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  Vovinam History

1912 - 1960 - 1975

         While the progress of Vovinam discipline had just began and there were still many tasks to overcome, Founder Nguyen Loc unexpectedly passed away on April 29, 1960 (April 4, 1960, year of the Rat, according to Lunar Calendar). Before passing away, Founder Nguyen Loc appointed his most senior disciple, Le Sang, to continue his missions. Founder Nguyen Loc was then buried in the Mac Dinh Chi cemetery, Saigon. Then on every April 4 (lunar calendar), all the disciples gather in front of his tomb to pay respect to him.

        On November 11, 1960, since Master Pham Loi of Judo participated in the coupe led by General Nguyen Chanh Thi, the Ngo administration prohibited many martial art disciplines, including Vovinam from functioning. All the training centers were banned. All the masters either dispersed or were drafted into the army. However, despite of the hardships, Master Tran Huy Phong still continued the missions set forth by the Founder. He secretly trained many disciples in schools where he taught such as Thang Long, Ho Vu, St. Thomas. Therefore, he had created a task force of young, courageous instructors who became the foundation of Vovinam in the future.

        On November 1, 1963, the Ngo Dinh Diem administration had fallen after a coup led by the military. Then a military government was established, and the ban of martial arts was annulled. All martial art disciplines were no longer being restricted, and started to appear. In 1964, all the leading Vovinam Masters met and formed the new discipline of martial arts. "VIET VO DAO" ("THE PHILOSOPHY OF VIETNAMESE MARTIAL ARTS") was added to become "VOVINAM-VIET VO DAO." The Council of Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao is also formed.

    The Council of Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao had two structures:

  1. Training Commission directed by Grand Master Le Sang  who was responsible to develop the training curriculum and to certify masters and instructors.

  2. Viet Vo Dao Youth Association led by Master Tran Huy Phong was responsible for youth and social activities.

        The hierarchy of the Council of Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao:

  • Grand Master: Master Le Sang

  • Assistant Grand Master and Director of Planning Commission: Master Tran Huy Phong

  • General Secretary: Master Phan Quynh

  • Treasurer: Master Nguyen Van Cuong

  • Director of Public Relation Commission: Master Phung Manh Chu

  • Director of General Management Commission: Master Nguyen Van Thu

  • Director of Justice Commission: Master Ngo Huu Lien

  • Director of Ceremony Commission: Master Tran Ban Que

  • Director of the Treasury Commission: Master NguyenVan Thong

  • Training Commission: Master Tran Huy Phong (Director), Nguyen Van Thu, Tran Duc Hop, NguyenVan Thong, Tran The Phuong.

        The Council of Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao also established the rank hierarchy and uniforms as well as a training curriculum according to the rank.

        The ranks of Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao is as follow:

    1. White Belt: Grand Master Le Sang

    2. Red Belt:
      Red Belt II: Master Tran Huy Phong
      Red Belt I: Masters Nguyen Van Thu
      Yellow-Stripe Red Belt: Masters Nguyen Van Thong, Tran Duc Hop, Phung Manh Chu, Tran Ban Que, Phan Quynh, Ngo Huu Lien, Nguyen Van Cuong, Tran The Phuong.

    3. Yellow Belt:

        Yellow Belt II: Senior Instructors Trinh Ngoc Minh, Cao Van Cat
        Yellow Belt I: Instructors Nguyen Duc Quynh Ky, Nguyen Van Le, Lien Quoc, To Cam Minh
        Yellow Belt: Assistant Instructor Nguyen Van Thai

        The first training center was opened in 61 Vinh Vien (Eternal) Street, Saigon; then numerous training centers were also opened in Saigon such as Tran Hung Dao, Hoa Lu... The philosophical knowledge was also researched and published.

        In 1965, Master Phung Manh Chu, Director of Public Relations Committee, was successful in bringing Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao to the "New School Deal" program of the Education Department. The program started first in four public high schools: Chu Van An, Petrus Truong Vinh Ky, Trung Vuong, and Gia Long; then followed by other pulic schools such as Nguyen Trai, Vo Truong Toan, Le Van Duyet, Tran Luc, Ho Ngoc Can, Mac Dinh Chi... as well as private schools in Saigon - Gia Dinh. During this time, the new training curriculum was developed from Self-Defense to Master levels. The philosophical knowledge of Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao was also taught during class.

        Because of his good public relations and communication skills, Master Manh Hoang managed to secure two large centers for Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao from 1965 to April 1975. Those were the Hoa Lu stadium (later named the Youth Training Center by Master Tran Huy Phong), 2 Bis Dinh Tien Hoang street, and the Lam Son stadium, Tran Binh Trong street, behind the Petrus Truong Vinh Ky high school.

        Since the number of students practicing Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao increased rapidly after a short period of time, hundreds of classes were opened and admitted thousands of students in Saigon and provinces. There was a serious need for instructors. Many masters and instructors had to teach 10-11 hours a day, seven days a week; even the third-degree blue belt students were required to teach. Finally, because of high demand and low supply, Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao had to refuse to open new classes.

        In early 1966, Master Manh Hoang persuaded the National Police Department to allow Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao to be taught for the police officers. First many instructor-training classes were initiated in the National Police Headquarter, and the newly instructors were sent to the regional police departments to start Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao there. Even Grand Master Le Sang and the masters like Nguyen Van Thong, Phan Quynh, Trinh Ngoc Minh, Le Cong Danh, Tran Van Be... taught these classes. In the same time, Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao collected a financial grant from the police funds.

        In 1966, South Korea persuades the Central Military Command of the Republic of Vietnam to allow Teakwood to be taught solely in the army. Upon hearing that decision, Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao declared that this was a shame to the Vietnamese martial arts of more than 4000 years. On the National Sorrow Day, July 20, 1966, Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao organized a vigil attended by thousands of disciples in the Plant-Animal Park (Thao Cam Vien), Saigon to protest the army's use of foreign martial arts. This vigil, widely supported by the media, touched the Vietnamese nationwide. Even the Military Intelligence Agency and the Presidential Political Bureau started to investigated this event and the organizers. Even master Manh Hoang, Tran Huy Phong, Phan Quynh... were personally interrogated by Colonel Thang, Director of the Military Intelligence Agency. However, because of the persistence and the just cause, the Central Military Command issues a second order to allow Vovinam, Judo and Taekwondo to be taught in the military.

        In early 1967, Master Manh Hoang convinced Lieutenant Colonel Thuy of the Military Police of the III Corps to open many training sessions for the Military Police in Bien Hoa.

        In late 1967, Master Manh Hoang passed away unexpectedly because of advanced diabetes. Only 29, Master Manh Hoang made many great contributions to the growth of Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao in the 60s.

        From 1968, Vovinamization of Armed Forces was initiated in the Central Military Command, the 18th Army Division, the Military Police of the III Corps, the Air Force and Naval Academy of Nha Trang, the IV Corps, the IV Reinforcement Corps, the 16th Armor Division, the 81th Airborne Brigade, the 21st Army Division, the 9th Army Division Academy, the Navy of Long Xuyen, the Navy of Binh Thuy, the 3rd Army Division... In the same year, Vovinamization of Rural Development Officials was initiated with the participation of tens of thousands of Rural Development Officials in Saigon and other provinces and villages.

        In early 1968, during the Tet Offensive event, Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao helped many victims of war in Saigon. This touched the hearts of many people.

        In 1968, the Chief Instruction Commission was established in 30 Tran Hoang Quan Street, Saigon, together with the formation of Viet Vo Dao Association and Viet Vo Dao Youth Association. The Grand Master also appointed Master Tran Huy Phong as head of Viet Vo Dao Youth Association.

        After that, many masters and instructors were sent to many provinces to promote Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao: Trinh Ngoc Minh (Nha Trang), Tran Tan Vu (Phu Yen), Ngo Kim Tuyen (Binh Duong), Nguyen Van Chieu (Quy Nhon), Nguyen Van Nhan and Nguyen Van Sen (Can Tho), Tran Van My (Hau Giang), Duong Minh Nhon (Kien Giang), Nguyen Ton Khoa (An Giang), Nguyen Van Vang (Vinh Long), Nguyen Van ?t (Ut) (My Tho)...

        Soon later, the Eastern Instruction Commission was established in the province of Long Khanh under Master Tran Duc Hop and Central Instruction Commission was established in the province of Khanh Hoa under Master Trinh Ngoc Minh. In 1969, the Western Instruction Commission was established in the province of Long Xuyen (then moved to Can Tho) under Master Nguyen Van Nhan. In 1970, the Northwestern Instruction Commission was established in the province of Binh Duonng under Master Ngo Kim Tuyen.

        Every year, on the occasion of the Commemorating Day of the late Founder, many Masters everywhere returned to Saigon to attend the Commemorating Ceremony as well as attended the special training sessions and promotion examinations. This created a good tradition within Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao. The Grand Master and many high-level masters frequently visited many provinces, cities, and towns to support and examine the progress of Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao nationwide. Beside martial arts training and character building, Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao also encouraged its disciples to participate in many community and social services.

        In early 1970, Master Tran Huy Phong established the Community Village of Viet Vo Dao in Tan Tao village, Binh Chanh district, Gia Dinh province with 3 kilometer square area. The project created more than 1000 residence unit to be sold to the disciples and friends. Besides, he and some friends formed the Viet Vo Dao Agricultural Plant to harvest the agricultural produce for the village. After April 30, 1975, the Vietnamese Communist regime tich thu (took over illegally) this property and changed it into the New Economic Zone of Duong Minh Xuan.

        In late 1970, Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao and many cultural, religious, and political organizations as well as many celebrities to found the Steering Committee for the Establishing of King Hung's Altar, and finally the altar was placed in the Hoa Lu Center. Every year, the National Founder's Ceremony, attended by the President, legislators, government officials as well as many organizations and citizens lasted for many days.

        In 1973, the Vovinamization of National Officials was initiated with many training sessions in Chi Linh Center, Vung Tau.

        In 1974, a group of Vietnamese masters in France requested permission to join Vovinam because they liked the ideals of Vovinam. As a result, the Grand Master and the Council of Vovinam approved their request and entrusted them to form Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao Federation of France. The first Executive Committee included Prof. Phan Hoang (President), Pham Xuan Tong, Nguyen Dan, Phu, Hoang Nam, Nguyen Trung Hoa, Bui Van Thinh, Tran Phuoc Tastayre. The Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao Federation of France was also responsible for promoting Vovinam in Europe.

        Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao also followed many exchange students such as Tran Nguyen Dao, Nguyen Thi Hue, Tran Dai Chieu, Duong Quan Viet, Ha Chi Thanh... to France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland...

        In July 1974, the Grand Master appointed Master Tran Huy Phong as head of the Chief Instruction Commission and Master Nguyen Van Thong as the new head of the Viet Vo Dao Youth Association.

Last update: March 15 2012 01:57:14 am