He not only teaches Binh Dinh traditional martial arts in the U.S but also introduces its culture to his students. He believes that “if they understand the history, culture and distinctive beauty of the land of martial arts, they will know best about the goodness and the beauty of Binh Dinh style martial arts,” he said. He is Master Ho Buu, Director of Tay Son – Binh Dinh martial arts hall in Virginia.
Martial arts Master Ho Buu and his fellows of Binh Thai Dao school at the Quang Trung Museum
Master Ho Buu is a student of Master Diep Bao Sanh, the second generation Grand Master of Binh Thai Dao school, and Master Ho Nganh, who is also known as Ho Nhu. Born in 1942 in Quy Nhon, Ho Buu learnt martial arts from his father when he was 5.
At the age of 10, he studied the arts of fighting with the Master Diep Bao Sanh. He then studied judo and taught the traditional martial arts in Sai Gon. He returned his hometown in 1968 and had been studying the martial arts with Master Ho Nhu till 1974.
Teaching Binh Dinh style martial arts in America
Overseas Vietnamese martial arts masters always open their own schools of martial arts to attract students. Why didn’t you do that?
I think the Vietnamese traditional martial arts is the heritage of our forefathers. I just preserve and develop it. I studied Binh Dinh-styled martial arts. I, thus, opened the Virginia-based training hall with the name “Tay Son – Binh Dinh” in 1988.
I am so lucky to have chances of studying with the two most famous masters of Binh Dinh. I try to combine quintessence of the two schools into a systematic form.
Other masters have their own ways of thinking about the establishment of their own schools. I prefer to keep close to the origin of Tay Son – Binh Dinh. After 20 years of operation, my hall has been training for thousands of practitioners, including hundreds of black-belt students who achieve the highest degree of competence.
I often invite other halls to exchange experiences or to join in competitions so that the practitioners can improve their fighting skills.
You not only teach the practitioners martial arts but also guide them to learn Vietnamese language, culture and history of Vietnam, don’t you?
These are my hobbies. I was interested in learning history, culture and art even when I was a child. I teach my students Vietnamese language and help them understand about Vietnam’s history and culture as I want them, particularly those who were born and have been growing up in the U.S, to know clearly their origin and forefathers of the martial arts school which they are practicing.
I intend to link the martial arts with the history by naming new techniques and unnamed forms after Vietnamese national heroes and heroines, such as Ngo Quyen fighting technique or Trung Vuong sword form. I want to make the practitioners more curious about the martial arts.
Popularizing Tay Son martial arts music
You have participated in all three International Festivals of Vietnam Traditional Martial Arts and you always stayed in Binh Dinh a long time after the festivals had finished...
After the festivals had ended, I stayed in Binh Dinh for months. In nearly 10 years, I’ve returned to Vietnam twice or three times per year and stayed there in couples of weeks to learn about Tay Son martial arts music and find ways to propagate it overseas.
In the U.S, I annually organize the commemoration day in honour of Tay Son style martial arts school grand founder – Emperor Quang Trung on the 5th day of the first lunar month. I want to introduce Tay Son martial arts music on the occasion to show the unique characteristics of Binh Dinh style martial arts.
I prefer employing hands, legs and martial arts stances in the performance as typical way of combative arts lineage. I had been instructed by Master Doan Phong, a well-known figure in Binh Dinh martial arts circle before I settled in the U.S. I then studied drum playing with Muoi Thong and traditional music with musician Duong Minh Ninh.
How is your plan being carried out now?
I had 12 big drums made, the largest one with 1.2m in diameter and small ones with 1m, 80cm, 6cm…and all were carried to the U.S.
I also selected 20 students and shown them how to play. 4 will simultaneously play together to produce the monumental effect. I am worrying about the background music for the performance. I intend to have a CD-Rom of the music done but I haven’t accomplished the plan yet.
If musician Bao Phuc were still alive, the plan would finish. He suddenly left this world while we were cooperating very well. I once thought of music for tuong (classical drama). In 2008, I had Dao Tan Tuong Theatre release a CD-Rom of such music but it failed to go in harmony with the performance.
I am contacting with other domestic and foreign musicians to compose the music. I hope that the plan will finish soon so that the martial arts music can be played in the next commemoration day.
Preoccupied with the Vietnamese traditional martial arts
Worry is the common feeling of those who are living abroad and deeply attached to the Vietnamese traditional martial arts. How about you?
I always care for the Vietnamese traditional martial arts, want to do more for it and fumble for ways to summon common strength.
Overseas Vietnamese people in the U.S live scatter everywhere. It is very difficult to develop the traditional martial arts. Living far away from the homeland for long time, many don’t realize the importance of preserving our own traditions. In other countries like France, Switzerland and Germany, the Vietnamese traditional martial arts develops fairly well but lacks necessary unity for the common strength.
What should be done to develop the traditional martial arts more?
There should be a competent and prestigious organization at home to link all schools of the Vietnamese traditional martial arts worldwide. That organization should play a role as a bridge connecting not only training halls abroad but also inland and overseas schools.
Masters, grand masters, instructors of the Vietnamese traditional martial arts should unite together and be open to exchange experiences for the common sake of the martial arts’ development.
Events of international magnitude, such as the International Festivals of Vietnam Traditional Martial Arts, are very useful and worth to keep on running. The martial arts practitioners have chances to enjoy the atmosphere of martial arts or learn about the origin of the kungfu which they are practicing. Such activities help popularize the Vietnamese traditional martial arts very well.
Attending the three martial arts festivals, do you feel pleased with the position of Binh Dinh style martial arts at the events?
Binh Dinh traditional Martial Arts federation should make more effort to consolidate the dominance of Binh Dinh, the land of martial arts. Its martial arts villages, the unique beauty of the province, should be paid much concern and investment. Coming to the festivals, the participants all care about the differences between Binh Dinh style martial arts and the schools they follow.
Binh Dinh – based training halls should cooperate together, choosing the most typical forms of Binh Dinh style martial arts and the best practitioners to perform at the festivals, bring the good fame to the land of martial arts.