If you spend the morning exercising in Tao Đàn Park in the centre of HCM City, you may come across an unusual yet inspiring sight: a fit Vietnamese man with one leg practising martial arts.
The passionate Tạ Anh Dũng, aged 60, was taught martial arts when he was four years old, but had to take a break while he studied at school and looked for a job.
When he was 21, while he was working on a fishing boat, an accident occurred that injured his left leg, which did not receive medical treatment in time.
Tạ Anh Dũng often practises martial arts in Tao Đàn Park in the morning. VNS Photo Việt Dũng
However, that did not stop Dũng from partaking in activities such as cycling and table tennis, and delivering newspapers as his job.
In the late 80s, his love for martial arts was reignited and since then he has been training diligently.
"I still had all my limbs when I was practising martial arts as a kid, so returning to the sport after my accident was not easy," he told Việt Nam News shortly after completing his routine of stretching, push-ups and handstands.
"I did not have all my limbs like other people, so I had to overcome it. I came up with ways to practise that suited me, and different ways to keep my balance. If I wasn't able to do something, I didn't feel discouraged or try to stop. I tried until I got it right."
One-legged Dũng practises without a crutch, which is a sight to behold as his techniques are done with such ease and vigor. Each thrust and swing is filled with energy and precision, showing just how much he has honed his skills. Sidesteps are replaced with short hops, showcasing his remarkable balancing technique.
"I have great passion for Vietnamese martial arts because it is an art passed down from our forefathers. It's our heritage and should be preserved," he said, adding that he quickly corrects foreigners who pass by and think he is doing Chinese kung fu.
Dũng is also dedicated to teaching martial arts to students of all ages. At the park in District 1, he can typically be found tutoring martial arts students, helping them correct their techniques.
Brenden Gerber, an American freelance translator and editor living in HCM City, has been practising the Kim Kê Tây Sơn Nhạn discipline, a branch of Vietnamese martial arts, with Dũng for three years.
Dũng, who is a master in this kind of martial arts, is a talented teacher, according to Gerber.
Dũng's ability to do something as physical as martial arts without a leg makes it seem "as if you can do anything if you put your mind into it", Gerber said.
|Dũng teaches students of all ages in HCM City. VNS Photo Việt Dũng|
Dũng teaches many classes in districts 3, 5, 10 and Bình Chánh. His evening class at Bình Chánh District's Thành Long Sport Centre shows how strict and demanding he is with his students.
Ngô Hưng Thịnh, a student, said: "He is a very passionate teacher and he pays attention to all of our techniques. I'm proud to have him as a teacher."
Some of Dũng's students eventually compete in city and national teams, and he takes great joy and pride in their success.
"If you have confidence in yourself and what you can do, and you keep getting up every time you fall, you can overcome anything. You don't have to be better than other people, but you have to try," he said.
"Today you have to be better than you were yesterday, and tomorrow you have to be better than you are today. That's advice I also gave to myself," Dũng added as he returned to his lesson with Gerber. VNS