Vietnamese-American actor’s illegal martial arts contest busted

The Ho Chi Minh City police Sunday stopped an illegal martial arts competition organized at the Lien Phong Martial Arts School run by Vietnamese-American actor Johnny Tri Nguyen.

Police inspect the martial arts school of Johnny Tri Nguyen in Ho Chi Minh City’s Nha Be District. Photo: Van Loc

Inspectors said the “2015 Martial Arts Championships” held at the school in Nha Be District had not been registered with relevant authorities as required by law.

The school did not follow safety regulations meant to safeguard competitors like having an ambulance standing by.

Nguyen said the competition was actually a graduation test held periodically to award new color jerseys to martial artists similar to the belts awarded in other martial arts.

“I thought it was a way to make participants more excited,” he said about the school’s Facebook entry describing it as a contest.

Some companies and parents of children studying at the school had suggested he should award medals, he said.

He rejected accusations that he sold tickets for the event, saying, “According to regulations, visitors and new students joining a one-day trial have to pay VND200,000.

Like at other martial art schools, his students pay for the test to improve their levels, he said.

“And Lien Phong, in the competition, ah no … in the test to be accurate, is the same.

“The money is used to support judges including trainers and martial artists.”

The school always has two doctors and a nurse standing by during every level test though there have been no serious injuries so far, he said.

“It’s Lien Phong’s rule to cancel [a fighter’s] rights to fight and slap strict penalties for causing injuries to an opponent.”

Lien Phong has around 100 students in two classes for adults and another for children.

Nguyen said after rboving the advertisbent about the competition, things would become routine about the test.

“And the final will still be held on October 18 as previously planned.”

Besides being an actor, Johnny, 41, is also a stunt man and martial arts choreographer who is mainly active in the Vietnamese film industry.

Born in Saigon, he migrated with his family to the US when he was nine.

He competed as a martial artist on the US national team, and then began a career as a stuntman in Hollywood, working on films such as Spider-Man 2 and Jarhead.

Nguyen later returned to Vietnam and starred in The Rebel, a period martial arts film released in 2007 and directed by his brother Charlie Nguyen.

He also starred in other films, including De mai tinh, Teo Em and the controversialaction film Bui Doi Cho Lon that was banned in 2013 due to its violent scenes.

He has acted in Indian and Thai films as well.