Turner Valley residents looking to let off steam have an outlet with help from a former professional mixed martial arts fighter.
Elliot Duff opened Formation Martial Arts Studio in a quonset along Sunset Blvd. in late August, offering classes in traditional martial arts, boxing, dance, fitness and yoga.
“It’s a really good way for families to get out and to get kids off the streets,” said Duff of his studio.
The Calgary resident chose Turner Valley to realize his dream of opening his own gym after driving through town five years ago.
A regular at Calgary gyms while training professionally, Duff came to know the gym community and didn’t want to take business away from friends.
“There’s dozens of gyms in the city and you know everybody,” he said. “As soon as you open a gym your friends are going to come so you’re stealing customers from your friends. It made sense to open my gym in Turner Valley.”
Duff hired internationally certified martial arts practitioners and a certified and experienced yoga and dance instructor to lead classes.
“There’s a lot of people in town who are talented and fight, but they all go to south Calgary or Okotoks,” he said. “Now they’re getting the training right here in Turner Valley. I want to put Turner Valley on the map of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). I really do see the potential here.”
Duff leads classes in jiu-jitsu and boxing, the latter of which he plans to pursue professionally. Formation has a small boxing ring, aerial yoga equipment, punching bags and floor space for muay thai, ballet and various other classes.
While Duff was growing up in Windsor, Ontario, a constable initiated a sponsored football team called the Windsor Police that provided training to Duff and other children who otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity.
“It kept us all out of trouble,” he said. “Now that I’m older I want to give back to the community to better the lives of some of the kids out here.”
Duff is extending a special invitation to first responders, hoping their presence will have a positive influence on Turner Valley’s youth.
“By the time children are a certain age the streets are very appealing,” he said. “Martial arts teaches you this level of maturity so it’s good to have good people around.”
Formation marketing manager Chelsea Vogel sees the new business as a way to further create community.
“Being in a small town we lack things for the kids to do, especially during the wintertime,” she said. “Having a place that kids can come to, even moms and dads, to meet other community members is so crucial in a small town.”
Vogel said children can drop in after school and parents can bring their children while they work out.
“It’s not a strict environment,” she said. “It’s very encouraging and supportive and that’s what we need. We need a space where everyone is welcome.”
Fitness instructor and movement specialist Leanne Holt teaches fitness, dance and yoga at Formation.
Holt, who has an extensive background in dance and is a certified yoga instructor, said she was looking for a place locally to teach when she came across Duff’s advertisement for instructors last spring.
She’s now teaching 30 classes a week at Formation.
“I was a retail manager for five years before I decided that I would go back to something that I’m passionate about,” she said. “I’m teaching pretty much everything that’s not martial arts.”
Holt said she’s excited about the partnership between Duff’s dream and passion with martial arts and her own with dance, yoga and fitness.
“It’s programs like this that keep children out of trouble,” she said. “It builds friendships as well as having mentors to look up to.”