The Vovinam

The Vovinam | Vovinam Belt System | Vovinam Description | Vovinam Grand Master | Vovinam Grand Master Sang Le | Vovinam History | Vovinam Overview | Vovinam Philosophy | Vovinam Ten Principles

Vovinam is a type of Vietnamese martial arts. Vovinam is practiced with and without weapons. It is based on the principle of harmony between hard and soft. It includes training of the body as well as the mind. It uses force and reaction of the opponent.

The wide range of techniques include punching, kicking etc. as well as Quyens (“Katas”, “Forms”), wrestling, sword, Con staff (not the Chinese “Gun” staff), axe, (folding) fan and others. Self defense techniques cover defense against weaponless attacks like choking from behind or grabbing and against attacks with knife or sword.

Advanced students learn to combine the techniques and learn to defend himself/herself 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 body control. A high level of concentration is necessary for these.

Vovinam (Martial Arts of Vietnam) was first introduced in the fall of 1938 by Founding Grand Master Loc Nguyen. Founding Grand Master Loc thrived to create a discipline that concentrated on a vast development of the mind, body and soul. He did extensive research in the fields of philosophy, literature, anatomy and medicine, later to use them as the foundation of Vovinam.


The name is a portmanteau of Vo: meaning “Martial Arts” and Vinam standing for “Vietnam”. It includes hand “don tay”, elbow “cho”, kicks “da”, throws, escape- and levering techniques. Both attack and defense techniques are trained, just as foot techniques, forms (Quyen, Song Luyen & da Luyen ), combat and traditional wrestling (“Vat”).

The form of the yellow Vovinam Viet Vo Dao logo is composed from a rectangle and a circle, angular at the top, round at the bottom. This form symbolizes the perfection of the true, the good and the beautiful. The logo is framed in a marine blue color. The red text “Vovinam” is written above the marine blue “Viet Vo Dao”. 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.

Since the 50s, Vovinam was introduced and expanded in Saigon, and other provinces around it, such as Gia Dinh, Bien Hoa, Da Lat. The introduction of Vovinam to southern provinces of Vietnam was still a struggle when Grand Master Nguyen Loc passed away on the 29th of April, 1960 ( which falls on the 4th of April, in the year of the Rt) in Saigon. He was 49 years old. The title of chief master was awarded to his long time disciple, Grand Master Le Sang. Presently, the remains (ashes) of Grand Master Founder Nguyen Loc are preserved at 31 Su Van Hanh Street, district 10, HCM city.

However, because of the government imposed restrictions on all martial arts from 1961 to 1963, Vovinam was only allow to be taught at a few private high schools, such as: Chan Phuoc Liem, St. Thomas until 1964 that Vovinam was again allow to freely taught to the public. The principles of Vovinam:

  • Vovinam’s disciples promise to attain higher level of martial art in order to serve the people and humanity.
  • Promise to be faithful with Vovinam and develop the young generation of Vovinam Viet Vo Dao.
  • Be unanimous in spirit and heart, respect the elder, love fellow peers. Respect discipline absolutely, maintain the higher 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 the thought & behavior. Live simple, with chaste, loyalty and high mind.
  • 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 great master Nguyen Loc codified VOVINAM in HANOI, Vietnam in 1938. It is one of the numerous martial arts of Vietnam, but its huge expansion and the great number of its practitioners, have transformed it into the Vietnamese martial art par excellence.

Vovinam is practiced in all the continents. The Vietnamese martial art schools, with very various origins, have evolved in function of the wars and of the civilizations that prevailed in the country through out 4000 years.

Long time ago, the classes were imparted in reduced groups or in the familiar area, the teacher being often an elder member of the family. It is this last sort of classes that received master Nguyen Loc, inheriting thus of his family martial style.

Master Nguyen Loc, born in 1912, was not remained satisfied with this legacy, and in 1930 he travelled through all the country in search of the essence of the unified Vietnamese VO THUAT (Martial Art). His purpose consisted in changing radically the concept of small schools or little styles expansion to transform it in the idea of large martial art diffusion, at national level as minimum.

In 1938 master Nguyen Loc synthesized most of the studied currents and codified them in a teaching program. Master Nguyen Loc called it Vo Vietnam. The simplification of “Vietnam” to “Vinam” is pretty common in Vietnam. A lot of Vietnamese companies are called Vinam (Vinamilk, Vinataxi, etc), So, almost 20 years before the TaeKwonDo was founded in Korea, the Vovinam had already been established in Vietnam in 1938.