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On July 7, the Cuong Nhu Karate Association received word that it's Founder had escaped Vietnam and is returning to Gainesville. Everyone is very excited over the news and hopes to see him very soon.
O'Sensei Ngo Dong came to the U.S. in 1971 to study at the University of Florida as a graduate student. At this time he also founded the Cuong Nhu Karate School here in Gainesville which rapidly grew in membership. In June of 1974, Dr. Ngo Dong received the Ph.D. degree in Entomology from the University of Florida and departed for his homeland of Vietnam. He remained a professor at the University of Hue until September 1974. He was then appointed as President of Quang-Da University in Da Nang. On April, 1975 sad news came to us by telegram from relatives that Dong had been executed after the fall of Vietnam. A memorial service was given in his honor by karate students at the University of Florida.
However, in September, 1975 we received a letter from Dong. He was alive and in a re-education camp in Saigon. We received infrequent letters from him during this time, but he was alive and we were grateful when we did get a letter.
Then in July, 1977 the "great" news came to the Cuong Nhu Center -- Dong had escaped with his family and hoped to return to Gainesville. Parts of the two letters from him are as follows:
Dear Cuong Nhu friends: At last my family and myself got out of the "Red Hell." This is the second time we tried to escape and we succeeded. It was like in a spy movie, I'll tell the whole story later on when we'll meet together. I was indebted to my friend Mr. Vo Dinh Chuc who owned a small boat (10m3c long, 2m3c wide, 1 cylinder 11/16 hp) in a small harbor 300 km North of Saigon, consented to bring us along with his family. The two families had to leave Saigon by small groups (2 or 3 people each group) bringing nothing except clothes on the body (we'll be arrested if we bring luggages, money, or going in a group like a family) we changed bus then trucks, at last we arrived at the place at night, we jumped in the boat and fled to the ocean at 9:30 pm June 18th on June 22nd we ran out of fuel, food, water. We called SOS for 2 days. We met 14 big ships but they didn't answer our SOS call. At last an Indonesian ship (6500 tons) named Garsa Tiga picked us up in the ocean, by then we covered already 600km without sleeping. They brought us to Singapore where we had no permission to land, then we arrived Djakarta 27 June, we had to stay aboard 2 days for investigation because we didn't have papers. A delegation of the United Nations and US Embassy came to ask us, we filled out many forms. The we moved to a Vietnamese refugee camp where 108 other Vietnamese refugees lived there already 6 months waiting for permission to go to USA, Australia and France. All procedures took a very long time. We hope that Cuong Nhu Karate Association could help us to shorten our stay in Djakarta in sending letter sponsoring my family and my friend's family Vo Dinh Chuc the man who saved us in bringing us along with him in his boat. Hope to see you soon. Ngo Dong
Dear Cuong Nhu friends: I couldn't keep my tears in reading your telegram, it reminds all my sentiments to all of you accumulated for a long time. Since I left the US more than 2 yrs. ago, part of my mind and of my body is still with you. I'm very anxious to know the news of all of you. Two years, 2 mths and 20 days under the communist regime weakened my memory, I feel like I'm ten years older. I was so tired and on the nerves with the cat and mouse game, I didn't know when the communists would arrest me I'm so proud to escape although my house was guarded. They thought that I'm an ant on a cup surrounded by water, but suddenly I was transformed into a "butterfly." We are living now in a refugee camp an isolated village located 30 kms from Djakarta. There are 109 refugees waiting there for 6 mths. At the beginning of August, there will be 50 persons departing for the US, I don't know if we're among them, the United Nations will pay the trip tickets and later on we have to reimburse them whenever we get a job. Would you apply for me a job, entomologist or karate instructor, before hand so that I can start right away as soon as we arrive in Gainesville. There will be 600 persons over more than 3000 refugees having a change to go to US in mid-August. Other persons will depart in October. I hope with clever and quick arrangement we'll be among the group departing in August. I hope that the last two years would help me to write a book, Cuong nhu philiosophy becomes deeper and richer. Many thanks for all your help. Hope to receive your news soon. My best wishes to all of you. Love, Ngo Dong.
Upon receipt of ur good news two local papers did a story about Ngo Dong.
Gainesville Sun (July 9, 1977)
Ngo Dong, a former University of Florida graduate student who began a new style of karate here which has attracted more than 2,000 students, has escaped from Vietnam and is trying to return to Gainesville.
Telegrams from Indonesia were received by his brother in Texas and two UF professors and a two-page handwritten letter arrived Thursday at the Cuong Nhu Karate Center at 809 West University Ave., center president Ed Sroka said.
Dong's letter from Djakarta was dated July 1. He asked his former students for help in bringing his family and another family in the group to the U.S. Sroka said he would take up a collection next week among Cuong Nhu students for expenses and sponsorship.
During his studies, Dong began the Cuong Nhu style which means in Vietnamese "hard-soft." It is a combination of both kicking, punching and blocking and the "soft" energy deflecting techniques of aikido. Dong also stressed ethics and wrote an e-ght part code of conduct.
While Dong returned in June, 1974, his followers continued his style, establishing the University Avenue center and schools in other cities.
Florida Alligator (July 19, 1977) UF
NGO DONG is coming "home."
The former UF student and outspoken anti-communist made a daring escape with his family from what he called the "Red hell" of Vietnam, and members of the Cuong Nhu Karate Association -- a form of karate Dong founded here -- are anxiously awaiting his return.
In a letter to Gainesville friends, Dong said he and 20 other persons "slipped through a small harbor" to escape from Saigon and made their way to the ocean.
THE LETTER goes on to describe days of starvation and thirst as 14 large ships ignored the S.O.S signals of the boat. Finally, an Indonesian ship took them to a refugee camp in Djakarta.
Dong's friends had thought him long-dead -- executed for his anti-communist views -- until 1976, when word came he had actually been placed in a re-education camp. But many gave up hope of ever seeing him again until news of his escape arrived July 7.
"I think it's fantastic," Mary Davis, one of Dong's original students said. "It's heartwarming news. I can't find the words to describe it."
BOBBY ING, a close friend of Dong who attended classes with him, said it seemed "like a chance for a second time around. It's like a long-lost relative coming back. I would like to see him as soon as possible."
Ed Sroka, president of the Cuong Nhu Karate Association, said Dong wrote the group a letter informing them of his escape and of his desire to return to the United States with his family.
Sroka said efforts are already underway to help Dong's family and another family come to the United States.
"WE'RE TAKING up donations for money and household goods for the family and we're looking for a sponsor for the other family," Sroka said.
Dong came to UF in 1971 to work on his PH. D. in entomology under a grant from the Agency for International Development.
His Cuong Nhu style of karate - which emphasizes spiritual, rather than physical strength - became very popular, and Dong was revered among his students for an eight-part code of ethics he included in the Cuong Nhu karate style.
Sroka said he is unsure how long it will take to bring Dong to Gainesville, but he added "it's just a matter of time."
Jakarta, July 19, 1977 (Parts of a 3rd letter from Sensei Dong)
Dear Cuong Nhu friends: We are very glad to know that you're doing all ways possible. By the way we would suggest some way to solve our problem. In my family's case, it will be all right because we are quali¬fied when the US immigration officials interviewed us, but the hard problem is that Mr. Chuc's family was not qualified. The only alternative for them if you could request the intervention of a congressman or a senator. I think that with only a congressman or a senator letter the problem would be solved. It worries me the most is that we were already opposed to death together and now it's hard to leave them desperate behind. I hope that it will be all right due to your help and efforts. We are too eager to see you soon to talk together, I have too much things to tell you about my two years under the enemy's claws, and you have so many things to tell us since I left. I wish you would help my friend Chuc as you would help me so that I can keep my promise to him (he has no relatives and friends abroad, in going out of the country, he puts all belief in me. My best wishes to all of you. Love, Ngo Dong.
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