Biography of the Grand Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh (1939-1998)


Biography of the Grand Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh 




  • Supreme White Belt – 2008.
  • Red belt II (1973)
  • Technical Director of the Central Vietnam region (1967-1975). 

           Grandmaster Trịnh Ngọc Minh was born as Trịnh Văn Mão, on August 5, 1939, in Hanoi, Vietnam, and passed away on December 30th, 1998, in Saigon, Vietnam.metrinhngocminh

          Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh is the pioneer of Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo in the Central region of Việt Nam. 

          He was a happy, open-minded, and charismatic individual. Even during his childhood, he already lived very independently, finding ways to financially support his family. Those deeds had helped mold his character and values, such as confidence, enthusiasm, and being energetic. 

          His family moved from Hanoi to Saigon in 1940. In 1954, Vietnam was divided and at the end of that year, his father went back to the north, leaving behind his family. Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh was married in 1957 with Mrs. Võ Thị Mới. 

          In 1959, he started Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo at the Trần Hưng Đạo Street Training Center [[1]], under the leadership of Master Lê Sáng and Trần Huy Phong. During the period of ban by the Ngô Đình Diệm government (1960-1964) [[2]], he continued to train in hiding with master Trần Huy Phong at the Ho Vu club with fellow students: Trần Huy Quyền, Cao Văn Cát, Liên Quốc, Tô Cẩm Minh, Lý Phúc Thái.

          Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh’s Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao development work began in 1966 in the martial arts teaching program within the National Education in Saigon High-Schools, such as Chu Văn An, Trưng Vương, Gia Long and Pétrus Ký.

 1970centre hoa lu crmonie de remise de ceinture rouge

 1970. Hoa Lu Center, red belt ceremony 

4th Dang for Master Ngô Kim Tuyền (2) and 6th Dang for Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh (1) 

Masters: Lê Sáng (3), Trần Huy Phong (4), Nguyễn Văn Thông (5), Trần Bản Quế (6)


          Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh was appointed Vovinam - Việt Võ Đạo instructor at Cao Thắng Technical College. He was then appointed technical head at Trần Hưng Đạo martial arts school, which was located at 550 Trần Hưng Đạo Avenue, Saigon, with his assistant, Master Ngô Kim Tuyền. In 1967 when Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh was relocated to Central Vietnam to expand Vovinam - Việt Võ Đạo, this martial arts school was assigned to the care of Master Tuyền. There were many well-known Masters who came from this school: Nguyễn Văn Chiếu, Dương Minh Nhơn, Minh Hải, Vũ Kim Trọng, Nguyễn Việt Tiến, etc. 

          In 1967, when Vovinam Viet Vo Dao was introduced into the National Police Force training program, Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh was one of the assistants of Master Patriarch Lê Sáng during these training courses. 

          In August 1967, master Trịnh Ngọc Minh received the mission to develop Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo in Nha Trang and later throughout the Central region. He settled with his family at 93 Nguyễn Hoàng Street, Nha Trang (currently Ngô Gia Tự Street), and used his personal home as the central place for the Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo liaison office in the Central region.

          In Central Vietnam, Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh received tremendous help from Grandmaster Lê Trọng Hiệp, who was also the director of the Republic of Vietnam’s Air Force Academy. With the 2 Masters’ tireless and energetic work, Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo expanded quickly to other cities in Central Vietnam: Phú Yên, Cam Ranh, Quy Nhơn, Đà Lạt, Phan Rang, Phan Thiết, Ban Mê Thuột, Pleiku, Đà Nẵng, etc.


1968: The Air Force Training Center, Nha Trang

Right: Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh (1) in costume,

Master Lê Trọng Hiệp (2) in military uniform


          At the beginning of the movement to expand the school in Central Vietnam, with the assistance of Instructor Voeng Long [[3]], , and Instructor Nguyễn Văn Thái, Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh opened the first martial arts class at #4b Hoàng Hoa Thám street, Nha Trang. The class attracted numerous youths, students, and civil servants, as well as working class citizens. Many crash courses were also opened, timely, to train instructors to meet the demand for expanding Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo in Central region. 

          Then, with the encouragement and support from Grandmaster Hiệp, Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh opened many classes for army officers and officers-in-training at the air force academy.

          Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh also opened many classes at Naval Forces Training Center in Nha Trang, and for Special Forces at Dong Ba Thin, where Master Nguyễn Văn Thái served as an officer.


 nha trang 1968 ceremonieceinture trinhngocminh

1968 Nha Trang

Belt-giving ceremony for the Navy Forces in Nha Trang

Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh, 1st row in Vo Phuc on the right (X)


          After Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo's core martial arts center was established in the Central region, Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh was nominated to lead it. 

          Together with outstanding pupils from the instructor program, Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh expand the area of activity with the opening of martial arts schools on Nguyễn Hoàng Avenue, Lê Lợi Avenue, Vạn Kiếp Avenue as well as at Bá Ninh secondary school, St. Joseph elementary school, Tân Phước elementary school, Bình Tân La Salle secondary school, and the College for Farming Community Development, etc. 

          From 1969 to 1973, with the active support of Grandmaster Phạm Hữu Độ, Deputy Prefect of Binh Dinh Province, and Grandmaster Nguyễn Văn Cường, Deputy Chief of Lam Dong Province, Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo experienced a meteoric growth throughout the Central and Highlands region of Vietnam. Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh has appointed his best disciples to take responsibility for the following training centers: 

  • Instructor Trần Văn Phước: Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo Tuy Hòa training center, in the province of Phú Yên. 
  • Instructor Lâm Quang Lân: Đà Lạt training center in the province of Tuyên Đức. 
  • Master Nguyễn Văn Chiếu: Qui Nhơn training center, the province of Bình Định. 
  • Instructor Nguyễn Châu Hùng, Đặng Ngọc Thọ, and later, Master Đặng Hữu Hào: Training center in Phan Rang, the province of Ninh Thuận. 
  • Master Trần Tấn Vũ: Đà Nẵng training center, city of Đà Nẵng.
  • Instructor Nguyễn văn Bính: Ban Mê Thuột training center, city of Ban Mê Thuột.

            At the beginning of 1971, almost all of the provinces in Central region from Phan Thiết up to Phan Rang, Ninh Thuận, Khánh Hòa, Tuy Hòa, Bình Định, Lâm Đồng, Đà Lạt, Ban Mê Thuột, Pleiku, Kontum and Đắc Lắc, etc., all had Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo training centers. These centers had trained numerous outstanding masters and instructors who had contributed greatly to the Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo school, namely [[4]]: 

  • In Vietnam : Nguyễn Bá Thuận (1950-1992), Nguyễn Văn Chiến, Tăng Hữu Cảnh, Trầm Kiết, Phạm Văn Nguyên, Nguyễn Lương Bằng, Lương Công Anh Tuấn, Trần Thọ Thảo, 
  • Trần Công Lý, Đoàn Văn Làm, Võ Hải, Đặng Ngọc Thọ, Phạm Văn Ân, Nguyễn Trương Hoạt, Mai Xuân Tú, Đoàn Trị, 
  • Đinh Điện, Lê Kim Tương, Lý Văn Lục, Phan Chánh Tiêu, Đỗ Đình Thạnh, Nguyễn Văn Nhâm, Nguyễn Hùng Việt, 
  • Trần Văn Phước, Đặng Ngọc Thọ, Võ Hải, Phạm Văn Ân, Lư Quang Đức, Hồ Hữu Vui, Hoàng Tiến Đăng, Nguyễn Tấn Nghị, Trương Sỹ Anh, 
  • In Switzerland : Hà Chí Thành, 
  • In Belgium : Huỳnh Hữu Quý, 
  • In the USA : Tôn Thất Lăng, Nguyễn Văn Phụng, Lâm Quang Lân, Lê Huy Chương, Trần Mỹ Đức, Hoàng Đức Minh, Trần Văn Hoài, Nguyễn Văn Giàu, Võ Ước, Võ Thành Long. 

            In April 1975, South Vietnam fell to the communist North and the new regime prohibited Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo from practicing. Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh transferred his responsibility to his pupils, namely, Nguyễn Bá Thuận and Trần Công Lý and moved back to Saigon. His parting words to his successors were to advise them to continue expanding Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo whenever new opportunities arise. 

            In 1995, Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh suffered a stroke that paralyzed part of his body. However, with his strong will and determination to practice, his condition seemed to have improved. Unfortunately, on December 30, 1998, Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh suffered another stroke and passed away at his residence at #B5, An Hội market square, Quang Trung Avenue, Gò Vấp district, Saigon, at the age of 60, surrounded by his family and pupils. Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh was survived by his 2 sons and 3 daughters, who were successful pupils of Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo. Most of his pupils became very successful, career wise as well as in martial arts, within Vietnam as well as abroad. 

            Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh’s body was transported to Bình Hưng Hòa cemetery. Later, his remains were worshipped at Đồng Hiệp Pagoda in Gò Vấp. In order to fulfill his will, a part of his remains was dispersed into the sea in Nha Trang. 

            Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh’s passing had left tremendous grief for his family, as well as all pupils within Vietnam and abroad. He truly was a faithful pupil and a well-respected teacher of Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo, who had contributed greatly to the expansion of the school, especially in the Central Region of Vietnam from 1967 to 1975. He was a star in Vietnam’s martial arts society. 

              During the 6th World Congress of Vovinam-Viet Vo Dao in Paris, from May 5 to 8, 2008, on the proposal of the Secretary General of the World Council of Masters, Master Trần Nguyên Đạo, he was honored and promoted to the title of Grand Master, Supreme White Belt by the World Council of Masters.


[1] : 1st Vovinam training center after the death of master founder Nguyễn Lộc.

[2] : During the period 1960-1964, Vovinam was banned by the Ngô Đình Diệm government because of the failed coup in 1960. Among the insurgents are masters Phạm Lợi (Judo) and Tám Kiểng (Traditional martial arts). It is for this reason that all martial arts disciplines are prohibited. During this period of prohibition, Master Lê Sáng stopped all Vovinam activity to go and work in Quảng Đức (memoir of Master Patriarch Lê Sáng, 2001), while Master Trần Huy Phong continued to operate in secret..

[3] : Who joined Vovinam in 1966 at Cao Thắng Technical Collegiate.

[4] : Source: Việt Võ Đạo Khánh Hòa, special release 2002.




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