Sport – Cuba – Deporte
August 2018
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Young Cuban cyclist Lisandra Guerra won the gold medal in Los Angeles, United States.

Guerra clocked 33.955 seconds to relegate Duth Willy Kanis (34.486) and Lithuanian Simona Krupeckaite (34.764) to the second and third spots, respectively.
Young Cuban cyclist Lisandra Guerra won the gold medal in the women's 500-meter time-trial event of the third stage of the World Cup of the sport that took place over the weekend at the Home Depot Center velodrome in Los Angeles, United States.

Guerra clocked 33.955 seconds to relegate Duth Willy Kanis (34.486) and Lithuanian Simona Krupeckaite (34.764) to the second and third spots, respectively.

The talented Cuban sprinter had also won the crown in this event during the second stage of the World Cup in Beijing, China.

This is the second time that Guerra covers the distance in less than 34 seconds, a feat only achieved by world record holder and world champion Anna Meares of Australia.

Guerra clocked 33.955 seconds to relegate Duth Willy Kanis (34.486) and Lithuanian Simona Krupeckaite (34.764) to the second and third spots, respectively.
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Book on Athletes with Physical Challenges Launched in Cuba

For the first time, the history of the exploits of Cuban athletes with physical challenges has been compiled; it is entitled «The Forging of Willpower».
The first editions 12,000 issues, sponsored by INDER and the Cuban Association of the United Nations (ACNU), were distributed to sport centers and libraries throughout the country.

«The Forging of Willpower» is the title of a unique book. It portrays the importance of will and the value of determination in this first-time compilation on the history of physically challenged athletes in Cuba.

The presentation of the book was held on Tuesday afternoon at the José Martí National Library in Havana. Its author, the photographer/reporter Armando Hernández López, expressed his gratitude for having been able to make his dream of writing the book come true.

A panelists, including the president of the Cuban Association for People with Disabilities and the deputy head of the National Association for the Deaf, referred to the many programs existing in Cuba for the physically disabled and the importance attached to their integration into society.

Arnaldo Rivero, chairman of the Teaching Department of the Cuban National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), mentioned the possibility of writing a second volume covering the history of this sports movement prior to the Revolution and during its first decade, since the present book only covers from 1973 to the present day.

«We are very grateful for the publication of this book without which the work in sports by the physically challenged would be almost unknown» said Enrique Cepeda, the six-time triple jump and long jump champion, multi-Paralympics champion and glory of Cuban sports.

During the 1970s, Dr. Rodrigo Alvarez Cambra, by then Chief of the National Group of Rehabilitation and Director of the Frank Pais National Orthopedic Hospital, expressed his interest in seeing physically challenged people taking part in sports as therapy for their rehabilitation and for their moral and psychological recovery.

Therefore, as written by Alvarez Cambra in the foreword of the book, the physically challenged started to train in the hospitals fields, beginning with paraplegics and amputees; later a gymnasium was opened to help make them fit.

The support of Celia Sanchez was also important for the achievement of this goal. She provided two Giron omnibuses that were upgraded with two elevators for wheel chairs and the basketball court was refurbished.

«Step by step,» as it is pointed out in the foreword, «bow and arrow, table tennis, shot putting and various track and field events were included. With the cooperation of INDER participation in the Pan-American Games of México and Peru was possible. People who were blind or had other visual or hearing problems participated in the Toronto Olympic in 1976.

South Africa, continued Alvarez Cambra, participated in this event, where apartheid was seen at its lowest when only white athletes from that country participated, as black servants helping them with their wheel chairs and other equipment. During the inaugural parade there were various protests by several African countries which walked out of the event. The Cuban delegation also abandoned the competitions in an act of solidarity.

«Upon our return, it was clear that INDER had to take action with regard to this activity. The Sports Federation for physically challenged people was then registered by the Cuban Olympic Committee for it to support it and expand it. History has shown that was the right decision,» said Cambra.


For the first time, the history of the exploits of Cuban athletes with physical challenges has been compiled; it is entitled «The Forging of Willpower».
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«Karate Do» means renouncing material possessions and searching for knowledge.

«Mom, karate is what I like, » said little Juan Manuel on the way to the tatami mat. At eight years of age, he couldnt understand why he was practicing judo instead of his favorite martial art.
«I asked around and found out that there were karate classes being offered somewhere in East Havana. I was told that I had to pay. I cant remember exactly how much it was because it was too long ago, but it was around 50 pesos. Im a divorced mother, with two children and couldnt afford it,» Zoraida said.

Many martial art practitioners in Cuba have to pay for their membership. Some see this as normal. However, motivated by comments about the illegality of this issue, I decided to delve deeper.

«Charging for martial arts classes is not justified because practicing sports is a right of the people. The National Karate Do Federation has the right to charge a membership fee for being a Non-Governmental Organization, but up to this moment, no consensus has been reached, and martial arts are instructed free of charge,» told Salvador Pérez, president of the National Karate Do Federation, to JR.

Carmen Aispurua, a national karate do commissioner, said, «INDER (the National Institute of Sports and Recreation) offers support to all variations of the martial arts, and to those that are practiced and are not registered. They were 51 disciplines, but these decreased to 35 after an evaluation process. They are all recognized by the world organization to which they belong. This was done to avoid illegalities.

«There are teachers who invent a 'martial art and begin to charge for the classes right after, but in Cuba sports instruction is free; so, this cannot be done. Even those who are recognized cannot charge for the lessons because no membership fee has been established up to now. But sometimes even parents themselves are the ones who come to an agreement with the teacher to pay, and they start a business out of nowhere.»

Currently, this organization has 35 registered styles. In Havana, INDER has 39 active sports disciplines. As it can be seen, the number of martial art styles is very similar to the overall number of other sports, with Shotokan, Jujitsu, Joshimon and Wado Ryu being some of the main ones.

According to the commissioner, currently there is a great struggle against illegalities, but they are so many that it is difficult to control all of them; thats why there are those who charge, mainly in Havana.

María, from the municipality of Playa, assures that while her son practiced martial arts, she paid ten pesos per month «for the tatami.» Thats what the teacher told her. Tests cost 20 pesos and the child received the diploma that accredited him to pass to the next level. Medals in a competition also cost 20 pesos.

«Somehow, I dont complain about asking for money for medals and diplomas because thats something the child will remember. However, parents should contribute with what they can, and not be forced to pay 20 pesos per child. If the child wins, its fine, but if not, you loose your money,» the mother said.

María also told us that «karategies (combat uniforms) are sewed by freelance sewers who charge depending on the size of the uniform. For example, my sons cost 12 CUC.
An alternative

One day in the 1990s, Ernesto Guzmán decided to struggle to create a school that would teach Okinawas traditional karate do, without mercantilism or violent competitions. To this end, he needed to contact the original source, the Japanese school of Shorin Ryu.

«This school has distanced itself from the commercialization of Japanese karate imposed by Western culture, which has created more than 400 different styles since World War II,» said the Cuban master.

Guzmán founded the first dojo to teach Matsubayashi Ryu in Cuba on May 4, 1999, in Celimar, in east Havana. It was functioning from 1989, but was devoted to the practice of the Joshinmon Shorin Ryu style.

«For work reasons, I arrived in Okinawa, on November 2002, during celebration of the fifth anniversary of the death of the creator of Matsubayashi Ryu: Great Master Shoshin Nagamine. There were practitioners from all over the world, and the event became a great fiesta and an exchange. This and other trips helped me to acquire a huge amount of knowledge. I took lessons directly from Nagamines son, who continued his work in Okinawa along with Master Eustaquio Rojas,» Guzmán said.

Karate Do, which literally means «the path of the empty hands», actually means renouncing material possessions and searching for knowledge "with a clean and free-of-evil heart", which is always in a constant dialectic relation of change. The term «Do» is added because it expresses the iron will of the art is cultivated within itself. The term «kara» (empty hand) has a close relation with Zen Rough Void, a train of thought of the Zen philosophy, represented with a circular form, which stands for the blood cycle, the moon cycle, the Earths annual orbit around the Sun, and the life cycle in general.

On November 12, 2001 the Matsubayashi Ryu is officially recognized by the Cuban Federation of Karate Do. Today, this art has 47 training centers in Cuba, especially in the western and central regions. According to a census conducted in September 2005 of those people practicing this sport, there are 955 active disciples of Karate Do.

With more than five years in the Cuban Federation of Karate Do, the Matsubayashi Ryu has become a viable alternative for average Cubans. «Although it is true that it is beautiful to see kids and youngsters at the end of training with their diplomas and certificates that will remain memories, the educational, sports and ethical rules of the Revolution cannot be violated to satisfy demands and concerns that are not essential in learning an art so serious and deep in knowledge.»

«Our kids and youngsters should know they belong to an organization that respects and loves them, where they are treated as beloved students and not as clients who buy techniques, ribbons and diplomas,» he said.
Violence vs. patience

«We didnt want children to practice a violent martial art. We wanted it to be different from the movies. We found that in the Akichi Arakaki Sensei Dojo, located on 5th Avenue and 88th in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana, children were taught a style that did not force them fight one another; so we decided to sign up our older son there.»

This was Elizabeth Quinteros first approach to Matsubayashi Ryu. Today, in addition to Danielito "her older son" her younger son, Guillermo, her husband and she also practice Karate Do.

«The Matsubayashi Ryu is not practiced by age group, everybody receives the classes at the same time, » Zoraida Torres Leal says. «This art does not instill aggressiveness or competitiveness at any moment. It is purely defensive and not to show off your knowledge. We practice modesty, simplicity, solidarity and ethics.»

One of the principles taught to everyone initiating in martial arts is that there is no first attack. «Children practice karate naturally. If they are explained from the beginning that this is a purely defensive technique "together with the complementary knowledge about their peers, the knowledge of world and Cuban history, and the need for solidarity with their peers" the children become non-violent,» Ernesto Guzmán explains.

However, opinions about matches are divided. Salvador Pérez Quevedo agrees that the martial arts are purely defensive but he thinks that matches «do not generate violence at all.»

«In Cuba, children begin to participate in matches after they reach 10 years of age. Before, they only perform in exhibitions of physical ability. However, the matches are conducted from the sports point of view and with all the protections required. If a child is in a match, we have to be very careful and make sure that they are wearing all the needed protection.»

For Eustaquio Rojas, a teacher of Matsubayashi Ryu with 40 years of experience in Japanese martial arts, children are not aware of danger and they do not know how to avoid it. Sometimes, in the heat of a match, parents and teachers scream inappropriate words that have an influence on the childrens behavior towards society. They scream at the children things like 'Beat him or 'Kick his ass, and if one of the children comes out of the match with a bruise, they are told to get revenge.»

«The matches among youngsters are rougher, and most of the time they study together and then the 'revenge come in the streets. Parents send children to these schools because they believe it guarantees their future defense, but they ignore the psycho-physiological consequences of these matches,» he said.

The rules of martial arts are clearly defined, Carmen Aispurua says, and the violence it generates falls on the teacher all the time. If the teacher yells at the child or hits them, or if they are afraid to fight in a match and their parents goad them, the children assume this is «proper» conduct, and this creates aggressive patterns in their behavior.

«INDER is promoting the rescue of martial ethics, based on rules and not on aggression. This has the influence of the president of the group, who picks all the teachers. The parents who take their children to the dojo approve of those attitudes,» he says.

The tradition of practice without fighting seems to show results. «Ive changed a lot, Michel Ramos said, I now face problems with more decision and analysis. I used to be very aggressive; I could explode over anything and start arguing. Now I respect and help people, so that they treat me the same way.»


«Mom, karate is what I like, » said little Juan Manuel on the way to the tatami mat. At eight years of age, he couldnt understand why he was practicing judo instead of his favorite martial art.
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