The Homeless World Cup

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Homelessness and football are often seen in Glasgow but not usually associated, that is until now, as Glasgow prepares to host the men and women’s Homeless World Cup (HWC) 2016.

Running from July 10-16, the tournament will see George Square converted into three pitches with seating for 100,000 spectators.

These seats are bound to fill fast, as the Cup is un-ticketed and free to attend.

HWC spokesperson said: “It couldn’t be easier; fans just turn up, watch some amazing football and hear some inspiring stories.”

Personal development is centre to the HWC, as players from all 64 teams participate in the its National Partner Programme. The Partner Programme involves 73 organisations from across the globe, which help their national players gain necessities such as education, employment, rehab and supported housing.

HWC Foundation President Mel Young said: “We will have 512 players with us, and every single one of them is at some stage of their journey towards a more stable future. Their personal stories are remarkable, often very moving, but they reflect a real hope for social justice.”

Social justice can be seen in the legacy of the HWC, as its spokesperson explained: Statistics show 80% of Homeless World Cup players re-build their lives.”

He added: “We want that pattern, if not more, to be the case for 2016. We hope Glasgow continues to support its National Partner, Street Soccer Scotland, which helps thousands of men and women out of homelessness and social exclusion.”

Testament to this good work is 30-year-old Scot, Jamie Maclean. Maclean started working with the programme in 2009, but struggled to overcome drug addiction, so missed out on that year’s HWC. However after years of support he got clean, secured a job with the Scottish Association for Mental Health, and joined the HWC 2015 in Amsterdam.

Maclean said: “To be able to come back and have my family watching me on the TV is brilliant. It makes me feel proud.”

He added: “I came through the other side, overcoming addiction and now I’m helping people with similar problems.”

To help people like Jamie Maclean HWC fans can sponsor the tournament, buy a Supporter package or volunteer at the event.

Mel Young concluded: “We need to galvanize our global fan base if we’re really going to make a difference. With 100 million people homeless globally, we’re still just scratching the surface.”

Glasgow Parkour Girls


Born in France and immortalised in Hollywood, Parkour has trickled down to Scotland; shedding its macho image on the way.

Over five years ago a group of women, Glasgow Parkour Girls, adapted the free-running art to their city and physic.

This was no mean feat, as the training discipline meant navigating the streets via running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, rolling, and quadrupedal movement.

As well as physical obstacles, the women had to overcome the image of Parkour as a male sport.

Coach Kel Glaister said: “Parkour has its roots in France, where in the early eighties a group of young men in Lisses (near Paris) began training to their functional strength, and developing movement through environment.”

She continued: “Parkour’s unofficial motto is ‘être fort pour être utile’; be strong to be useful. Training is focused on the functionality of movement, the longevity of the traceuse, and on helping others.”

This community spirit is central to Glasgow Parkour Girls (GPG) group.

Glaister said: “We recognise that to an outsider Parkour can seem inaccessible, scary, and macho. Our group aims to change that perception, and make space for those who identify as female; especially those feeling marginalised in other sports.”

Welcoming women of all ages and builds, Glaister explained that GPG caters to different abilities.

She said: “The the current group consists of women in their early twenties to thirties, but Parkour is for all ages. We’ve had Glasgow Parkour Girls in their fifties and sixties.”

She added: “Everything we train can be scaled to all levels of confidence and ability. There should be something challenging for everyone, and something that everyone is good at.”

Glaister explained that strength and confidence building is part of training.

She said: “Parkour training is focussed on longevity; for instance practicing landing technique so you absorb the impact with you muscles rather than your joints.

“It also means learning to judge risk and to trust your own judgement. We rarely train at height, and no one will ever pressure their peer into a jump, drop or climb at a GPG session.”

This supportive environment is, Glaister said, one attraction of the group.

She explained: “GPG is non-competitive, and that’s a draw for a lot of people. There’s no way to win or lose at Parkour, it’s all about individual progress. This means everyone understands the struggle. Getting the first climb-up or speed vault is an amazing moment, and everyone will cheer – no matter how slow or low it is.”

GPG classes start with a twenty minute warm up, before drills and techniques are learned. This is followed by a twenty minute strengthing and conditioning session, and rounded off with stretches.

Glaister said: “GPG has a private facebook group, and that’s where we chat about training. We are based around Glasgow, so we have most classes near one of its underground stations.”

Glaister explained that GPG members are equals, however, the group benefits from the knowledge of professional coaches.

She said: “I lead Glasgow Parkour Coaching women’s classes, which happen every Tuesday evening.

“We ran a fundraising campaign to get me qualified, and we’ll be fundraising again to support more female coaches.”

Also keen to attract new GPG members, Glaister said: “Anyone interested in the class should come along – all our training is focussed on safety and longevity- and it really is accessible.”

Ballroom Blitz

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Ballroom has hit a renaissance, with programmes like Strictly Come Dancing dispelling its myth of antiquity. Instead its speedy steps; dapper dress and modern music have been exposed.

Glasgow Ballroom Dancing Society instructor Julia White said: “Ballroom is not just a stuffy old waltz that travels around the room. It can be a fiery Latin Samba, graceful Foxtrot or a whirling- twirling Viennese Waltz. There is something in it for everyone and can be lots of fun; even addictive.”

Having moved from America to Annisland, White (who is now 24) sought to continue Ballroom and this brought her to the Glasgow club.

She said: “Unfortunately at the time the club didn`t have a competing group, so I began to help plan trips to competitions. The group is currently in its 3rd year but the competitive aspect only began this year, and the response has been even greater than expected.

“With expansion of the club we have found more experienced students to help teach some of the introductory classes, and just this year we found a professional to help teach the more experienced dancers.”

Leading the group is Society President Marit Behner, she and White join the rest of the executive board booking rooms, organising events and keeping members happy.

21- year- old Behner, joined the group in 2013, but first started dancing at age thirteen in Germany (where Ballroom is a rite of passage). Having lost practice for a while, Behner returned to the art in college, before joining the Glasgow Society in 2013.

Despite her early start, Behner explains that the art is open to everyone, with no previous experience needed.

She said: “We aim to make beginners classes so everyone can join and learn dancing from scratch. Once you know the basics you can move up to intermediate class.”

White agrees: “Our beginner’s class is perfect for anyone that has never danced before, and for those who have danced but want to learn the basic Ballroom footwork. As dancers progress they can move up to the intermediate class which adds addition footwork and moves.

“We don’t force anyone to move up; they can come to as many of the classes as they want, although the more they do come the faster they will learn.”

Classes run Monday and Wednesday in Glasgow University’s Union and Chapel buildings. Updates on class locations can be found on the Society’s facebook page.

Monday hosts an open floor from 2 to 3pm, where dancers can practice and socialize, then it’s Beginners from 3 to 4pm and Intermediates from 4 to 5pm. Wednesday from 3 to 4pm is a mixed Intermediate and Beginners class; then from 4 to 5pm is Competitors. Class slots also vary from term to term.

Beginners and Intermediate classes are £5 is per lesson, with the fourth free. Competitors’ classes are a further £5.

Beginners need only bring themselves, no fancy footwear or partner is required.

Behner said: “Our intermediate and beginner classes are open without a partner; we rotate partners throughout the class, to keep it mixed and sociable.

“For our competitive class however, we ask people to come with a set partner, though we help pairing people up at the beginning of term.”

She added: “We have a good mix of ladies and gents or leaders and followers. At some points we have more leaders, at others more followers, but it is no problem pairing people with the same gender. In fact, it’s taught me a lot more than just being a follower.

“In terms of age we have mostly students attending, but are open to all ages as long as people enjoy dancing.”

A standard class teaches two different dance styles, usually one Latin (such as Rumba, Chacha or Samba) and one Standard Ballroom (such as Tango, Waltz, and Quickstep).

White concluded: “There are wonderful benefits to dancing, whether it`s gaining confidence, improving posture, getting in better shape or even just making new friends. It`s fun and the people are friendly. There`s nothing to lose from trying.”

For more information visit the Glasgow Ballroom Dancing Society facebook page.


Cordao De Ouro

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Capoeira is a martial art with a difference; it uses combat, music and dance to express Afro Brazilian history.

Capoeira Instructor Fiaz Jaca Cdo explained: “Capoeira originated in Brazil among African slaves. The slaves were banned from practicing martial arts, so they disguised it as dance. Today Capoeira incorporates this influence in its beats and languages.”

Dance is now vital in Capoeira culture. While some classes focus on ‘play’ similar to sparring Instructor Jaca’s Cordao De Ouro class also uses musical movement play to improve stretch and coordination. It was this aspect that first brought him to practice.

He said: “My ex-wife is a dancer and she was trying to loosen me up, both physically and mentally, so she brought me to a Capoeira class. At the time I could barely touch my toes and wasn’t sure if it was for me, but the music kept me going back.

“Capoeira has elements that appeal to everyone. It’s not about using force; it’s about leverage and technique. At the higher level we use the pads and bags to practice kicks and strikes.”

Each Cordao De Ouro class has a different focus, with sessions running at various times and locations across Edinburgh and in Glasgow’s Wellington Church. In Glasgow: on Monday from 6 to 7pm is a beginners group; then from 7 to 8:30pm is an intermediate. Wednesday from 6 to 8pm is a mixed levels practice, with Capoeira music. Friday from 6:30 to 8pm is a mixed levels practice, with acrobatic training.

Kids classes are also held in Wellington Church; on Wednesday from 4 to 5pm is a group for 5 to 10 year olds; then Friday hosts three classes: one from 3:30 to 4pm for 5-8 year olds, another from 4:15 to 5pm for 8-11year olds and finally one from 5 to 6pm for those 11 and above.

Adult Classes are £6.50 booked individually or cheaper when part of a block. Beginners get their first class free and can participate in gym clothes.

Instructor Jaca explained: “In class we will start by introducing the new members; then we warm up, practice dynamic stretching and the ginga [basic play] stance. Once warmed up we will move on to partner work, kicks, counter work and basic acrobatics, like cartwheels. This will then evolve into sequences and be practiced with different partners.”

Partner practice is showcased at the end of each class, inside the Roda or circle. Students will stand in a ring and watch two of their peers ‘play’ in the middle. Instructor Jaca explained that the Roda symbolises the world.

“This is what Capoeira is: the Roda, the play in the circle, the music, singing and history. When the music is right it builds timing and improves response. Capoeira is not just about learning the moves; it’s about how you develop as a person.”

As students develop they progress through a belt grading system that uses colours of the Brazilian flag.

Instructor Jaca said: “As the instructor I will monitor the students to assess their level; but no matter the level, every student must show commitment; this brings a sense of community to the group.”

Capoeira’s traditions have now been recognised by the United Nations, which in November 2014 awarded it cultural heritage status.

Instructor Jaca concluded: “Historically Capoeira was about the African and indigenous Brazilian fight for liberty. So Capoeira is about freedom. People rush to Capoeira class to unwind from the stress of the day. If you are looking for mental, physical and spiritual peace Capoeira is the thing for you.”

To find out more or book a class, visit Cordao De Ouro Capoeira website.




Joining a martial art can be intimidating; fear of injury or pricey memberships can put many people off. One club in Dennistoun is working to eliminate these deterrents, by adapting two martial arts into one accessible form; Hap-Jitsu.

Hap-Jitsu combines the Korean Art Hapkido and Japanese Art Ju-Jitsu, taking parts from each sport’s syllabus to make a new one focused on practical self-defence.

Club co-founder Derek White said: “As a group we don’t do competitions; we are not training for medals, we are training for real life situations of close contact.”

He continued: “Hap-Jitsu is easy to pick up because it’s user friendly. We use technique as opposed to strength; making it a good martial art for women and children, because smaller students can train on equal footing with bigger ones.”

This equalising method works to fill the age void of close-contact martial arts.

White explained: “As Ju-Jitsu and Hapkido are close-contact arts, they don’t have the same attraction for kids as those that involve competitive training from outside their fighting arc. So we have developed a Hap-Jitsu kid’s syllabus that incorporates katas, training drills and techniques that focus on defending from a distance as well as close contact.”

Contact levels differ across each Hap-Jitsu peer group, with junior classes covering ages 5 to 9, intermediate covering ages 9 to 13, and adult classes covering aged 14 and above.

The classes run a belt grading system where students learn a set number of techniques, then perform them in front of a grading panel, before graduating belt colours and moving up the syllabus.

White said: “The basic drills of Hap-Jitsu act as foundation stones to more advance techniques; as students gain more experience the technical level increases.”

This grading syllabus showcases the founder’s combined experience.

White explained: “I studied Hapkido for a number of years and the other founder, Andy Moran, had studied Ju-Jitsu for a number of years. So Hap-Jitsu was formed when the two of us came together, trained, shared our knowledge and qualified in each other’s art forms.

“As far as I am aware, we host the only Hap-Jitsu class in the world. Other clubs who have tried to bridge Hapkido and Ju-Jitsu haven’t lasted, because most of their instructor’s training lay in one field. However Andy and myself have an even split of skills, so we have managed to diversify the syllabus.”

This syllabus involves striking, kicking, throws, locks, blocks, and fitness training. However, White explained that the class also develops the mind.

“At Hap-Jitsu we promote discipline and mutual respect, but we do it while having fun. A lot of martial arts can be intimidating for less confident students, because they are at times overly uniformed and formal; but we create an atmosphere of equality.”

“When kids join the class their parents tend to notice they get more involved with their peers and gain confidence. This could be because the kids feel more able to deal with conflict or because they are in a group that encourages self belief and team work.”

This community spirit is reflected in the clubs’ mantra.

White said: “Dennistoun is my home town, I was born and bred here, and Andy (Hap-Jitsu co-founder) lives here too.

“We are well aware that we are in an area suffering social poverty and, in today’s society, people struggle to get by; so the club is reasonably priced, and we make it a priority to keep our classes available to everyone.”

“We are a voluntary organisation that runs to support itself; so we can afford to keep the costs low.”

Students get their first Hap-Jitsu class free, and can participate in sports-wear.

White said: “Anyone who is thinking of joining the class should just come along, see what we’ve got to offer and have some fun.”

For more information visit the Hap-Jitsu website.

Polling Opinion



Since its boom in the noughties pole classes have popped up all over Glasgow, ranging in location from night clubs to community centres. This surge in popularity has pole trainers locking horns with patriarchs and feminists alike. While many participants deem the activity a sport, there are still those who class it as erotic dance.

The problem lies in varied expectation, as Dr Samantha Holland found in her 2010 study, some women liked pole ‘dancing’ for its feminine image, while others preferred pole training for its opposition to gender roles depicting women as weak. This, she explained, led to a division between dancers and acrobats.

Holland said: “In the same way that a high church has incense and robes, the strippery classes have high heels and feather boas; and just as a low church would eschew too many statues, the exercise classes have bare feet and refute comparisons with lap dancing.”

Yet, of the two it seems the ‘lower church’ trend is leading, with 73 per cent of Holland’s survey saying they took classes to improve their fitness, while only 61 per cent did so to feel sexy. Further to this, 85 per cent of the 140 polers surveyed said they had no experience or intention of working in a strip club.

Interesting as the doctor’s statistics are, they are somewhat unbalanced, with only 3 of the polers surveyed being male. This inequality reflects another dispute among polers, as to the acceptance of men within the practice. Theorists often establish pole classes as being empowering to women, on the basis that they exclude men, creating all-female gyms. This view is expressed by Holland, as she said: “Classes are not subject to the male gaze because pole classes are, for the majority, all female.

But this perception seems to be changing, as 23 -year-old dance instructor, Zhang Peng, proved when he won China’s 2007 National Pole Dancing competition.

Wolanski’s Pole & Aerial Fitness owner said: “Men are by nature stronger in the upper body so find a lot of the moves easier to perform than the females, but they do not do so well where pain threshold is concerned and the co-ordination for spins do not come so easily.”

Wolanski has been professionally training for over five years.

She said: “I was fortunate to represent Scotland at the World’s first Pole Cup in Brazil. Their government is backing the organisation and the event will now be held annually in different countries across the globe.”

Events such as this return pole fitness to its roots of Mallakhamb the traditional Indian sport, dating back to the 12th Century. It involves gymnastic moves being performed on a vertical wooden pole or rope.

Wolanski added: “People who automatically associate pole training with strip clubs should be aware that it never originated here. Pole originated from India as part of the Mallakhamb dance; then associated with the pagan festival. This was well before Western society created the strip club industry.”

“Even classes termed as pole dance are now unlikely to aid people who wish to join clubs. Classes can cause bruising and burns depending on what moves the individual is working on, something I can’t imagine managers at these clubs would want on their dancers.”

Bruises and burns seem inevitable in an exercise as high impact as pole fitness, something which would suggest it is not suitable for the young and elderly. But, never one to accept defeat, Wolanski disagrees.

“I can’t speak for all pole classes but my classes cater for all ages as there is no adult content. In fact juniors pick it up far easier as they don’t have the same fear factor as adults. Although, I don’t give certain moves to children as some techniques put a lot of pressure on elbow and knee joints.”

The ability to tailor work-outs to individuals’ needs enable people of any stamina or shape to practice pole fitness. While Wolanski says her class can practice in their tracksuits, more advanced moves require skin contact with the pole. The pros often strip down to their smalls, to allow grip with their stomach.

The idea of bearing all daunted student teacher Cara McKnight, as she joined Pole Physique on Argyle Street.

The 22-year-old from Dennistoun said: “I was so nervous I expected it to be a bunch of perfect-looking, stuck-up girls, but it’s not at all. There are girls of all shapes and sizes and everyone is made to feel welcome.”

She continued: “I would say my arms are a lot stronger now, as you’re holding your body weight, a lot of the moves tighten your tummy muscles too. It’s a good way to work out without realising you’re working out. Though I don’t think young girls should be doing it, as I guess it is a form of sexy dance.”

Despite dividing opinion there is no denying the growing popularity of pole classes, X – Pole statistics claim every 12 hours, somewhere in the world a pole studio is opened, or added to a business.

See Miriam’s pole fitness demonstration via her Facebook page.