Rob Copeland Bio

Rob Copeland began training in karate in 1979 at The Rising Sun School of Karate, with Selwyn Gould, in the centre of Cardiff. He began training with Mike O'Brien, Wales' senior Shotokan Instructor, in 1980. He was a natural Kumite competitor and first found competition success in 1982 when he came third in The Welsh Championships, being beaten at that stage by the great Stephen Wellington who was later to become Welsh coach for many years and is now a good friend.

There were no championships in 1983, but the following year he went one better, reaching the final, beating the late, great, Roberto 'Swede' Mastrangeli in the semi-final before again losing to Stephen, this time in the final.

The following year 1985, Rob was Welsh champion for the first time, beating Spiro Micallef, a kickboxing champion and a fine Karate fighter the final.

Over his career, Rob was plagued by knee injuries. Cartilage problems caused him to miss the1986 Welsh Championships. He attended the 1987 Championships, beating Kickboxing legend Denzil Lawrence in the Semi-final, before losing to team-mate Martin Payter in the final. He tore the cruciate ligament of his left knee in the final of the 1988 K.U.W. Championships against Paul Watson, an injury he still carries! Between 1988 and 1993 he was only able to take part in the Welsh Championships on one occasion, in 1990 where he again reached the final only to lose to Clifton Brown.

He was unable to compete at the Welsh Championships again until 1993, his first of many comebacks... He won, beating Andrew Kelliher in the final. He won again in 1994 beating Clifton Brown in the final.

He first represented Wales at The 1983 Grand Slam in Port Talbot. The other members of that team were Steve 'Mopsy' Jones, Cedric Wellington, Paul Byrd, and Andy Morgan with Stephen Wellington and Roberto Masrangeli injured members of the squad. That line-up are undoubtedly Welsh Karate legends! Rob was the only shotokan competitor in that team, which he maintains was the best Welsh team he was ever in and in his opinion, the best Welsh team he has yet to see! The team was managed by Sensei Mike O'Brien and coached by Sensei Ritchie Noblett. A golden era for Welsh Karate, when we could compete with anyone, anywhere. He was a regular member of the team for many years, attending Three European Championships: Paris '84, Oslo '85 and Madrid 86 (the only Welsh fighter or official to attend all three) and four Grand Slams.

Rob dominated the senior Individual Kumite event in the K.U.W. for fifteen years, winning K.U.W. National Championships on eight occasions and The K.U.W. Shield six times.

He has been extremely successful in Shotokan 'Ippon Shobu' events, with three memorable wins at SEKU'S Portsmouth Open tournament, from four attempts. He won the Gichin Funakoshi World Shotokan Invitational Championships on three occasions, in '97, '98 and 2000. He was also captain of the K.U.W. winning team in 1993 and to his great pride, and certainly a highlight of his competition career: led his own Vale team of Billy Seagrim, Mark Payter, Kee Wong and Phil Manfield, (all with the exception of Phil, taught by Rob) to victory in 2000, beating the USA JKA team in the first Round and The KUW team (comprising Ritchie Noblett's Bushi-Kai Squad) in the final.

He was awarded The Vale of Glamorgan Sports Personality of the year award in 1998. The Karate Union of Wales awarded Rob his 5th Dan in 1999.

In October 2000 Rob left The Karate Union of Wales and set up The Vale of Glamorgan Karate Organisation, which has become possibly Wales' most successful ever Karate organisation.

At the head of his own Association, and now 40 years old, Rob led his squad by example, continuing to find individual competitive success, though he began to focus more on his students. In April 2002 Rob was appointed Assistant Welsh National Coach, (a post he resigned from in July 2003) and a week later and seventeen years after his first win, and at the 'advanced' age of 42, won The Welsh title for the fourth time! His title was one of eight that 'The Vale' won at the 2002 Championships, more than any other Association, placing The V.G.K.O. for the first time at The summit of competitive Karate in Wales, a place they've remained since!

He was once again captain of The Welsh team at The 2002 British Championships Home International event in Sheffield. Unfortunately near the end of his match during Wales V Scotland and winning his match 5-1 he sustained a broken foot.

The injury should have ended his competitive career, but on July 5th 2003, eight months after he last competed, Rob made yet another comeback, achieving 3rd place at one of the biggest events ever held in Wales, The 10K Karate Clash Prelim, being beaten by Jory Chather in the semi, beating Darren Haynes in the third place match and was the only Welshman to make the top three.

On September 20th 2003 at THE 10K KARATE CLASH, held at London's Mermaid theatre, Rob was beaten by the only other Welshman present; British Under 21 Champion and European medallist David Godfrey, who was invited to compete when Rob's original opponent Craig Burke withdrew due to injury.

Rob competed alongside Billy Seagrim (European Under 21 silver medallist) and Gareth Reynolds (British and Commonwealth champion) who weren't born when Rob was first an International; in the Mens Team event at The 2004 Welsh Championships, helping Vale Karate win the Mens team event for the first time, a twenty-five year old ambition fulfilled! Rob competed for the last time at the Central England Open in June 2006 winning the Mens Masters Kumite event!

In March of 2007; Rob became a full-time professional karate instructor. Rob has truly brought Karate to the community. He has delivered free Karate taster sessions to literally thousands of schoolchildren, having visited the majority of Primary Schools and virtually every Secondary School the Vale! Often teaching throughout the school day. He has established after-school classes in many schools and still teaches Karate after-school every day.

Vale Karate's by-word is Karate For Everyone and Vale Karate's timetable literally caters for everyone, with specific classes ranging from children form four years to children with special needs, to specialised sessions for Wales' most successful Kata and Kumite squads. Children's classes are separated by grade and adults have three classes a week.

He and his wife Cathy see it a part of their job to promote Karate and bring the benefits of karate to as many people as possible.

Rob established the very first Council supported Special Needs Karate classes and single-handedly established 'Special Needs Kata' categories in competitions in Wales. He was awarded the prestigious 'Coach of the Year' title by The Welsh Sports Council in recognition of this work.

In July 2010, at a surprise 50th Birthday Party held in his honour, Rob was presented with a Diploma marking his promotion to 6th Dan, presented to him by The Welsh Bushi-Kai Chairman Nigel Taylor and signed by Rob's Senior Graded students and a number of legends of Welsh Karate. The establishment of Karate Wales is a big step forward for Karate in the principality and after more than twelve years of Independence and well over thirty years of karate, Rob's hunger and ambition for Vale Karate is stronger than ever and he looks forward to the future with great hope, optimism and belief that Vale Karate and Karate Wales will go on to even greater achievements!

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