Lakeland martial arts training center teaches students how to protect themselves

Two young men square off with intensity in their eyes and a sword in each hand as they start to battle. It’s not a street fight. It is what happens nearly every day at Sifu Och Wing Chun, a martial arts training center in downtown Lakeland.

“When you can protect yourself, you walk differently,” said Mark Switzer, a self-confident, 38 year-old owner of a construction company.

Along with learning how to defend himself, Switzer has lost 80 pounds working out at the facility over the last two years.

The swords he and other students train with date back hundreds of years. Chinese fishermen used them during their workday, and to protect themselves when necessary.

Other students at Sifu Och Wing Chun fight with long poles that the fishermen used to push their boats off from shore.

Sifu Justin Och, who founded the school in downtown Lakeland more than a decade ago, also holds classes in kickboxing. He says students as young as 3 years old have come to his school.

He says his style of martial arts teaches you something that unfortunately too few people know how to do these days: to protect yourself in case you’re attacked.

It’s close range combat, he says, which is meant to disarm your attacker long enough for you to escape.

LINK: For more information about classes, visit their website: