by Yosley Carrero
HAVANA, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- Margarita Albelaes, a Havana resident aged 79, makes her way through the streets of the city's Chinatown to the Cuban School of Wushu and Qigong every day, as she has done for the past 15 years.
The first day of school after a seven-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic saw the return of nearly 70 students. The students still appeared enthusiastic despite social distancing rules.
Roberto Vargas Lee, president of the school, said he believes Chinese martial arts have helped Cubans better deal with health risks and social stress from COVID-19.
"We are helping people stay in harmony with nature, protect their immune systems, breathe pure air, and forget their daily problems," Vargas said, "Chinese martial arts are more necessary than ever."
The sentiment was echoed by Albelaes, who has been practising Chinese martial arts to alleviate leg pain caused by diabetes.
"My flexibility and cardiovascular health have been improved," Albelaes said, adding that she is happier and has more strength now.
Younger generations have also benefitted from practising Wushu and Qigong.
Mathew Labrada, who is recovering from an arm injury, has been eagerly awaiting school reopening.
"Chinese martial arts help me stay in good shape, develop my mental health, and be more disciplined," said the 14-year-old.
With most gyms and sports centers closed during the pandemic, more Cubans turned to Chinese martial arts. Related classes have been aired on local TV and a network of nearly 120 instructors have spread knowledge about martial arts across Havana's 15 districts.
Among them is Mercedes Chapotin, 76, who studies martial arts and teaches them at a square in the city's old quarter.
"We transmit what we have learnt to many people in the neighborhood," said Chapotin, "Chinese martial arts are a treasure." Enditem