|Dương Thị Thanh Minh (right) competes against Margarita Ochoa in the 31st SEA Games women's 48kg jujitsu event. VNA/VNS Photo|
The jujitsu belt system is a far stricter than in most other martial arts. It can take upwards of 10 years to achieve a black belt, the highest level of the martial art. The belt proves practitioners have truly mastered their skills.
At the age of 30, Dương Thị Thanh Minh has become the first Vietnamese jujitsu martial artist to earn a black belt after seven years of practising.
"It is unbelievable. I have received my black belt," Minh said on her facebook page.
"It is a surprising and moving moment. I am very proud being the first Vietnamese black-belted jujitsuka. Thank you, thank you for everything," Minh posted.
The athlete, who was initially a judoka, has not struggled to find her glory in jujitsu, securing medals in all international tournaments in her career.
|Dương Thị Thanh Minh is congratulated by coaches and teammates when she receives a black belt for the highest level master in jujitsu. Photo courtesy of Dương Thị Thanh Minh|
Minh is targeting to win a gold at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in May in Cambodia.
Martial arts life
Minh was born in 1992 in Huế. She fell in love and practised judo since she was nine.
Her passion and martial arts talent pushed her to early success. She competed in the junior national championship and won a gold medal.
She moved to Đà Nẵng in 2005 and one year later, she was in the national judo cup's top three at age 14.
In 2010, she officially became a member of the national team, a milestone in her career. Under her belt was a SEA Games bronze in 2011, a gold from the Southeast Asian championship in 2013 and five national championship titles along with the No 1 position from open tournaments.
But life was not always rosy. A severe injury in 2015 changed her life unexpectedly.
“It was an internal competition to prepare for a championship and I suffered a torn knee ligament which nearly pushed me to another road of life," Minh recalled.
She was back home studying at the Đà Nẵng Sports University's Department of Physical Education and received treatment.
"I chose academic study but I could not give up my passion. Martial arts have become part of my life," said Minh who spent her time on jujitsu, a new martial art in Việt Nam at that time.
“Jujitsu is similar to judo but it is focused on ground techniques versus standing techniques (that requires strong knee ligaments) in judo. I was too passionate about fighting, I couldn't bear to switch from being an athlete to be a trainer at that time, so I began to practise jujitsu to remain attached to my passion," she said.
|Dương Thị Thanh Minh poses with her Asian championship medal grabbed in Thailand on March 1. — Photo courtesy of Dương Thị Thanh Minh|
Minh is the first generation of jujitsukas in Việt Nam and she has also grabbed many titles in her seven years now.
Hard work pays off
Domestically, Minh has been nicknamed as the 'Queen of Jjujitsu' after she dominated in all tournaments.
Beyond Việt Nam's borders, she topped the Asian championships four times, won a silver from the world championship in 2021 and a silver from the 31st SEA Games, but among them, a bronze from the 2018 Asian Games (ASIAD) seemed to be the most special.
"Jujitsu first came to Việt Nam in 2015 and we met with many difficulties in the first days. We did not have a good state facility for training, and athletes had to hire private gyms for all activities," said Minh.
"We also had limited time to prepare for the ASIAD so I was very happy and excited to win my first medal in this sport and also the first of Việt Nam from this competition."
Minh said she had to work really hard for the tournament because in her category there were many strong fighters who were experienced while it was her first time.
"It is a long journey for any athlete to grab their first achievement. It is a journey of strong effort, determination and a target to strive for," she said.
2022 was a successful year for Minh as she secured two Asian championship golds, a SEA Games silver and a gold from the National Sports Games.
|Married jujitsu couple each won a gold medal at the Asian Jujitsu Championship in Bangkok in early March. — Photo courtesy of Dương Thị Thanh Minh|
Last month, she scored a lifetime achievement with a wedding with long-time boyfriend and teammate Lê Duy Thành.
Both of them were members of the national team that competed in the Asian championship in Thailand early this month and successfully topped the podium. While Minh dominated the women's 52kg class, Thành won the men's 94kg category.
Both of them are working hard for the coming 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia in May.
"Competing on home turf at the 31st SEA Games, I received strong support from home fans. It was a huge push for me and made me more determined in each match," said Minh.
"However, my Filipino rival Margarita Ochoa in the final was really strong and I could not overcome her. It was my biggest regret in the Games that was held on home ground. But, I will try my best to make the top podium this time. I will change the colour of my medal." VNS