Cuong Nhu

Cuong Nhu
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Cuong Nhu (pronounced /Kung new/) Oriental martial arts was originally developed by Dr. Ngo Dong (O'Sensei) in 1965 in Hue, Vietnam.[1] The Cuong Nhu Oriental Martial Arts Association (CNOMAA) is a federally recognized non-profit educational organization. Cuong Nhu is a martial art that blends elements of Shotokan, Wing Chun, Judo, Aikido, T'ai chi ch'uan, Vovinam,[2] and Boxing.[3] It is this blending of hard and soft styles from which Cuong Nhu derives its name, which is Vietnamese for Hard (Cuong) / Soft (Nhu).

The first Cuong Nhu dojo in the United States was opened in 1971 in Gainesville, Florida, at the University of Florida, where Ngo Dong achieved his Ph. D in Entomology.[1] The headquarters of the style was originally relocated to Gainesville Florida in 1977, following a daring escape from Vietnam by Ngo Dong and his family. The Cuong Nhu World headquarters is now permanently located in Jacksonville Florida; locally known as the Mandarin Martial Arts Center.

The current head of style for Cuong Nhu is Grandmaster Quynh Ngo.[2]



Students at beginning levels of Cuong Nhu first concentrate on learning hard style Shotokan karate and Wing Chun techniques such as blocking and kicking, along with basic mat skills such as rolling, falling, takedowns and applications. Emphasis is given to the "loading" of techniques, and to turning the loads/transitions into 3-dimensional defense/attacks.

As students' techniques evolve to more advanced levels, softer style techniques (Judo, Aikido and T'ai chi) and Boxing are introduced along with throws and take-downs. Personal safety and self defense are important keynotes in Cuong Nhu training. An advanced student of Cuong Nhu will practice applications of self defense that involve engaging, controlling, and finishing multiple attackers at all levels and at any age or ability. The nature of the attack will determine the level of response from a Cuong Nhu practitioner.

Cuong Nhu's Kyu rank Kata consist of four basic forms along with Pinan Katas one through five, Tension Kata, Jutte, Enpi, and Chinte. Kyu rank weapon katas include original tambo (short staff) katas one through three and original bo (long staff) katas one through three. At blackbelt, Cuong Nhu includes higher levels of original hard style empty hand katas, original soft style empty hand katas Nhu 1, Nhu 2, and Lotus, as well as the study of more advanced weapons, including but not limited to bo, tambo, double tambo, tonfa, sai,and spear.

Ranking System

All Cuong Nhu students start as a white belt learning hard-style shotokan and wing chun. As they move up, they begin to earn green stripes. Between belts, students earn two stripes in the color of the next rank. After white green belt, students are promoted to green belt. As a green belt they are introduced to more soft-style martial arts and weapons. At the brown belt level, they are expected to be active in assistant teaching. Advanced Kyu ranks earn two black stripes, then a black belt. In addition to the martial arts requirements, all Cuong Nhu black belts must have teaching experience and become certified in CPR and first aid.

For children in training, students start at white belt, then earn two yellow stripes. After yellow is purple, then blue, then green and it continues on.

People who have earned a black belt have gone through all the kyu ranks and have earned the title of sensei. Cuong Nhu is unique in that its black belt does not come with the rank of Shodan. Shodan is awarded after the new black belt learns the first Soft Style Kata Nhu 1, understands basic soft style principles/applications (Bunkai) and shows a consistency of teaching beyond the time they were awarded their black belt. The Dan ranks are the same as traditional ranks, Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan. Each Dan rank is represented by a red stripe on the black belt, one for Shodan and up to four for Yondan.

The rank of Godan (5th Degree) is represented by a horizontally red and black belt. Rokudon (6th Degree Master), Shichidan (7th Degree), Hachidan (8th Degree) and Kudan (9th Degree) are all unique belts designed specifically for Cuong Nhu by the late Master Mary Davis-Cates.


As white belts students start with hard-style shotokan. Students learn the first four beginning Katas, (Taikyoku) and a kata called 'machine gun' that emphasizes a rapid volley of hard strikes. As they get green stripes, they learn the first three Pinans. Once a green belt, students learn Pinan four. Once they have one brown stripe, they learn Pinan five. At two brown stripes, they learn Jutte for their brown belt test. For their black stripes they have to learn Enpi and Chinte. Dan ranks have the choices between Tiger, Monkey, Snake, Serpent, Crane, Close Combat, Nhu 1, Nhu 2, Nhu 3 (Lotus), Wing Chun Katas 1 (Siu Nim Tao), 2 (Chum Kiu), 3 (Biu Tze) as well as Cuong Nhu Bo Katas 5, 6 and Cuong Nhu Double Tambo Katas 1, 2, and 3.


Cuong Nhu has an extensive philosophical base rooted in the Three O's Principle of Open Mind, Open Heart and Open Arms. Including but not limited to A Moral Code of Ethics, The Sheet of Fives,Pyramid Formulas for Happiness, Harmony and Health, The Ten Stages of Growth and much more. Sets of philosophies are required for each Kyu and Dan rank that help the student to develop a strong philosophical touch stone. Without philosophy and mental maturity, a martial artist is just merely a trained street fighter. These philosophies are listed online at the Cuong Nhu web site.


  1. ^ a b Cuong Nhu Oriental Martial Arts
  2. ^ a b About Cuong Nhu
  3. ^ Cuong Nhu Oriental Martial Arts

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