Shotokan Karate International Australia (SKIA) is the official affiliate organisation of Kanazawa Soke's SKIF in Australia. It is a vibrant organisation of approximately 50 clubs and over 1,000 members, making it one of Australia's largest martial arts associations. SKIA has no chief instructor, although it has many high calibre senior instructors - most notably Senseis Brian Cox and Zivko Delevski (both Hachidan - 8th Dan Black Belts). The association is managed by a National Executive, which is elected by its membership every two years. SKIA is a not-for-profit organisation (ABN 58 401 440 832).

The Early Years


The year was 1972 and the late Chris Sargent and Clive Disbery were running a JKA Shotokan Karate club at South Sydney Juniors Rugby Leagues Club (“Souths”) in Kingsford, Sydney. At the urging of Chris Sargent and Clive Disbery, the Souths Board agreed to sponsor a professional instructor, a German Karate-ka who had been training in the JKA Instructors Course in Tokyo, Japan. In November, the late Frank Nowak Sensei then a JKA Sandan, arrived in Australia with his wife Kora Sensei, Nidan. Frank Nowak Sensei was a karate-ka of incredible technical ability, great charisma and an especially tough task master. This was the beginning …

In December of that year Robert Mansberg, a then 12 year old (now 6th dan, current National Treasurer and Life Member) joined Souths. He was the only child in an adult’s class. At the time children were not training in karate, mostly judo, however the Bruce Lee phenomenon was about to take hold! Karate was open to all and after watching martials arts movies and with a stubborn determination, Robert wanted to learn what he saw. In essence Robert wanted to be Bruce Lee! The training was traditional, that is 1970s traditional, very strict, tough and directed towards adult karate-ka. For extra training Nowak Sensei sometimes sent the students to the steam room to practice kihon or to run barefoot in the heat of summer to Maroubra Beach, 5km from the dojo. To add even more of a challenge or pain, he would have them carry another karate-ka on their backs whilst on the run.


In 1973 there were the genesis of discussions about the forming an Association. In February of that year, Zivko Delevski (now 8th dan, past National Technical and Grading Committee Chairman and Life Member) joined Souths dojo as it was the same style karate that he had started training with in Macedonia 1972. Zivko not only had the hard physical aspects of training to deal with but also the language barrier, being in Australia for only a few months his English was limited but in his words “I somehow understood and I started training”. Zivko also recalls that Nowak Sensei and Kora Sensei’s English was only a little better than his so it was his ability to observe that made him a quick study, which impressed Nowak Sensei.

Zivko remembers the training was very hard, “Many times I could hardly move and sometimes had to miss work as I couldn't get out of bed.”

Later that year in Ballina, North Coast of NSW, Michael O’Keefe (now 6th dan, past SKIA President, Life Member), attended a class run by a green belt student of Eddie Hoffman, Eddie was a JKA Shodan from Gladstone. In those days a green belt would teach a class of about 30 students.


The first two dojos outside of Souths – Lakemba and Miranda, were opened in 1974. Lakemba was run by John Brailey (6th dan) and Miranda, currently run by Brian Cox (now 8th dan, current Membership Officer,  National Technical and Grading Committee Chairman, Life Member) is now the longest continuous surviving SKIA dojo.

Late in 1974, the Ballina JKA Club made contact with Nowak Sensei and the dojo members were invited to attend a competition held at the St George Soccer Club. At the event it was explained that an association called the Shotokan Karate Association of New South Wales was being formed with Nowak Sensei as its Chief Instructor.

Michael O’Keefe recalls that at that time Ballina karate-ka were not yet members of this new organisation and had to become members before their gradings could be recognised. At this time there was a JKA Dojo in Lismore.

The Association and its committee was formed in late 1974 and this marked the formal start of what we now know as Shotokan Karate International Australia Incorporated. At this time the organisation was independent of affiliation with Japan.

The first Summer Camp was held at Fitzroy Falls in the Southern Highlands, some 2 hours drive from Sydney. During that camp, the first Dan Grading examinations were held. John Brailey and Colin Rooney were graded Shodan. Clive Disbery was also graded Shodan around the same time. They were the Association’s first three shodans.

The venue for Summer Camp was an old farmhouse with dormitory style rooms surrounding a big hall, which was located in the centre of the building. The hall was used for relaxation and meals. The bindi infested lawn in front of the accommodation was used for outdoor training. On these lawns under the scorching summer sun, their spirits were tested, pushed to their limits, barefoot, sunburnt and with muscles screaming in agony they trained until they collapsed from complete exhaustion. The weather was always hot during the day but cool enough to have a log fire in the evening. Nowak Sensei modeled the Summer Camp on the Japanese Gasshuku concept, the training was incredibly torturous, but there was great spirit, socialising and camaraderie developed whilst sitting around the log fire.

On reminiscing Brian remembers the significance of the first shodan gradings held at this camp, within the new found Association, John Brailey and Colin Rooney, the first shodans and the backbone of the fledgling Association, an immense responsibility that these pioneers were yet to realise.

Many years later Kora Nowak Sensei expressed her personal thoughts to Kevin Chan (now 7th dan, past National Marketing & Publicity Officer, past NSW President and Life Member) of the first Australian black belts. Clive was the most senior and was quick to grasp the instruction; Colin had great strength and John was the most talented. The respect that Kora Nowak Sensei had for these men was demonstrated by her personally handmaking three black belts for them by unstitching a white belt, then wrapping a piece of embroidered black silk around the white belts and then restitching the belts. These belts held great meaning.

1974 was a busy year. Zivko, brown belt at the time, and Frank Nowak Sensei opened the Randwick dojo. The dojo has remained open since first being established then in the late 1980s as part of Zanshin Shotokan Karate and now is an SKIA dojo.


In 1975 at the 2nd Summer Camp, Zivko, graded Shodan, a significant moment and the 4th Shodan in our Association. Starting as a white belt with Nowak Sensei, Zivko was the first student of Nowak Sensei to grade through the ranks from 10 kyu to Shodan, the other seniors before Zivko had joined Nowak Sensei as coloured belts.

Early that year, Nowak Sensei visited Ballina for the first time. He stripped the members of all their existing grades and stated that he was the head of SKA NSW and represented JKA in Australia. At this time Alan Cox was President and Gloria Smith Secretary. Nowak Sensei then proceeded to conduct grading test. Soon thereafter Ballina separated into two dojos, Ballina and Lismore, with Michael O’Keefe running the Ballina dojo.

In this same year, Kevin started training with the newly formed SKA of NSW at the Balmain Dojo under Kora Nowak Sensei. Prior to that he had been training at a dojo at Burwood for 2 years under Ray Sensei, a JKA Nidan from England. Ray Sensei had previously taught John Brailey before he started training under Nowak Sensei. Ray Sensei instructed Kevin to his green belt before advising him to join Nowak Sensei’s dojo as the best thing for his karate as he could not teach him much more to get to the next level. Ray Sensei’s selfless act of pushing Kevin to train with someone who could extend his karate journey was an act that Kevin will be forever grateful for. This experience also reinforced the true meaning of Sensei as a person who considered his student’s interests above his own.

In that year Ray Sensei took Kevin to see a “Frank Nowak Competition” (his words) where he saw a “high kata” performed. Not only was it a team kata, but it was a completely new kata and the most exciting part – it had a jump! In the old days (1970’s) there was no Youtube or personal video cameras, so new katas were such a revelation. Ray Sensei, knew up to Bassai Dai and part of Kankudai. Under Nowak Sensei very few “high katas” were taught, they had a certain mystique and were secret to all but a privileged select few senior students. There was always excitement in the dojo whenever a “high kata” was introduced.


A small State Championship was held where only kyu grades competed with Nowak Sensei, Kora Sensei and the Shodans officiating, refereeing and judging.

In that year the beginnings of the National Association started to take shape with the important joining of the Victorian branch, headed by John Haitidis and Savaas Haitidis. Shotokan Karate Association of Australia (SKAA) was officially formed with NSW and Victoria as its first two member States.

The 3rd Summer Camp was held again in Fitzroy Falls, attracting more than 60 participants. At that camp Robert Mansberg, Danny Hakim (7th Dan) and the late Gary Feuer were graded Shodan, together with four others. This camp being the most memorable for Robert as forty years later he still shudders at the thought of the training sessions they endured.

Michael O’Keefe recalls attending that Summer Camp at Fitzroy Falls in December ’76 and can recall Robert’s grading. What stood out in his mind was the great secrecy surrounding the gradings. Michael enjoyed watching Robert, Danny and Gary’s karate. The three of them were about the same size, young, athletic and so dynamic in their movement, mesmerising to watch, especially when doing team kata.

At this particular camp the weather was extremely hot, everyone was swallowing flies through white spittle encrusted mouths. The training was very demanding, totally exhausting and drink breaks were not permitted under any circumstances. The camp also involved rising at 6 am to run barefoot on gravel roads for approximately 2kms. At these camps karate spirit was truly tested!

When at the Balmain Dojo, under Kora Sensei’s instruction, Kevin worked hard to improved his basics. One night Zivko came to teach, Kevin was amazed with Zivko’s flying kicks and was inspired to train outside of Balmain Dojo. Souths Dojo was known as the defacto Honbu Dojo as most senior grades trained at Souths. Lakemba Dojo under John Brailey’s leadership and instruction was the only other big dojo that rivalled Souths and was renown for their kumite. He also remembers the grading of what he calls “the magnificent 7” at Fitzroy Falls.

As previously mentioned Nowak Sensei was fond of running. He’d often make them run with him barefoot and in full do-gi, from Souths at Kingsford to Coogee or Maroubra Beach. On reaching the beach the students would eagerly run into the ocean enjoying the cooling waters, however this great relief was bitter sweet as they would then have to run back to the dojo with their do-gi wet and chafing at the thighs and their feet full of blisters which would bleed for many days after the run. To demonstrate Nowak Sensei’s very strict and traditional attitude toward training, at one particular training run a student decided to take a taxi back to the dojo. Upon Nowak Sensei finding out, the student was banned from the dojo for 6 months. Nowak Sensei then at his prime, would often run from the Lakemba dojo to his home at Maroubra Beach (some 25 kilometres), demonstrating he would not ask his students to do something he wasn't prepared to do himself.

Nowak Sensei’s karate was renown for being strong, elegant and technically perfect, he would hone his technique with regular trips to Japan. These trips also enabled Nowak Sensei to bring new ideas such as, simultaneous defence and counter attack or the use of the counter attack as a defence. He was an exceptional and inspirational teacher, all the “lifers” owe much of their karate longevity to him.


In 1977 SKAA held its 1st National Championships. For the first and only time, a professional event organizer was engaged to promote the Championships. Teams competed on a club basis with close to 100 competitors competing for four events – men’s individual kumite, men’s team kumite, team kata and mixed individual kata. There were no weight divisions, no mitts, no mouth guards or groin guards or protection of any sort other than one’s bare hands and feet. In Individual Kata, the men, women and children all competed together in the same pool. In that first National Championships, the Lakemba Dojo won Team Kumite, Souths won Team Kata. John Brailey won Men’s Individual Kumite and Kevin Chan won Men’s Individual Kata.

Just prior to the Championships a grading examination was conducted at Souths where Brian Cox and Kevin Chan were graded Shodan.


In 1978 Hirokazu Kanazawa Sensei formed the Shotokan Karate-do International Federation (SKIF) and Nowak Sensei wanted to follow Kanazawa Sensei and so SKAA affiliated with the SKIF.

In this year the SKIF Germany Chief Instructor, Nagai Sensei, came to Sydney. He taught at Souths, conducted gradings after training and demonstrated Nijushiho kata with bunkai at the National Championships. It was the first exposure to an International Instructor and Nagai Sensei did not disappoint. In fact Kanazawa Sensei as founder of the newly formed SKIF and its Chief Instructor was supposed to come to Australia but at the very last minute (seemingly when Kanazawa Sensei was on the way to the airport to come to Australia) there was a change of plans and Nagai Sensei was hurriedly organised to attend instead. There are theories as
to why the last minute change, perhaps given the significance of Kanazawa Sensei having split from the JKA and forming his own federation, the politics of such a schism could offer up some answers but ultimately was of no significant consequence.

Michael O’Keefe was graded Shodan at this seminar.

The 2nd National Championship was held in Sydney Town Hall, the first and only time a championship was held in such a prestigious venue. John Doak won Men’s Individual Kumite and Kevin Chan again won Men’s Individual Kata, Lakemba followed up from 1977 with a win in the Men’s Team Kumite and Souths also followed up with a win in Men’s Team Kata.


The 3rd Annual National Seminar and Championship moved interstate to Melbourne for the first time, organised by John and Savaas Haitidis. Michael O’Keefe was voted in as President of SKAA (his first and not his last stint as President of the Association), a post held by Jeff Rosenstrauss previously. For the first time, there were enough competitors to separate kata into male and female divisions, although events were still in mixed ages.

Brian Cox graded Nidan in this year.


The 4th National Seminar and Championships was held at “The Beanie”, an upside down wok shape hall at Randwick Girls High School, Randwick, Sydney hence the name. It was the preferred venue for all the seminars and championships held in Sydney for the next two decades.

1980 was an important year in the history of SKIA, it marked the first time Kanazawa Sensei (then 49 years old) came to Australia. From that first year until his retirement in 2012, culminating in his visit here for the World Championships, the Association has been the beneficiary of an unbroken 32 years of his teaching and presence. Needless to say, Kanazawa Sensei’s techniques were exceptional, he might have been some years from his youthful physical peak but he was well on his way to mastery and those who attended Shotokan Week over those 32 years had the privilege to witness the making of a true master, one of the most revered, respected and exceptional karate master ever known.

From the very first visit he taught us his syllabus, those principles and techniques that form the foundations for the development of karate-do skills. His teaching has been consistent, what he taught then wasn’t too different from what he teaches now, refinement the only difference, there is a purpose and beauty in simplicity. If you listen to Kanazawa Sensei and watch him closely you can learn a lot, year after year, even though it is outwardly the same technique, the understanding of the technique changes with the individuals maturity and karate journey.

Zivko Delevski and Robert Mansberg graded Nidan in August of that year. Kevin Chan and Michael O’Keefe graded Nidan at the National Seminar with Kanazawa Sensei.


The 5th Annual National Seminar and Championship moved upstate to Lismore.

As host dojo to this Championship, Michael O’Keefe has a very clear recollection of this event and Lismore were victorious in taking out the prestigious and hard fought National Team Kumite event. This victory was hard won, Michael came up again the famed Alan Worsley, who had been Kumite Champion for several years.

With a sweep followed by a gyaku-tsuki to the side of the head the champion fell with the gyaku-tuski scoring, team victory was sealed and the team from Lismore were crowned the National Champions. Later that night, Alan Worsley sported a massive black ear, the scars of battle, “That’s how it was fought in those days – very different now,” Michael surmised.

This is a brief glimpse into the early years, the years which laid the foundations of the SKIA we know today. Through birth, growth, development, upheaveal and re-growth, the passion for Shotokan Karate has not diminished. Even though the body may not be as willing or nimble as it once was, the mind and spirit through hours, years and decades of rigour and training continues on.

For those who have ever worn the black belt, take pride in its meaning not its colour, not its status. It means you never gave up, worked past the pain, overcame the disappointments, didn't cave into your doubts, faced your fears and learned enough to understand no matter how far you climb, the mountain still is higher, there is no end, karate-do is a life long journey. Understanding this guides our belief in an Association created by karate-ka from all walks of life, karate-ka that have laid the foundation for a strong unified Association that strives to uphold the values of karate as stated in our dojo kun and to seek and be a force for harmony in our lives and in the world.

You are all a part of this SKIA. What you contribute builds on our past and becomes the foundation for our future and the next 40 years. We look forward to seeing what you can do from this foundation that we have had the great privilege to be a part of.

SKIA Life Members
Zivko Delevski | Brian Cox | Kevin Chan | Michael O’Keefe | Robert Mansberg

Today's SKIA

Today's SKIA seeks to balance traditional and modern Karate through training and competition. The association regularly hosts traditional Karate seminars, at which students gain insight into the deep technical and spiritual aspects of the art, as well as explore the highly effective self defence applications that underpin Shotokan Karate. SKIA also caters for those who wish to test their skills at the highest level of competition with frequent tournaments hosted at quality venues, featuring professional referees and the latest technology for scoring and officiating.

Australia participated in the first SKIF World Championships in Tokyo in 1983, and proudly hosted the 11th SKIF World Championships in Sydney in 2012. Australia also participated in the first SKIF International Seminar in Tokyo in 2014, and continues to field a strong contingent each year.

SKIA hosts tournaments in four States (NSW, Queensland, Victoria and WA) annually, culminating in the SKIA National Championships (which is held in a different State each year). This high-quality tournament wraps up the SKIA National Seminar, which includes several days of intensive training under international instructors (most frequently Kanazawa Kancho and Murakami Shihan), as well as a Dan (Black Belt) Grading.

SKIA has conferred five Lifetime Memberships in recognition of outstanding contributions to the association:

  • Kevin Chan
  • Brian Cox
  • Zivko Delevski
  • Robert Mansberg
  • Michael O'Keefe

Six Shogo titles have been conferred on SKIA members in recognition of proficiency in the development of Karate spirit and technical skill:

  • Kyoshi Brian Cox
  • Kyoshi Zivko Delevski
  • Renshi Kevin Chan
  • Renshi Abraham Harada
  • Renshi Peter Harth
  • Renshi Michael O'Keefe