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Military martial arts training in North Vancouver
A fit-looking guy with steely blue eyes, goatee and shortly cropped hair, Jackson Loychuk isn’t somebody you’d want to mess with.
He has a black belt in Hapkido and he’s also studied other martial arts. Plus, he can fight like Jason Bourne.
I knew him in high school. At Carson Graham secondary he was into boxing and wrestling. In his early 20s, searching for something “more practical” he took classes with the Wolfe brothers, Dennis and Bill, both of whom had military backgrounds and were teaching a style of self defence called “defendo” — essentially military martial arts.
In 1999 Loychuk opened up his own gym in North Van, which is now called Mil-Spec Martial Arts and Fitness.
Since then, he’s trained all sorts of guys using the defendo-style method. From cops and soldiers to doctors, lawyers, contractors — and even journalists.
So, I figured he was just the right guy to give me a crash course on self defence.
I was headed down to a prison in Washington State to write a story about a book club for inmates. Most of them had been convicted of murder.
When I learned that there would be no prison guards in the club meeting room and found out the title of the book to be discussed, Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov, I gulped.
So, I asked Loychuk to give me a private, two-hour session before I left.
Turns out Loychuk is a military martial arts buff. He notes that it was 007 — James Bond — who first brought military-style close-quarter battle techniques to larger audiences. That’s because Ian Flemming, the English author who wrote the Bond books, was a British operative in the Second World War who’d been trained in defendo, he adds.
Defendo was the expanded version of a hand-to-hand combat style created by cop William Fairburn for the Shanghai police that fused boxing, fencing, wrestling, jujutsu and some other martial arts. At the time, martial arts-trained thugs were regularly pummelling the local cops, so Fairburn wanted to better equip them for what he called “gutter fighting.”
Then, during the Second World War, the fighting technique was taught to British special forces and spies.
It’s also the same style of close-quarter battle techniques in the Jason Bourne movies — a series Loychuk praises for its fighting authenticity.
I didn’t expect to fight like Bond or Bourne after only one session, but I was hoping to learn a few survival skills — at least until guards arrived.
But before we got going on the padded floor inside his gym, Loychuk wanted answers.
What did I know about the people in the book club? Where would I be sitting? Would the inmates be on the opposite side of the table? Were the chairs locked down?
“You need to take the whole environment into consideration,” he said.
He advised against taking a pen or pencil.
Later, he showed me a cool trick, taking a magazine and rolling it up in a certain way to make it as hard as a steel pipe.
He advised me to sit close to the door during my visit.
He talked about posture. I needed to show the prisoners they were not in charge without being confrontational.
In case something happened, I needed to know about the “startle response.”
When attacked, the natural reaction is to retreat, he explained.
Instead he showed me how to put my guard up — using a technique called the “icebreaker” to mitigate any damage caused by a flurry of blows — and move forward to clinch an attacker.
He discussed levels of force and demonstrated moves aimed at the eyes and throat.
“Stuff that incapacitates really quickly.”
He then demonstrated a choke hold on me. After I tapped out, he showed me how to escape that same move.
Finally, he showed me how to choke a would-be assailant.
Before I left, he went over a colour-coded threat awareness spectrum.
If you keep yourself in a highly elevated state for a prolonged period — your adrenaline pumping — you will quickly burn out, so you must be able to ramp up and down.
The spectrum runs like this: white (meditative), yellow (aware, still no danger), orange (perceived threat, ready for action), red (action) — that’s when you “go” he explained.
I tried to remember everything Loychuk had taught me as we parked in the visitors’ lot at the prison in Washington State. At the front desk, a friendly prison guard fingered through some paperwork and then made a phone call. She later explained she didn’t have the proper paperwork to admit me inside the prison.
I stood stunned — partly relived, I admit — as the book club volunteer I’d driven down with disappeared behind a sliding iron door.
When I got back to Vancouver, I signed up for regular classes with Loychuk.
I wasn’t planning on a return to Monroe anytime soon but I’d enjoyed my session and liked idea of learning some self defence techniques.
I wasn’t alone. The others in the class, which included one woman, were just everyday people — not a bunch of hoody sporting guys decorated in tattoos looking to become lethal weapons.
Loychuk says the classes appeal to the “average guy who’s looking for different way to work out and learn some practical stuff.”
Practical stuff that could be used just in case you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time and there’s no other alternative.
“Who doesn’t want to look out for their family or themselves?” he asks.
Truth is, says Loychuk, the more time spent training, the less likely you are to find yourself in a bad spot.
After some training, his students carry themselves differently, he says. They don’t look like a target or victim.
And they’re not likely to get themselves into trouble because they are able to decode their environment.
As well has higher fitness — and it’s a much different level of fitness than you’d get just working out on a treadmill, believe me — he says his students walk out the gym’s doors with “a lot of self-confidence because you have practical skill that will work when it needs to.”
Plus, as he says, who wouldn’t want to learn to fight like Jason Bourne?
To learn more, visit milspecma.com.