Profile: Frank Nowak

Frank Nowak was an exceptional karateka. He was one of the few Europeans to complete the gruelling JKA Instructors Course. What distinguished him from other karateka was his attention to detail. This character trait made him into a good instructor and referee. He refereed at six WUKO World Championships, including as Chief Referee.

Born in Germany on 6 October 1947, Nowak began practicing Karate in 1963. His first instructor was just a green belt. However, he loved Karate so much, that he trained 4-6 times a week.

By 1965 Nowak had been promoted to brown belt and was running his own dojo. That year Hirokazu Kanazawa arrived in Europe, alongside Taiji Kase, Keinosuke Enoeda, and Hiroshi Shirai, as part of their JKA World Tour. Like most who saw their performances, Nowak was astounded by their technical excellence. He was a big fan of Kanazawa and followed him around Europe, visiting England, France, and West Germany. In time Kanazawa would become his main instructor.

Nowak was graded and promoted to 1st Dan in 1967. The next day he won the German National Kata Championship. The following year at the European Karate Championships held in Brussels, he helped Germany win third place in the team kumite event.

To further his Karate development, Nowak moved to Tokyo, Japan, in 1969. Kanazawa, who had been the Chief Instructor in Europe for the JKA, had recently left Germany for Japan. It was he and a Mr Nagai who sponsored Nowak to train in Japan. Nowak would spend the next two years in Japan, perfecting his art.

Nowak trained at the JKA Hombu, in the Foreigners class. Nine months later he was considered good enough to be invited to attend the Instructors class. He was the only Westerner in the class. His regular training partner was JKA legend, Mikio Yahara.

April 1971 saw Nowak promoted to 3rd Dan in front of a grading panel consisting of Masatoshi Nakayama and Hirokazu Kanazawa. During the grading he had to fight five opponents. This included Masahiko Tanaka, Mikio Yahara, Kenji Yano, and two other students attempting to grade for 3rd Dan.

On 12 November 1972 Nowak and his wife Kora relocated to Australia. He became the first fully qualified JKA Shotokan instructor to arrive and teach in the country. He established dojos in Miranda and South Sydney.

When Kanazawa and the JKA parted ways in 1977, Nowak followed him to his new association, Shotokan Karate International (SKI). Nowak eventually became the Technical Director and Chief Instructor of SKI’s Australian Division.

At the 1978 Asia Pacific Championships held in Jakarta, Indonesia, he was the Chief Judge. That same year he was elected to the WUKO Referees Council. He served on the council until 1981.

In 1980 at the WUKO World Championships held in Madrid, Spain he was the Chief Judge. Two years later at the WUKO World Championships held in Taiwan, he was again Chief Judge. He also won an award for the best referee at the tournament.

Nowak was given the honour of being the Chief Judge at the 1st SKI World Championships, held in Tokyo, Japan, in 1983.

1983 also saw Nowak establish the National Referee’s Council in Australia. He was also instrumental in establishing councils in several Australian states. He served as the chairman of both the National, and New South Wales Referees Council.

Nowak was promoted to 6th Dan by Kanazawa in 1981. Aiming to build on the teachings of Kanazawa, he formed his own association, Zanshin Shotokan Karate, in 1986. He wanted to teach more realistic fighting techniques while maintaining a strong traditional Karate base.

Frank Nowak died in November 1991, after a long illness. He was aged only 44 years. He was succeeded by his wife and long time student, Kora Nowak.

A dedicated martial artist, Nowak was happy that he could trace his Karate lineage back to Gichin Funakoshi, through Masatoshi Nakayama and Hirokazu Kanazawa. He had given a lot to Karate and there is no telling how much more he would have given, before his untimely death.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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