Viet kieu fights for a Vietnamese style

Self-defence: Remi first learned the Huynh Huynh De fighting style simply to protect himself, but soon found that he was good at it. He has since devoted his energies to popularising it in France and Viet Nam.

Photo by Xuan Luat and Ha Nguyen

Age does not deter Remi Huynh, 74, a Vietnamese expat in France, to popularise the Huynh Huynh De school of martial art, which has attracted thousands of enthusiasts in France, particularly in Marseilles.

Huynh first learned the martial art for the simple purpose of protecting himself.

His first teacher, Nam Diem, discovered that Huynh had an innate talent for the art. He could grasp it’s tricks very well.

Encouraged by Diem, Huynh decided to invest his time and effort studying the art.

Four years later, after finishing a course with Diem, he moved under instructor Vu Ba Oai of Han Bai Duong, a Vietnamese martial arts school that was well-known in Sai Gon (now HCM City) in the 1970s.

Huynh’s lessons progressed very well that just after a short time, his teacher allowed him to take on fighter Minh Sang, one of the three fighters who had been famous in the south before 1975. The other two were Huynh Tien and Minh Canh.

Recalling the fight that was held on stage in Sai Gon, Huynh said thousands of audiences and fans had gathered to watch the event. They had come not only to watch Sang but also out of excitement that someone had dared to fight Sang.

Despite his defeat, Sai Gon media praised Huynh as a promising name in the martial arts world.

After his defeat, Huynh researched his opponent’s moves and methods, while working on his own weaknesses.

He didn’t have to wait long and just six months later, he got his revenge. Along with defeating Sang, Huynh officially confirmed his name among martial arts practitioners.

“Despite everything, we are still good friends. I’ll never forget Sang’s fighting skills,” Huynh noted.

Even after bagging enough success, Huynh continued to train in martial arts with famous instructor Huynh Tien who equipped him with many effective death blows, which later helped him improvise the Vietnamese martial arts when he became an instructor.

In 1968, after gaining fame and reputation, Huynh was chosen to coach the southern team for international fights. He has also trained many famous athletes since then.

In 1974, while working in Nha Trang, he opened a martial arts club carrying his mother’s surname, Huynh Huynh De, which quickly became a prestigious club attracting hundreds of enthusiasts.

“A major motivation for setting up the martial arts club was the thought of boosting young people’s pride and national sporting spirit. My students should be impregnated with politeness and reason, as well as ethics before learning the art,” Huynh emphasised.

Sporting spirit: Remi Huynh was motivated to open his own martial arts club to help young people become better persons. — Photo

His beloved student Huynh Kim Hong (who has become a famous instructor) said he has learned almost all the effective martial arts tricks from his teacher.

“My teacher has developed many new martial arts tricks, which have helped us fight in flexible and effective ways,” Hong said.

After carving a niche for himself in Nha Trang, Huynh developed the Huynh Huynh De style in the central coastal provinces of Khanh Hoa, Phu Yen and Binh Dinh, as well as HCM City.

Although he resettled in France in 1976, Huynh often returns to Viet Nam, especially when he misses his mother’s homeland, and spends time among Vietnamese communities and talk with local folks to polish his childhood memories.

Huynh’s father was a French engineer. In the 1930s, he fell in love with his mother, a very beautiful Vietnamese girl, and despite many obstacles, such as opposition from her parents, they married.

“I still know my mother’s lullaby by heart and her traditional dishes, such as braised fish, despite living and studying in France since I was very young. Every time I return from the country, I buy Vietnamese books as gifts to my friends,” he said.

To show his attachment to the Vietnamese culture, Huynh shared a story: One day, he invited several friends to a party at home, “I told them to speak Vietnamese, not French.”

“I have a friend who can speak Vietnamese so fluently that I invite him home very often so that I can talk with him,” he said, adding that his family members talk only Vietnamese at home.

Currently, there are more than 3,000 people following the Huynh Huynh De school, which has trained many practitioners for provincial martial arts teams.

In Phu Yen Province alone, the sect has presented many athletes to the provincial team from 1990. Ten of them have won gold medals in national competitions. — VNS