Vovinam (Vietnamese: Việt Võ Đạo, Martial Arts of Vietnam) is a Vietnamese martial art.
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 etc. as well as 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.
Hard and soft
The Yin & Yang-Theory (Vietnamese: “Âm-Dương”) states that everything in the universe and on earth is initiated through the interrelation of Yin (negative) and Yang (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 at the right relation, in combat and in daily life. This aiming to develop both 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 morality and the way of applying the techniques shape the students’ character.
The greatest difficulty is to see through ones own ego and then to overcome it.
On success in doing so the Vovinam student will gain generosity and tolerance with other people.
With the awareness that the most important thing in life of a human 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 ones surrounding.
With the salutation, “Iron Hand over benevolent heart” the student is reminded about the main principle and about the goal of Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo with every training. It is also about using the opponent’s force and reaction, hence reach maximum effect with little force/effort.
The form of the yellow Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo logo is composed from a rectangle and a circle, angular at the top, round at the bottom. This form symbolizes the perfection of the hard and soft, the truth, good and the beautiful.
The logo is framed in a marine blue color. The red text “Vovinam” is written above the marine blue “Việt Võ Đạo”. Its pointing letters show the way to the destination. Underneath lie the two poles Yin (red) and Yang (marine blue).
In the middle of the two poles the yellow map of Vietnam can be found. The symbol of Yin and Yang is framed by a thick, white circle, symbolizing the being of the Dao, with the mission to mediate in between Yin and Yang, to subdue the two, to enable life of all beings.
The founder of Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo was Nguyễn Lộc (8 April 1912 – 4 April 1960). Nguyễn was born in Huu Bang, district Thach That, province Son Tay, Vietnam as the eldest of five children. His parents, Nguyễn Dinh Xuyen and Nguyễn Thị Hoa, moved often, finally settling near Hà Nội.
In his younger years he was training traditional Vietnamese martial arts. In 1938, Nguyễn introduced his style “Vovinam” to the public. After a demonstration in 1939 in Ha Noi, Vovinam quickly spread across the country, and internationally to the Vietnamese diaspora via France.
After Nguyễn’s death in 1960, Grandmaster Le Sang continued the development and worldwide distribution of Vovinam until his recent death on September 27th, 2010.
10 principles of Vovinam
Viêt Võ DaoThe term Việt Võ Đạo (“the way (Dao) of Viet Vo”) was coined by the patriarch of 2nd generation of the Vovinam Viet Vo Dao, the Grand Master Le Sang with the objective to add a philosophical dimension to his martial art. This “Viet Vo Dao” consists of ten principles:
1. Vovinam’s disciples vow to pursue high proficiency in their martial art in order to serve the people and humanity.
2. Promise to be faithful to the intentions and teaching of Vovinam and develop the young generation of Vovinam Viêt Võ Dao
3. Be united in spirit and heart, respect one’s elder, be kind to one’s peers.
4.Respect discipline absolutely, maintain the high standard of personal conduct and honour of a martial art disciple.
5. Have respect for other martial art schools, only use martial art skills for self defense and protect justice.
6. Be studious, strengthen the mind, enrich one’s thought & behavior.
7. Live simply, with chastity, loyalty, high principles and ethics.
8. Build up a spirit of steely determination and vigor, overcome powers of violence.
9. Make intelligent judgments, carry out struggles with perseverance and act with alertness.
10. Be self-confident, self-controlled, modest and generous.
(The wording can vary slightly between Vovinam schools)
A “Việt Võ Đạo Federation” was founded November 3, 1973 in order to re-unite some Vietnamese martial arts, including Qwan Ki Do. Therefore “Việt Võ Đạo”, only 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 1938-1964, there was no official uniform. In 1964, the first Council of Masters was gathered to codify Vovinam. 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.
Summer 1990 the Vovinam Masters met. This meeting had the goal to create a structured organization for Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo outside Vietnam. One of the decisions was that the suit in Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo are now to be blue worldwide.
The adult begins with a light blue belt – the same color as his/her suit. He then is a “Võ Sinh”, a student aspirant. The old school Vovinam had two navy blue stripes before getting the Navy Blue Belt. But recently, some Vovinam schools have changed under the direction of Le Sang and do not have a Light Blue Belt 1 stripe, or two.
Following the light blue is the dark blue belt. Then he/she is a “Mon 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 all 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 Viêt Võ Dao 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 Viêt Võ Dao again. This belt is reserved for the “Patriarch”. 2005 this is Grandmaster Le Sang.
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:
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.
A backfist swung reversely to the temple.
A diagonally applied kick.
Basic 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)
Traditional wrestling (Vật)
Leg Attack take-downs (đòn chân tấn công)
Halberd (Dai Dao)
- Vovinam Intercontinental Association
- US Vovinam Federation
- Vovinam Viêt Võ Dao Federation Germany (German)
- Vovinam Federation Denmark (Denmark)
- Vovinam France (France)
- Vovinam Paris (France)