A brief profile of Steve Morris
Steve Morris is regarded as a living legend in the UK martial arts. Stories about him abound, but you can read his own account of his martial arts career on the Autobiography page.
Steve Morris was born 8 November 1943, the son of Army Physical Training Corps member T.S. 'Tiger' Morris. His childhood was spent on the move through postwar Britain, the Far East, and Germany. His first exposure to martial arts was at the age of eight in Malaysia; he was also trained in his father's gym from a young age. At fifteen he became a boy soldier. He served in the Signals Corp but was discharged after nine years, 'services unretainable' due to persistently fighting on and off site and all-round bad attitude towards his superiors. As a 1950's boy soldier, he began teaching himself martial arts of every description including the then-exotic art of karate, so as to improve his performance in numerous street fights. He also began the study of Buddhism in hope that it might help him get out of the Army; it didn't, but the concentration of mind he developed through mind-training exercises would prove useful in later years.
Morris' first official karate lesson, at Steve Arneil's and Bob Bolton's dojo in 1967, showed that he was no beginner at martial arts. He was soon being entered into Kyokushin Kai competitions. Unable to fight by the rules, Morris was invariably disqualified and ultimately banned from the organization. He then travelled to Japan in 1968, where he trained for a year in Yamaguchi Gogen's Nipori dojo. He returned to England with a third dan and doubts about the art of karate as a fighting system.
George Chew sacked Morris almost immediately from the London Judo Society because Morris' training methods were too severe and reduced the membership to about four dedicated students. In 1971 Morris met Joseph Cheng and began studying Wing Chun under him. Cheng was able to explain some of the reasons why Goju-ryu was incomplete. On Cheng's direction, Morris began researching the Fujian systems.
In 1972 Morris was invited by American businessman David Dubow to head up a West End dojo. Morris taught Gojukai karate there, but he was unhappy with the effectiveness of the Goju syllabus, so at the same time he initiated a program of full-contact fighting that took in all styles. After taking his 5th Dan/Renshi grade and title from Yamaguchi in 1974 he broke formally with the Gojukai and dumped karate out the window. The anything-goes fighting days at 9 Earlham Street, London began in earnest.
Until 1981, when David Dubow suddenly died and the gym had to be closed, Morris and his students engaged in an intense exploration of the possibilities of fighting without rules. A number of nationally and internationally ranked fighters emerged from the gym, although Morris was uninterested in managing fighters full-time. While running the gym full-time, Morris also engaged in years of heavy research into anything to do with martial arts, including a specific study of kinesiology and sports science.
In the 1980s Morris turned his attention to training Western reining horses, but he continued to research the martial arts from every angle and to practice in his home dojo in Horsham. In the late 1980s he was asked to begin teaching again by Terry O'Neill and former student and Muay Thai international fighter Vincent Jauncey. It was at that time that Morris began to apply the knowledge of fighting and training that he'd acquired through research, practice, and personal testing to Muay Thai and karate. In the case of karate, he began to replace the missing 'essentials' that had been removed in the transition between China and Okinawa, and again between Okinawa and Japan. With the assistance of Yap Leong, an Emperor Fist/Five Ancestor boxer, Morris sought to reconnect karate to its Fujian roots and make it into a living tradition that could prepare its practitioners for the reality of an anything-goes fight.
But he was met with violent opposition by the karate fraternity. Even those who expressed interest in Morris' ideas later proved reluctant to abandon the safety of their traditions. In 1997 Morris established the Toudi Kempo Research Foundation in an effort to pull together the disenchanted amongst karate and give them improved practices, but the whole effort was something he later described as 'pissing in the wind.' By the end of the 1990s, utterly frustrated, Morris had turned his back on karate once and for all--refusing even to teach anybody who practiced it. He began to teach a program of MMA to a handful of interested students, and after five years of almost total isolation, the Morris Method began to come together. It was the result of the analysis of countless personal and documented fights, years of research, and Morris' relentless pursuit of self-improvement as a fighter and as a trainer. In 2005 for the first time, Morris had a coherent framework by which to train both experienced and inexperienced fighters to prepare for an all-out fight.
But there was nowhere to teach it. In 2002 Morris's business partner had convinced him to move out of the large property they shared in Horsham to facilitate its business development. What was to have been a temporary move turned into a transient lifestyle for several years while the deal played out, and regular training was difficult to organise. The property deal turned foul, and even as his ideas about how to taking his training methods forward were beginning to gel, Morris found himself broke and without a training venue.
Despite these obstacles, Morris was able to make progress. In 2006 and 2007 the Morris No Holds Barred website had begun to attract the attention of martial artists in the UK and abroad. In 2007 Morris began regular instruction again with a core group at Primal, which has allowed him to make new advances. He continues developing new content for the website while working as an independent consultant to gyms and individuals. Now in his mid-sixties, Morris continues to operate with an energy and drive that seem to defy the ageing process.
Morris has been called a man twenty years ahead of his time. His long practice of watching the fight and extracting training methods from the fight itself has kept him continually ahead of the curve. Morris won't be waiting for the world to catch up; he'll keep moving forward.