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Bernard Coppen

My first experience of martial arts was when my PE teacher at school began teaching Judo. I studied it for about a year, passing two grades, but barely being 5' at the time was easy prey for the other club members and I left having got fed up with being thrown all around the dojo floor.

Still interested in martial arts though, along with a couple of friends, when I was twenty, I tried learning Aikido from a book! When we heard of an instructor teaching Aikido in Milton Keynes we went along. Is this what we had been learning? I think not! Anyway we joined up but having to travel so far from my home in St Neots to train we only continued for a few months.

My karate career started when I was 23 when I joined Sensei Van Weenen's newly opened karate club in Bedford. I remember, along with Sensei Kidby and a few others, doing a demonstration at the local cinema promoting the Bruce Lee film “Enter the Dragon”. This was both good and bad for martial arts for it brought new members in but too many to train comfortably.

My early grades were all taken with Kanazawa Sensei. In those days you had no syllabus you just turned up to grade not knowing what you'd be asked to perform. My grades from 2nd kyu on were in front of a Japanese panel of examiners, a real test of courage and character. All my Dan gradings have been taken under Sensei van Weenen.

In 1994 along with Sensei's Kidby and Calver we formed CFTS. Many may think we left out of bad feeling, mistrust or politics but this was not the case. In our case it was simply a need to progress within ourselves and to spread our wings a little.

I opened my first club, St Neots in 1981, and have been teaching regularly since. I still enjoy kata out of preference, my favourite being Nijushiho. For the future I would like to see all styles of karate and other arts train together more, not losing their identity, but to join together to pool knowledge for the betterment of the student.


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