John Smith
Surrey Junior Light - Continuous Kick Boxing Champion 1996
Eight Light - Continuous Kick Boxing Fights. Five Wins
Yellow Sash Kamon Wing Chun
Achieved White Sash Grade 31st May 2000 at SOMA
Achieved Green Sash Grade 20th December 2002
Now the Sihan (Senior Student) of SOMA

Having loved martial arts all my life, training hard in kick boxing and enjoying a fairly successful amateur career and owning every Bruce Lee movie, I have always fancied studying Kung-Fu, especially exotic sounding styles like Dragon and White Crane etc.

So when I came to Brookes University to continue my studies, I was keen to investigate what Oxford had to offer me, if anything, in the way of " exotic " martial arts.

I, with other students, saw SOMA ' s demonstration at " freshers fair " in September 1998, at the University ' s open day, specifically to introduce the new students that had obtained a place at Brookes, the various clubs and societies we could join.

Never before had I seen such a frank ' exhibition ' of how to defend oneself in real " street " situations, no flashy techniques but just short sharp effective movements.

To round it all off several styles of Chinese " Wu-Su " (Kung Fu) were covered by the Sifu, including my " chosen " forms - I joined them.

The majority of training we do at SOMA is focused on actual street situations, either suggested by students or by our Sifu. We learn many different ' responses ' from him and from other high grade Black Belts that are present reflecting a specific scenario being discussed by us and our Sifu, to offer a possible solution based on their style of training.

One year later, learned that a student of SOMA was going for his " White Sash " - this is the first of four such gradings - when I asked this student what was involved I was shocked.

A " Student " asks the Sifu (teacher), if he or she may attempt a grading; you are not told you will take a grading.

Gradings are not compulsory within SOMA.

The first part of his grading was to take the total School, including various Black Belts and newcomers for the 2 hour session the week before.

This was to see if he could teach what he had learned, structuring the session, according to the various ' students ' abilities - (he had been with SOMA for 15 months).

The second part, the following week, was that he would have to endure a ' string ' of full power attacks from about 20 - 30 students of all sizes, 7 students on this occasion, were Black Belts in other styles that attended the School.

The ' type ' of attack was given by Sifu, as was the technique to defend, but, you did not know when your attacker was going to implement it! He / she was right in front of you.

The Gradee does not know in what format the Sifu will create the situation until you are told.

This grading takes two hours of constant pressure.

Thus proving that he / she has some of the necessary reactions, repertoire and ability to survive, in most cases, such attacks " cold ".by blocking and deflecting them.

But in essence, it is to really experience just what a full power punch / kick feels like; knowing, that to miss you would / could get seriously hurt, as in a street fight.

If the Sifu, sees a ' frisbee ' type of punch or attack - he will warm the ' attacker ' to do it again full power!

Should he or she does not comply, they are told that they are no longer take part in the grading, as they are not helping the Gradee by going ' soft '.

They are in fact giving the Gradee a false sense of achievement that they can ' block ' such an attack easily - as the Sifu points out - the attacker nor the defender may not be standing still and the attacker wishes to injure or hurt you!

All this for the first grading - by personal request of the Gradee!!!

You fail this first grading and subsequent gradings, by stopping or being stopped by the Sifu, or by being knocked out.

The Gradee wears no protective clothing at any time.

The potential ' Gradee ' is made fully aware of the danger at the time of asking; also in private, before AND in front of the School prior to part two of the grading commencing.

After 14 months of hard training, I attempted, and passed my White Sash Grading (with a few bruises)

Having been patient, (sometimes), in my physical and mental preparation has let me truly understand the meaning and need for a grading of this intensity.

Since I have been with SOMA I have been taught four weapons forms, these include;

Luk Tim Boon Kwun - Six and a Half Pole.

Also forms using Butterfly Knives: Gang Dao (Crossing Knives) and Baat Jam Dao (Eight Cutting Knives form).

Also forms from Dragon, White Crane and Wing Chun.

Along with forms on the Schools Muk Chong (wooden 'man' dummy).

Our Sifu does not spend hours showing traditional forms for us to learn in any given session, it is the application and practicality of using techniques from the forms on the street, which the major focus.

After all this is where we most need our skill if called upon.

All this leads to a very open and friendly environment where questions are asked and answered during the sessions and everyone learns whether he or she is a high grade Black Belt or a new comer to Martial Arts.

I thoroughly enjoy SOMA and the many friends I have made since training there.

Thank you Eddy