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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.