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Styles: Cuong Nhu and Vovinam: “vovinam viet vo dao”

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Different Styles of Martial Arts

Cuong Nhu and Vovinam: “vovinam viet vo dao”

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Nguyen Loc, the founder of vovinam, grew up in French-occupied Vietnam. His early experiences as a youth, coupled with his patriotic nature, led him to believe that a strong nation could only exist if young people were trained to have a clear mind, pure soul, and strong body.

Loc studied various martial arts, philosophy, theology, and scientific health, before uniting them all into a Vietnamese art designed for the Vietnamese people.

Key techniques

Also known as “vovinam viet vo dao,” the art includes training with empty-hand and weapons techniques. Students learn to use unusual weapons, such as the ax and folding fan. Signature moves are diagonal kicks, back-fists to the temples, and leg-grappling methods for felling opponents. Elbow and knee strikes, kicks, and wrestling techniques are also included. The art specializes in defensive movements that deal with attacks from behind and weapon-based attacks when the player is empty-handed.

Peace of mind

Vovinam stresses harmony between the Chinese philosophical aspects of yin and yang, which represent the hard and soft elements of physical combat. Students, who often wear a distinctive light-blue training “gi,” learn the Buddhist concept of seeing through their ego, freeing themselves from its influence. They become tolerant of—and generous toward -other people, and learn that awareness leads to harmony and peace.

Vovinam’s motto and salutation— “iron hand over benevolent heart”— emphasizes the principle that force should only be used as a last resort.

Cuong Nhu

Cuong nhu is a hybrid Vietnamese martial art developed by Doctor Ngo Dong in 1965, which blends karate techniques with basic grappling methods. It also draws inspiration from taijiquan, wing chun, Shotokan karate, boxing, aikido, and vovinam.

The first cuong-nhu dojo in the US opened its doors in 1971 after Ngo Dong escaped from the horrors of the Vietnam War and set up home in the United States.

Basic training takes the hard, external elements of karate—such as kicking and blocking—along with judo takedowns and rolling and throwing techniques. As the student progresses, tafjiquan-like elements are included in the curriculum. These stress diversion of thought as opposed to the use of direct blocking moves. Such techniques enable the student to be flexible— he or she responds to the attack appropriately, using either the hard or soft elements of training. Martial Arts Weapons are also taught, usually only to advanced students, and they include the “bo” (staff), the “tonfa” (stick), the “sai” (dagger), and spear.

Ethical art

In keeping with the philosophy of inclusion, alongside martial techniques the art teaches its students public speaking, poetry, philosophy, and painting. A strong element of self-development, through self-control and modesty, informs much of the system. Students are known for developing a positive attitude. A code of ethics governs cuong nhu and the art has a ranking order based on belt colors, similar to Japanese martial arts.

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