Family raising money in memory of Tang Soo Do instructor who died after coronavirus diagnosis

Rommel Bernarte, pictured with wife Venus, son Ryan and daughter Katherine. Picture: Bernarte family

Rommel Bernarte, pictured with wife Venus, son Ryan and daughter Katherine. Picture: Bernarte family/LDRS - Credit: Bernarte family/LDRS

A martial arts instructor who had a life-saving liver transplant a decade ago has died after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

Rommel Bernarte, a black belt and master in Tang Soo Do, spent 10 days fighting for his life in hospital.

The father-of-two, from Dartford, ran London TSD – a training centre in the Karate-based Korean martial art in Beckton.

His family have spoke of their shock that the 49-year-old lost his life to coronavirus despite being in “peak physical condition”.

His son Ryan, 20, who he trained to a world karate title at 14, said: “Dad was so full of life. He had the biggest smile. There was this aura about him that people just gravitated to.

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“He had just celebrated ten years since his transplant but was very physically fit, in peak physical condition for his age really. It has been such a shock for us.”

Rommel had been practising Tang Soo Do for 27 years and helped set up a network of training centres in London and Kent, including the Beckton centre where he was a teacher.

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The school takes students to the World Championships every two years, and some were due to compete at the competition in North Carolina in July.

Rommel was originally from the Philippines and came to live in the UK aged nine. He was born with a liver condition, which was not discovered until 2005.

He received a life-saving transplant at the Royal Free Hospital in December 2009 and was an advocate for organ donation. However, his organs were not able to be donated after his death because of the coronavirus diagnosis.

The family are instead raising money in his name to be split between the Royal Free Hospital and Darent Valley Hospital. More than £10,000 has so far been donated in an online fundraising campaign since his death last month.

Ryan added: “We are all organ donors and I know that Dad would have been really disappointed that his could not be donated. We have been completely ovwerwhelmed by all the messages and donations we have had so far.

“It shows how much dad meant to his former students and everyone he met. Dad received the most amazing care in the Royal London and in Darent Valley Hospital and we just wanted to do something for them to show our appreciation.”

Ryan said he now hopes to take over his father’s Tang Soo Do school, which is running classes over Zoom while the studios are closed for the lockdown.

To see the fundraising campaign visit

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