Cuong Nhu History
Master Ngo Dong founded Cuong Nhu Oriental Martial Arts in
1965 in Hue, Vietnam. To build a strong moral and spiritual
foundation for his style, Grand Master Dong interjected his
personal philosophy of self-improvement, community service,
and love and respect for others. In Vietnam, Cuong Nhu was
more than just another martial art. It provided an ideological
touchstone for its students, young people who had grown up
in a sadly disjointed, war-torn society.
As a child, Grand Master Dong learned
Vovinam from his brother, Ngo Quoc Phong, one of the top five
students of Vovinam's founder. Grand Master Dong also learned
Wing Chun from his two oldest brothers, who studied with Chinese
Master Te Kong. Although their father was then attorney general
of northern Vietnam, the Ngo brothers tested their fighting
skills on the street by engaging hustlers and professional
street fighters inhabiting the alleys and back streets of
After moving south to Hue, Vietnam
in 1956, Grand Master Dong began Shotokan Karate training
under a former Japanese captain. After years of fanatical
training, he earned his fourth degree black belt. He also
studied judo and earned a black belt in that system.
Growth in Vietnam
Grand Master Dong married and had four children that were
born in Hue, Vietnam. In the tradition of early martial arts
masters, Grand Master Dong was a family man, civic leader,
scientist, and author. He earned two degrees, in biology and
chemistry, in Vietnam and served as professor of biology at
the University of Hue from 1961 to 1971.
After the devastating 1968 Tet offensive, he organized a
civil defense organization, the People's Self-Defense Forces
of Hue, to help protect the public from the random violence
spawned by the war. His organization engaged some 25,000 people
in a program of karate, games and friendly competition to
rebuild morale and spirit. He was devoted to the development
of Cuong Nhu and the personal growth of thousands of students.
Arrival in the U.S.
In 1971, Grand Master Dong traveled to the United States to
pursue a Ph.D. in Entomology at the University of Florida.
In September 1971, during his post-graduate studies, Grand
Master Dong opened the first Cuong Nhu Karate Club in the
United States. Within two years, it grew into the largest
intramural organization on campus.
Grand Master Dong earned his doctorate in three years and
returned to Vietnam in 1974. He was then appointed president
of Da Nang College. An outspoken opponent of communism, Grand
Master Dong was placed under house arrest by the communist
government of Vietnam in 1975. He and his family later took
the tremendous risk of escaping by boat to Indonesia. They
finally arrived in the United States in November 1977.
Grand Master Dong served as president
of the Cuong Nhu Oriental Martial Arts Association, an international
organization that oversees the development of Cuong Nhu. In
Vietnam, he published books on subjects ranging from martial
arts philosophy and technique to flower arrangement. Grand
Master Dong was also an accomplished runner, discovering the
joys of running in 1986, he soon completed his first two marathons,
which he ran on consecutive weekends. His first ultra-marathon
was the 100-mile Western States run in Squaw Valley, California.
He completed 23 marathons, eight 50-mile ultra-marathons and
fourteen 100-mile ultra-marathons.
In 1994 Grand Master Dong was promoted to 6th degree in
Judo. Master Dong was the 47th Judoka among the USJA's 20,000
members to reach 6th dan.
Grand Master Dong retired from the University of
Florida on August 18, 1994. He was awarded with dual proclamations
from the City of Gainesville and Alachua County, Florida,
declaring August 14, 1994 as Dr. Ngo Dong Day.
On May 15, 2000, O Sensei Ngo Dong passed
peacefully on from this life. Three sons, a daughter, and seven
survive him. His many Cuong Nhu students are all deeply touched
by his spirit and honored to have shared in his life.
Cuong Nhu has spread throughout the U.S. Currently there
are 75 schools across the U.S., with the heaviest enrollments
along the east and west coast.