An overview of Vietnamese Martial Arts throughout Vietnam’s history

VO  is, in Vietnam, a common term, but it is also an authentic cultural and martial institution.
Vietnamese martial art, or VO, is the culmination of an entire people’s efforts, a people, who, for 4,000 years, has never stopped struggling to survive.
During the Hong-Bang dynasty (2879-258 BC) the emperor of Van Lang (the ancient name for Vietnam) grouped together culture, medicine, philosophy and Vietnamese martial art, which were all closely linked, under the designation of VO (Vo Hoc, Vo Y, Vo Ly).
From 221 BC (Tan dynasty) to 939 AD (Ngu-Qui dynasty), for almost a millennium, Vietnam was colonized by China, following the Tan (Che Hoan Ti) invasion.

This difficult period gave rise to rebellion led by great masters of martial arts.  (The “Trung” sisters, Trieu Trinh Nuong, Ly Nam De, Trieu Quang Phuc)
Emperor Ngo Quyen (939-965) a Son Tay partisan and victor of the greatest battle of the Vietnamese revolution Bach Dang Giang, freed his people from Chinese oppression. At that time, training was done in a familial or school setting according to very strict rules. VO became less secretive due to political circumstances during three periods:

 The first, under the dynasty of the Tien Ly (1009-1073).
 The second, under the dynasty of the Tran (1225-1400).
 The third, under the dynasty of the Quang Trung (1788-1792).

During these three periods, martial arts had the same status as literature in the national school system.  Doctorates in martial arts were created, and the Royal University for Martial Arts opened (Giang Vo Duong).

Unfortunately, under the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945), and during the French colonization (1883-1945), VO was deplorably neglected and faded away to such an extent that most young people ignored its existence.  In spite of this, training persevered. This situation gave rise to different schools in order to preserve its secrecy, and also to divert the attention of colonial powers. These schools took on the names of  regions:  Vo Bac Ninh,  Vo Quang Binh, and Vo Binh Dinh (Bac Ninh:  northern region, Quyang Binh:  central region, Bin Dinh:  south-central region).

(Master Pham Xuan Tong was taught Vietnamese Martial Arts by his great uncle Pham Tru, expert in the ancient Vietnamese methods of Vo Quang Binh, Vo Binh Dinh and Vo Bac Ninh (Quang Khi), which were handed down to him by his uncle Phan Van Mieng, who was renowned at the end of the 19th century in the province of Dong Hoi).

During the beginning of the 20th century, although in the shadows, Vietnamese Martial Arts remained very active in the training of warriors.
After the independence of 1945, Martial Arts  reassembled in groups in the north, center and south of Vietnam.  However, due to certain events, training was very discreet.
Traditional schools, Vo Phai Bac Ha, materialized:  in the north, Vat Lieu Doi (traditional fighting), Nam Hong Son, Vo Vi Nam, Vo Nhat Nam and Vo Tong Hop; in the center, Binh Dinh schools:  Vo Tay Son, Vo An Thai, Vo An Vinh, Vo Nha Chua and Vo Thanh Long.
While in the south, Masters Chau Quan Ky, Han Bai and Lai Quy put into place the Association of Sino-Vietnamese Martial Arts, the Tinh Vo Hoi, Vo Phai Nam Bo Vietnamese schools regrouped:  Vo Tan Khanh, Vo That Son, Thieu Lam Hong Gia, Vo Lam Son, Con  Luan and Nam Tong.

Since 1975, Vietnamese martial arts are regrouped under the Federation of Vo Co Truyen (traditional Martial Arts)