Grandmaster Lê Sáng – The Brilliant Successor of Founding Grandmaster Nguyễn Lộc
Master Lê Sáng’s family originally resided in Thanh Hóa Province, but he was born in autumn of 1920 in a house on the banks of Trúc Bạch lake in Hà Nội, the oldest son of Mr. Lê Văn Hiển (known professionally as Đức Quang, 1887 – 1959) and Mrs. Nguyễn Thị Mùi (1887 – 1993). His two sisters are Lê Thị Xuất and Lê Thị Hương.
In 1939, after suffering a severe illness which left him walking with difficulty, he followed his mother’s advice and began studying martial arts in order to strengthen his legs and improve his physical health. Good fortune steered him to Founding Grandmaster Nguyễn Lộc’s Vovinam class at the Hà Nội Pedagogical College (Ecole Normale). Due to his natural ability, intelligence, and diligent practice, after just a few years he was chosen by Founding Grandmaster Nguyễn Lộc to take part in the work of training others in Hà Nội. From then on, he became as close to Grandmaster Nguyễn Lộc as a younger brother is to an older brother, sharing in his labors and his hardships, following him as he taught the discipline of Vovinam in many places…
In 1954, Grandmaster Lê Sáng accompanied Founding Grandmaster Nguyễn Lộc to Sàigòn. Here, he was assigned the task of opening a Vovinam class at Avigateur Garros (now known as Thủ Khoa Huân street) in Sàigòn as well as at a number of other schools. In 1957, when the Founding Grandmaster fell ill, master Lê Sáng took over the work of training the high-level students and open several more new schools on Trần Khánh Dư street in Tân Định district, Sư Vạn Hạnh (near Ấn Quang pagoda), Moulin Rouge on Trần Hưng Đạo boulevard… . In April 1960, before passing away, the Founding Grandmaster named Lê Sáng as the next Grandmaster of Vovinam.
Due to the state of affairs in the country at the time, Grandmaster Lê Sáng was forced to travel to Ban Mê Thuột at the beginning of 1960’s and worked there until late 1963, when martial art disciplines were once again allowed to be practiced in Sàigòn. He returned to Sàigòn and immersed himself in the work of reinforcing, building, and developing the discipline.
As his closest and most senior disciple with almost 20 years of working at the Founding Grandmaster’s side, Grandmaster Lê Sáng had unparalleled knowledge of Vovinam’s philosophy and techniques. With natural talent and deep sense of commitment, along with contributions of generations of masters, instructors, students, and a large base of supporters, Grandmaster Lê Sáng has developed upon the ideas of Founding Grandmaster Nguyễn Lộc, developing Vovinam Việt Võ Đạo martial art into a philosophy with a scientific and practical technical training system as we know it today. In the mid of 1960’s, although living in constrained circumstances, he has not only directed the Vovinam movement but also spent his days training students for hours on end and his nights hunched by a lamp writing books and articles, systemizing the Founding Grandmaster’s philosophy of martial arts.
The ideology steers Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo disciples toward a noble life philosophy: “Live for yourself, help others to live, and live for everyone.” Following it, a Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo disciples not only gain martial arts ability to overcome one’s own weakness of mind and body, the person can also organize for himself or herself a decent life, but also has the responsibility to help others living better, and willing to sacrifice one’s own tangible or intangible benefits to serve the common interests of the discipline and the society at large…
Furthermore, he was constantly honing and improving the Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo techniques to become even more rich and useful, suitable for variety of people. Even at very old age, Grandmaster Lê Sáng continued his research and enhanced the technical program to adapt to the new development phase when Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo has begun to show strong growth overseas following the milestone laid initially in France since 1973.
All important contributions of Grandmaster Lê Sáng is the prelude for creating the basis for Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo movement to thrive, flourish and gradually spread over 40 countries around the world, making a strong impression of Vietnamese martial art traditions as well as a cultural identity of the people of Vietnam.
In addition, he was elected to serve as the Director of the South Vietnam General Office of Martial Arts and Treasurer for the South Vietnam Olympic Committee for several years.
Not only a skilled practitioner of the martial arts, Grandmaster Lê Sáng possessed excellent business sense; he was also a leader with great management abilities and a truly talented and creative individual. With clear, beautiful strokes of calligraphy brush, he has composed many poems of deep, intimate feeling and chivalrous nature. In his daily life he lives simply, always willing to help a friend and always displaying true sincerity in his encounters with others. To his disciples, he is a whole-hearted teacher, loving and tolerant. When his parents fell ill, he cared for them thoughtfully and carefully, never leaving their sides.
For nearly a year, although with his declining health, Grandmaster Lê Sáng’s mind stayed very lucid and brilliant. Even in the last days of life struggling with illness, the Grandmaster still demonstrated a high sense of responsibility for the discipline’s mission while preparing to transfer leadership responsibilities to the Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo’s Council of Managing Masters.
Remained unmarried until his death, without the burden of family, instilled with Eastern philosophy, through his talent and impeccable morality, he became the star pupil of the Founding Grandmaster Nguyễn Lộc. Grandmaster Lê Sáng has sacrificed nearly his entire life to the work of building up and developing the discipline of Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo.
After a period of grave illness, at 3 am on September 27, 2010, or the eighth month of the lunar calendar, year of the Tiger, Grandmaster Lê Sáng has gone forever at 91 years of age. The departure of Grandmaster Lê Sáng is a loss to the martial arts generally and a great misfortune for all Vovinam-Việt Võ Đạo disciples worldwide.