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Martial Arts School:
389 E. Santa Clara St.,
San Jose, CA 95113


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Vovinam Journey

by Instructor Trịnh Bỉnh Khôn

Saturday July 5, 2003. I woke up quite early. Knowing that many Vovinamers had arrived in San Jose from everywhere. Instead of going straight to Overfelt High School where the event would be held, I stopped by Master Cẩm Bình’s (who is organizer for this event) resident at 07:00 AM. The event would start at 09:00 AM.

When I got there, I saw Master Dương Quang Việt, Master Nguyễn Thành Xê (both from Germany) and instructor Trần Văn Chiều (from Canada) in the living room. After saying ‘hi’ to them. I walked in to the kitchen and I saw Master Cẩm Bình and Master Lưu Kim Lan (two highest female ranking in Vovinam).

This is first time for Master Lan to visit USA. I walked up to Master Lan and introduced myself. She wanted to be addressed as sister rather than Master. Probably because I am quite older than she is. I think this way will be less formal and friendlier. After few a very basic conversations, I went back to the living room to chat with other Masters.

While I was chatting with them, I was offered a bowl of vegetarian soup noodles. It taste pretty good. Approximately 15 minutes later, Master Nguyễn Phi Hùng (one of the most active Vovinamer in San Jose) arrived and got ready to load up all the equipments for the event. As usual, I was his main helper for this task.

When I arrived at Overfelt High School, I saw Master Nguyễn Minh Hải, Master Nguyễn Đình Thư (from Canada), Master Tống Minh Đường (from San Diego) and many of their students. Everybody helped each other to unload all the equipment. According to the school custodians, we supposed to use the first gym for the event, somehow this decision was changed due to first gym’s floor needing to be stripped. So, we had to move to the second gym that delayed us almost a half of hour, but was no big deal.

Instructor Vọng Cầu and his helpers were ready to set up the altar. It took him about a week to design everything. Master Phi Hùng also had his own design for the main sign. For some reasons, we had two signs. Probably one was from last year. We decided to use the one from last year. I felt sorry for Hung. He worked so hard on his sign.

Later, I ran into a Master who looked very familiar to me. We shook my hand and said hi. I thought he was one of the instructors from San Diego who I owed him a videotape. But then he said he was from Washington? Finally I figured out he was Master Thuận.

It wasn’t long. Everything was set up and ready to go. I was talking to someone. Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Master Đường. He said excuse to both of us then waves his hand to signal me to follow him, I went with him outside. There he showed me Master Đỗ Văn Phước who we have not seen for many years. I was so surprised and happy to see him. Master Phước used to practice Vovinam at the same Hưng Đạo High School with me in the late 60’s back in Vietnam. We chatted for a long while. We missed the beginning of the grand opening of the tournament.

I found out later, Master Cường from Oklahoma, Master Liễn from Texas were honorees for the opening ceremony. But they did not stay for very long.

Since we had over 150 Vovinam contestants and only hand full of judges, we organized into three groups to speed up the testing process. The testing for higher belt was completed about noon.

We had lunch provided by Northwest group. This time we even had a whole roast pig which is my favorite dish. One person I would like to mention here is Cô Nga (Master Hai’s wife) who is very supportive for Vovinam since I met her. She is excellent cook. I like everything she cooks (everybody agrees with this). She seems never get tire. She cooks for every Vovinam event that means she cooks for many, many people. Sometimes we have meeting very late at night and she stays awake late just to cook for us. Thanks does not seems enough for Cô Nga, hope she knows that her work is deeply appreciated.

After lunch break, the rest of the day was competition from techniques to full contact sparing. I helped Master Thư video taped the whole time. Each and everyone of the contestant did their best. Please check www.Vovinamus.com website for the test results.

The event finished at 21:30. Instructor Cầu asked me earlier that if I could stay to help him dis-assemble the altar. I told him that I will stay until everything is clear.

When we on our way to the parking lot. Everybody tried to arrange their own transportation to Master Hải’s house for gathering. I was so proud to introduce my personal Vovinam license plate to Master Việt. He decided to ride with me to Master Hải’s house. Few minutes after we got there. Master Thuận said to me that he received my donation for the car wash fundraising for his students to participate in this event. He mentioned that his philosophy for the car wash was ‘guarantee the car will get wet’. He decided to have his student use a paper cup filled with water and wet my truck with it. Sure, he kept his promise all right but then I am not sure if my truck is cleaner than before. However, I was so please with his service because I love to see all the young students so eager to do the work. One of the cutest story from Washington’s group is one of the student wanted to join Vovinam when she was 4 or 5 years old. She tries to convince her parents to let her do it. She even helped her parents wash the dishes. Her parents finally gave in. She did the same thing again to convince her parents to come to California. Her mother told me this story. I would give this girl 2 thumbs up! I also heard some comments that Master Thuan’s students are so well behave. To me, a successful event depends on all participants. Especially parents involvement and support. Same thing with school and scout.

I notice that the gap between the generation is very wide. If I could, I would like to have an opportunity to chat with each and everyone in Vovinam. My purpose to is narrow the generation gap as much as possible.

Back to Master Hải’s house, after everyone arrived. We had an informal meeting. Actually it was a gathering for fun. Most of us sharing our memories. That is one of my favorite part when we get together, and I am sure that each and every Vovinamer has a unique story to tell. Again, Cô Nga started to cook before everybody got there. While we were chatting, poor Cô Nga was cooking away.

When we get ready to say goodbye, Master Duong represented our group to thank Cô Nga for her work. Cô Nga decided to speak up. She said that it was nothing compared to what Master Đường and few other Vovinamers did for her when her family was at the refugee camp. I noticed that Cô Nga tried to hold back her tears and probably everyone on the table felt the same way. As we say:” friend in need is friend indeed”. That is so true.

At the end, we all held hands and sang a group activity song:

We are together, then goodbye

Golden days went by as flash

Enthusiasm still there,

Long road, river and huge mountain but then we will meet again...


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