HISTORY of SHIHANCHO
Shihancho Gary Viccars was born in 1946 and began training in Kyokushin Karate in 1968 at the dojo of Bill Paauw in Little Ryrie St, Geelong. That dojo produced some very high profile karate-ka including Brian Ellison, Mervyn Nelis (Seido JuKu, now Zenchin) & Peter Volke (now ShinKyokushin). Who would have guessed that more than 50 years later Gary would still be training in the same style and that he would rise to be one of the most prominent Kyokushin Karate instructors in Australia and indeed, the World?
Gary has been teaching Kyokushin Karate since 1970 when he opened his first dojo at Ocean Grove as a green belt. He gained Shodan in 1973, Nidan in 1975, Sandan in 1979, and Yondan in 1983 and in 1989 he and Nick Cujic became the first Australians to ever physically undergo a test for Godan. In June of 1997 he was graded to Rokudan and became the third highest grade in Australia in Kyokushin Karate in all the various Kyokushin organizations in Australia.
However he joined the ranks of the truly elite Kyokushin instructors on 7th November 2006 when he passed his examination for Nanadan (7th Dan). He was graded by Kancho Yoshikazu Matsushima 9th Dan and Hanshi John Taylor 9th Dan. This was the first time in history that a test for 7th Dan was held on Australian soil. He remains one of the few people in the World to actually undergo a physical test for 7th Dan.
In 1970 he was a member of the Geelong team that won the first ever Victorian Kyokushin Teams Championship and thus began a very distinguished tournament career that spanned the decade, both in knockdown and point system. Shihan represented Victoria a total of 8 times. He was a member of the first ever Victorian team to win an Australian F.A.K.O. Teams title (Perth 1977) as well as placing in the top 4 heavyweights in Australian knockdown for 3 consecutive years (1977, 1978 & 19790 In those days the Australian Knockdown Championships was a 2 day event and included a team event. Shihancho was Captain of the Victorian team that was runner-up in 1977 and 1978.
In addition, Shihan Gary has always been recognized as one of Kyokushinkai's best breaking technicians. He, together with Rowan Stephens and John Klose, once demolished a total of 300 cement tiles in 28 seconds and he was also the second person in Australia to perform the baseball bat break with a shin kick.
He earned the right to represent Australia at the second World Kyokushin Championships in 1979. He had also been selected in the Australian F.A.K.O. team for the 1977 W.U.K.O. Championships. Thus he is one of the very few people to have ever been selected to represent Australia in both Knockdown and point system.
In 1986 Shihan Gary completed the 50 man kumite test with Jim Phillips, Tony Bowden and Luke Grgurevic. Tom Levar, Jim Sklavos, Robert Lauretti, Naomi Wood, Eddie Sorensen, Luke Argento, Frank Cirillo & Lisa Hodder are the only other Australians (so far) to later duplicate this feat. Gary's achievement was all the more remarkable as he was 39 years of age at the time of the test.
Gary used his trip to the World tournament (in 1979) to stay in Japan for training and became the first Geelong person to do so. He trained with Sosai Mas. Oyama 3 times a week plus many of the other Kyokushin legends. He also completed the notorious Kyokushin winter camp (his leader at this camp was none other than Akiyoshi Matsui). Thus he is one of the few to have gained that in-depth insight into Kyokushin Karate by living and training daily in Japan and personally training with Sosai Oyama over an extended period.
Upon his return to Australia in 1980 he decided to become actively involved in judging and refereeing and rose to be an International referee during the next decade. He has officiated at many International Kyokushin events, including acting as a referee at the Commonwealth Championships, the All Japan Championships, the World Cup and the World Championships. In addition he was appointed Head of Referee’s and Judges for the 2006 World Cup in Sydney. In 2008 he was Referee at the World Championships in Japan and judged the final matches, making him one of the foremost officials in the World.
Since this time he has returned many times to Japan to further his knowledge and understanding of Kyokushin Karate. He also attended the funeral of Sosai Oyama in Japan in 1994.
His dojo in Geelong was always a stronghold of Kyokushin Karate in Victoria and he has produced many fine karate-ka. He opened a full time dojo at The Arena which was described as one of the best Kyokushin dojo in the World. Unfortunately the building went into receivership and Gary shifted to the Geelong Y.M.C.A. at the beginning of 1987.
In 1993 Sosai appointed Gary as a Branch Chief and since that time he has worked to develop his Branch. Shihancho Gary has dojo is Victoria and Tasmania. Upon Sosai's death Shihan Gary chose to align with the Japanese Branch Chief group and he hosted that group's Australian Championships in Geelong in 1996.
However, the union was not a happy one and Shihan Viccars joined the group headed by Shihan Nobuhito Tezuka 7th Dan, Shihan Yoshikazu Matsushima 7th Dan (now 9th Dan) and Shihan Hiroshi Masuda 7th Dan, in November, 1996. In 1998 Shihan Matsushima became head of this group.
In June 1997 Shihan Gary was graded to 6th Dan, thus joining the elite of Kyokushin instructors in the World (only a grand total of 40 people have achieved this rank or higher in all 3 Kyokushin groups).
Among the tributes and congratulations he received was one from Shihan Trevor Field 5th Dan. Shihan Field is not a member of the Matsushima group but had this to say:
"Of all the people I have known or trained with over the past 27 years I don't know of any who has contributed so much, asked for so little, or worked harder for the advancement of Kyokushin Karate. My heartfelt congratulations go out to you, it is a reward justly deserved and I know that you will wear it with the dignity, respect and honor befitting this high rank. It is no less than you deserve." Shihan Trevor Field - 18/6/97
In February 1997 Sensei Ritchie Saunders and Sensei Rowan Stephens were graded to Yondan (4th Dan) by Shihan John Taylor (then 7th Dan). Both were students of Shihancho. In 2000 Sensei Robbie Adams was successful in grading to 4th Dan under Shihan John Taylor, 8th Dan and on 13 October 2007 Robbie Adams was graded to Godan by Hanshi John Taylor 9th Dan and Shihancho (Shihancho Viccars was the 3rd instructor in the history of Kyokushin Karate in Australia to take a student through from white belt to 5th Dan).
In 2000 the A.K.K.A held a special ceremony before the start of the Australian Championships and presented special certificates to all fighters who had placed in the Australian Championships since its inception in 1997.
The certificate commemorated the fighter’s contribution to the development of Kyokushin Karate in the 20th Century. At this ceremony Shihan Gary was also awarded a special trophy (as well as the certificate) for his outstanding contribution to the A.K.K.A.
Shihan Gary also wrote a regular martial arts column in the Geelong News from 1981 to 2005 (when the paper scrapped all sports columns and changed its format). This was probably the most widely read column in the region, and the newspaper also won an award for best use of color using Shihan Gary, Sensei Robbie Adams and Sensei Rowan Stephens on the front page in 1983.
In 2005 he was elected a member of the inaugural Australian Karate Federation, Victoria (A.K.F.) Hall of Fame. The President acknowledged his contribution to the development of Karate and the A.K.F. (formerly F.A.K.O.) in Victoria and Australia. Until this time Shihan was unaware that his nickname amongst all the other styles was “The Enforcer”
November 7, 2006 Shihan became the first Australian ever to physically undergo a promotion test for 7th Dan and he joined the elite of the World’s Kyokushin instructors. In early 2007 he was given the specially created title of “Shihancho” - Boss of the Shihan's
Gary Viccars was also a leader in many other ways, not the least being his leadership in making sure his people got the best. In 1975 he was instrumental in some dojo leaving their existing organization to come under the leadership of John Taylor (then a Sandan). He was also a key to the formation of the Australian Kyokushin Karate Association in that year.
In 1977 Sosai (or Kancho as he was then) came to Australia for the first Australian Championships and he held a meeting to try and sort out the political problems existing at the time between the John Taylor and Ivan Zavetchanos groups.
The following is a report about that meeting, written by Trevor Field and published in the AKKA Yearbook 1991.
“In 1977 as a fresh new black belt I took a team of my fighters to the First Kyokushin Knockdown Championships held at the Sydney Town Hall. On the Saturday evening we were invited to a meeting with Kancho. This was an awesome occasion because none of us had ever seen Masutatsu Oyama in the flesh.
Upon entering the conference room more shock for me in the sheer number of black belts present. By today’s standards the numbers might not be so significant but in those days the most we had ever seen at one time was 6.
Kancho invited each of us to make a report on our areas and each person rose with a glowing report and saying how good it was to have Kancho in Australia.
Suddenly this idyllic setting came to an abrupt halt as a tall, long haired area representative stood and began to “demand” that the black belt gradings previously removed from his State be reinstated immediately.
The rest of us just sat there, ashen faced and I remember thinking that this guy either had a lot of courage or he was a bloody idiot with a death wish.
Kancho Oyama rose deliberately and looked squarely at this man who had dared to stand his ground and stand up for what he believed in, Kancho pondered briefly and then agreed with him, thanked him for his frankness and courage and reinstated all those gradings.
Kancho, a man of courage himself, obviously admired and recognized the courage it took to stand and make such controversial statements.
Which is the State that owes their senior gradings to him? - VICTORIA. Who was that long haired idiot who stood where no others would - Gary Viccars and I will never forget what he did or the lesson I learned that day”.
Shihan Gary’s list of trophies and achievements include:
1968 Began training (could have been late 1967)
1969 First grading (6th Kyu certificate dated 1st July)
1970 Geelong team that won the 1st Victorian Kyokushin Teams tournament
1973 Graded to Shodan
1975 Graded to Nidan
1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979 Victorian Team member to F.A.K.O. Australian Championships
1977 -1978 Captain Victorian Kyokushin “A” Team
1977 Victorian Kyokushin Championships 2nd Heavyweight
1977 AKKA Championships 3rd Heavyweight
1977 AKKA Teams Championship 2nd (Captain of Victoria “A” team)
1977 F.A.K.O. Victorian Teams Championship 2nd (Captain of Kyokushinkai “A” team)
1977 F.A.K.O. Victorian Individual Championships 2nd
1977 F.A.K.O. Victorian Individual Championships Sportsmanship Trophy
1977 F.A.K.O. Australian Teams Championships (Perth) 1st
1978 Victorian Kyokushin Championships 2nd Heavyweight
1978 AKKA Championships 4th Heavyweight
1978 AKKA Teams Championship 2nd (Captain of Victoria “A” team)
1978 F.A.K.O. Victorian Teams Championship 2nd (Captain of Kyokushinkai “A” team)
1979 Graded to Sandan
1979 AKKA Teams Championship 2nd (Captain of Victoria “A” team)
1979 AKKA Championships 4th Heavyweight
1979 F.A.K.O. Sports Expo Tournament 1st Heavyweight
1979 Team member F.A.K.O. Victoria versus Indonesia
1979 Australian team to Kyokushin World Championships
1984 Graded to Yondan
1984 Referee at Australian Championships and every Australian Championship since
1985 Referee at Asian Pacific Championships
1986 50 Man Kumite
1986 20th September. Shihan Bobby Lowe autographed his book with “Best wishes and regards to a very special Kyokushin family member and friend. Shihancho still has this book as a treasured momento.
1988 Referee at Commonwealth Championships
1989 Graded to Godan
1994 Attended Sosai’s funeral in Japan
1994 Attended Branch Chief’s camp in Japan
1995 Referee at All Japan Championships
1997 Graded to Rokudan
1998 Appointed A.K.K.A. Chief of Referee’s & Judges
2000 Inducted into inaugural A.K.F. Victoria Hall of Fame
2000 Received a special trophy for “Outstanding Contribution to the A.K.K.A.”
2000 Referee at World Championships
2002 Referee at World Cup
2004 Referee at World Championships
2006 Chief Referee at World Cup, Sydney
2006 Graded to Nanadan on 7th November
2007 Awarded the title of Shihancho
2008 Gary Viccars demonstrated breaking techniques at the World Championships in Japan. He also was referee for the semi-finals and judge for the finals, making him one of the top 5 officials in the World.
At the end of 2008 Shihancho was presented with a certificate from his Dan grades of that year. “Osu No Seishin” The Spirit of Perseverance-Shihancho Gary Viccars
It is through your Spirit of Perseverance that we are able to succeed in reaching the goals along our training journey. Your ability to keep giving is what makes our Kyokushin so strong. The time, spirit, heart and knowledge you dedicate to every training session could not be more greatly appreciated. So to you credit is given for making our instructors, our peers and ourselves the Karateka we are, and strive to be.
He also completed his Diploma in Sports Coaching - Sport Specialization: Martial Arts (SRS50206). This is a qualification recognized within the Australian Qualifications Framework and issued under the authority of the Victorian Registration & Qualifications Authority.
Shihan Gary was presented with a pen by one of his Black Belts some years ago; the inscription is “A Leader of Kyokushin with Much Wisdom...A Teacher with Heart”
2010. February 20 a huge surprise party was held for Shihancho to celebrate his 40 years of continuous training in Kyokushin. It was actually 2 years late as he started training is 1969 but circumstances never allowed the event to be held until 2010.
Unlike some who claim to have trained for 40 years but conveniently forget the many years they did not train at all, Shihancho has NEVER stopped training since his first class in 1968.
People came from all over Australia and there were many who attended from the “old” days.
There were many, many messages left the book that was presented to him as a memento. As well as receiving messages from Kancho, Hanshi, Shihan Klaus Rex (Europe) and Shihan Dwayne Davies (NZ) other comments included phrases such as:
“A prime figure in the history of Kyokushin.”
“A true legend”
“An icon of Kyokushin.”
“I have been inspired by your capacity to teach, show humility and loyalty to all around you.”
“Few people in the World can stand up next to your achievements in Kyokushin and in life.”
“Thanks for being a great Branch Chief and instructor.”
“You have been one of my inspirations to keep training and improving every day.”
Shihancho’s personal favorite was this message:
“You have been a constant source of inspiration and guidance for me. Whenever I feel doubt or lack of confidence to do something in my life I always manage to think of one of your many achievements and it gives me the strength to stay on course and persevere.
You believe in people when they doubt themselves and I thank you for the gift of Kyokushin you have bestowed upon me, for now I can share my love of the Ultimate Truth with and one and everyone.”
And this “Never stop training, Kyokushin needs your wisdom”.
Shihancho has a book written by Shihan Bobby Lowe with this inscription: To Gary Viccars, Best wishes and regards to a very special Kyokushin family member and friend". 20/8/86.
2010 - June 19. Shihancho attended the World Cup in Estapona, Spain. As well as being on the Referee Executive Committee he became one of only a handful of people to referee a World title match (in any Kyokushin group). In addition, at the camp following the tournament Kancho placed him in charge of the kumite for the grading (a huge honor). At the conclusion of the camp Shihan Klaus Rex presented Shihancho with a special plaque and commented that “he is such a high grade that he has to do nothing, but as soon as he arrives he is helping with the mats, moving chairs, tables and getting people organized. Thereby proving yet again why he is such a high grade in the first place”.
2012 Shihancho was on the referee panel at the World Championships in Japan. He was such a good referee that he received applause as he left the mat.
2014. Ragnar Purje, 8th Dan Goju Karate is a longtime friend of Shihancho dating back to the F.A.K.O. era (1970’s), he comes from Geelong. Ragnar wrote a non Karate book that was published in 2014 and included mention of Shihancho: “Your inclusion is because despite of all of the politics that does and has always existed in the martial arts - "the path of truth and knowledge" - you have shown yourself to be a person of immense courage, dignity, integrity, intellect and knowledge”. High praise from a non Kyokushin person.
2014 Shihancho attended the World Cup in Durban, South Africa. As with Spain, he was instrumental in getting the tournament running properly and was, again, one of the most used Referee’s. He also assisted with the grading after the World Cup.
2016 World Championships in Japan. Shihancho was the most used referee and judge. Referee on both days including the semi final. Also in charge of the Tameshiwari. Judged the final. He was also put in charge of the kumite at the following Dan grading, a huge honour and a massive responsibility.
2017 1st Asian Pacific Championships in Jakarta, 21st May. Chief Referee and, together with Shihan Tony Bowden, became the FIRST AUSTRALIAN in any Kyokushin group to referee finals matches at International level.
26th November 2017 Shihancho resigned from the AKKA but he remains committed to the IKO Matsushima Kyokushinkakan.
2018 Shihancho completed 50 years of continuous training in Kyokushin Karate
World Cup, Santiago, Chile, December 2023
9/12/23 Shihancho was appointed Chief Referee of I.K.O.Matsushima
10/12/23 Shihancho was appointed a special advisor to Kancho Matsushima
12/12/23 Shihancho became on of the few in the World to physically undergo a test for 8th Dan
Upon passing the 8 hour test he was given the title of Hanshi and became a legend in Kyokushin Karate.
Soon after Kancho Matsushima gave him the authority to grade to 6th Dan, so Hanshi became the only person in Australia in any Japanese Kyokushin organisation with this authority.