Cuong Nhu, literally “hard-soft”, was founded by Grandmaster Ngo Dong in 1965. Cuong Nhu (pronounced “kyung-new”) combines the hard-style blocks, punches, and kicks of traditional Japanese Karate-do with the softer, more circular movements of arts like Aikido and Tai Chi. It also incorporates the hand techniques of Western Boxing and Wing Chun with the throwing and grappling skills of Judo. Finally, Cuong Nhu borrows animal forms and two-partner fighting forms from Viet Vo Dao. Just as there is no such thing as a superior style, each of these arts has its strengths and weaknesses. Together, however, these arts embody a great range of skills and techniques and give the practitioner of Cuong Nhu the ability to react appropriately in nearly any situation.
As a child, Grandmaster Dong learned Vovinam from his brother, Ngo Quoc Phong, one of the top five students of Vovinam’s founder, Grandmaster Nguyen Loc. Grandmaster Dong also learned Wing Chun from his two oldest brothers, who studied with Chinese Master Te Kong. Although their father, Ngo Khanh Thuc, was then attorney general of Northern Vietnam, the Ngo brothers tested their fighting skills on the street by engaging the hustlers and professional street fighters that inhabited the alleys and back streets of Hanoi.
After moving south to Hue, Vietnam in 1956, Grandmaster Dong began training in Shotokan Karate-do under a former Japanese captain, Choji Suzuki. After years of fanatical training, O Sensei Dong earned a fourth degree black belt. He also studied Judo and earned a black belt in that system. Later, O Sensei studied with American Marine Lt. Ernie Cates, a Judo and Goshin-jitsu instructor who had been in the first U.S. Olympic Judo trials. Through Professor Grandmaster Ernie Cates’ instruction, Grandmaster Dong began to better understand the spiritual side of the martial arts.
In 1965, Grandmaster Dong combined his broad martial arts knowledge into his own style, Cuong Nhu, to provide an ideological touchstone for its students, young people who had grown up in a sadly war-torn society that was hard-pressed to meet their spiritual needs. To build a strong moral and spiritual foundation for his style, O Sensei Dong interjected his personal philosophy of self-improvement, community service, and love and respect for others. He taught martial arts techniques to help his students build themselves up physically, improve themselves, and personally pursue goals and serve society.
In 1971, Grandmaster 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, O Sensei opened the first Cuong Nhu Karate club in the U.S., and within two years it grew into the largest intramural organization on campus. In the spring of 1973, the Cuong Nhu Karate Association, with a permanent board of directors, was incorporated to ensure continuity and uniformly high standards of instruction. Grandmaster Dong changed the name to Cuong Nhu Oriental Martial Arts in 1988 to more accurately describe his martial arts style. O Sensei announced his retirement in 1997, and appointed his second son, Master Quynh Ngo, as his successor
Today, Cuong Nhu is an international association with over fifty dojos in the United States and abroad. Students of all ages, genders, occupations, races, and religions are brought together by their desire to improve themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually like the Shaolin Temple monks who strove to enlighten themselves in the early history of the martial arts.