Brian Fitkin

In addition to teaching my students Karate, I try to make really good people of them. Karate instructors have a tremendous responsibility because the students tend to copy them, but a lot of instructors don’t seem to realise it.

Brian Fitkin

Fighting at heavyweight, Brian Fitkin was described by legend Steve Arneil as being like “a stalking tiger“. Considered one of the best all-around fighters to come out of the UK, Fitkin was a natural fighter who could fight with control or go all out in a full-contact match.

Brian Fitkin was born in London on 26 February 1946. He came from a family of boxers. His grandfather and uncles boxed. As a young boy, he wanted to be like them. However, as he grew up, he didn’t like the look of the sport.

In 1965 Fitkin began his Karate journey under the instruction of Steve Arneil. He joined the London Kyokushin Karate Club because he wanted to learn how to protect himself. Training at Arneil’s club was very hard. It was not unknown for 3000 front kicks to be thrown in a session.

As a 19-year-old beginner, Fitkin took part in the British Junior Championships. He made the final, finishing in second place.

Between 2-4 May 1967, the 2nd European Championships were held at the Crystal Palace, London. Fitkin was selected to be a member of the British team, even though he was a green belt. Britain defeated a powerful French team in the Team Kumite event. During the tournament, the 20-year-old Fitkin defeated a number of celebrated European black belts. Teammate Peter Spanton won a bronze medal in the Ippon event.

1967 also saw Fitkin have a successful British Open Championships. He was part of a team that finished second in the team event. He also won the Individual Kumite event.

Even though Fitkin had a successful start to his competitive career, he decided to stop competing for a couple of years, to go travelling.

In 1969 Fitkin travelled to Japan, where he started training with Kyokushin Karate founder, Mas Oyama. During his time in Japan, he was graded to 3rd Dan by Oyama.

Fitkin took part in Oyama’s historic 1st All Japan Open Karate Tournament, held at the Tokyo Municipal Gymnasium in 1969. In a contentious tournament where the refereeing was questionable, Fitkin won only two matches before being disqualified. He gave a very good account of himself in his first two fights. However, a writer covering the tournament believed Fitkin may have purposely got himself disqualified when he realised the judging was poor and it might lead to fighters getting injured.

Fitkin returned to Europe in 1971. He still did not compete in any tournament. He continued travelling around Europe, teaching in various clubs.

1973 saw Fitkin compete in his first major tournament for a number of years. At the 8th European Karate Championships held in Valencia, Spain in May, he competed in the -80 kg Kumite event. He lost to Frenchman, François Petitdemange, the eventual tournament winner. The fight went to two overtime extensions.

In October 1973 issue of Black Belt Magazine, Fitkin was named as one of the “Top 10 European Karate Men“.

At the 9th European Karate Championships held in London between 5-7 May 1974, Fitkin won a bronze medal in the +78 kg Kumite event. He forfeited his semi-final match after breaking three ribs in his quarter-final match against Andreas Koopman of Switzerland.

In 1974 Fitkin moved to Sweden. He started teaching at Stockholm’s Karate Kai Club. In September of that year, he fractured his sternum during a demonstration. Doctors advised that he should rest for a year, to make his sternum strong again. In October he was renamed to the “Top 10 European Karatemen” by Black Belt Magazine.

Competitively, 1975 was a big year for Fitkin. At the European Karate Championships held in Ostend, Belgium, between 2-4 May, he won a bronze medal in the -80 kg Kumite event. The event was won by teammate Eugene Codrington. At the 3rd World Karate Championships held in Long Beach, California Fitkin was a part of the British team, coached by Steve Arneil. The team defeated Japan in the final of the Team Kumite event. This was the first time Japan had lost in a major tournament. Fitkin was also named in Black Belt Magazine’s “Top 10 European Karatemen” for the third consecutive year.

At the 1976 European Karate Championships held in Tehran, Iran, Fitkin won double gold in the +80 kg Kumite and Team Kumite events. Teammate Billy Higgins was also a double gold winner. He won medals in the-70 kg Kumite and Team Kumite events. Medallists received their awards from a Princess who was the sister of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. For the fourth straight year, Fitkin was named in Black Belt Magazine’s “Top 10 European Karatemen“.

After the 1976 European Karate Championships Fitkin stopped competing to concentrate on running his club in Stockholm. It was around this time that he met student, and future friend, Dolph Lundgren.

Even though Fitkin had stopped competing he was named as one of the “Top 10 European Karatemen ” in Black Belt Magazine’s January issue.

In 1982 Fitkin’s book “The Fundamentals of Kyokushin Karate” was published. The book was published in both English and Swedish.

From 1989 to 2015 worked on several films through his association with Dolph Lundgren. His film credits include “The Punisher” (1989); “Showdown in Little Tokyo” (1991); and “The Last Patrol” (2000).

Given all his successes, Brian Fitkin has never sought the limelight. He rarely gives interviews. He is more than happy to live a simple life teaching his students. Alongside Howard Collins, another top Kyokushin karateka, Fitkin has been at the forefront of developing Kyokushin Karate in Sweden.

In a competitive career that lasted over 10 years, Fitkin defeated every ranking karateka in Europe. A natural fighter, he could be a point-fighter or compete in full-contact matches. As a teacher, he has succeeded in transmitting his immense knowledge to a new generation of karateka.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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