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Villari's Martial Arts Transforms Its Students Inside and Out

By Pamela Sosnowski

For over 45 years, Villari's Martial Arts has been teaching its students the Shaolin Kempo form of karate, which was developed by Great Grandmaster Frederick J. Villari in the 1960s. Villari's family-oriented karate school soon spread to over 100 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada; its Palmer location opened in 1992 and is owned by husband and wife team Amie and Kenneth LeCours, who explain that learning a martial art delivers numerous benefits no matter the age of the student.

"Martial Arts has a whole list of benefits for kids and adults," she explains. "Starting with self defense, self confidence, respect for others, self discipline, self control, concentration, balance, self motivation, interactive social skills, coordination, physical fitness, enjoyment, and stress relief. Martial arts is the best form of exercise; you're always moving and learning something of interest."

The school's mission is "to provide every man, woman and child with the highest quality martial arts training so that they become empowered to live richer, more rewarding and meaningful lives, and in so doing, contribute to a stronger community." The Villari system is known for its "four ways of fighting": 1. Using your hands, 2. Kicking, 3. Felling, and 4. Grappling with your opponent. Although Shaolin Kempo karate focuses on kicking and punching techniques, it was also inspired by the movements of five animals: the tiger, crane, dragon, snake, and leopard.

"The five animals help the students realize potential not just in fighting but also in life itself," states LeCours. "The Tiger teaches strength, tenacity, and the ability to endure and hold fast. Leopard teaches speed and power. Dragon teaches us to have a fighting spirit. The crane teaches us grace and balance not just in fighting but in life itself. Snake teaches us suppleness, patience and to have inner strength."

Villari's has bought more than 10,000 of its students to black belt level. The Palmer location holds classes from Monday through Thursday and on Saturdays as well. A special two-week introductory offer is currently available for new students for less than $20.

LeCours, who has been teaching martial arts for over 35 years, says the best part of working for Villari's is seeing the transformations, both inside and out, in her students. "Through the years I've seen people go from unhealthy to healthy, overweight to slim, weak and slow to strong and fast, frightened to confident, and shy to outgoing. All because they latched onto the martial arts and learning its discipline. The martial arts are certainly no cure all, but for many people they are a funnel into which they can channel all the ways in which they want to improve themselves."

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