Saigon Luta-Livre

Harry Hodge headed to District 3 to check out Ho Chi Minh City’s first gym devoted to Brazilian Luta-Livre grappling. Photos by Kyle Phanroy


When we arrived at the doors of a fancy coffee shop with an outdoor pool, we wondered if we were in the right place.


A new gym with a rooftop fight space was meant to be hosting a Brazilian jiu-jitsu fight card for its opening. But the parking attendant could see what had brought us there, and pointed up.


Once we got to the top of the stairs, a crowd of martial arts enthusiasts and students of the Saigon Luta-Livre gym were there, either in the cosy clubhouse or warming up on the mats. American founder Erik Koehne took us through all the twists and turns leading to the opening of the first gym in the city devoted to this particular fight discipline.



“I said this is the place, it’s an oasis in District 3,” Erik says of the space down an alley of Ky Dong.


The mat measures eight-by-six metres, and the “clubhouse” is another six-by-four, so it’s an economical use of space to say the least, a far cry from the warehouse-sized California Fitness locations one can enter across the city. Prior to the fight card, it was interesting to watch the fighters slipping in and out of various holds in the warm up before a grueling grappling match.


When the fights started, we had to remind ourselves that this was not a UFC-style bout; no kicks or elbows thrown, just grappling with a goal of forcing an opponent to submit. Koehne reckons it’s this mental aspect to Brazilian Ju-Jitsu (BJJ) that attracts prospective students to Luta-Livre. The Luta-Livre style is also distinct from traditional Brazilian jiu-jitsu, with a no-gi (uniform-free) aspect.


“It’s like magic when you first do it,” says Erik, who has been sharing his knowledge of BJJ with students since 2010, and decided during a visit in 2012 that he wanted to open a gym in Ho Chi Minh City.


“For every submission, there’s an escape that can lead to a counter,” Erik says. “You don’t expect it’s going to give someone as much strategy and power as it does.”


The Saigon Luta-Livre gym is open daily, with a variety of options for all levels of participant. The gym is located at 20/11 Ky Dong, Q3, Ho Chi Minh City. For more information, visit






Tuan Snatches Record


Thach Kim Tuan broke his own Asian record to bag a gold medal at the International Weightlifting Federation World Championships 2014 in Kazakhstan in November, according to Thanh Nien.


The 20-year-old Saigonese weightlifter successfully lifted 135kg in the men’s 56kg snatch to break his Asian record of 134kg, achieved at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.


Vietnamese Youngsters Swing into Action


More than 400 young golfers from Vietnam, other countries in the ASEAN region and South Africa will compete at the Kids Golf World Championship 2014 in Malaysia next month, according to Thanh Nien.


Young people between the ages of five and 18 years from over 20 countries are expected to compete in Johor Baru from Dec. 8 to Dec. 12.


Willing and Able to Rule the Table


Vietnamese players won six bronze medals and one silver at the ASEAN Table Tennis Championships, which wrapped up in Cambodia in November, according to Vietnam News.


Senior players Tran Tuan Quynh and Mai Hoang My Trang placed third in the men’s and women’s singles events, respectively. Athletes competing in the mixed doubles and the women’s doubles events won four more bronze medals, while earlier the women’s team won the silver medal.


Odds Likely for Football Bets: Official


Betting on international football matches is likely to be legalised in Vietnam, according to a lawmaker of the National Assembly.


Tran Quang Chieu, a standing member of the Committee for Finance and Budget of the law-making body, told Tuoi Tre in November that the legalisation of such betting should be done as soon as possible.


Iron Man Comes to Danang


According to its competition website, the IRONMAN triathlon series is coming to Vietnam in May of next year.


VNG IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam will offer 30 qualifying slots for the 2015 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Zell am See-Kaprun, Austria. Professional athletes will be competing for a total prize purse of US$15,000 (VND320 million). IRONMAN events take place in settings around the world.


“Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles — brag for the rest of your life,” says John Collins, the co-founder of the event, which dates back to 1978.


The event will offer athletes a unique and unforgettable racing experience. Danang is situated along an immaculate 30km stretch of white, sandy beach, in a region surrounded by three UNESCO World Heritage sites.


General registration for VNG IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam is now open. Athlete inquiries should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Williams a Slam-Dunk as Defensive MVP


In a season of historic firsts — including the Saigon Heat’s debut in the ASEAN Basketball League playoffs — Heat centre Justin Williams has been named the 2014 ABL Defensive Player of the Year.


According to the team’s website, the recognition comes after he helped Saigon make history by advancing to the ABL Playoffs for the first time ever. The 2.1-metre-tall center is a major defensive force in the league, leading the ABL in rebounds — 17.5 per game — and in blocks — 4.4 per game.


Williams’ best defensive performance came on Oct. 22 against the Indonesia Warriors, where he grabbed 30 rebounds and blocked seven shots. Because of Williams’ heroics, the Heat were able to defeat the Warriors 75-73 in overtime — a win which punched their ticket to the playoffs.


The Chicago native and former cager for the NBA’s Houston Rockets also recorded the most blocks in a game by any player this season on Aug. 30, against Laskar Dreya South Sumatra. In that game, Williams posted a triple-double, with 18 points, 20 rebounds and 12 blocks.


To Play or Not to Play


A debate has begun over the plan to send under-19 players from the Hoang Anh Gia Lai–Arsenal JMG Academy, who are semi-professional, to the 17th ASEAN University Games this month in Indonesia, according to Tuoi Tre.


According to the Games’ regulations, nine of the Academy’s players are eligible to compete in the student tournament in Palembang being held Dec. 9 to Dec. 19, as current students of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Physical Education and Sports.


But the question is if Vietnam even needs a win at the event with those players, who have been training with one another since the age of 12 and were silver medalists at the 2013 Southeast Asian U-19 Championship in Indonesia, the 2014 U-22 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei, and the 2014 AFF Nutifood U-19 Cup in Hanoi.


Observers fear the prospect of injuries in such a competition outweigh any benefit of having the academy players participate.


Another One Gone from V-League


Vietnam’s top-flight V-League will continue regardless of the number of competing football teams, Vietnam Football Federation chairman Le Hung Dung said in a recent interview with Tuoi Tre.


Dung provided the confirmation after Dong Thap FC announced their withdrawal from the league, expected to start in January, because of financial problems.


He noted that Vietnam should also be prepared to turn the V-League into an arena for grassroots football, to make it the basic foundation for future development of the sport in the worst-case scenario.


Apart from Dong Thap, who won the First Division last season and were promoted to the V-League, several other clubs are mired in financial difficulties, as many companies are reluctant to fund them.

Last modified onFriday, 27 February 2015 20:17

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