Henry Copeland was a wonderful mentor and friend. He passed on March 6, 2023. His Obituary can be read here. You can read an article about him written by Pat Parker here.
He was an incredible martial artist and loved by many. We all called him "Big Henry" not just because he was so tall, but also because he had a big heart and big presence in the room. He was an incredibly strong man and could be a brick wall when he wanted to be. But most of the time, he would throw you with such skill you never even felt the fall. One second you would be upright. The next you would be staring at the ceiling wondering how you got thrown to the floor.
In one of my favorite tricks of his, he would start by placing his hands above my arms so that he was barely touching the arm hairs. I couldn't feel a thing. Then, we would step back and forth in sync. His timing was so incredible he would simply lift one hand and I would go flying through the air. It was amazing!
One time during a seminar, there was a huge crowd of us all trying to sleep on the spring-loaded mat in Houston. Henry had to get up in the middle of the night. He was so large his steps shook the whole floor. Someone yelled, "Henry! We're trying to sleep!" Mid-step, Henry changed his walking and seemed to disappear. I watched him continue walking, but no one could feel him. It was incredible. I couldn't think of anyone else who could do that - much less such a large man!
Roy and I started dating during a seminar. Henry was very protective of me and wasn't sure about this whole Roy thing. We could almost hear him rack an imaginary shotgun in Roy's direction, like a daddy on a front porch. (Roy survived and we're happily married. He can still see Henry watching over me to make sure he's keeping in line!)
When I first met Henry, I thought speed, power, and precision were the keys to being a good martial artist. He corrected those mistakes and taught me the beauty of a light touch, patience, timing, and high level kazushi. He took me under his wing and was incredibly patient and never gave up on me.
He was a quiet man and one of the smartest men I've ever met - and I grew up in a community with one of the highest rates of PhD per capita in the United States.
I owe my martial arts career to him. Thank you, Henry for all the wonderful memories. You are deeply missed.
Heather and Roy Gawlick love Aikido and have a passion for sharing it with others. They hope you'll catch the Aikido bug, too!
Shinju Dojo Aikido Martial Arts School in Longview / Kelso, Washington