When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Public housing at Villeneuve de Grenoble
Public housing at Villeneuve de Grenoble
Benoît Pavan

GRENOBLE - Since she joined as staff at the Dojo Grenoblois -- the judo and ju-jitsu club located in the heart of the housing projects of Villeneuve, south of Grenoble -- Laëtitia Cardaci has gotten used to locking the door of the room where she gives her class in Japanese taïso exercise.

For this bubbly, 23-year-old sports instructor, in charge of developing the club's activities, must make sure that no men will interrupt the Wednesday night, women-only class that includes many Muslim participants.

For this report, Cardaci's students all agreed to make an exception to their women-only rule for a few minutes. "For the mothers in this neighborhood, a male presence tends to complicate everything. If this women-only class didn't exist, we would not be able to practice sports, since there are no other women-only facilities in the neighborhood," explains Katia, 40.

Every week, around 30 women “abandon” their husbands and children to take part in the taïso class. Thanks to word of mouth in the neighborhood, this Japanese discipline, used by judoka to build muscle and core strength, has grown popular among local housewives.

A majority of the women taking part in the taïso class live in Villeneuve. The youngest one is 15 while the eldest one is 75. Some had never practised any kind of physical activity before and are overweight. One describes why she comes to the dojo: "to find a space where they can breathe and get rid of their daily pressure."

"We are women of all sizes, ages and cultures. But on the tatami, we are all equal. Everyone can go at their own pace, without worrying about being judged by others," explains Céline, who comes to the dojo frequently after joining two years ago.

The Dojo Grenoblois was established in 2009 at the instigation of a collective of local residents who did not want to see judo taken off the list of sports available in a neighborhood considered the black sheep of the city. Villeneuve is a former housing development project built in the 1970s. There are now many positive initiatives; however, there is just as much mischief. The unemployment rate is above 35%.

Social ties

In July 2010, the neighborhood was the backdrop to three consecutive nights of urban riots. "During these events, not a single judoka was out rioting and I'm proud of that," says Youssef Habib, the technical manager of the Dojo Grenoblois. "Every time our neighborhood is in the news, it is a blow for the club, whose members are already very much stigmatized."

Habib, who grew up in the neighborhood, has always wanted to be a sports instructor. He says he knows everything about his students. "To be an instructor in Villeneuve sometimes means also being a social worker, or even a psychologist. The social aspect of the job is crucial!" he says.

The Dojo Grenoblois advocates access to sports for all, regardless of age and sporting abilities. "Our target audience are those who are left out of sports and our aim is to help create social ties between local residents," explains Habib.

Since this Fall, the club has also been offering activities at the local retirement home. When the club has family events, Youssef Habib brings in a nutritionist to talk to parents about junk food. The dojo has also built strong ties with the local primary school, working with teachers to identify the troublesome kids who would benefit from an introduction to martial arts. "On the tatami, behaviors change," says Youssef.

Not long ago, something quite amazing happened in Villeneuve. Some of the mothers enrolled in the taïso class started also meeting every week to jog out in the open in a local park. Their husbands were stunned.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

Colombia Celebrates Its Beloved Drug For The Ages, Coffee

This essential morning drink for millions worldwide was once considered an addictive menace, earning itself a ban on pain of death in the Islamic world.

Colombia's star product: coffee beans.

Julián López de Mesa Samudio

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — October 1st is International Coffee Day. Recently it seems as if every day of the calendar year commemorates something — but for Colombia, coffee is indeed special.

For almost a century now we have largely tied our national destiny, culture and image abroad to this drink. Indeed it isn't just Colombia's star product, it became through the course of the 20th century the world's favorite beverage — and the most commonly used drug to boost work output.

Precisely for its stimulating qualities — and for being a mild drug — coffee was not always celebrated, and its history is peppered with the kinds of bans, restrictions and penalties imposed on the 'evil' drugs of today.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ