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Fighting with a purpoise

Port Hardy’s Ken Harvie learned to fight in a confusing haze of drugs, anger and desperation.

Harvie is fighting again, but now with a purpose and single-minded focus.

“This is where I want to be,” Harvie said after a recent workout at First Choice Fitness, where he teaches classes in kickboxing and mixed martial arts. “Generally, I’m a peaceful person. I don’t hate anybody.”

Harvie, 27, was preparing for the King of the Island competition, a mixed-martial arts event of the type popularized by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) on pay-per-view programs. It was just his second sanctioned competition after he learned fighting the hard way — as a homeless drug addict on the mean streets of Vancouver.

“It gets you trapped,” said Harvie, who was born and raised in Port Hardy but dropped out of school after returning from a foreign-exchange trip to Finland. He took a sawmill job, made some money and began a long, twisting journey of bad choices that delivered him to the streets of East Vancouver and Surrey.

“I’m 6-3, and I was down to 129 pounds,” said Harvie, who now competes at 170 pounds. “It was not healthy.”

Harvie’s recovery was aided by his competitive nature and fitness, combined with an interest in harnessing the fighting ability that helped him survive his ordeal on the streets.

Always gifted with natural athletic talent, Harvie won high-school distance running titles on the track, “without even training for it,” and recently ran 56 kilometres from Port Hardy to the Port Alice highway cutoff and back as a casual training run.

“As soon as I got into recovery, I signed up for kickboxing,” Harvie said. “It was something that always interested me. I could have gone on streetfighting, but that gets you nowhere.”

Harvie has studied both Muay Thai kickboxing and Brazilian ju-jitsu and, since returning to Port Hardy last September has taught classes at First Choice Fitness.

They include a women’s kickboxing class for students getting their first exposure to the workout form, and a drop-in, mixed-martial arts session that has drawn members of the secondary school wrestling team and fellow fighters from here and down-Island.

In sharing his passion and experience, Harvie has found that the benefits of martial arts extend beyond simply fighting. And he may have discovered a new vocation along the way.

“I’m interested in doing something to get kids into, getting something going on up here,” he said. “There’s been a good response all around. I even get updates on Facebook from people saying how much they’ve gotten from it.

“It’s all part of the positiveness that keeps me going. It keeps me focused.”

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