Vietnam is located at the bottom part of the Indochina peninsula, a crossroads of two civilisations : India and China. Buddhism had been brought into Vietnam by Western merchants coming from the sea before it was introduced into China by land. Vietnamese martial art history asserts that ancient boxers knew how to wrestle like Indian people, and that monks went to Burma to study philosophy, fighting techniques and yoga breathing system.
Only the latter remains in the today Vietnamese “khi cong” (vital energy practice). Actually, all martial art schools in Vietnam are more or less influenced by China, likewise Japanese Karatedo and Korean Taekwondo etc... which follow the example of Chinese Wu shu just to improve their own traditional skills.
During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), a lot of Wu shu schools grew into their most advanced state, especially Shao Lin and Wu Tang. At this time, the Ming army invaded Vietnam for twenty years (1407-1427). When the intruders withdrew, they imported to China a great number of Vietnamese literature treasures, and concurrently left a regiment of artists, scholars, scientists, martial art experts in Vietnam.There started the first period of exchange between the two styles of fighting.
The Ming dynasty collapsed and the Qing (1644-1911) ruled the empire. Many opponents to the Qing fled away and seeked asylum in Vietnam where the second cultural medley occured. Moreover Emperor Can Long (1736-1795) mistrusted every structurally strong organisation like Shao Lin Temple. He made up a plot to spread discord amongst martial art schools, and especially took a rise out of Wu Tang against Shao Lin. The relationship got worse day after day between them.
One awful night without moonlight, Wu Tang combatants attacked Shao Lin Temple, destroyed everything and killed the last great master, venerable Chi Thien, only by using their legendary Tai Chi Chuan (vanished since then, not the same known at present day). “This crime cries for eternal revenge” ,Shao Lin survivors swore on Heavens and Earth that they would exterminate Wu Tang disciples.
Emperor Can Long kept on manoeuvring to eradicate opposition. As soon as Wu Tang overcame Shao Lin, boxers associations were forbidden throughout the empire. Winners and losers had to emigrate, and plenty of martial art experts from both Wu Tang and Shao Lin chose to settle in Vietnam, which managed again to absorb the third wave of Chinese Wu shu knowledge.

From 1937 to 1945, China had to struggle against Japanese invasion and domination. Apart from the two armies, Mao Tse Tung’s and Chiang Kai Shek’s, kung fu masters set up groups of boxers to hold out against Japanese troops.
The most important was Tinh Vo Mon (the House of Essential Wu shu) in Shanghai led by the famous Hoac Nguyen Giap (character performed by Bruce Lee in Hongkong movie “Big Brother”, and recently by Jet Li in Beijing film “Fearless”). This organisation gathered together a very large number of well-known art martial leaders, but it soon failed in its attempt to clear out Nippon invaders. Once more, Tinh Vo Mon’s defectors found the way out to Vietnam. The new arrivals endorsed the running Vietnamese martial art blossom.

Vietnam was under Chinese domination three times : from 207 before JC to 906, then the Yuan dynasty (1277-1367) made war against its Southern neighbour for about thirty years, and came the Ming (see above). In 1788, to liberate the capital Thang Long, the Vietnamese emperor Quang Trung had to declare war to the empire and won a bloody battle over Qing army. This is why Vietnamese people are quite cautious about Chinese politics although they admire Chinese civilization, and always feel fairly close to the Chinese people.
To protect themselves, they changed everything learnt from China. The ancient Vietnamese writing system was similar in appearance to the Chinese one but unreadable for a Chinese native.
Vietnamese kung fu masters have done the same way to develop their martial art. They adapt all the Chinese teachings to Vietnamese customs and habits. They follow the old adage “Add, adjust, assimilate but never be addicted”. Obviously, the fire style of Vietnamese martial art is mostly accustomed to Shao Lin skills ; and the Water Method could be compared to genuine Wu Tang practice and somewhat from Me Tung Mon (Hoac Nguyen Giap’s school). An ordinary watcher can’t see the difference between Chinese and Vietnamese performances, only experts know where Vietnamese roots grow.
In the following chapters we’ll try to explain these differences.

made by chris..