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Grandmaster Frederick J. Villari-Shaolin Kempo Karate

History > Kajukenbo's Extended Family

Grandmaster Frederick J. Villari-Shaolin Kempo Karate

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East Coast Kempo:
Does anyone know where GM Villari learned shaolin, or karate for that matter? Nothing is ever really mentioned on that part of the lineage.

Respectfully,
Matt

Karazenpo:
Here you go, Matt.


The following information was taken from a 1975 issue of Black Belt Magazine:


‘Villari’s martial arts training started early in his life. After being introduced to Western and Chinese boxing by his father Villari went on to study jiujitsu and wrestling with the LeBlanc brothers in his middle teens. By the time he was 18, Villari realized his martial arts training was stagnating and sought out Nick Cerio as an instructor of Chinese kenpo. After completing his requirements as second degree black belt with Cerio, Villari traveled to the West Indies where he traded his techniques for karate and kung-fu training.

While in the islands, Villari also studied under a Chinese-Australian instructor Soo, and gained his third and fourth degrees. After working with another master Len Chou, Villari received his fifth degree and soon decided to open his own school.’
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‘Not surprisingly, a great deal of controversy has been stirred up by Villari and his schools. Shortly before press time, Villari announced, much to the consternation of the New England martial arts community, that he had promoted himself to tenth degree black belt-“…the tenth dan style of my own creation shou tung kwok, which draws from all my martial arts training and includes speed movements I have developed myself. I teach this system to only a handful of my top black belts…,” he emphasized.’
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‘In explanation Villari retorts, “The Chinese masters I have studied under refer to their art as ‘Chinese boxing.’ If you were to ask them what style, they’d be insulted. And these are the true masters. Now there are all these names for kung-fu, but it’s Chinese boxing. That’s the real thing. They’re floating around now with a lot of kata and weapons, but the fistic arts of China are simply called Chinese boxing, that’s it.’
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Matt, all I can add to this is that, yes, there is controversy here but Master John Fritz, 9th dan, Shaolin Kempo whom I knew personally when he lived and taught in Massachusetts is a highly respected and talented martial artist stated he saw Gm. Villari's signed 5th dan master's certificate and believed it was legit. Also, some may say Villari was a shodan under Cerio, not a nidan. Well, not exactly true but I understand why some believe that. Villari started with Cerio in 1967 and in 1971 made his nidan. However, he left Cerio before he completed his one year probation so he is listed in the Cerio records as a shodan. I was a private student of Prof. Cerio and he told me this himself. Back in the late 70's I was also a private student of John Fritz after my original instructor Hanshi Craig Seavey, 9th dan (currently in Mass. & co-head of Nick Cerio's Kenpo, Inc.) moved to California. I was originally tested for my shodan and nidan by Gm. Villari personally in Dedham, Mass. while under the tutlege of Craig Seavey and John Fritz in the mid to later 70's. My point being my information comes first hand. Respectfully, Prof. Joe Shuras

East Coast Kempo:
Thanks very much, Professor. Lol, it raises new questions now though. Anyone have any backround on these masters, I'd be curious as to what they emphasized in their training, what it was like, etc. Also, who taught the karate and who taught the kung-fu? Please realize that this is not an attack on Gm Villari's rank but just a question from someone who is interested in the components of his art.

Always more to learn,
Matt

Karazenpo:
No, Matt, I totally understand where you're coming from, I was the same way in my quest. All I can say through my personal knowledge and experience is that Villari's Shaolin Kempo is essentially the Shaolin Kempo of Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu that Professor Cerio taught him up to around 2nd degree black belt. The pinans were added by Cerio (actually #1 pinan was also used by Pesare back then), Statue of the Crane came from Gm. Pesare (Rohai) along with #6 kata. Hansuki  (Honsuki) came from Master Bill Chun Sr. to Nick Cerio to Frank Cerio and from Frank to Fred Villari. Swift Tigers of the Villari system came from Cerio's Circle of the Panther which came from Pesare's #7 kata which he now calls pinans. The Eight Point Blocking System came from Cerio who learned it as a drill from Pesare. The 10 Point Blocking System came from Cerio to Villari and the Plum Tree Blocking System is similiar to a Plum Flower Palm Blocking in Chinese Kung Fu Wu Shu (a book) and parts of the Villari's Plum are identical to 'The Heart' depicted in one of Ed Parker's Infinite Insights into Kenpo volumes (I think volume 5?), other portions of the Plum are also found in Cerio's #4 and #5 blocking forms and a couple of Ed Parker's blocking forms, I think he called them the short forms

I have studied both northern and southern traditonal Shaolin and all the forms of Villari's after Hansuki, outside of Swift Tiger's (inspired by Circle of the Panther & #7 pinan) seem to be indigneous of the Villari system only.  However, one of my favorite Villari Shaolin forms is Shou Tung Kwok and the techniques found in this form can also be found in Pesare/Cerio's KGS, traditional Chinese Kung Fu and the Chu'an fa branch of Kajukenbo. Despite what some say on the translation, I, myself, was confused at one time because some spelled it Sho instead of Shou), Shou Tung Kwok translates like this: Shou = hand  Tung= Eastern as in eastern dynasty (China) and  Kowk= Country. So, Hand(s) of the country of China, China hands, Chinese fist set," Chinese Boxing" set which totally fits into the interview Villari gave Black Belt magazine in 1975-referring to all styles of kung fu as Chinese boxing. I learned this form from Hanshi Craig Seavey, also Master John Fritz and finally in 1978(?)  Gm. Villari himself in Dedham, Ma. at a 'Black Belt workout. All three taught the  exact same form back then. Gm. Villari described it as 'the first in a series of the Chinese forms' and also used the term 'hands & feet in harmony'. Remember, like the article in Black Belt mag. stated, it's Shou not Sho, so the first word is not Japanese for 'first' which wouldn't make sense to have one Japanese word followed by two Chinese words anyway. The word is 'Shou'.

Professor Cerio also told me personally (unlike what is reported on several websites that Cerio added some of the combinations up to only 26 and Villari the rest) that he taught Fred Villari 'around' 35 combinations and after a close look of Cerio's techniques and Villari's combinations it appears to be up to #39 and then the combinations take on more of a kung fu flavor that Villari favored.

Matt, I don't know what direction to point you toward to find information on the West Indies masters, perhaps try e-mailing Master Mark Grupposo who is second in command of the organization if you cannot reach Gm. Villari himself.  I do know Gm. Villari visited Hawaii after he left Prof. Cerio and I believe he also met with Prof. Willliam Kwai Sun Chow at that time also. The late Mr. Parker told KenpoJoe Rebelo that he never met Fred Villari , however, Nick Cerio told me that when he was the East Coast Director of Parker's International Kenpo Karate Association (IKKA), mid to late 60's, he brought Fred Villari with him to several of their workouts, those in attendance were Ed Parker, Nick Cerio , Fred Villari and Professor Larry Garron of Framingham, Massachusetts.  Hanshi Craig Seavey and Prof. Larry Garron (Goju ryu) can back this up. I have heard others say Villari learned Kung Fu from his brother-in-laws, however, Villari's brother-in-laws were Shotokan black belts, he told me this himself and this can also be verified by Mr. Seavey.  Respectfully, Prof. Joe

East Coast Kempo:
Thanks, its nice to know where some of the techniques that we carried over from Villari's system are derived from. I appreciate that you took the time to go into this in such detail.

-Matt

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