Phan Quoc Vinh, a former professional Sanshou (Chinese boxing) athlete, and his uncle - Phan Quoc Phuong - opened the Wushu King Club on the outskirts of Hanoi five years ago to teach martial arts to young students for free.
Vinh and Phuong’s dedication and commitment are major contributors to the creation of a stream of young talents in Hanoi’s martial arts scene.
Late vice president of the Vietnam Olympic Committee Hoang Vinh Giang, who was also former director of the Hanoi Department of Culture and Sports, once praised Vinh as the best Sanshou fighter in Vietnam.
Vinh, now a retired fighter and former Asian wushu champion, currently coaches the national men’s Sanshou team.
Overcoming physical limits
Phan Quoc Vinh, 38, was born and raised in Bac Hong Commune, Dong Anh District, Hanoi.
He began training in traditional martial arts under the guidance of his uncle, Phan Quoc Phuong, when he was just seven years old.
Phuong eventually learned Wushu and began passing down his knowledge to Vinh.
Though Vinh’s career has been full of success, he constantly found himself faced with obstacles, particularly his size.
At the age of 12, Vinh weighed just 30 kilograms, which meant he was too small to compete for a spot to train amongst Hanoi’s most talented wushu students.
But he didn’t give up.
Despite his size and other hardships, he kept pushing himself to be the best.
"The total distance [from my home to Trinh Hoai Duc Sports Center where I trained] was 50 kilometers in both directions. On summer days, I had to pour water over my head to cool down," Vinh recalled.
"I would ride my bike to Trinh Hoai Duc Sports Center at 3:00 pm to attend wushu training and wait until 5:00 pm for practice to begin. I usually wouldn’t get home until about 10:00 pm," he added.
Eventually, Vinh put on some weight and, at 42 kilograms, secured himself a spot at Hanoi Wushu Talent School.
That success, however, was short lived.
Just one month into training he was cut by coaches who felt his skills were not up to par.
A major shortcoming, coaches said, was his running abilities.
"I tried my best to fix my mistakes, and a month later I was asked to rejoin the school and eventually became the fastest runner on the team," Vinh shared.
One of Vinh’s first major victories was earning the gold medal at the National Wushu Competition for Young Athletes in 2000 after competing on Hanoi's young Wushu team for just seven months.
A year later, Vinh was named to the national junior wushu team and then to the national Wushu team.
He racked up several outstanding performances in both the 48 and 52 kilogram weight categories, including a gold medal at the 2001 Asian Junior Wushu Championships, a gold medal at the 2003 Games SEA, a silver medal at the 2004 Asian Wushu Championships, and a silver medal at the 2006 Asiad (Asian Games).
Vinh is also known for intense weight cuts and gains in order to qualify for competitions.
"After defeating a Chinese man and winning the gold medal at the Asian Junior Wushu Championships in 2001, I was selected by [former director of the Department of Culture and Sports in Hanoi] Hoang Vinh Giang to compete in the Asian Wushu Championships that same year," said Vinh.
|Fighters at Wushu King Club in Bac Hong Commune, Dong Anh District, Hanoi. Photo: Khuong Xuan / Tuoi Tre|
"At the time, I weighed 58 kilograms and had to lose 10 kilograms to compete in the 48-kilogram weight class.
"By the time I received the official schedule for the competition, I only had 10 days to lose 10 kilograms."
Vinh was able to lose the first eight kilograms without a problem, but had trouble losing the last two kilograms.
"I decided not to eat for two days, which made me terribly tired.
"Fortunately, I managed to lose weight and was able to participate.
"I won the silver medal in the 48 kilogram weight category," he recalled.
While cutting two much weight can be difficult, so can competing with a full belly.
At the 2002 Asiad in South Korea where Vinh competed in the 52 kilogram weight class, he weighed in the day before the competition and immediately began eating.
In just one day he put on nine kilograms, but the massive amount of food and water he consumed caused him to lose several matches in the competition.
After a successful career as a professional fighter, Vinh took up coaching.
He is currently the deputy dean of Hanoi's Wushu team.
At SEA Games 21, several of Vinh’s students fought for the national Wushu team and took home a total of 10 gold medals.
Wushu King - the dream of the former Asian champion
Located in Bac Hong Commune on the outskirts of Dong Anh District, Hanoi, Vinh's Wushu King Club is known for training dozens of talented Wushu fighters of Hanoi and the country.
Vinh and his uncle Phan Quoc Phuong opened Wushu King Club in 2007 with the hope of training the country’s top talent.
The VND2 billion (US$85,550) club is built on 700 square meters of their family’s land and many of their relatives also work for the club.
The students who train at the club are amongst the most talented in the city, and all are taught for free.
Students who live far from the center are supported with free accommodation and meals as well.
The best students at the club are offered spots on Hanoi’s Wushu team.
In 2018, two athletes from Wushu King Club won gold medals at the national junior Wushu tournament.
In order to finance the Wushu King Club, the coaches rent the building for others who need a space to train various martial arts.
Due to its impressive achievements, the Wushu King Club has become known for producing the city’s top Wushu talents.
Hoang Van Cao, the coach of Hanoi's Sanshou team, also trains at Wushu King Club.
"Wushu King is like a family where young students can do their normal studies while also participating in Wushu," said Cao.
Hoang Dinh Kien, former deputy director of the Hanoi Sports Training and Competition Center, who encouraged Vinh to open the Wushu King Club, shared his appreciation for the club's role in developing talented fighters.
"Such martial arts clubs help discover and develop potential Wushu players for the Hanoi and Vietnam team," he said.