01/05/2017 16:51 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Quan Van Trieu - Unrivalled Instructor of Nam Tong Martial Arts School

In the mid-20th century, in Saigon (present-day Ho Chi Minh City), a martial arts school, named Nam Tong, was established, attracting many students right from the beginning. A 15-year-old boy, named Quan Van Trieu, was among the first students trained by martial arts instructor Le Van Kien. With hard training, a great passion for martial arts and inborn talents, Trieu has become an outstanding martial arts instructor and head coach of the Nam Tong martial arts school.
Trieu recalled when he decided to choose to practice Nam Tong martial arts. He spent many days looking at several martial arts schools before stopping at Nam Tong martial arts, which was led by Le Van Kien (or as he was locally called, Tam Kien).

“Each time I stopped at Nam Tong’s club, I realised there was something special there, which made it different with other martial arts schools. It was not only because the students could study free, but also because after training, they used to gather and listen to stories from their instructor, Tam Kien,” Trieu recalled.

“Besides teaching his students the skills of the Nam Tong martial arts, Tam Kien used to teach lessons about lives of virtues, using stories or giving examples of people who became successful thanks to their hard work and perseverance. In class, the instructor was very tough, but he took good care of his students, helping them even in the small details of the martial arts,” Trieu said.


A Nam Tong martial arts class, which attracts many students, especially children. Photo: Thong Hai
Instructor Quan Van Trieu teaches a small student a defensive posture. Photo: Thong Hai


Nam Tong students receive guidance from instructor Quan Van Trieu. Photo: Thong Hai
Teaching students a kicking posture. Photo: Thong Hai
Teaching a small  student a defence posture. Photo: Thong Hai 

Training a young generation of Vietnamese martial arts talents. Photo: Thong Hai
Teaching Nam Tong students. Photo: Thong Hai


Following the example of his former instructor Tam Kien, Quan Van Trieu has paid great attention
to cultivating his students’ personalities by telling them stories about virtue. Photo:  File

“It was the instructor’s fine character and the way he guided his students that made me respect him so much and I decide to become a Nam Tong student,” Trieu added.

Later, when he became a Nam Tong martial arts instructor, Trieu applied the teaching model of his teacher Tam Kien, to the training of his own students.

The Nam Tong martial arts school originated from the Chinese Bach Hac (white crane) martial arts school. However, when introducing it to Vietnam, master Tam Kien skillfully diversified the original moves to blend it into the Nam Tong martial arts school.

The main characteristics of Nam Tong martial arts school is to follow the principle of flexibility: firmness in accordance with the Yin-Yang theory when dealing with a rival’s attacks. In any circumstance, Nam Tong students have to use “flexibility” in fighting against their rivals’ “firmness”.

Nam Tong’s response is often quick and neat and requires the students to train hard for a long time before achieving effective results. The disciples always use “white crane” techniques as their strength in fighting. Such moves as slipping underneath or quickly dodging a rival’s attacks, showing precise movements to the target while keeping oneself in good balance, all are like the white crane’s firm and balanced wings against a strong wind.

Sharing what he summarized when becoming an instructor, Trieu said: “When reaching a certain level, a Nam Tong student will control his perfect balance, both spiritually and physically, in any circumstance. The student will use his rival’s inner strength to fight against the latter, without the need to best a rival, yet still winning over him as well as dealing with all opposite forces, in a natural way”.


Quan Van Trieu performs with a long knife. Photo: Thong Hai
Quan Van Trieu uses skillfully the Song Thiet, a Nam Tong martial arts weapon that very
few martial arts practitioners can use with. Photo: File
An imposing posture with a long-handled spear. Photo: File

Quan Van Trieu is the rare inheritor of the Nam Tong martial arts’ unique skills. Photo: Thong Hai

Regularly training and coaching young students. Photo: Thong Hai



Despite his age, Quan Van Trieu is still quick with an imperturbable gesture of the martial arts practitioner.
Photo: Thong Hai

The Nam Tong martial arts school has seven Kung fu (fighting styles), including “Tam mon quyen”, “Tu mon quyen”,  “Thap bat lien chau”,  “Ngu linh quyen”, “Than Kim Qui” and “Lao ho quyen” (Tiger-move fighting). Trieu is considered the best student of the deceased martial arts instructor Tam Kien, as he can perform skillfully all Nam Tong fighting styles.
Regarding performances with the weapons, Trieu was given by his coach the unique weapon of the Nam Tong martial arts school. It is called Song Thiet (it consists of two chains, each with five tubes attached with small sharp double-edged knives) .In addition, there are other types of weapons such as sticks, swords, knives, arcs and javelins which are all skillfully used by Trieu.

Together with his school mates, instructor Quan Van Trieu has significantly contributed to expanding the Nam Tong martial arts to many localities, at home and abroad, attracting many students.

In southern Ho Chi Minh City alone, Trieu has participated in many martial arts competitions, as a performer and a coach of the Nam Tong martial arts team, and has won many awards. He opened many training sites in the city, attracting thousands of students.

Among his students, Duong Quoc Cuong is now rated as the best practitioner of the Song Thiet technique. The 22-year-old martial artist has won many gold medals at national and international martial arts competitions with his unique Song Thiet performances.

Thanks to his inborn talent, a great passion and hard work in the martial arts, Trieu received love and excellent teaching from his coach Tam Kien. Now, Trieu, 67 years old, with a slim, yet robust body, Trieu still has a sound mind and imperturbable gestures. He practices the martial arts regularly every day.

Story: Son Nghia - Photos: Thong Hai & Files