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In Dragones Street of Havana’s Chinatown is located the Cuban school of Wushu. A few blocks away it's found the training  area. Dozens of sportsmen and students of all races and ages attend frequently to practice one of the most popular modalities of the Chinese martial arts taught there: Taiji Quan (Tai Chi Chuan) in its sport and traditional variant.

Teacher Roberto Vargas Lee is the founder and director of the school, but he is also one of the most enthusiastic promoters of the traditions and lifestyles that made this neighborhood unique: “We have to work so that people know that Chinatown of Havana is much more than the excellent gastronomic offer of its restaurants", he affirms. In that sense, he believes that the peak that experiences the practice of Thai Chi Chuan and other modalities could be a vehicle to preserve and promote the legacy of Chinese emigrants.
Every year, on April’s last Saturday, the school celebrates the World Day of Thai Chi Chuan, a summoning attended by schools and associations of more than seventy countries and which for some time now counts on the support of the World Health Organization.

In fact, the prejudices or the incredulity that this millennial practice could have stirred in wrongly informed people are certainly retreating: the benefits for health and the quality of life of this sport are striking.

For Vargas Lee, the essence is in knowing more about the elements of nature which are up to some extent the essence of this practice. Thai Chi Chuan, more than a sport, becomes a philosophy of life; it seeks the improvement of the human being.

The therapeutic side of Thai Chi Chuan, like the entire Asian medicine, emphasizes in the prevention of illnesses: "Simply with breathing control which is one of the aspects of the exercises, great results are reached”, assures Vargas Lee.

At present the school advances in projects of collaboration with medical and educational institutions that would bring an effect in the quality of life of many patients.

In the case of elders, the practice of the discipline can contribute to improve their physical and motion condition. Some exercises work on the balance and coordination, therefore are beneficial to avoid falls that can be very serious in old ages.
"One of the teachings of Asian medicine is that while man still breaths, there is hope", added Vargas Lee.
Children, youngsters and old men

"Thai Chi Chuan is not practice in all countries in all ages, - asserts teacher Vargas Lee. We have been a bit daring: we have from very small children to old men."

It’s precisely children the protagonist of a singular initiative that involves a school of the community. Fifteen children with slight mental deficiency that show some motion problems, participate of an elementary course that allows them to develop several skills.
“We work with the concentration, flexibility, and basic positions - the young teacher Liz explains. So far we have obtained good results, children start responding very well, they are already able to make some exercises and they greet with the strict phrases of greeting.

“It’s a job that demands a lot of patience, we are in the experimental phase, we are looking for the support of specialized institutions", asserts the teacher that doesn't discard that experience can extent to children with behavior dysfunctions.
On top of this, the school offers classes to ambassadors from several Asian countries credited in Cuba.

“We make reality one of the precepts of the discipline that is to bring people closer. Today we have a rainbow of races, religions, thinking. All united under a message of peace", said Vargas Lee.  

A school open to community   

The Cuban School of Wushu that preserves in Cuba the legacy of Chinese emigrants was founded in October 1995, with the sponsorships of the Promoting Group of the Chinatown of Havana. Its current director studied the discipline in the Popular Republic China and on his return to Cuba he began to take the first steps in his promotion, with the supervision of the Federation of Martial Arts.  
Wushu is a sport officially recognized by INDER (Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation). The school belongs to the Cuban Federation of Martial Arts and since 2001 to the International Federation of Wushu, in China. Some of its professors visit that country every year to take seminars and specialized courses.

The discipline can be practiced by all people, whether they are descendant or not of Chinese relatives.

There are several modalities practiced that work with the internal and external energy of the human being. The internal includes, among others, the Thai Chi Chuan that should be taken by all members of the school. The work with the external energy is manifested in exercises of greater strength.

The school is the one directing the practice of Tai Chi Chuan in the entire country (eleven of the fourteen provinces have working groups). In total, the registration is integrated for more than 5 thousand members. The institution has a national team that has won several recognitions in international contests.

About Tai Chi Chuan

Thai Chi Chuan is a Chinese martial art qualified as internal martial art. It holds three basic rules: in the first place it synthesizes several martial arts forms or schemes from the Ming dynasty; secondly, it integrates Taoist gymnastics and its breathing system, and the theory of Channels and Collateral of the traditional Chinese medicine; and thirdly, it formulates its fighting principles in key of Yin and Yang.

It’s known by the sequences of movements followed by its members. It has been popularized by the health benefits that are attributed to its practice and by the fact that it’s a discipline that can reach a wide amount of the population, regardless their physical condition.

About Wushu

The Wushu is at the same time an exhibition and contact sport, derived from the martial arts of China. It’s composed of two disciplines: Taolu (routines) and Sanda (combats). The routines are patron of exercises and maneuvers of gymnastic character, based on the martial Arts of China through which competitors are judged and they are assigned a punctuation according to some specific rules. It comprises basic movements (positions, kicks, punches, balances, jumps, and turns) related with some traditional style of Chinese martial art. They include several disciplines, either with weapons - stick (gunshu), saber (daoshu), spear (qiangshu), sword (jianshu) -, or weaponless or empty-hand exhibition routines, individuals and group routines.  

As a traditional sport, wushu is part of the cultural inheritance of the Chinese people that has come enriching through centuries. With its elegant movements and healthy effects.

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