Derek Gordon 1935 – 1994. Local Legend: Gone but not forgotten!


Derek Gordon was born in 1935 and moved to Blackburn with his wife Dora in the early 60s where in 1962 he founded the “Blackburn Karate Club”.  Over the years this club became what is now the WHITE CLOUD MARTIAL ARTS ACADEMY training exclusively at St Bede’s RC High School.

Derek was a devoted and secretive family man with a young daughter, Denise, who liked to keep his personal life private and shared little about the first decades of his life.

However, as his reputation as a fighter and teacher grew, both within the martial arts world and beyond, stories and anecdotes began to circulate and the mischievous Derek did little to confirm or deny any of them. 

In its heyday the Academy trained 100s of students each week at its Preston Old Road headquarters and under Derek’s influence held a fierce reputation for its discipline and training methods that were not for the feint hearted.

In June 1994, Derek was suddenly taken ill with a heart condition and after a few days of illness Derek died with Dave Cowell at his side.  Before his death Derek passed control of his club to Dave, his highest ranked student who, at the rank of Grand Master, continues to run the Academy to this day.

Grand Master David J. Cowell began training with Derek in 1966, in 1971 he was the first student to be awarded a black belt by Derek and remained his top student for the next 23 years. 

For the last 25 years Dave has been the sole head of the academy and, with the assistance of other such as Grand Master Bill Keith and Sifus Ben Mercer & Martin Perry, has expanded the syllabus and modernised the running of the Academy, but at the same  time kept the traditions and values of Derek Gordon alive.

On Sunday 9th June the Academy will be holding an open day to mark this quarter century anniversary of Derek’s passing and the beginning of Dave’s tenure. 

Members of the academy will be training from 10am until 3 pm, but the day will be open to anyone who wants to drop in and will include demonstrations, taster classes and refreshments.  Whether you have previously trained at the Academy and are thinking of getting back into White Cloud or you are a complete novice and would like to try a taster of one of the many disciplines we teach then please call in.  Even if you just trained with Derek in the past, or knew him outside of the martial arts and have any stories, photographs or other items that you would like to share or donate to help preserve the memory of this remarkable man then please do call in. 

The White Cloud Martial Arts Academy is the original school founded in 1962 by Master Derek Gordon, passed directly to his highest ranked student Master Dave Cowell in 1994 and now training exclusively at St Bede's RC Sports College.  Over the years many instructors have been trained at the White Cloud Academy and several now run successful schools of their own.  However, although these instructors are White Cloud trained they are not recognised by the Academy and as such neither are any of their students. 

The White Cloud Martial Arts Academy at St Bedes is not associated with any other school of Kung Fu and is the only place to learn the White Cloud Kung Fu system devised by Master Derek Gordon!

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