, Founder fall sick and had to take a break from teaching. He authorized the oldest disciple, Master Le Sang to take over the Vovinam classes temporarily. Although Founder was not physically teaching Vovinam, He was still doing researches, and analyzing Vovinam techniques as well as essential archives in order to refine Vovinam. Founder still looked after the disciples who were following his mission.

Relying on the Founder's teachings upon the Mind-Body Revolution, Master Le Sang systemized the martial arts' techniques and finalized the philosophical knowledge, missions, policies... Master Le Sang also gathered many disciples of the early classes to help develop Vovinam. Among the disciples are the two most active, Masters Tran Huy Phong and Nguyen Van Thu.

In 1958, Master Le Sang was elected to be the General Secretary of the Vietnamese Martial Arts Federation; he held this position until 1968. During this time, he researched many traditional Vietnamese martial arts to revise Vovinam's techniques and originate the "one develops into three" method.

 


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