The 2017 Macao Wushu Master Challenge kicked off on Thursday, attracting hundreds of Wushu masters from across the world to join in various Wushu competitions, and display Chinese martial arts and traditional lion dance.
Indeed, behind all of those hustle and bustle of shopping malls, casinos, hotels, and must-go tourists spots, the martial arts and lion dance are well-protected in China's Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR), with many Macao residents keeping on with their tradition of playing martial arts, for physical exercises, and learning about self-challenge and team work.
Each night, on the rooftop of a 14-floor building on the Rua Dos Pescadores Street, dozens of young players were practicing martial arts. They are apprentices of Loleong Sports Federation, which was established in 1938.
"Those young men have work to do during the daytime. They can only practice martial arts after work," said the director-general of Loleong Sports Federation, Pan Jingwen, whose father is a master of Choy Lay Fut, a form of traditional Chinese southern style boxing, popular in Macao and Hong Kong SARs, Guangdong and Fujian provinces.
"It contains a wide variety of techniques, including long and short range punches, kicks, sweeps, joint locks and grappling," Pan said, adding that Choy Lay Fut is an effective self-defense system, particularly for defense against multiple attackers.
Under the guidance of a master, a dozen of primary school students were doing "waist horse," the basis of learning any Wushu styles.
To the powerful drumbeat, another group of players in their 20s were practicing lion dances on piles as high as three meters, and others were practicing dragon dances on the ground floor.
"Sometimes it can be quite tiresome for young people to only practice the basic techniques of martial arts, therefore, we combined the lion dance and dragon dance to make the practices more interesting," Pan said.
The martial arts circle in Macao cherishes the principle of helping the vulnerable people and fighting against the evil force, he said.
They staged performances for free and promoted donations each time when the Chinese mainland was hit by flood or earthquakes. They also helped the poor and vulnerable groups in Macao, Pan added.
Loleong Sports Federation is one of 96 members under Wushu General Association of Macao (WGAM), which has more than 7,200 registered players, plus 20 certified world-class referees recognized by International Wushu Federation and 20 local referees.
With Macao's fast urbanization process, there is less room left for martial arts players to make practices without disturbing neighbors.
About 10 minutes' walk away from the renowned Ruins of St. Paul, there stands Shishan Brotherhood Palace, the oldest Wushu house in Macao. Founded in 1921, the white bungalow, covering an area of about 100 square meters, was surrounded by high residential buildings.
A trident which belonged to one of the Shishan founders, is enshrined in the center of the bungalow. The bungalow is surrounded by wooden lion heads, champion flags, trophies, and photos to remind the young people of its past glory.
Lee Rihong, a senior Shishan member, also an old friend of Pan Jingwen, witnessed how the bungalow had been surrounded by high buildings. "Pan has persuaded me to move out and buy new rooms in high buildings, yet it is too late to make decisions," he sighed.
The young players have strong passion for the bungalow though, as they have been trained here from their childhood. Many of them were actually introduced here by their parents or grandparents.
In such a small and concentrated room, martial arts players still enjoyed their practice. The rooftop of the bungalow, fenced with steel wire, provides a small place for them to practice lion dances and dragon dances. They are pretty good at Three Lions Piling Up, a performance of three players piling up and using a lion head to pick a silk ball hung about seven meters high.
"Our neighbors don't like sounds of drumbeats, then we use fingers to drum paper boxes instead, to make the similar sound but less noisy," Lee said.
The older generations in Macao's martial arts circle seldom worry about carrying on the tradition of martial arts to the youth, as there are quite a lot young people in their Wushu associations.
Moreover, 22 out of 70 middle and primary schools in Macao have opened extra curriculum courses on martial arts. During the winter and summer vacations, Education and Youth Affairs Bureau of the Macao SAR government and WGAM will co-organize courses on the fundamentals of various martial arts, including long boxing, southern style boxing, and dragon and lion dances.
"I am not worried about the problem of having few successors at all," Pan Jingwen said. "Look! Those young people are having great fun with dragon dances and lion dances," he smiled.