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vantheman
Orange Belt
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Joined: 18 Apr 2012
Posts: 249

Styles: Chinese Kempo Karate, Brazilian Jujitsu

PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2014 8:59 pm    Post subject: Fred Villari Reply with quote

Hello all,

Being under the lineage of Fred Villari's Shaolin Kempo Karate, I have run into my fair share of info, debates, criticisms, praises, ect. of the man. However, it often tends to be very one-sided and heavily biased, for better or for worse. I have seen some call him the most influential martial artist in the past 1000 (no, I did not inadvertently add an extra zero) years, while other claim that he couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag. I have seen similar claims regarding the art. What further complicated things is that many people that are not under his lineage simply pretend he doesn't exist. Consequently, there is a paucity of unbiased, honest opinions out there on Master Villari and Shaolin Kempo Karate. I hope that in creating this thread, those who are familiar with him can have an open, constructive discussion on how they feel about him and his art.

Now for my personal opinions:
I realize that there are many criticisms people have regarding Villari's self promotion, business model, martial art, some of which are quite justified. I will agree that the promotion to twelfth degree was probably a little over the top and against traditional etiquette, but it's not like he's the first person to ever do that. Tenth degree black belts (to my knowledge) weren't a thing in Japan, which means that somewhere along the lines, someone had to start the trend through self promotion (from what I have been told it was initially ninjutsu, but I may be wrong). In the case of Kempo Karate, sources claim that William Chow had promoted himself to 15th Degree master of Kara-ho Kempo. As for his business practices, things get a little fuzzier. I don't think I know enough to fairly judge this, but it would seem that there were cases where Villari's schools and their decedents (especially USSD) would rapidly promote students and have them open new schools, which results in a hit or miss reality for many SKK dojos, which is unfortunate to say the least. It has also meant the SKK and Villari have become heavily associated with McDojos. As I said above, I don't know a ton on the exact practices, so I can't make a solid argument either way. That being said, this situation has had adverse affects on the art itself, which I do feel that I am qualified enough to comment on. While the unfortunate reality of the McDojo means that you will have some schools/instructors teaching the art in a less-than-ideal fashion, I believe that if you are studying under a legit instructor who has a good grasp of the art, Shaolin Kempo karate is a very effective and brutal art. Villari and his art, while at times a little cheesy, are the real deal if done properly. While many of the upper level forms are creations of Villari, he DID train under legitimate Shaolin masters and the forms are based on that training. You can see some clear similarities between Kung Fu and SKK techniques. I'm not saying the art is perfect, but I am saying it's legit.

Please share any thoughts you have!
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"Throws are like strikes, except you hit them with a planet instead of your hand."
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kensei
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Joined: 05 Oct 2012
Posts: 235
Location: Canada
Styles: Shotokan

PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OMG, that brings me back to when I started Karate in the late 70's. That name was in every magazine I bought about Karate...granted it was mail in rank type stuff (pay and buy a tape and you get a ranking). Villari is not and has never been to my knowledge trained in Kung fu. He trained with Nick Cerio so his back ground is Kenpo, but from what I am told many of the Kenpo groups wont talk about him and see him as an embarasment.

Having said that, the only issues I have with Fred are his self ranking past the traditional 10th dan level (which is a traditional Japanese limit by the way) and his use of "GREAT GRAND MASTER" as a title. the guy did develop a self developed system, no issue with that, but when you start pusing it as traditional in any way you lose credibility. Oh, an his bragging that he developed over 100,000 black belts in a 35 year career....Mc Dojo's are not good and belt mills worse.

He was always seen as a tad bit of a Joke in traditional circles and most Kenpo people say he stopped training and lost rank after that. He is nothing but embarassing to them.

Now, because I dont actually have anything nice to say about him...I really hope someone does!
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sensei8
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14407
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My issue with Mr. Villari is his self-promotions...everything else is up to the individual to determine, and in that, he's not here to live up to my expectations, nor am I here to live up to his expectations.



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clfsean
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Joined: 10 Apr 2013
Posts: 27
Location: Pollen infused South
Styles: Choy Lay Fut, Lama Pai, others in the past

PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My question(s) concerning "Shaolin Kenpo" follow this line ...

Who'd he study under?
How long did he study?
Why the need to combine two disparate things?
Where'd the "Shaolin" go once he named it "Shaolin Kenpo"?
Why not name it "Shorin Kenpo"? "Shaolin Kenpo" makes as much sense as "French Tacos". Then again, I'm a bit of purist.

That's a good starting spot for me. If it works, it works. I'm not saying one way or another, but let's be honest (in general terms) about what's what & be up front about things.
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vantheman
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Joined: 18 Apr 2012
Posts: 249

Styles: Chinese Kempo Karate, Brazilian Jujitsu

PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

clfsean wrote:
My question(s) concerning "Shaolin Kenpo" follow this line ...

Who'd he study under?
How long did he study?
Why the need to combine two disparate things?
Where'd the "Shaolin" go once he named it "Shaolin Kenpo"?
Why not name it "Shorin Kenpo"? "Shaolin Kenpo" makes as much sense as "French Tacos". Then again, I'm a bit of purist.

That's a good starting spot for me. If it works, it works. I'm not saying one way or another, but let's be honest (in general terms) about what's what & be up front about things.


The only names I have come across for his Kung Fu back ground are Len Chou (whom I have not found any info on) and some man named Soo (same as above). I would agree that his Kung Fu is nothing like the real Chinese stuff (I believe the GM of my offshoot style went back outside of the system to "fix" some of the Kung Fu), but he trained somewhere with other people after leaving Cerio and supposedly reached 5th Dan. 10th+ Dans (to my knowledge) are fairly new concepts. Somewhere along the line, someone self promoted themselves. The 10th Dan didn't just pop up out of nowhere. And Villari wasn't the first. That doesn't make it right, but it's not like he's the first person to do it (although his self-promotion seemed to be publicized more than others).

As for calling the art Shaolin and trying to pass it off as traditional, I agree with the points above. There really wasn't any good reason aside from trying to gain popularity. My system actually renamed itself Chinese Kempo Karate, likely for this reason. It's a modern art, but I think with a good instructor, it still works well.

And as a side note, solid post sensei8!
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