Self-defense techniques cover defense against weaponless attacks like choking from behind and defense against attacks with knife or sword. Advanced students learn to combine the techniques and learn to defend themselves against armed opponents. Instructors train traditional weapons like the long stick, short stick, knife, sword and sabre. Thereby the weapons serve as training devices for reaching optimal control of body and mind.
Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo was founded as Vovinam by Nguyễn Lộc (1912 – 1960) in 1938, with the intent of providing practitioners with an efficient method of self-defense after a short period of study. Nguyễn believed martial arts would contribute to freeing Vietnam, which had been ruled by France since 1859, from outside domination. Vovinam, which Nguyễn synthesized from Chinese styles of kung fu, his own knowledge of traditional Vietnamese martial arts, and elements of Japanese and Korean systems, was thus created partially as a response to the French occupation, meant to promote a sense of national identity for the Vietnamese people.
After being invited to demonstrate Vovinam publicly in Hanoi with his disciples in 1940,
Nguyễn was invited to teach the art at Hanoi's Ecole Normale, and Vovinam gained in popularity. During the following years, political unrest increased throughout Vietnam; due to the system's nationalist political orientation, the art came under suppression. By 1954, Nguyễn had emigrated to South Vietnam, where he was able to continue to teach and establish Vovinam schools. After his death in 1960, Grandmaster Le Sang continued the development and international promotion of Vovinam until his own death on September 27, 2010.
The first Vovinam school outside of Vietnam was established in Houston, Texas, by Vietnamese emigrants in 1976, after the Fall of Saigon. By 2000, Vovinam schools had been established in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. Vovinam now exists as Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo, without the political overtones it originally carried.
The Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo logo is framed in a yellow shape composed of a rectangle conjoined with a circle, angular at the top, round at the bottom.
Within this yellow shape, the red text "Vovinam" is written above the marine blue text "Việt Võ Đạo". Beneath the text appears a yin-yang symbol in red and marine blue. The yin-yang symbol is surrounded by a thick, white circle, symbolizing the being of the Dao, with the mission to mediate between yin and yang, to subdue the two, to enable life of all beings.
A yellow map of Vietnam is superimposed on the yin-yang symbol.
This is the Unique belt System For Vovinam. It is not like taekwondo where at the end is a black belt. Also the belts aren't random colors they have meaning with them.
(For Example the Blue's meaning is hope)
The student begins with a light blue belt - the same color as his/her suit.
Blue stands for the factor of the sea, and the hope - the hope in being successful in learning Vovinam.
With the following 3 exams yellow stripes are added to the blue belt. The 3rd yellow stripe is followed by the yellow belt.
Yellow It symbolically stands for the skin color of Asian people. It symbolizes the "skin deep" internalization of the martial art and the philosophy.
In other martial arts this belt is black. Therefore, a Vovinam student who carries a yellow belt is allowed to carry a black belt. This makes a comparison to other martial arts easier, e.g. in public performances. A person who wears a yellow belt with one or more stripes is considered an instructor.
Following in a longer period of time, respectively 3 red stripes are added to the yellow belt. This corresponds to the 1st, 2nd, respectively 3rd degree blackbelt (Đẳng). The exam following the 3rd red stripe is the master's exam. Passing the exam successfully assigns the right to wear a red belt with a circulating yellow border (4th degree blackbelt).
Red stands for the blood and the intensive flame. The student has internalized Vovinam (Việt Võ Đạo) even further.
The 5th to 10th degree blackbelt are shown as a completed red belt with 1 to 6 white stripes.
White stands for the infiniteness, the bones; is the symbol of the depth of the spirit. The white belt assigns the master the absolute mastery of Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo.