“Vo Vietnam” means Vietnamese martial arts. The Vo school burgeoning in Burkina Faso is called the Son Long Quyen Thuat school, literally translating into “fighting school of the dragon’s mountain”. It was founded Master Nguyen Duc Moc.
Julien Drabo is a martial arts aficionado. He was named in memory of a French army lieutenant his father served under in Indochina. Master Drabo believes that it is his father’s travels that led him to develop an interest in Vietnam and particularly in Vo. One day, he read a profile on Master Moc, who lived in France at the time, in a magazine called Karate Bushido. He decided to write to him seeking tutelage in his art. The master accepted and Julian went to Paris where he underwent intensive training. On his return from Paris in 1990, he opened the first training centre on the University of Ouagadougou campus.
Since then, Julien has promoted the Son Long Quyen Thuat style in Kaya, Kossimoro, Kangoussi, Orodara and a dozen other cities around the country. He teaches not only the techniques but also the ethics and values of this discipline: altruism, respect, loyalty and wisdom. The Burkina team often organizes classes, sometimes in the bush, taking advantage of people’s interest in the demonstrations to educate them on important issues such as genital mutilation.
They also set up classes for children in need. Julien, who is now an international expert, was knighted “Chevalier du Mérite Sportif” in Burkina Faso for the work he does every day and the positive image of Burkina Faso he promotes worldwide. He is a simple and brave man who has dedicated his life to helping his fellow countrymen through the power of martial arts.
Text and photos by Mehdi “Xki” El Beji