|Focusing in: Hoang's class comprises many different ages, personalities and occupations. — Photos vnexpress.net
After a devastating Lupus diagnosis, dedicated martial artist Nguyen Kim Hoang came back from the brink of death to continue his teaching career, despite financial difficulties. Minh Trang reports.
On a cold winter afternoon on the University of Languages and International Studies (ULIS) campus, nearly 20 students are taking a free martial arts class and attentively watching their instructor's every move.
Few people realise that those powerful movements are formed by a body that is fighting the final stage of kidney failure and guided by eyes that no longer see the light.
Teacher Nguyen Kim Hoang, 38, used to be a model of good health who pursues martial arts with a great passion. He showed his aptitude when taking part in traditional martial arts classes at the age of seven.
When Pencak Silat was introduced into Viet Nam in 1992, Hoang was chosen to receive the advanced training, and in 1994, he attended the first National Pencak Silat Championships. He was selected to join a team to compete in big sports events in the country and throughout the Asian region.
After entering the faculty of information technology at Ha Noi Open University, Hoang switched to instructing juniors instead of pursuing a professional practice in order to spend more time studying. Although his time spent practising Pencak Silat was reduced after graduating and going to work, Hoang didn't stop the class.
However, his life changed in late 2010, when he started to feel tired, his skin became dry and his sight got dim. He was diagnosed with a strange disease called Lupus erythematosus.
This disease, which caused his weak kidneys and blindness, cannot be cured easily. As a powerful martial arts instructor and the breadwinner of his family, the diagnosis left him depressed.
|Facing challenges: These powerful movements are guided by eyes that no longer see the light.
Lying in bed in a small room, Hoang found himself becoming useless at a time when his family life was becoming increasingly difficult because they were running out of money. However, he never abandoned hope.
"When I knew that my disease was in bad stage – that means, according to doctors, I couldn't live more than a year – the fear and spiritual crisis turned into the hope that I could live another day, could survive as long as possible, at least until my little daughter could see and remember her father's face," Hoang recalled.
At that time, Hoang depended on former students to lead the class. In 2013, luck seemed to smile at him when Hoang's disease was downgraded from a critical status and his health gradually improved. His students encouraged him to pursue his passion again. Hoang returned to his Pencak Silat class and beloved students with a renewed sense of optimism.
Behind that optimism is the encouragement of his wife, Ha To Lan. She provided support when he was ill, shared in his pain and tried to borrow money to treat him. But she wasn't low-spirited because the couple always encourages each other to overcome difficulties.
"My husband and I have liked to practice martial arts since childhood. It gives us an enduring spirit, optimism and maybe teaches us how to never give up," Lan said.
Knowing that he wanted to return to class without receiving any fees, Lan agreed, despite the financial difficulties they faced. She understood that he needed to do something meaningful for others and for himself.
"We are poor, and it is not worth much to earn a little money from the students," she said. "But the most important thing we want to teach students is how to be good people and how to live and behave in the right way through martial arts."
Because of difficulties in travelling, Hoang's wife and students often took him to class by motorcycle. But when they are busy, he catches the bus by himself.
Outside of class, he receives dialysis treatment at the hospital three times per week. He faces many challenges each lesson because of his poor health and blindness, but thanks to the help of people around him, those challenges didn't dampen his spirit or passion for martial arts.
"When my eyes were strong, I managed all activities of the students in class. Since my eyes stopped seeing, I have shared my work with my former students, who then teach new students," he said. "Based on the model of the old guide teaching the new, the class will be replicated and the members have a strong attachment as a family."
His class comprises many different ages, personalities and occupations. However, all of them admire his courage.
"In class, he teaches us patience and persistence in addition to martial arts. After class, he deeply impresses us by sharing his optimism," said Nguyen Thi Lien, 21, Hoang's student at the Ha Noi National University.
"He is like our second father who always listens and shares our happiness and sorrows. Whenever I'm facing difficulties, I think of him. He can't see, but still teaches us, so we need to do something more useful because our eyes are still strong."
Now, health permitting, he regularly comes to the Pencak Silat class at ULIS. He also teaches two classes in Bach Thao Park and Tan Dinh Secondary of Hoang Mai District.
Although his health is deteriorating, teaching martial arts not only helps him overcome the disease, but also makes him feel more useful. He always tells his students that learning martial arts is not only good for health and practising discipline, but also improving persistence.
He was recently awarded the prize "National Volunteers in 2015" by the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union and a United Nations volunteer program. The award honours outstanding contributions and achievements in community-based volunteer work for.
"I know my contributions to society are extremely small. However, when society recognises them I feel very lucky and realise that life is so wonderful," Hoang said.
"What I am really hoping is that my health will improve so I can help more students and see my little daughter grow up." — VNS