Biography of Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh (1939 - 1998)

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vs Trinh Ngoc Minh 1939-1998

  • White belt – 2008 (1)
  • Red belt II (1973)
  • Head of training programs in the Central Region of Vietnam.

Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh was born as Trịnh Văn Mão, on August 5, 1939, in Hanoi, Vietnam, and passed away on November 30th, 1998, in Saigon, Vietnam. We will refer to him as Master Minh(2) thereon in this document. 

Master Minh was a “torch bearer” during the founding period of Vovinam- Việt Võ Đạo in Central Vietnam. 

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 Minh was married in 1957. 

Master Minh started to study Vovinam - Việt Võ Đạo in 1959 at Trần Hưng Đạo (3) martial arts school in Chợ Lớn, Saigon.  He studied together with other well-known Masters such as Cao Văn Cát, Liên Quốc, Tô Cẩm Minh and Lý Phúc Thái. In 1957 he was one of the first 3 pupils adopted by Grandmaster Lê Sáng (4). 

Master Minh’s objective to expand Vovinam - Việt Võ Đạo began in 1966 through a movement to bring Việt Võ Đạo into the school system. This movement was energized with thousands of students learning and practicing Vovinam- Việt Võ Đạo at well-known secondary schools such as Chu Văn An, Trưng Vương, Gia Long and Pétrus Ký, as well as Cao Thắng Technical Collegiate in Saigon. 

Master Minh was appointed Vovinam - Việt Võ Đạo instructor at Cao Thắng Technical Collegiate. He was then appointed technical head at Trần Hưng Đạo martial arts school, which was located at 550 Trần Hưng Đạo Avenue, Saigon, and ran by Master Nguyễn Văn Đài and his assistant, Master Ngô Kim Tuyền. In 1967 when Master Minh was relocated to Central Vietnam to expand Vovinam - Việt Võ Đạo there, 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, there was another initiative, a program to bring Việt Võ Đạo into the National Police force. Many training courses were developed to train the National Police force at the Police Academy in Saigon. Many self-defense courses were also opened in many communities. Master Minh was one of the Masters who was appointed to assist Grandmaster Lê Sáng on such programs. 

In August 1967, in order to respond to the growth of the Vovinam school, Master Minh was appointed to establish Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo in Nha Trang(5) and later on, in the whole Central Region of Vietnam. He and his family relocated to #93 Nguyễn Hoàng Street, Nha Trang. This address was also used as the communication office for Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo in Central Vietnam. 

In Central Vietnam, Master Minh received tremendous help from Master Lê Trọng Hiệp, who was also the director of the Republic of Vietnam’s Air Force Academy there. 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. 

At the beginning of the movement to expand the school in Central Vietnam, with the assistance of Instructor Voeng Long, who joined Vovinam in 1966 at Cao Thắng Technical Collegiate, and Instructor Nguyễn Văn Thái, Master 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 Vietnam. 

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

Master 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. 

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

Together with outstanding pupils from the instructor program, Master Minh enlarged 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…


vs trinhngocminh nhatrangFrom 1969 to 1973, with tremendous help in many fronts from Masters Phạm Hữu Độ, deputy premier of province of Bình Định, and Nguyễn Văn Cường, deputy premier of province of Lâm Đồng, Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo had expanded vigorously throughout Vietnam’s central region and highland, and Master Minh had appointed his outstanding pupils to run many training centers as follow: 

  • 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 Vietnam 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: 

  • 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… (6) 

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 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 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 November 30, 1998, Master 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 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 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 Minh’s passing had left a lot of 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. 

(Translated by Vũ Đình Quang, Vovinam-VVD Canada)



(1)   Reference:

(2)   In the Vietnamese tradition, a person is addressed with his/her first name. Trịnh is the Master’s family (or last) name, Ngọc is his middle name and Minh is his given (or first) name. We will refer to all Vietnamese names throughout this document in the same way.

(3)   Named after general Trần Hưng Đạo of Trần dynasty, who three times repelled the Mongol invasions in 1258, 1285 and 1287. Reference:

(4)   This is common in eastern culture when a teacher appreciates his pupils’ achievements.

(5)   Located in southern part of Central Vietnam.

(6)   Source: Việt Võ Đạo Khánh Hòa, special release 2002.



1.Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh’s Biography by Việt Võ Đạo Research Group, Nha Trang.

2.Master Trịnh Ngọc Minh’s Biography by Master Phan Quỳnh.

3.With contributions by Masters Ngô Kim Tuyền, Trần Công Lý và Nguyễn Văn Phụng (USA).

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