Ben Richardson
2nd Dan Black Belt Shotokan Karate

When I was nine I wanted to be Bruce Lee! Luckily my dad had been involved with karate at university and was therefore eager to take me along to my local Shotokan Karate club.

For the next thirteen years I absorbed as much as I could about this style and it’s philosophies. I remember my first grading and seeing the awesome Bob Rhodes, who at the time was a 5th Dan. The northern style of teaching was fast, furious and hard-hitting.

I achieved my 1st Dan when I was seventeen and then a year later moved to Kent in order to go to university. During this time I trained with a two great sensei. George Dussart 4th Dan and Ohta sensei
6th Dan.

For the next two years I trained hard to achieve my 2nd Dan and also competed in a few competitions. From both sensei I learned fluidity of movement, relaxation and greater control, both physically
and mentally.

In my final year of college whilst training in Karate I was lucky enough to stumble upon a Jeet Kune Do club. After the first session it seemed my eyes had been opened to a whole new world.

I realised that Karate as a style practiced tradition and philosophy rather than evolution and practical application. I do not aim to disparage Shotokan, it is only my personal experience that it has stopped evolving in a practical sense.

Competitions rely on point systems and one hit attacks. It is rare to find a karateka who can demonstrate in fighting skills and thought free attacking combinations.

I practiced JKD for a year and stopped regular training in karate to focus on this. My ideals changed and likened to those of Bruce Lee, using that which is useful and discarding that which is not. Unfortunately the JKD club closed but I have tried to follow the way.

Following this a Thai Boxing club opened up and for just under two years I studied that style, discovering a whole range of new techniques, learning as much as I could.

Again during this time I was also able to increase my knowledge in the Arts by studying Wing Tsung for some weeks. This I greatly enjoyed.

After university I decided to focus on a none striking martial art and so took up a style called Dynamic Aikido. This style has progressed and developed in order to maintain it’s practical application. I studied this for 3 months before having to move from the area.

Though such styles as Karate, Thai Boxing and Aikido offer the practitioner the ability to develop the self, mentally and physically, they are confined by their own set of rules and systems.

Therefore, on recently moving to Oxford I was excited to find a club that was open to all styles, looked to learn from them and is both practical and evolving.

The School of Martial Arts – SOMA offers an open learning system that is not hierarchically based; its systems are practical and effective.

One major attraction to me of the School is that it invites in-house and external ‘Dan Grade’ ‘students’ (experts of other styles), of SOMA, to teach the students of SOMA in their discipline allowing us to learn and evolve as martial artists.

I believe it is important not only to practice the techniques of other styles, but understand their philosophies in order to make, you more effective, such open teaching at this School
allows this.