|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (April 2011)|
Master Tân Rousset training Dai Dao
|Also known as||Vovinam (Việt Võ Đạo)|
|Country of origin||Vietnam|
|Famous practitioners||Le Sang (Grandmaster)|
Vovinam is practiced with and without weapons. It is based on the principle of between hard and soft. It includes training of the body as well as the mind. It uses force and reaction of the opponent. Vovinam also includes hand, elbow, kicks, escape- and levering techniques. Both attack and defense techniques are trained, as well as forms, combat and traditional wrestling. The wide range of techniques include punching, kicking, forms, wrestling, sword, staff, axe, folding fan and others.
Self-defense techniques cover defense against weaponless attacks like choking from behind and defense against attacks with knife or sword. Advanced students learn to combine the techniques and learn to defend themselves against armed opponents. Instructors train traditional weapons like the long stick, short stick, knife, sword and sabre. Thereby the weapons serve as training devices for reaching optimal control of body and mind.
Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo was founded as Vovinam by Nguyễn Lộc (1912 – 1960) in 1938, with the intent of providing practitioners with an efficient method of self-defense after a short period of study. Nguyễn believed martial arts would contribute to freeing Vietnam, which had been ruled by France since 1859, from outside domination. Vovinam, which Nguyễn synthesized from Chinese styles of kung fu, his own knowledge of traditional Vietnamese martial arts, and elements of Japanese and Korean systems, was thus created partially as a response to the French occupation, meant to promote a sense of national identity for the Vietnamese people.
After being invited to demonstrate Vovinam publicly in Hanoi with his disciples in 1940, Nguyễn was invited to teach the art at Hanoi's Ecole Normale, and Vovinam gained in popularity. During the following years, political unrest increased throughout Vietnam; due to the system's nationalist political orientation, the art came under suppression. By 1954, Nguyễn had emigrated to South Vietnam, where he was able to continue to teach and establish Vovinam schools. After his death in 1960, Grandmaster Le Sang continued the development and international promotion of Vovinam until his own death on September 27, 2010. The first Vovinam school outside of Vietnam was established in Houston, Texas by Vietnamese emigrants in 1976, after the Fall of Saigon. By 2000, Vovinam schools had been established in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. Vovinam now exists as Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo, without the political overtones it originally carried.
The Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo logo is framed in a yellow shape composed of a rectangle conjoined with a circle, angular at the top, round at the bottom. This shape symbolizes the perfection of the hard and soft. Within this yellow shape, the red text "Vovinam" is written above the marine blue text "Việt Võ Đạo". Beneath the text appears a yin-yang symbol in red and marine blue. The yin-yang symbol is surrounded by a thick, white circle, symbolizing the being of the Dao, with the mission to mediate between yin and yang, to subdue the two, to enable life of all beings. A yellow map of Vietnam is superimposed on the yin-yang symbol.
Hard and soft
The yin and yang theory (Vietnamese: "Âm-Dương" and "Nhu-Cương") states that everything in the universe and on earth is initiated through the interrelation of Âm (negative) and Dương (positive). As to this theory there are martial arts that prefer the hard over the soft and others that prefer the soft over the hard. Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo does not prefer any over the other. Hard and soft are used equally to adapt to every situation, to every problem.
Based on Võ-Thuật, the student aims to develop the ability to combine hard and soft in combat and in daily life. This aims to develop physical abilities as well as the student's spirit. Not only the principle of the harmony of hard and soft but also many other things resulting from the training contribute to internalizing the martial art philosophy, e.g. fighting spirit, courage, tenacity, fairness, modesty and tolerance. Above all the training in morality and the way of applying the techniques shape the students' character.
The greatest difficulty is to see through one's own ego and then to overcome it.
In doing so the Vovinam student will gain generosity and tolerance with other people.
With the awareness that the most important thing in a human's life are other humans, the final goal is to be able to not only help oneself but also to help others to live in peace and harmony with their surroundings.
With the salutation "Iron Hand over benevolent heart", the student is reminded of the main principle and the goal of Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo with every training. It is also about using the opponent's force and reaction, reaching maximum effect with little force/effort.
10 principles of Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo
The term Việt Võ Đạo ("the way (Dao) of Viet Vo") was coined by the patriarch of the second generation of the Vovinam Viet Vo Dao, Le Sang, with the objective of adding a philosophical dimension to his martial art. This "Viet Vo Dao" consists of ten principles:
- Vovinam's disciples vow to pursue high proficiency in their martial art in order to serve the people and humanity.
- Promise to be faithful to the intentions and teaching of Vovinam and develop the young generation of Vovinam Viêt Võ Dao.
- Be united in spirit and heart, respect one's elder, be kind to one's peers.
- Respect discipline absolutely, maintain the high standard of personal conduct and honour of a martial art disciple.
- Have respect for other martial art schools, only use martial art skills for self-defense and protect justice.
- Be studious, strengthen the mind, enrich one's thought & behavior.
- Live simply, with chastity, loyalty, high principles and ethics.
- Build up a spirit of steely determination and vigor, overcome powers of violence.
- Make intelligent judgments, carry out struggles with perseverance and act with alertness.
- Be self-confident, self-controlled, modest and generous.
(The wording can vary slightly between Vovinam schools)
A "Việt Võ Đạo Federation" was founded on November 3, 1973, in order to reunite some Vietnamese martial arts. Therefore "Việt Võ Đạo", in Europe, is also used as a generic term for certain Vietnamese martial arts and philosophies but in Vietnam is only used to refer to "Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo".
Belt system, the uniforms and the colors
From 1938 to 1964, there was no official uniform. Following the lifting of the ban on martial arts in Vietnam in 1963, the first Council of Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao was gathered in 1964 to codify Vovinam, establishing a rank hierarchy and uniforms and codifying the training curriculum according to rank. The color blue was adopted as the official color for Vovinam uniforms. A separate development of the "Việt Võ Đạo Federation" in 1973 until 1990 the uniforms' color was black.
In the summer of 1990, Vovinam masters from around the world met at the International Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao Conference in California with the goal of creating a structured organization for Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo outside Vietnam (the International Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao Federation). One of the decisions was that the suit in Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo were now to be blue worldwide.
|Title||Võ Sinh||Môn Sinh||1st Đẳng (Dan)||2nd Đẳng (Dan)||3rd Đẳng (Dan)||4th to 10th Dang (Dan)||Patriarch|
The student begins with a light blue belt - the same color as his/her suit. He then is a "Võ Sinh", a student aspirant.
Following the light blue is the dark blue belt. Then he/she is a "Môn Sinh", a student.
Blue stands for the factor of the sea, and the hope - the hope in being successful in learning Vovinam.
With the following 3 exams yellow stripes are added to the blue belt. The 3rd yellow stripe is followed by the yellow belt. The student has reached the instructor's level.
Yellow It symbolically stands for the skin color of Asian people. It symbolizes the "skin deep" internalization of the martial art and the philosophy.
In other martial arts this belt is black. Therefore a Vovinam student who carries a yellow belt is allowed to carry a black belt. This makes a comparison to other martial arts easier, e.g. in public performances. A person who wears a yellow belt with one or more stripes is considered an instructor.
Following in a longer period of time, respectively 3 red stripes are added to the yellow belt. This corresponds to the 1st, 2nd, respectively 3rd Dang (Dan). The exam following the 3rd red stripe is the master's exam. Passing the exam successfully assigns the right to wear a red belt with a circulating yellow border.
Red stands for the blood and the intensive flame. The student has internalized Vovinam (Việt Võ Đạo) even further.
The 5th to 10th Dang are shown as a completed red belt with 1 to 6 white stripes.
White stands for the infiniteness, the bones; is the symbol of the depth of the spirit. The white belt assigns the master the absolute mastery of Vovinam Viêt Võ Dao.
On the white belt thin, lengthwise stripes in blue, yellow and red symbolize the whole of Vovinam (Việt Võ Đạo) again. This belt is reserved for the "Patriarch".
Now, Vovinam has two different sets of belt ranking: one that the U.S. uses and another for Vietnam. The belt set in Vietnam starts with the navy blue belt with no stripe. After three successful exams, the student will advance to the yellow belt. In the U.S, a student would start with the light blue belt and after passing three exams they would advance to the navy blue belt. Like in Vietnam after passing three exams, they shall advance to the yellow belt unless the student is below the age of sixteen. In this case, the student will instead receive the black belt. When they are of age, that is when they will receive the yellow belt.
 With every change of belt color the name plate color changes. Blue belt students start off with yellow text on blue name plates. With the yellow belt the name plate changes to red text on yellow ground. The red belt comes along with white text on a red name plate. The patriarch carries red text on a white name plate. Thin, colored lines in blue, yellow and red are shown on the upper and lower borders of this white name plate.
Vovinam has some specialised techniques:
- Đòn Chân
- A group of leg grappling techniques that is designed to grab the opponent by the feet or legs and take them down using twisting motions usable as a surprise attack in a fight. There are 21 leg grappling techniques.
- Đấm Lao
- A backfist swung reversely to the temple.
- Đá Cạnh
- A diagonally applied kick.
Techniques and weapons
- Hand techniques (đòn tay)
- Elbow techniques (chỏ)
- Kicking techniques (đá)
- Knee techniques (gối)
- Forms (Quyền, Song Luyện, Đa Luyện)
- Attack techniques (chiến lược)
- Self-defense (tự vệ)
- Self-defense against knife attack (phản đòn dao)
- Traditional wrestling (Vật cổ truyền)
- Leg attack take-downs (đòn chân tấn công)
- Staff (côn)
- Sword (kiếm)
- Halberd (dao dài)
- Cutlass (đao)
- Vovinam Viet Nam Federation (Viet Nam)
- US Vovinam Federation
- Vovinam Viêt Võ Dao Federation Germany (German)
- Vovinam Federation Denmark (Denmark)
- Vovinam Australia - Flemington Chapter (Australia)
- Vovinam Association India
- Associazione Nazionale Vovinam Viet Vo Dao (Italy)
- Mouvement Vovinam Viet Vo Dao (Belgium)
- Fédération Suisse de Vovinam Viêt Vo Dao (Switzerland)
Notes and references
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vovinam.|
- Thomas A. Green, ed. (2001). Martial Arts of the World : A-Q. Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 441. ISBN 1576071502.
- Tri Nguyen. "Vovinam". Atlanta Martial Arts Directory. Archived from the original on 2003-06-14.
- Thomas A. Green, ed. (2001). Martial Arts of the World : A-Q. Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 651–657. ISBN 1576071502.
- "vovinam.com". Archived from the original on 2006-10-17.
- Vovinam Stuttgart, Germany
- "Tự Vệ (Self Defence)". Vovinam Flemington.