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Cuong Nhu Martial Arts

cuong Nhu IATC

Since 1978, Cuong Nhu students of all ranks have gathered in late May for an extended weekend of training and camaraderie. In addition to the great martial arts classes, students have a chance to build lasting friendships, learn from instructors from around the world, and watch advanced tests and demonstrations. "Cuong Nhu Campout," as it was called in the old days,  is now known as Cuong Nhu's International Annual Training Camp, or IATC. It is hosted each year on Memorial Day Weekend on a university campus - most often in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Browse these pages for more details about this year's training camp; and when you're ready, register here.

Intertwining Roots: A Theme of Community for IATC 2024

Trees are seemingly individual, independent beings that turn out to have vital connections with one another. They have deep and sometimes surprising mutual relationships.

Did you know that Coast Redwood trees, the tallest trees in the world, have relatively shallow roots? But their roots spread wide and intertwine with the roots of their neighbors, so they support each other against high winds and floods. Each one of these massive, towering trees is the very image of individual strength and endurance. What we can’t see right away is that underground, they’re drawing much of their strength from their community.

Other forest trees, even ones of different species, intertwine roots, sometimes grafting together and sharing water and nutrients directly, like sharing a blood vessel. Aspen trees may share their roots entirely – that is, what looks like a hundred individuals might really be a single root system with a hundred trunks growing from it.

On top of that (or actually, underneath it), there is the extensive web of fungus threads in the soil that permeates – and connects – all the roots in the forest. You may have heard about how this network is used by trees to communicate and share resources between their roots. And there are “parent trees” that ensure the survival of new generations by sharing resources through this web, especially in times of drought or scarcity. Meanwhile, the fungus network is doing its part to help the forest survive by gathering and sharing nutrients with the trees.

These are meaningful metaphors for Cuong Nhu, a community founded by someone whose name meant “tallest tree,” where so many dojos use tree imagery in their names.  And of course, like the Redwoods, we link up and keep each other strong – as martial artists, as people, as family. Like the forest, we share resources, teaching and training together, supporting and advising each other. That is what it means to be community.

For the martial art of Cuong Nhu, there’s another layer of meaning that’s important to understand: The art O’Sensei Dong created, with roots intertwined from seven styles, was designed to be greater than the sum of its parts. It requires us to be a community, beyond being the best individuals we can be. That’s because no single one of us can master all the possibilities of Cuong Nhu. On the other hand, together, as a community, we can come close.

Think of us as a redwood forest, each of us a tree made stronger by our connections, and also made taller, stronger, fitter and more efficient by nutrients drawn from many sources. Our intertwined roots – our curriculum – supports and feeds us. Among us, in the forest, we have members whose roots intertwine with other species, who amplify what we gain from those sources, making all of us stronger. As a forest, we are greater than what we can possibly be as individuals.

As martial artists, we’re asked to master underlying principles, build our strengths and skills, and thus become the best experts we can be. We have a broad and demanding curriculum, and we’re trees of different shapes, sizes and ages. Each of us embodies the principles as best we can. But Cuong Nhu itself is the forest; it encompasses all of us, and we need the whole forest to be complete and to thrive. As individuals, we have strengths, but also weakness. As a style – as a community – with intertwining roots – we’ll always have all of it covered.