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.
Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo was founded as Vovinam by grandmaster 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. Grandmaster Nguyễn believed martial arts would contribute to freeing Vietnam, which had been ruled by France since 1859, from outside domination. Vovinam is a comprehensive fighting system which have principles totally different amongst a bulk of Chinese styles of kung fu, Japanese and Korean systems.
His own knowledge of traditional Vietnamese martial arts and concentration elements of Eastern Western physical body, was thus created partially as a response to the French occupation, meant to promote a sense of national identity for the Vietnamese people.
For nearly a hundred years of maintaining the development concept, practicing Vovinam is kept as secret until officially introduced to the world in 1990s. After being invited to demonstrate Vovinam publicly in Hanoi with his disciples in 1940, grandmaster 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, grandmaster 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 1980’s, 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 previously carried.