The karate community mourns the death of karate master Con Kassis

Messages of condolence and sympathy poured in from around the world following the passing of one of Australia’s and world’s key karate men, Sensei Konstantinos (Con) Kassis died of cancer on Tuesday 7th June. He was 63 years old.

An 8th Dan black belt instructor, Mr. Kassis, had received a master’s degree (Shihan) issued to him by Grand Master Kenei Mabuni, the son of Kenwa, the founder of the Shito-ryu Karate-Do style of karate. In his youth, Mr. Kassis had gone to Japan to train with Kenei Mabuni. Over time, he became so proficient that he was the only Westerner to ever train students in Japan.

As Program Director and Director of Kassis Karate Academy in Tullamarine, Mr. Kassis has trained some of Australia’s finest karate athletes. At the 2001 national championships, his academy students won a clean sweep of medals for the men’s and women’s kata events and the gold medal for the men’s and women’s team kata events. A kata (Japanese word for “form”) is a sequence of choreographed martial arts movements.

Con Kasis, right, with his teacher, the late Kenei Mabuni, Kenwa’s son who was the founder of the Shito-ryu Karate-Do style of karate. Photo: Supplied/Michael Kassis

Mr Kassis was also president of the referees of the World Karate Federation (WKF), the body which represented the sport for the first time in Olympic history in Tokyo last year. He was also chairman of the technical commission set up by the WKF to determine changes in the sport.

His six-year-old brother Michael, whom Con convinced to try karate many years ago and 50 years later is president of the Oceania Karate Federation and vice-president of the WKF, said Neos Cosmos that messages were coming in from all over the world.

“As brothers we traveled the world together, he was highly respected and will be greatly missed,” said Michael Kassis.

The brothers were born in Ioannina to 90-year-old Vasillios and Athena who died in July last year. The family emigrated to Melbourne, Vasillios first in 1963 and the rest of the family in 1964. Initially the family rented a shared house in Ascot Vale. They then moved to South Street, Ascot Vale before eventually buying a house in Essendon.

“There were tough times but we managed to get through it in the end,” said Michael Kassis.

Con completed an apprenticeship as an auto mechanic and during this time in the late 1970s he was first drawn to karate. It was to dominate his life. In 1987, he went to Japan to find a karate teacher who would hire him. His first trip was not a success but he returned the following year and asked Kenei Mabuni to take him on as a student.

Con Kassis at a memorial in Japan dedicated to his grand master Kenei Mabuni. Photo: Supplied/Michael Kassis

The master asked his students if they were ready to accept Con into the dojo. Michael Kasis said they all accepted it and then “got stuck in sake (rice wine) to celebrate”.

It was an association that lasted more than 40 years and as many trips to Japan.

“He was not only a good karateka, but he wanted to learn and he was a very nice person,” said Michael Kassis.

He has traveled extensively overseas teaching karate and he has also written a book focusing on kata form titled Shito-Ryu Karate-Do.

“He always forgot things but never a kata,” his brother Michael said of him.

As well as karate, Con was also an avid fisherman and had a home in St Leonards to pursue his other great passion.

Con Kassis eighth dan black belt in karate stance. Photo: Supplied/Michael Kassis

Con was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer towards the end of July last year, just weeks after his mother passed away.

His funeral will be at Panagia Soumela in Keilor East on Friday June 24.

Con Kassis is survived by his daughters Sophia and Christina from his first marriage to Elizabeth Downs. He married Rosanna who survives him.

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