The Central Federation of Traditional Shotokan was formed in 1994 by Sensei's Andy Kidby, Peter Calver and Bernard Coppen following a split from John van Weenen's TASK (Traditional Association of Shotokan Karate).
What follows here is an open and frank insight into how CFTS came into being, written by Renshi Andy Kidby.
"I had been training both diligently and loyally under the tutelage of Sensei John Van-Weenen for over twenty-two years. On the whole I had enjoyed my training under him since 1972. In the beginning Sensei Hirokazu Kanazawa of the JKA, was our chief instructor who intermittently visited us for training sessions and to take our grading. Due to an acrimonious dispute Kanazawa left the JKA and formed The Shotokan Karate International Federation (SKIF). Sensei Van-Weenen joined Kanazawa’s new group and I loyally followed as a founder member of this new federation.
In 1979 Sensei Van-Weenen decided it was time to form his own group as in his opinion Kanazawa Sensei was only really interested in how much money he could make out of us. Therefore along with Sensei’s Michael Nursey, Michael Randall & Eddie Witcher they formed The English Shotokan Karate Association (ESKA). Once again I dutifully followed. By 1983, for reasons only known to Sensei Van-Weenen, he broke away and formed The Traditional Association of Shotokan Karate (TASK). Yet again out of loyalty I followed him without question. Incidentally at the same time the other founder instructors broke away to form their own associations leaving Sensei Mick Nursey as head of ESKA which he still runs today.
TASK grew and grew under the leadership of Sensei Van-Weenen boasting well over a hundred black belts and well over fifteen hundred students at its’ peak. The trouble was it became less friendly. Dan grades didn’t really mix with Kyu grades. There were cliques. Black belts were becoming disgruntled.
Sensei Van-Weenen too often used to leave taking the class to his senior grades. Therefore we were paying our dojo fee to train under someone of the same or lower rank or worse still to be taking the class. In the end kata classes were only taken by us highest graded black belts on a rota basis and we only saw Van-Weenen Sensei take kata when he took a course. Some of the kumite and kihon classes when taken by Sensei were very complex under the excuse of being advanced. Good effective karate should be simple. This further effected black belts love of training so reduced the inclination to go to a session.
An equally important issue was cost. Classes themselves weren’t too expensive but we often felt that by being taken by fellow students we weren’t getting value. This was in no way a reflection of the capability or ability of our peers, because they all have gone on to run their own associations very capably, and we were running our own clubs in any case so we were all capable instructors, it was just we expected to train under our chief instructor. It was him we were paying for but not him we were getting. Courses were dearer in 1990 than they are in CFTS today. They were also compulsory so as a father, all of whose children trained, made it very expensive to attend a course. Gradings cost £17.50 in the 1980’s and you had to purchase your belt afterwards too. This means that they too are less expensive within CFTS twenty or more years later, than in TASK, all those years ago, not just in real terms, but actually less.
Another bone of contention was regard to training and competing outside TASK. It simply was not allowed. On a couple of occasions I did compete outside of TASK both myself and teams of Newport Pagnell students. I was given a proper dressing down when sensei found out. It is my belief that I don’t have all the answers nor indeed does Shotokan so whilst not actively encouraging students to train outside CFTS I don’t disallow it as long as the training is complimentary to their usual sessions and I am asked/informed prior to attendance elsewhere. This is simply a matter of manors and etiquette.
One Wednesday evening in the summer of 1993 Sensei Bernard Coppen and myself were comparing moans about the training we were getting, the overall cost, the limits put on us and the amount of instruction we were having to do. Out of that conversation the idea of breaking away was born. As we were discussing things Sensei Peter Calver (TASK secretary at the time) joined the conversation who declared he too was dissatisfied. We then decided not to train but go to the nearest watering hole and discuss things further. Out of that conversation it was agreed we would set up on our own in 1994.
The idea of CFTS was born but as yet not the name. Meetings were held over the next few weeks. We applied to the English Karate Governing Body (EKGB) for membership, wrote a constitution and a syllabus, thought of a name and designed a badge in no time at all. The most difficult thing was informing Sensei Van-Weenen. He had been a mentor to me and more like a surrogate father. In fact, he is god-father to James, my eldest son, which shows the regard and esteem in which I held him.
So why CFTS? It was not born because of politics or malice just a natural progression and the need to spread my wings, seek new horizons and to enhance both my personal training and that of my students. Also for the freedom to choose which direction I wanted my training to take both for my own benefit and that of my students. Since forming our own association I have had my love of martial arts re-kindled having attended many courses from a wide range of differing styles and instructors. This has had the effect of removing my blinkers and opening my eyes to the many different approaches to both karate and self-defence. It was our intention when setting up our own association to suppress costs keeping training affordable for all (which we have done), to allow students to train and compete elsewhere (which we have done) to have visiting instructors teach us from different arts and styles of karate (which we have done) and basically to make training fun (which again we have done).
Sadly though in 2005 due to ill health, a bad foot, bad back and an underactive thyroid Sensei Coppen had to retire from karate. At the same time Sensei Calver reviewed his future. In fairness I had been openly critical of his karate and his lack of personal development along with the lack of support from his students at courses, events and competitions. Also I was critical of the speed with which he performed any administrative duties he was required to undertake in the running of CFTS. It was therefore no surprise to me that he decided to leave and form his own group. At the time I was disappointed but CFTS goes on from still with a strong membership whilst still maintaining the values and objectives we set out to achieve in 1993".
Renshi Andy Kidby - July 2014.