The YouTube video opens with a package of Hi-Chew candies on a kitchen counter. Two young girls peek mischievously around the corner.
Just as they think the strawberry sweetness is theirs, a man snags the candy.
A fight ensues in the living room. Kicks fly. Kids flip.
It’s not looking good for the girls. That is, until dad is floored by another girl — the youngest of the three. She laughs maniacally and grabs the Hi-Chews with the hand that just delivered a knockout.
This is the Truong family spending quality time together.
Hi-Chew stealer and fight instigator Jason Truong is a third-degree black belt in Hapkido, a hybrid Korean martial art. His daughters and YouTube co-stars — 11-year-old Olivia and nine-year-old Ayla — are blue belts. Five-year-old Kaia apparently doesn’t need a belt to win the day.
Truong introduced the girls to Hapkido at a young age.
“Daddy can’t always be there to protect the girls, right?… I want them to be super confident in everything to do,” he said. “Being able to stand on their own feet is really, really important to me.”
In this house, you’re allowed to jump on the furniture and fight your siblings. They use the sectional in the basement as their training ground, following their father’s instructions to roll, leap and land safely — thanks to a crash mat.
The house also acts as the studio for their skits, which Truong uses to assess their martial arts skills and get them more comfortable with public performance.
“The kids love it — I hope — and I enjoy it,” said Truong. “It’s time for us to bond as a family and see what wacky ideas I can come up with for them.”
Truong’s acting extends past the confines of his Regina home. The 41-year-old is one of only a few stunt specialists in Saskatchewan, and he has travelled around North America working as a stunt performer and choreographer for prime-time shows and feature films.
Truong took longer to get into martial arts than his daughters. He remembers being about 12 when his older brother commented on his weight, suggesting he get more exercise. He enrolled in Hapkido, a form of self-defence that uses kicks, punches, grappling, locks and throwing.
In Truong’s words, Hapkido is “flashy” — that is, it looks good on film. Inspired by the likes of Jackie Chan, he dreamt of becoming an actor.
There was one problem: Truong lived in Regina, and he was convinced stars were born in Los Angeles — or at the very least Toronto.
He completed a computer science degree and got a “safe” nine-to-five job as an IT consultant — something he still does full-time as he pursues acting gigs. He often contemplated moving to locations with more established film industries, but life kept happening, including in the form of Olivia, Ayla and Kaia.
Over the years, Truong landed roles in a variety of productions, but wasn’t doing stunts. Then one day, it sort of came to him.
“I — no pun intended — kind of fell into stunts accidentally,” said Truong.
Word got around the film industry about his Hapkido training, so martial arts moves or fight scenes became a part of his on-camera work more often. Then in 2011, he was working on set with one of Saskatchewan’s most prolific stunt performers, Daniel Ford Beavis, and the director needed an actor to get choked convincingly. Truong nailed it. Beavis sang his praises around the film industry.
Truong’s favourite role came in 2018, when he worked in Vancouver as a stuntman on Amazon Prime’s The Man in the High Castle. He also got to play a mixed martial artist fighter in the made-in-Saskatchewan Cagefighter, and flew to San Diego, Calif., to act in and help choreograph Kung Fu Ghost. He recently won an award at the San Diego Film Festival for that last role.
As impressed as Ford Beavis was with Truong’s realistic choke-ability and subsequent work, that’s not what stands out to him most about the actor.
“I always say the hard part about stunts is your attitude, and if you don’t have the right attitude, nobody wants to be around you on set,” he said, describing long hours waiting around for brief moments on screen and the importance of talent over ego.
“He’s very humble,” Ford Beavis added.
Truong’s daughters keep him down to earth, too.
“I think it’s a little bit cool,” Olivia said of her dad’s work. “But it’s funny because once he had to dress up as this girl and fall and then he actually hurt himself.”
Mishaps can happen, but Truong’s job is doing things safely.
“A lot of people say the stunt people are just people who are like daredevils, and that’s kind of a misnomer,” he said. “We add the safety element to it because we can’t have the actors fall and hurt themselves. We can’t have someone who’s untrained do it.”
Truong is quick to point out there’s plenty of acting involved in being a stunt performer. You’re stepping into a character, however briefly, and have to embody them just as much as the primary actor does. A soldier is going to fight differently than a civilian getting in a bar brawl, for instance.
“If you’re the stunt double, you have to fall, move like that person as well, because otherwise it just stands out like a sore thumb, right? So just knowing basic body mechanics, understanding who the character is, makes sure that you actually take on the character when you’re on camera,” said Truong.
Truong has laid down linoleum tiles in the workout room in his basement: a foundation on which to brush up on his break dancing skills. It’s another activity he began in his teens to improve his agility, and which subsequently helped him express characters on screen.
It’s a modest space compared to the dojang where Truong and his daughters train several times a week, and he instructs 50 students ranging from children as young as Kaia to seniors.
“Younger Jason would be actually surprised how far this went,” Truong said, reflecting on the boy whose brother badgered him to get some exercise.
Aside from Saskatchewan being a small player in the film scene, the local industry was hit hard by the cancellation of the provincial film tax credit in 2012. Truong is feeling hopeful after the provincial government boosted funding to its relatively new Feature Film and TV Production Program in the latest budget. The federal government also recently provided $900,000 for training in the industry.
“All I want to say is that it’s people like Jason that make me excited about staying in Saskatchewan and keeping this industry going,” said Ford Beavis.
Truong acted in his first Hallmark Channel movie this year, A Cowboy Christmas, which was shot in Maple Creek, Sask. He’s also working on some scripts with friends.
His daughters are happy to keep making YouTube videos at home for “family time,” said Olivia, but they don’t plan on following in dad’s film industry footsteps. Olivia is interested in being a writer or an engineer, but she recognizes she’ll have to reconcile her dislike of math to accomplish the latter. Ayla wants to be an eye doctor because the family’s female ophthalmologist is “really nice.”
For now, they’re focusing on perfecting Hapkido moves: backflips, butterfly twists and back handsprings.
“I want to get my black belt,” said Olivia, “Then I want when I get older and then I have a family, I want my family to do it, too.”