Vietnamese traditional martial arts have been learnt in 100 countries and territories by hundreds of thousands of followers. It is now one of the world’s most popular sports.
Central Binh Dinh Province is the cradle of Vietnam’s martial arts and recognised as the birthplace of traditional martial arts in Vietnam from the time of the Tay Son-Binh Dinh martial arts school in the 18th century. It has proudly continued the tradition of producing some of the country’s best talent in the discipline.
The traditional martial arts festival begins with performances at Quy Nhon Town, the capital of Binh Dinh, and surrounding areas including King Quang Trung Museum, Hoang De (Emperor) Citadel and Nhon Hoi Economic Zone – which is symbolic of central Vietnam’s economic development.
“Viet Vo Dao”
“Viet Vo Dao”, based on the principle of harmony between hard and soft, was founded by grandmaster Nguyen Loc less than a hundred years ago during French colonization in Vietnam. Mr. Loc developed the martial arts mainly for self defense that uses force and reaction of the opponent to fight against him.
“Viet Vo Dao” is not just a way for health training, moral refinement, human sense of loving, but the martial arts also reflects the generosity of a heroic and sporting people. Vietnamese traditional martial arts attracted people of all generation to train. “Viet Vo Dao” techniques invovle kicks, throws, escape and levering, wrestling, punching, kicking, and even employ swords, sticks, and knives.
The founder Truong Thanh Dang spent his whole life to understand, practice, research and consolidate the cultural heritage and the martial arts treasure into a unique, creative system.
Spectacular martial arts displays
With the will of a free independent country and their invincible patriotism, the Vietnamese have developed a strong fighting spirit, which can be seen in the decisive wars : "To escape from the humiliating misery and hardships of slavery. They have to win the enemies"
The Vietnamese traditional martial arts which is very rich in forms, was developed based on the bloody experiences acquired during the courageous fights to protect their country and people .
Binh Dinh Province is famous for Vo Tay Son, also known as Vo Binh Dinh, an ancient martial art that was developed in the area. Ten out of 11 districts in the province have established martial arts training centres with nearly 100 clubs. The provincial traditional martial arts association manages 80 masters and attracts approximately 1,000 students in regular training courses.
Coming to Binh Dinh and attending the festival, you can join local teams and witness the showcase for their talent in martial arts, as well as Binh Dinh’s scenic beauty and distinctive, appealing culture. Participants demonstrated their various performances at the villages, allowing everyone to imbibe the unique aspects of martial arts in different cultures.
Moreover, the participants can also visit the province’s martial arts villages such as An Thai and An Vinh, where they can learn about the time-honored arts from successors of martial arts forefathers. The festival features enthralling events including battle drumming, international martial arts competitions and a beauty pageant with some of Vietnam’s most dangerous women.
Tay Son battle drumming has always been close to locals hearts. It is said that during battle, Nguyen Hue, who later became Emperor Quang Trung, used a 12 drum system, which symbolized Asia’s 12 zodiac signs, to give battle commands, boost his soldiers’ morale and convert his enemies to good causes.
According to Tran Dinh Ky, director of King Quang Trung museum in Quy Nhon Town, Tay Son battle drumming is a special genre which blends military and artistic elements and is based on the traditional sound systems such as ho, xang and xe.
It is extremely difficult to express the “soul” of Tay Son battle drumming, which explains why few artists can perform it well.
A member of the King Quang Trung museum’s martial music troupe, Hoang Mai, a girl in her early twenties, has been selected as the main festival drummer and an icon to popularize the genre.
In the festival, beauties from martial arts schools in almost 40 countries participate in a beauty pageant titled “Hoa hau nhung mien dat vo” (Beauties from the Lands of Martial Arts).
“Female general Bui Thi Xuan, one of the leading figures in the Tay Son uprising who possessed both charms and great martial art skills, was chosen as the image of the contest,” a member of the organizing board said. “The contestants not only compete in physical attractiveness; they also show off their mental and physical strength by displaying their martial arts skills,” he added.
Tuong (Vietnamese classical drama) and particularly tuong from the province’s Dao Tan tuong theater, one of Vietnam’s tuong cradles, is also a part of the contest. In Binh Dinh tuong and martial arts share some of the same movements giving them a close connection.
The festival begins with a procession and flower offering, at King Quang Trung museum at 8 a.m, to honor Emperor Quang Trung, a shrewd king and a great national hero.
On the next day, tourists can ride in 22 sailboats, which symbolize 22 years of “doi moi” (economic reform), and let loose flower garlands and colored lanterns at Thi Nai Bay and Thi Nai Bridge.
There is also superb fireworks shows and traditional musical performances by local and international artists throughout the festival.
Another highlight is a traditional handicraft fair, with many stalls at the central park in Quy Nhon Town.
Visitors can also relish specialties such as the very strong Bau Da wine and Phu My nem (fermented pork roll) at the fair. An ornamental plant fair and competition featuring a wide variety of rare plants and bonsai from across the country is organized at the province’s Labor Cultural House.
Impression on the first national martial arts festival
The first national martial arts festival was held in Binh Dinh in 2006. Many domestic and foreign-based masters of “Viet Vo Dao” together with some 500 other enthusiasts across the world have come to the festival to take part in the return to the sport’s ancestral land to attending the first “Viet Vo Dao” festival.
Phan Tho, a “Viet Vo Dao” master permanently living in Binh Dinh, expressed that he feels satisfied to see the festival held in his homeland. He said this is his biggest happiness after spending some 70 years of training “Viet Vo Dao”.
Many other “Viet Vo Dao” masters as Tran Tien and Ho Hoa Hue and foreign-based masters are pleased with the festival.
The number of delegations and artists to join the year 2007’s festival almost doubles the year 2006’s numbers, which means traditional Vietnamese martial arts have grown in stature on the world scene...
More festivals and ceremoies in Vietnam: