According to cultural researchers, there are two literatures coexisting in Vietnam: scholarly literature and popular literature. Hence, there can also be two types of martial arts study in Vietnam: Study of martial arts in imperial family (study of martial arts and martial arts examinations) and traditional wrestling (during holiday seasons).
Traditional wrestling is a form of sports and physical activities and also a cultural heritage of mankind, which Vietnam and many other nations have from the early history. Using abstract and dialectic thinking, we can say that: Wrestling inherited the “human genome”, evolving from creatures living in water, on trees, on cliffs, into creatures living on the ground and into human society with advanced social organization. Traditional wrestling of Vietnam inherited the “human genome” as said above. It opened a way to develop other sports and martial arts forms. Vietnamese traditional wrestling, typically wrestling games held in wrestling festival days in Lieu Doi (Nam Ha), is considered an Olympic of Vietnamese nation, which is the predecessor of Vietnamese traditional martial arts.
People have competed in martial arts for thousands of years
They can protect their country for tens of thousands of years.
In ancient Roman times, gladiators fought to kill each other. It was just like a martial arts game to bring pleasure to the nobility. It was also a means of living which could change classes from being slaves to being aristocrats (after accumulating enough money). In contrast, wrestlers in Vietnam were fighters for the villages, bringing martial spirit and expressing uprightness to be praised as First Laureates. They wait for the day to defeat the enemies and protect the country.
Using spears under the sky. Speaking like thunders.
Men can catch tigers. Women can demolish a temple’s pole.
After many battles, finally, Vietnamese people defeated Chinese invaders (twice against the Tong troops, three times against Nguyen troops, once against the Minh troops, once against the Thanh troops). Traditional wrestling was widespread and not limited to the wrestling field but also extended to other forms of martial arts with other types of weapons such as cudgels, scimitar, swords, bamboo sticks, etc.
Space for martial arts practice was not limited in temples’ yards and villages but could also be seen in Buddhist pagodas when Buddhism was honored during the Ly-Tran era.
Unlike the Roman gladiators who trained their muscles to slash their swords and knives at the opponents, fighters in Vietnam had a comprehensive physical training in order to respond in any situation when facing the enemies. A messenger of Nguyen Dynasty commented: “… People can climb up the mountain with their bare feet as fast as the winds. They are not afraid of toughness. Men are shaved and they can dive for a few hours, swim in the water like walkingon theground, saillikeflying,….”
However, during peacetimes, especially a long peacetime like in the Ly-Tran, martial arts became one of those sports not only using muscles (barehanded) but also including a variety of other forms such as using shields, bows, swords, scimitars, wrestling, danh phet, etc.
In imperial court of Le-Nguyen Dynasties, generals and soldiers practiced martial arts to protect the imperial family and defeat the enemies. During that time, apart from examinations for civil mandarins selection, there were also examinations for military leaders selection (martial arts examinations).
NGUYEN MANH HUNG
(source: The Pioneers who have paved The Way for Vietnamese Traditional Martial Arts to The World – Part 3)
BAN TU THU