Burton Richardson began his martial education under the tutelage of Dan Inosanto at his original kali/Jun Fan gung fu academy. It put Richardson on the right path physically — who could go wrong with Bruce Lee's top student as a teacher?

It also put Richardson on the right path mentally because Dan Inosanto has always believed in keeping an open mind with respect to martial arts and techniques.

That started in 1980, and Richardson hasn't slowed down since.

Not willing to limit himself to the vast pool of martial arts talent in Southern California, Burton Richardson set about traveling the world to bolster his skills. Wanderlust took him to China for sanshou lessons, Japan for shootfighting, the Philippines for kali and escrima, France for savate, Brazil for jiu-jitsu, and South Africa for Zulu stick and spear fighting.

Every time he set foot in a training hall, Richardson was on the prowl for functional self-defense skills. His philosophy was always that any technique must be proved effective before he'd adopt it. No doubt his formal schooling in biology helped him evaluate techniques for effectiveness before deciding which ones to teach and which to toss.

Burton Richardson earned himself a number of prestigious ranks, including full instructor in JKD and Filipino martial arts under Dan Inosanto, full instructor in jeet kune do under Larry Hartsell and second-stripe black belt in BJJ under Egan Inoue.

An original member of the Dog Brothers, Richardson is also a muay Thai instructor under Chai Sirisute, a silat instructor under Paul deThouars and a kali instructor under Antonio Ilustrisimo.

All that makes for an impressive curriculum vitae, but what really has enabled Burton Richardson to shine is his approach to passing his accumulated wisdom along to the next generation. Soft-spoken but insistent, he teaches only what works against a resisting opponent. Nevertheless, he keeps his classes safe — which is not an easy task, given the lethality of the subject matter and the focus on real-world functionality.

These are some of the reasons Burton Richardson was named Black Belt's 2015 Self-Defense Instructor of the Year.

Photos by Robert Reiff

To watch a Burton Richardson BJJ seminar, go here.

To read "These 10 Self-Defense Strategies Will Make You a Better Martial Artist" by Burton Richardson, click here now.

To read "Pencak Silat Expert Gets MMA Smackdown, Regroups, Comes Back Even Stronger With His Martial Art!" by Burton Richardson, click here.

Go here to order Burton Richardson's book Silat for the Street.

Click here to check out his online video course Silat for the Street.

Burton Richardson's latest project with Black Belt is a book titled Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for the Street, available soon!

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