By Cathy Wharton
For Hometown News
The setting is an attractive strip mall -- several businesses side by side facing the main road. One storefront in particular, however, is not your everyday enterprise. Across its exterior windows are the simple words, "Self-discipline, Respect, Self-control, Confidence." The business: Villari's Martial Arts Center, a highly structured martial arts studio and school of discipline.
Founded by Frederick Villari, a Great-Grandmaster of martial arts, Villari's offers a unique style of karate called "Shaolin Kempo Karate," a combination of Chinese and Japanese martial arts disciplines.
Locally, the chief instructor for the Villari style is David Grabner, a Fourth Degree Black Belt "Sensei," or teacher. As a dedicated proponent of Villari, Mr. Grabner is passionate about helping others learn the positive aspects of martial arts.
As a child, young David was a victim of bullying. It was then he decided to take a course in Karate. He was only 12 at the time, but the idea of being able to defend himself had a certain appeal. However, what he didn't realize was the course he enrolled in would change his life forever.
"My Karate instructor veered me in the right direction," Mr. Grabner said.
The instructor (who would become Mr. Grabner's mentor) taught his eager student the difference between self-defense and aggression: Martial arts is for self-protection, not for fighting. The distinction was important, and it made a lasting impact on David Grabner.
In 1991, Mr. Grabner opened his first martial arts business. Eventually he sold it and, in 1999, moved from New Jersey to Florida. In April 2008, he opened his current business, Villari's Self Defense Center, the only such studio in the area.
The facility itself is clean and comfortable, and has wide-open spaces to practice and learn the arts. The floor of practice is called "dojo," or "place of enlightenment" and is held in esteem by all students. At Villari's, respect for all things and places, and people, are quickly learned.
Though the Villari programs are open to all age groups, the main focus is on children.
Students must be at least four years old to enroll. Each student is separated into age-specific groups. The Peewee Group is for four and five year olds; the Junior Group is for kids six to 13; the Adult Group is comprised of students 14 and older.
A student's age, however, is not the only factor for placement in a program. Students also are separated by skill and ability into "beginner, intermediate or advanced." Thus a novice is never placed in a class with older, more experienced students.
The main theme of the Villari program is "character development." In the Villari style, the goal is attained in two ways: "Colors of Character" and "Creative-Connections."
"Colors of Character" is basically a reward-based system that equates with the three rules of the Villari School: Self-control, Self-discipline and Respect. The colors indicate an individual's progress. On the first day of enrollment, the student is presented an arm patch.
After learning the name of each rule, a yellow stripe is awarded and placed on the bottom of the patch. Upon learning the meaning of the rules, the student then receives an orange stripe. The process then proceeds in ascending order to purple, blue, green, brown and black. Each color signifies the student's level of achievement. Each color also corresponds to "belts." The highest level is the black belt, though it is rarely awarded to the under-12 group.
The system does not impose time limits on its students. The course is ongoing. It is a journey, one that proceeds at an individual's pace, depending on age and ability.
Whereas "Colors of Character" is an internal discipline, "Creative-Connections" focuses on external components. In addition to working with children, the program also reaches out to the community. "We work with parents to partner with other parents, and teachers, to develop (the student's) character and confidence," Mr. Grabner said. Also, every six to eight weeks, Villari's offers a "parents night off," whereby kids can come to the facility, see a movie, or just enjoy being with friends.
Villari's also offers adult programs, including fitness, wellness and self-defense, mostly geared towards women.
Villari's Martial Arts Studio is at 1930 W. Granada Blvd., Tymber Creek Plaza, Ormond Beach. Phone: (386) 672-4545, website: ormondbeachkarate.com.