Thất Sơn Thần Quyền 2: Vietnamese Taoist Martial Art

(Continued from Thất Sơn Thần Quyền 1: Secret Powerful Vietnamese Martial Art)

A WHAT??? A Vietnamese Taoist Martial Art???

You heard me. Thất Sơn Thần Quyền is a form of martial arts that follow the ancient teachings of the deity-based Taoist practices.

Remember one of my previous post on the Difference between Taoism and Taoism, where I talked about the philosophy of Taoism as opposed to the deity-power-based Taoism? Well, consider this post a continuation of that post, because here, I will go into more detail on the less visible parts of Taoism.

Thất Sơn Thần Quyền is based on deity-power.  Masters of this art teach and practice the way of the human-god system of Taoism.

Let me preface this with a resounding statement:


However, ‘very little‘ does not mean ‘nothing‘, so here is the little bit that I was able to dig out.

The History of Thất Sơn Thần Quyền Sect

Back in the early 80s, through various interactions both legal and not-so-legal, the Vietnamese martial arts community was in a commotion, stirred up by the sudden appearance of a strange martial arts school.

Nobody knew what the martial art was called, so they called it ‘võ bùa‘ (sorcery martial art), or ‘thần quyền‘ (god-powered martial art). 

Nobody knew anything about this sect, except some guy told another guy, who told someone’s grandma, that those who followed this sorcery martial art did not need to study and practice any fighting techniques at all.

In fact, rumors began swirling around that all these so-called ‘sorcerer-fighters’ had to do was light some incense, mumble some incantations, burn a talisman, mix it with water and drink it down.

And voila! They had the power to take down an opponent (or three–or five) who were far stronger than they were.

All that buzz and noise began to attract intense interest.

As powerful as the sorcerer martial arts is, there is a major vulnerability that it could not shake––it looks and acts like an ‘evil religion’.

This caused many other sects of martial arts schools to begin scrambling their people to search out the truth of this ‘sorcery martial arts’, and in many instances, to exterminate the ‘evil’ that they found.

They sent their people searching high and low to find these ‘sorcerer-fighters’ in order to find out more about them by forcing them to fight to defend themselves and perhaps, reveal their practices.

It got to the point where the members of this ‘sorcery martial arts’ were chased down and bothered so much that in order to protect themselves and to live a normal life, they had to retreat into seclusion.

Lately, however, something occurred which is bringing all these ‘sorcerer-fighters’ out of the woodwork. These bona fide real sorcerer-fighters or spell-masters (or whatever they call themselves) are starting to show up in public places.

They are even showing up on facebook and youtube and various other social media channels.

I’m not sure what force is propelling these sorcerer-fighters to reveal themselves in very public ways, but I’m glad that they no longer have to live in hiding, sheltering within the catacombs and caverns of the Seven Mountains in order to continue practicing the Way (the Tao).

Thất Sơn Thần Quyền began to spread from the Seven Mountains region of the southern reaches of Vietnam, moving to the central regions of Vietnam, including a very important division of the Thất Sơn Thần Quyền martial arts sect headquartered in Huế.

Since then, the hidden martial arts masters of Thất Sơn Thần Quyền have gradually revealed themselves, established martial arts schools and taught throughout southern Vietnam, then spread northward to Hue, Cambodia and Laos.

After 1975, Thất Sơn Thần Quyền martial arts schools began to be opened throughout the northern provinces and the number of trainees reached tens of thousands of people.

Today, there are major regional sects of Thất Sơn Thần Quyền found throughout Vietnam as well as other countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Russia, and the USA.

There are many fighters who are masters of this martial line: Master Hỏa Hỏa Chân Nhân, Master Trần Ngọc Lộ, Master Nguyễn Văn Lộc, Master Nguyễn Văn Cảo, Master Võ Văn Đoan, Master Cử Đa, just to name a few.

These are famous people in the world of martial arts, who have had to hide their background and their sect for fear of persecution. Although each of these men have fascinating histories, this post is limited in scope and scale so I will narrow down the discussion to the Taoist Martial Arts itself.

Also, I’m sure there are many other regions of the world that practice this martial art; however, since my exploration of this subject began in the Southernmost parts of Vietnam, I will focus in on the Taoist Martial Arts found in the holy lands of the Seven Mountains.

An Evil Religion?

When we are talking about power talismans, conjurations, invocations, possessions, etc., they may sound strange to the western world, but to the people of Southeast Asia, they’re not strange at all.

Specifically within the Vietnamese community, we have been so thoroughly exposed to various spirit practices such as Lên Đồng and Cầu Siêu throughout our history, that these ‘strange sorcery peculiarities’ are not so mysterious and frightening that they would not be suitable for the Vietnamese mentality.

What are the strange sorcery peculiarities, you might wonder?

Allow me to peek behind the curtains and show you what I found. Of course, please understand that these are just the more common practices, and that the higher levels have even more esoteric practices.

Note: This information was given by a master currently living in North Vietnam, who was initiated by a sect of Thất Sơn Thần Quyền in the Seven Mountains range.

Steps to Become an Initiate

  1. Acceptance

    Let me clear this up with everyone right now. No one can practice this martial arts through an instruction video or book or even virtual reality. Don’t even bother to look for online classes. There are none.

    Don’t even think about secretly watching the disciples practice to try and imitate the moves. That’s not going to work either, for very good reasons. There is only one way to be a disciple of Thất Sơn Thần Quyền.

    A person must be accepted into the sect by a high-ranking master, after he has determined that the person is suitable and worthy of learning the Thất Sơn Thần Quyền. It will be that master who will transfer all the knowledge that the person will need to begin practicing.
  2. Initiation

    If a person is super lucky, have the physical stamina and fortitude, with an inner integrity and clear honest soul, AND if they are stubborn and will do anything that it takes, a master might take them in.

    Once someone has been accepted by the master, they are required to declare their name and hometown. Then the Master will choose an auspicious day and the new disciple must come and pay their respects.

    On the day of the initiation ceremony, when coming, students must bring gifts of fruits, sweets, bundles of incense and a nominal tuition fee (from what I have heard, it is not an extortionate amount. A symbolic $100,000 đồng, which is a little more than 4 US dollars is all that is needed). 
  3. Nine Edicts

    The new initiate is then taken to an altar and are given nine edicts which he must solemnly swear to. He is told in no uncertain terms that if he breaks any of these rules, he is automatically thrown out of the sect, and all his martial arts abilities would be stripped from him by the master himself.

    If he is lucky and the violation is not cataclysmic, he might be allowed to remain within the sect, but he would then be required to start all over again as a brand new recruit since all his abilities would have been wiped clean.

    The Nine Edicts for new initiates are as such:
    • You must display filial piety to your parents.
    • Do not betray the sect of Thất Sơn Thần Quyền.
    • Do not betray your Master.
    • Do not betray your fellow disciples.
    • Treat your fellow disciples as blood brothers and sisters.
    • Do not use your strength to bully the weak.
    • Do no evil.
    • Do not indulge in lust (in this case it means don’t over-indulge in sex to the point where the rational mind is gone.)
    • Do not abandon the cultivation of martial arts.
  4. Drinking the Talismans

    Once the initiate has sworn to the nine edicts, he would then be given two yellow power talismans with red words and images written on them. One of them is square-shaped and the other one is rectangular shaped.

    On those talismans are various spells and power words, along with drawings of a number of Taoists sitting in meditation. These talismans will be burned and mixed into a cup of water. He must then drink the water without leaving a drop.

    Once he has finished drinking the burned talismans, he is officially a disciple of the sect of Thất Sơn Thần Quyền.

    At this point, the master imparts the incantations and secrets to his newest initiate. If he is a slow learner, it may take an hour. If he is fast, it could take fifteen minutes. This all depends on the individual.
  5. Opening Acupuncture Points

    Once the newly appointed disciple has drunk all the ash water, the Master must then open up all the acupuncture points in the body.

    He then holds a bundle of smoldering incense sticks and wave them all over the disciple’s body, blowing the smoke into each acupuncture point. Male disciples get 7 incense sticks. Females get 9 (I don’t know why there is a difference in the number of incense sticks used).
  6. Teaching of the Mantra

    Once the acupuncture points have been opened and the smoke has been blown into all the opened points, master and disciple make their way outside to a wide open area where the Master will teach a mantra to the student.

    Note: The mantra itself is a closely guarded secret and only those who have been accepted will be allowed to learn it.

    Once the disciple has memorized the mantra, he must continue to mumble it until it has permeated into his subconscious mind and into each of the various acupuncture points that have been opened. This is a process called ‘inviting the martial art spirit to enter‘.
  7. Martial Art Spirit Training

    Wherever and whichever acupoint the martial art spirit is absorbed into, that is where the body begins to be affected. Let me try to explain a bit about this sensation.

    The process is described by long-time practitioners as a feeling of being drunk, but without affecting the mental faculties of the disciple. It causes them to stumble around as if they are heavily inebriated, as if the martial art spirit is getting used to the body.

    There is a good reason for this. The practitioners reported that during such a state, when the martial art spirit has fully entered their body, they are suddenly trying to control a physical body that is affected by some sort of force that causes some parts of the body to become heavy and some parts to become light.

    The practitioners also reported that once their body had been fully under the control of the martial art, a white-blue ring of light that appears in front of them, similar to a video game target (remember, all this was happening before anyone even knew what a video game was).

    The training is simply. Move the limbs that are easy to move. The limbs that feel as if they weigh a thousand pounds, don’t move.

    It takes only a short amount of time before the training is applied properly and the disciple has learned how to go through the martial art movements that have been guided by the martial arts spirit.

    Whichever limb is heavy, they learn not to move it. Conversely, where the limb is light, they must use that limb, be it arm or leg, to aim directly into the blue ring of light. It is the blue light that guides the movements of the limbs that are able to be moved.

    In this manner, the martial art is the actual trainer of the disciple, not the master. This is the reason why there is no specific methodology to the training. It is the martial art spirit doing the training.

And that ends the second part of Thất Sơn Thần Quyền‘s initiation process.

In the next posting, I will go into further detail about the various unique and downright bizarre aspects of this sect of martial art, including the surprising fact that adherents not only can kill, they can also heal.

(Continue to Thất Sơn Thần Quyền 3: Yang Công and Yin Công)

Vì sao Thất Sơn thần quyền bị gọi là “võ ma, dị giáo”?



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