Under coaches, Steve Arneil and Ticky Donovan Britain had many successful international Karate teams. From 1974 until his retirement in 1985 David Coulter was a member of many of these squads. As a competitor, he was known for his great spirit, often against much bigger opponents. As a coach and instructor, he has been passionate about the growth of Karate in his native Scotland.
David Michael Coulter was born in the Scottish town of Kilmarnock. In 1969, aged fifteen, he began training in Karate at a local club. He initially wanted to learn Judo but a friend persuaded him to try the Kisan Karate Club run by John Kerr. He liked the training so much that he ended up staying for a number of years.
In 1974 Coulter joined the Kobe-Osaka Karate club based in the city of Glasgow. The Shukokai club was run by Scottish Karate pioneer Tommy Morris. In 1965 Morris had become the first man to be awarded a Karate black belt in Scotland. He also founded the Scottish Karate-do Association.
Initially, Coulter had joined Karate because he enjoyed the training. However, he soon discovered that he had a talent for the sports side of Karate. He took part in a number of tournaments and his natural talent was soon recognized at an international level. In 1974 he was selected to represent Great Britain at the 10th European Championships, held in Ostend, Belgium.
In 1975 Britain made history at the WUKO World Championships by becoming the first team to beat the Japanese in a team kumite final to win gold. The event was held in Long Beach, California. Coulter was selected as a member of the squad coached by Steve Arneil. The squad was captained by Billy Higgins and also featured Eugene Codrington, Brian Fitkin, and Hamish Adam.
After the success at 1976, World Championships Arneil had stepped down from the post of the British team coach. He was succeeded by Roy Stanhope, who held the post from 1976 to 1979.
Back home in the UK Coulter’s training went from strength to strength. In 1976 he was graded to 2nd Dan by Shukokai Chief Instructor Shigeru Kimura.
In 1979 Coulter established the Sakai Karate Club in his hometown of Kilmarnock. The club was named after an area in Japan with a reputation of producing many Karate champions. The club has lived up to its name. With Coulter as Chief Instructor and coach the club has produced the following champions:
- 2 European Champions
- 2 Commonwealth Champions
- 9 British Champions
- 13 European medalists
- 5 Dutch Open Championships
- 2 Venice European Cup Champions
- Over 200 Scottish Individual Champions
- Over 100 Scottish Team Championships
Some of the champions to have come from the club include Pat McKay, Tom Gibbson, Allan Wallace, Kirsty Coulter, Kris Coulter, Robert McCulloch and Scott Cunningham.
1979 ushered in a golden era of British Karate with the appointment of Ticky Donovan as head coach. Even though new faces such as Geoff Thompson, Pat McKay and Vic Charles were making their mark in the squad, Coulter was still a mainstay of the squad. In 1982 he helped Britain win the first of their five consecutive Team kumite world titles.
As a proud Scot, Coulter has successfully represented Scotland at the European Championships. At the 1978 European Championships held in Geneva, Switzerland, he won gold in the –65-kg kumite event. Three years later at the championships held in Venice, he won a bronze medal. At the event held in Madrid in 1983, he regained his title beating Joseph Gofin of France. The following year he won silver in the individual kumite and lead Scotland to gold in the team event.
In 1985 after a career that had seen many highs Coulter retired from active competition. His major successes include:
- World Championships, Team Kumite – 1st Place (1975, 1982)
- European Championships, Team Kumite – 1st Place (1984)
- European Championships, Individual Kumite (-65-kg) – 1st Place (1978, 1983)
- European Championships, Individual Kumite (-65-kg) – 2nd Place (1984)
- European Championships, Individual Kumite (-65-kg) – 3rd Place (1981)
Coulter was appointed Scottish Coach for the under-21 team in 1985. He held the position until 1993, when he stepped down to take up a position as a national team coach for Scotland, alongside Hamish Adam and Head Coach, Gerry Fleming.
In 1996 Coulter was awarded his 4th Dan. Four years later he was awarded his 5th Dan. 2007 saw him achieve the rank of 6th Dan and 2011 saw him awarded his 7th Dan by the SKGB. On 26 November 2017 Coulter was awarded his 8th Dan by the SKGB, at the Scottish National Kumite Championships held at the Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility in Motherwell.
The Olympic Games were held in London in 2012. Coulter was selected as a torchbearer for the games. He was part of the torch relay team as it made its way from Scotland down to its final destination of London. The year also saw him feature on a mural by local Kilmarnock painter, Frank Carty. The mural features prominent local sportsmen and also includes triathlete Gregor Grant, swimmer Alan Jardine and boccia player Jamie McCowan.
For his contributions to the sport of Karate as a competitor; as a coach and also for his development of the sport in his native Scotland, Coulter was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 2013 Birthday Honors list. When he originally received the letter informing him of the award he thought it was from the tax-man.
On 25 October Coulter took part in the annual 100 Kata Challenge a worldwide event to commemorate Okinawa Karate Day. Participants have to perform 100 repetitions of a Karate kata of their choice.
In a ceremony attended by around 300 guests, Coulter was inducted into the Martial Arts Illustrated Black Belt Hall of Fame. Other 2016 inductees included Doug James and Molly Samuel.
Coulter never joined Karate to be a competitor. However, he found he was a natural. His passion for Karate saw him succeed as a competitor and as a coach grow the sport in his native Scotland. He has passed his love for the art of Karate on to his children Kris, Kirsty and Teri, who have all earned their black belts and been champions themselves. Son Kris is a 7-time British Champion and 8-time Scottish Champion. Daughter Kirsty is a World Cup medalist and 6-time Scottish Champion. The bug has also been passed onto his grandchildren, who also train.