Looking for My “VO COC”

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          It was an afternoon, I escaped from my mother by lying to her that I and my group of friends went to visit my teachers to go with him and the dog on the long rail. My early feeling was very strange and frightened. His right hand kept the sack, and my right hand gripped his left hand. Both of us walked on the rail roads and tried to keep a balance as two artists of circus on the ropes to cross the guard gates, poor houses from the rear, rubbish dump and toilet blocks – “one was on duty”. The road seemed endless. Then dogs barked as “dog takes advantage of being near home”. While the dog of the bottles boy was silent with its tail between its legs, as it knew that it was in another domain! The bottles boy told me to walk in silence as in Arabian ancient tales “dog barking, the traveller starting on the journey.” (les chiens aboient caravances passent).

          Go! Then go forever! Sometimes he had to stop to pick up something on the tracks. By late afternoon, he took me to go on dirt roads, soon now we went to a poor thatched house. There was a courtyard surrounded by the fence of hibiscus. This was the house of bright eyes, alert, small martial arts master.

         Unexpectedly I looked at with concentration the rough but strong hands of the master when he did a head stand with ten fingers – as female ballet dancers standing with the tips of the feet. But his wrists, fists, when he performed martial arts by his own style, sometimes I thought his hands were breaking a burglar’s hands, sometimes as a mother’s hands to massage her newborn baby.

          According to him human’s wrists can be used to block fists, kicks of any martial arts branches, and human’s fists as two punches (Figure 1). But when the punches are opened they look like palm-leaf raincoat of a kind mother who is nursing for the harmony of the yin and yang or caressing the human body as a herb doctor to find dangerous spot in human body!

A Fist
Figure 1: A Fist

        But I did pay attention to the teacher’s invalid wrist bone. This bone looked like a new animal horns. I called it the wrist or the ankle (bone protruding) (Figure 2) to distinguish from ankle. (In 1979, I read Saigon martial arts newspaper which described of this bone). It is said that in the reign of Qianlong (China), Great master Ngu Mai, a nun at the White Crane Mountain practiced the martial arts techniques by this very bone. She called this bone is “the seal” of Pluto (ruler of the underworld), means Pluto seal. From this “seal” Pluto attacked to the dangerous points and the vein in the human body that he had been painting on walls and numbered of acupuncture points (Figure 3).

The carpal tunnel syndrome
Figure 2: The carpal tunnel syndrome
The carpal tunnel syndrome in view of the medical world
Figure 3: The carpal tunnel syndrome in view of the medical world

         Once or twice he sat and smoked pipe tobacco and blew tobacco smoke to the sky then sipped tea, he began to talk about internal martial arts method which he said that was a Shaolin martial arts exercise.

       According to him, the internal martial arts were the methods of concentrating the power to exercise the strength and tendons and bones as we desired. But we had to practice the positions: sitting and standing.

If struck on pressure points are numbered
Figure 4: If struck on pressure points are numbered: Pressure point 1: Die immediately (between two eyebrows) – Pressure point 2: Paralyze two arms (the back of the elbow) – Pressure point 3: Do coughing blood and fainting (the shoulder) – Pressure point 4: Paralyze the whole hand (palm against the pressure point of 5) – Pressure point 5: Paralyze the arm (the wrist) – Pressure point 6: Make strokes immediately (next to the knee) – Pressure point 7: Fainting (shin) – Pressure point 8: Do bile vomiting and fainting (above ankle) – Pressure point 9: Numbness both feet (the heel).

        He said: “Learning the right basic techniques before learning martial arts” which meant “bat quai chan quyen – as a child learned to walk with the basic techniques of eight trigrams in martial arts. Then he showed me the forms of staff, sword, scimitar…

       As a monk chanting – or people reading story and poetry in the dim moonlight beside a stream – he sang eight martial arts poems. I grew up gradually with those romantic poems – not in hammock or in boat to enjoy – yet to practice the positions, snake stance, zen teacher technique, magic wand technique, yin and yang block, running horse technique, crane stance (single leg stance),… in nights of crescent moon, then full moon… as ready to welcome hostile influence coming from somewhere.

* * *

        But the most interesting event was his festival of “Vo Coc”. A majority of students were group professional beggars, boys and girls, beggars, pedicab drivers, candy pull sellers, ice cream sellers, garbage collectors and among them there was me – his strange pupil, “smooth skin”. He and the bottles boy – father toad, young toad – performed dances as “Shandong medicine show” (Figure 4). Every person with their own styles performed on the beach more impressively than the judo, aikido or sumo practitioners of Japan. I saw a “toad boy” perform a jumping kick while another one lay down with right foot pulled back, left foot pushed out. Then a “toad girl” stood in horse riding stance to make a guard position with two convex bones. Suddenly a toad boy kicked by the shinbone to the hip – it was blocked by a “seal of Pluto” immediately.

Vo Coc - Nguyen Manh Hung
Figure 5: Vo Coc – Nguyen Manh Hung

        Then the candy pull seller, whom I met somewhere several times at the upper hamlet, performed also. I still remembered his sales talk to criticize the trouble times “Any women who were left by their husbands, buy five cents of candy only and the husbands will love to last forever”. He turned out to be a martial arts practitioner for self-defense. He jumped to the ground by one leg with a crutch on his shoulder. Because jumping by one leg so he fell down with the crutch. Unexpectedly he performed martial arts by shoulders with the leg turned around in the sky. His crutch – his wooden leg – flew as a spinning top.

        Later, I thought it as modern “hiphop”. The most powerful manner when he stepped out. At that time, a student brought him a wooden dummy that only drew his head higher than him with black dots in the middle of the forehead. The other schoolboy powdered on his ankles – There were two protruding bones in the left and right ankles. What for? I did not know.

         He performed on the ground as the bottles boy did before. Then his left foot tiptoed and his right foot jumped and kicked by the right ankle touching to the dummy’s forehead at the black point with the white spot. Then he turned when the right foot touching the ground, his left foot tiptoed again and his right foot jumped and kicked by the right ankle touching to the dummy’s forehead to make another white spot on the center of the forehead. Like this, he touched to the center of the dummy’s forehead with two protruding bones of the ankles. If it was not a dummy then a man would be dead immediately. What was the technique? I wondered.

* * *

         Sometime I asked him: “What is the internal martial art?” The ethereal concept may seem a magic, and it was said that “to practice for flexing muscles” that knives could not cut?! My mother said, “This is when Shandong martial arts medicine performance – to cheat everybody to advertise for selling “adhesive plaster marked snake”. Growing up I knew that during troubled times, sometimes the false thing might be true, but the truth sometimes is false…

         So have “gong martial arts” been a method of the ancients to combine the massage with medicine and practicing the muscles to cause human skin became buffalo hide, cowhide without being cut off?!… In which there is qigong that could fight against wild beasts or bandits.

         Internal martial art is considered a masterful sophisticated method. It is basically all branches of the martial arts of mankind, not only the Shaolin martial arts school. That is a “secret method” of each martial arts school that Bodhidharma, highly capable of a great master of this type, in order to maintain the power of qi before fighting. Which means: “the strength of muscles and the physical stamina will be excited to add up or been dampened down if not practice!”

         Thus three factors: mental, physical state and the will to fight will gather together to form an absolute strength and sustainability to apply each time, every place. By this time the martial arts practitioners used to constrain the thought makes celiac vitality comes from “dantien”. This is the center of gravity of the body where balance to operate over the body then return to starting point.

          To operate the vitality, one must practice 12 sitting position (Figure 5) to be regulated continuously to prevent unusual mind to suppress emotions, preserving mental stability, natural mood for energy. He told me: “Having been trained like this, one may bear a strong ballast stones on the body, or an iron bar to hit right flank”.

          To learn all Vo Coc, I was taught the esoteric posture that happened in 1969(1) I have read a magazine about martial arts principles and training methods for internal martial arts, that he passed or more nearly like that! I show these to readers to enjoy.

Vo Coc - Nguyen Manh Hung

          In close days, when I grew up I realized that if he was influenced by Japanese Jujitsu, Japanese Aikido or not? Moreover, he might be learned Chinese “qigong”. As Vo Coc, I thought he was influenced by African martial arts or Southeast Asia.

         At that time I thought so but did not think it could also have come from certain places, in certain periods or in some myth of China.

          Sometimes he described “let the opponent’s power blow, then dominate it”. That means when he attacks, we avoid immediately. Then he is weakened because of loss of balance, we take the opportunity to counterattack.

            I looked at him, but actually I looked at his toes and fingers. How he trained that they looked like the chisel he used them “to hit at the dangerous spots”. What is a dangerous spot in the human body? At that time I was too young to understand anything! Later, in the University of Saigon I tried to search through a work “Emperor internal Book” which described 108 spots and divided into three types: dead spots, insensible spots and live spots. When the finger hits on the dead spots if not dead instantly, he may die later. These dead spots are not only concentrated in the head, chest, spine, but also on the hands or feet as spot in the middle of the foot (huyet dung tuyen), the spot in the palm (huyet lao cong). Hit on the insensible spots on the arms, legs, shoulders bones, and although not dead, the opponent loses consciousness. (Figure 6, 7)

Sitting postures
Figure 5: Sitting Postures

          Apart from the spots, there are dangerous places on the human body at the joints which concentrate at the fingers, neck, feet, wings joints, shoulders and knees. Japanese martial arts practitioner usually attack by twisting, bending the joints in the human body. Jujitsu practitioners usually catch, hold – called Chin Na – (Figure 8) the muscles in the arms (called mouse muscle), or in the center of the elbow. Even the backs of the hands Jujitsu practitioners can press, pinch.

          Once I saw the teacher didpush-upsby 10 fingers and 10 toes that I have read, this was the method of the tiger style. It will be everlasting when talking and talking about martial arts, but I wonder, “What is martial art?”

        What is the branch of martial arts or the study of martial arts that  people has created them?

The location of acupuncture-points-on-the-rear-of-the-body-the-location-of-acupuncture - 8 points on the front of the body
Figure 6, 7: The location of acupuncture-points-on-the-rear-of-the-body-the-location-of-acupuncture – 8 points on the front of the body

         I kept on thinking…

NGUYEN MANH HUNG2

____________

1. Văn Quý Vũ, Internal martial arts, Principle and method, Martial arts magazine, No 6, June 1st, 1969 (Saigon).
2. Associate Professor, Doctor of History.

(Source:  The Pioneers who have paved The Way for Vietnamese Traditional Martial Arts to The World – Part 3)

SEE MORE:

◊  Looking for My “Vo Coc” – Vi-VersiGoo
◊  Looking for My “Vo Coc” – Fr-VersiGoo
◊  Looking for My “Vo Coc” – Fr-VersiGoo
◊  Looking for My “Vo Coc” – Fr-VersiGoo
◊  Looking for My “Vo Coc” – Fr-VersiGoo
◊  Looking for My “Vo Coc” – Fr-VersiGoo

BAN TU THU
09 /2019

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