NASA People

Center Snapshot: Roy Albang
Roy Albang. Image above: Roy Albang, also known as Sensai, has been the Langley Karate Club instructor since 1979. Photo Credit: NASA/Sean Smith

By: Denise Lineberry

In 1976, Leroy Albang attended the first class for the Langley Karate Club (LKC). Three years later, Albang was selected to be the Sensai, meaning teacher or instructor.

Two days each week, Albang teaches martial arts to students that range from beginners to advanced. He focuses on teaching Cuong Nhu, a combination of the hard and soft styles of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese martial arts with the principles of American boxing.

"Cuong Nhu was created as an opportunity to the people of Vietnam, who were living in a war-torn country," Albang said.

Mastering the style has been one way for Albang to overcome his own physical limitations. He has had arthritis since childhood. He has steadily worked his way up through the discipline's ranks and recently was promoted to Godan -- fifth-degree black belt -- by the Grand Master of Cuong Nhu.

Cuong Nhu has about 1,100 members. Of those, 10 are Godan level instructors. Because of Albang’s dedication to the art, Langley students get to learn from one of them.

"In addition to martial arts, philosophy instruction is taught. It teaches mental control," said Albang. "We train to be better people."

Open mind, open heart and open arms are the three "O's" of Cuong Nhu. A goal of participants is to maintain a pure, simple, sincere and noble life. The techniques are taught only to protect truth and reason.

Albang keeps an open mind as he engineers, operates and maintains NASA Langley’s research simulators and support systems for the Research Services Directorate.

When he began working at Langley in 1972, it was through a master’s degree program at Old Dominion University (ODU).

"I've always enjoyed building things, and a lot of the projects and parts that I’ve worked on are still here," Albang said. "I've also had the chance to work with and meet a lot of different people. In some cases, I’ve worked with as many as three generations from the same family."

He also applies the three "O's" of Cuong Nhu to his family. He and his wife have three children, one son and two daughters. Their oldest daughter was adopted from China and the youngest was adopted from Vietnam. Trips abroad taught them about their daughters’ cultures.

Cunong Nhu is an extension of that culture -- one that Albang has adopted whole-heartedly.

"I appreciated what I got out of martial arts and what I learned," he said. "I am still constantly learning, because I see things in new light through the students' eyes."