Master Phi Long, the hiding dragon

Grand master Phi Long, who was the unconquerable martial artist in the 1960s, has now chosen An Khe pass in Binh Dinh to build a temple of martial arts where he studies and teaches the traditional martial arts to younger generations.

In the 1960s, Master Long (which means dragon in Vietnamese) was known in the martial arts circle as an unbeatable opponent. Long held a record of winning 86 out of 87 matches he competed in, including 68 knockout wins. He was the 1966 martial arts champion of Vietnam and the 1968 champion of Indochina.

Grand master Phi Long’s real name is Tran Quoc Long. He was born in 1944 in a martial arts family in Dong Pho, Tay Son, Binh Dinh province. His grandfather, father and uncle were well-known martial artists in the region. Long learned his first martial arts lessons from his uncle when he was six. When he was 10, Long was sent to La San Kim Phuoc seminary in Kon Tum but he dropped out to pursue his true aspiration, the martial arts.

Grand master Phi Long, the martial arts champion of Indochina. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Master Long in the position “hau vuong doat qua” (monkey king seizes the fruit),
a position typical of Phi Long martial arts which uses weakness to defeat strength. Photo: Thanh Hoa

In the position “thanh xa xuat dong” (green snake leaves the cave), which characterizes the flexible movements
of Phi Long martial arts. Photo: Thanh Hoa

In the position “hau vuong xuat the” (the king of monkeys). Photo: Thanh Hoa

Apart from studying and practicing the martial arts, master Long is a nature lover. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Knowing his talent and desire, Long’s father, Tran Nghia Sy, invited to his home the best martial artists in the region to teach his son but that did not seem enough for Long. Just a short time later, Long left home for Phu Cat district to learn from famous martial arts master Huynh Lieu or Huong Kiem Kinh.

After studying with master Huynh Lieu for five years, Phi Long started getting involved in competitions and immediately became popular in Binh Dinh because he could defeat much bigger rivals, including Minh Tinh, Thanh Cong, Tran Can and Thai Binh, who were 10-20 kilos heavier than Long.

Long then went to the central highlands, Saigon and the southwestern region to compete under different names such as Ly Quoc Long, Huynh Long, Minh Long and Phi Long.

Long’s career reached its peak in the 1960s when he became Vietnam’s martial arts champion in 1966 after defeating Tran Cuong from Bien Hoa. Two years later, he seized the Indochina championship title after defeating the martial artist from Cambodia where the event was held.

Master Long (fourth from left) is a member of the Committee for Study, Preservation and Development of
Traditional Martial Arts in Binh Dinh. Photo: Files

Master Long and his students before a charity trip in Binh Dinh. Photo: Files

With his young students in Binh Dinh. Photo: Files

With two female students in his countryside. Photo: Files

With his student, master Thanh Binh from Quang Binh, at the Temple of Martial Arts
on the peak of An Khe pass. Photo: Files

Long’s two Australian students visit their master in An Khe. Photo: Files

Master Long’s ups and downs in life were all associated with martial arts. In 1967, he survived a murder attempt by losing bettors after he won a competition in Bien Hoa. In 1968, he was shot by friends of a Cambodian martial artist who was knocked out by Long in a match in Kon Tum.

After 1975, master Phi Long became the chairman of the Martial Arts Association of Tay Son district, Binh Dinh. In 1980, he was invited by the Sports Department of former Nghia Binh province to be the coach of the provincial martial arts team. Long is now a member of the Committee for Study, Preservation and Development of Traditional Martial Arts in Binh Dinh.

After devoting his life to developing the martial arts in Binh Dinh in particular and Vietnam in general, the old martial artist has now chosen the peak of An Khe pass in Binh Dinh to build a temple dedicated to the forefathers of the Vietnamese martial arts. This is where he studies and promotes the learning of traditional martial arts. The reason Long chose An Khe is that the pass is in the middle of the lower and higher parts of Tay Son, the homeland of Binh Dinh martial arts. Master Long is called rong den quy an (hiding black dragon) by martial arts lovers in the region.

At the age of 75, master Long still practices the martial arts, which helps him maintain his good health. He often drives a motorbike around the region for hundreds of kilometers, which shows the “supernatural” power of a master martial artist.

Story: Thanh Hoa – Photos: Thanh Hoa and Files