Karate instructor who learned with Japanese masters opens fitness studio in Forres

The former TSB Bank on Forres High Street, which closed in 2022, has re-opened this week as a fitness studio.

And the new owner of 156 High Street is a karate instructor who has studied with Japanese masters.

John Craig taught martial arts in Forres before Covid, and never had the opportunity to return, until the old bank building went up for sale.

With his partner Amanda Walker, he’s turned the bank into a open space called the Barefoot Studio.

He said: “I bought the bank as a renovation project. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it straight away but it all started to fit into place.

“I’ve rented hall space for many years and I understand the difficulties involved and I always wanted my own place to teach when I was younger. So hopefully I can help others in the same situation.”

Open space, open mind

John said the matted floorspace is designed to encourage barefoot training, hence the name.

“We have left the studio space as empty as possible so less distractions and a more relaxed
atmosphere. We can all learn from each other and hopefully all have the same goal to make us better than we were yesterday.

One of the first tenants to be offering classes is Teresa Berg who held a yoga session on the opening night.

Teresa held her classes previously in the Forres Community Centre for 14 years, then at Transition Town Forres.

She said: “The Community Centre didn’t have a suitable room after the lockdown, and now Transition Town Forres is too small. It’s great to be back on the high street.”

Teresa said she had six new customers on the first night plus her regulars.

“They loved it. Pure medicine for the body. I’m looking forward to sharing this great gift called yoga with humanity.”

Using the high street to combat isolation

John added that the high street is an important place and has to be more open to change.

“I found Moray Council helpful getting me through the planning permission and building warrant process. I feel that the high street should be used to bring people together as modern technology can make people more isolated.”

John’s partner Amanda added that they take students from age eight upwards, and are considering an entry-level class for five- to seven-year-olds as a fun introduction to the karate learning and training environment.

“One of the main challenges with beginners coming to the club tends to be around concentration levels. This does vary between individuals, and usually between boys and girls. I’d say this has become more noticeable since Covid.

“We try to group children together who are of a similar level, even amongst the beginners to try and give the most suitable training for all.

“We have also recently promoted one of our teenage students, Isla, who trains very regularly to trainee assistant instructor. This will help her personal development as well as allow us to separate out the class to meet the different needs.”

John teaches adults and kids in Elgin and used to run classes in Forres before Covid, and will restart these now he has opened the new venue.

“Some of the students from Forres stayed with the club and have travelled through to Elgin for their training. It is nice to be able to give them something back.

Japanese masters

“I have trained in martial arts since I was seven years old. I spent a small time doing judo, tae kwon do and kung fu, but I finally settled on karate, and have continued ever since.

“After normal training at classes in Elgin for three to four years I started to travel to Europe to seminars with Japanese Masters.

“This was a completely different way of training much harder and a much deeper way of gathering information. Listening to their stories of the past and their understanding of karate was amazing.

“Trying to stay flexible into our older years has to start early. Using muscle rather than bones for posture and stop fatigue and injury. Some parts of karate are very challenging mentally and physically and I would notice that after class any stress from my work/life had reduced.

“Over the years I have tried to look at this connection more deeply. I see a difference in a lot of people since Covid and the lockdowns and I feel that everyone could benefit.”

“The deeper side of karate has a much wider spectrum than the more commonly known parts.
Karate is about personal development and is more internal and not about the karate belt you wear or what competition you win.

The studio is available for hire by the hour for fitness and wellbeing coaches.

See The Barefoot Studio Facebook Page for contact details and class times.

Details of Teresa Berg’s yoga classes can be found on her website at www.hathayogamoray.co.uk

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