Tag Archives: Villari’s Martial Arts

Villari’s Martial Arts for Best of Madison!

16 Feb

FINALLY! My martial arts studio, , is on the ballot for and I thought I’d do a little shameless but truly heart-felt promotion here because let’s face it– I think we ARE the best. Here’s why we deserve your :


1) Over 20 years serving the community from the heart of Madison, WI.

We’ve been located at 532 State Street since 1989. Over the past 23 years we have taught countless martial arts, kickboxing and self-defense classes to thousands of people. Our self-defense and empowerment focus has helped our students to build confidence as well as physical fitness and mind-body connection. We have trained all groups of people– children, adults, law enforcement, athletes, folks with developmental disabilities and folks with limited mobility. We have helped people to lose weight, rehab injuries, and feel great about their successes. We have made donations over the years to local organizations including Special Olympics, Dane County Rape Crisis Center, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, and more. We have offered free workshops to student organizations and non-profits. We have demonstrated that we care about our community.

2) The largest, most highly-trained group of black belt and master instructors you will find at any martial arts school in Wisconsin.

Most martial arts schools have a handful of black belts if they are lucky, and very few are home to master instructors (5th degree or higher). Check out our black belt instructor list:

7th degree master instructor and studio founder: Mary Murphy Edwards

5th degree master instructors: and

3rd degree senior instructors: (Martial Arts Director- testing for 4th in April), (Outreach Director) and

2nd degree instructors: (Office Director- testing for 3rd in April), (Kickboxing Director), and Trisha Vanatta (temporarily inactive)

1st degree instructors (testing for 2nd in April): , Curtis Rueden (kickboxing)

That’s 3 master instructors plus 9 black belt instructors. Most of our 2nd degrees and above have over 8 years of experience. Our 3rd degrees and above have over 12 years of experience. Master Murphy has over 30 years of experience. You can see, as a group, we have a lot of experience!

3) Shaolin Kempo Karate and SAFE offer the best of self-defense.

, our main style of martial arts, is a mixed style founded by that was designed with self-defense in mind. When Grandmaster Villari founded his system in the 60′s, it was considered extremely taboo both to mix styles and to declare yourself a martial arts grandmaster. Villari legitimized his style through inspiring self-defense success stories over the decades, including training law enforcement and military who reported using what they learned to save their lives in many instances.

SAFE combines the best of martial arts principles with an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of violence against women in our society.

4) Our kickboxing program was the first of its kind in Madison, and yes– it’s the best!

We founded our kickboxing program in 1999 during the national cardio kickboxing frenzy. Unlike cardio kickboxing taught at gyms, where instructors can become certified in an afternoon, our classes are taught only by martial artists (including 3 black belts right now). We teach proper technique for striking with power to vulnerable targets– essential skills for self-defense. We also hit heavy bags for resistance training. Our kickboxers don’t just build muscle– they build skill!

5) The warmest, fuzziest place to hit people!

Our community is friendly, welcoming and supportive. Anyone who joins us is treated as part of the group. We genuinely care for one another, and treat one another well. Why else would people stick around for decades? This year, we are transitioning into becoming a worker-owned cooperative. Although martial arts involves a hierarchy of belts, our instructors are not about ego. We work as a team and we treat our students with respect.


Thank you for your !

How Martial Arts Empowers Women

22 Aug

If you watch martial arts movies, you know that martial arts is extremely male-dominated. This often leaves women wondering if there is a place for them in martial arts classes. Am I strong enough? Will I get hurt? Will there be other women there? Will I be taken seriously? Will I be harassed?

Janice earned her black belt after 50!

Anyone can do martial arts. Male or female, any age, even people with physical or cognitive disabilities can learn to do martial arts. If an instructor tells you differently, that only demonstrates their ignorance.

Any well-qualified instructor who has integrity should make ANY new student feel welcome and supported at their school. If this is not the feeling you get from an instructor, look elsewhere! Remember, the rules for authority figures are the same for anyone else– if it feels disrespectful, it is disrespectful.

Reasons women benefit from martial arts training:

1) Feel stronger and more connected to your body. Martial arts training develops balance, coordination, flexibility, strength, speed and power. You will be amazed at what your body can do! How hard you hit has very little to do with how big you are. When you feel good about what your body can do, you feel good about your body in general.

I trust Jennifer Endres (now 5th degree Master Instructor) to strike with control in close quarters.

2) Get comfortable setting physical boundaries.Working in close quarters with classmates to practice self defense techniques may put you outside of your comfort zone initially, but you will quickly find yourself becoming more confident and less intimidated by other people who are in your space. You also learn to set clear physical boundaries through communicating with your practice partners.

Did I mention how fun it is?! Laughter is a great stress reliever!

3) Let go of stress and anger in a healthy way.There is something about the physical process of throwing strikes, in the air or on bags, that literally shakes stress out of your body. This, combined with the grounding of stance work and learning healthy breathing techniques makes martial arts an excellent stress reliever, especially for those of us who feel we need to keep our stress to ourselves (a common concern for many women).

From my 2nd degree test-- The woman in red is my mom, Master Mary Murphy. The 4th degrees on either side of me are now Master Instructors as well! There's no end to the opportunities for learning...

4) Develop a sense of achievement and success. Regular practice leads not only to significant improvement in technique, but to opportunities for rank advancement. There’s something very satisfying about tying on that shiny new belt, a visible reminder to the whole school of what you’ve accomplished through persistence and practice! Plus, rank trumps everything else in a martial arts school. When we line up to take a drink at the water fountain, it’s not “ladies first”, it’s “white belts first”!

If you are in the Madison, WI area, check out to schedule a free trial class.

When we think of sexual assault, men are often seen as the problem. It’s true that the overwhelming majority of sexual assault (and violent crime in general, for that matter) is committed by men, but it is also important to remember that most men do not commit violence.

Many men, in fact, go out of their way to prevent violence (and sexism).  You go, men! Let’s take a moment to recognize how awesome you are:

In Milwaukee recently, a have come together to respond to a string of attacks against women in their community.

In Wisconsin in general, we have a lot of great men doing anti-violence work. trains law enforcement to approach sexual assault cases with sensitivity. works for the and is a long-time member of . Some fraternity brothers at UW-Madison take a class through the School of Social Work () to change the rape culture for which fraternities (and college campuses in general, for that matter) have become so .

In the blogosphere, shout outs to Thomas at and at .

Then there’s the men I every day. They are AWESOME! Shout outs to Clint, , Scott, Marcus, Ted, Will, Robert, Doug, Jason, Andy and Marco who volunteer their time to serve as practice attackers for my women’s self defense classes. Shout out to Troy who, when a kickboxing student bragged to him that he was “only there to pick up girls”, stood up for the women at our studio and shamed the guy so he never came back! (Funny side note- he was worried I’d be mad about that.) The men I work with are so respectful, one of my kickboxers was telling me how she feels more comfortable as a woman at our studio than at places she’d worked out at previously with “macho” instructors. I reminded her that we have male instructors too and she said, “Yeah but your male instructors are great!”

I asked some of these men and others to share their thoughts about how men can work against violence. Here’s a few of the responses I got:

“What men need to do is really pretty simple: reject this culture. I believe it’s honestly not true that men are biologically sexually aggressive. The rejection of this culture in its most exaggerated form is obvious in the constant ridicule placed on the “bro” stereotype by everyone else, but there is still that undercurrent that seems to sometimes seep into otherwise decent men.”

“I’m dumbfounded that I still meet men who believe that women serve two purposes: Cleaning the house, and making babies. Those kind of men will never listen to women and change their ways. They feel they are right because so many of their friends think the way they do. Men need to voice their opinions more, so that those men still stuck in the dark ages will realize they are in the minority and at least consider changing their views. It won’t change all of their minds, they’re too stubborn. But with time and pressure from the rest of society, their numbers will dwindle.”

“Aside from the obvious one – “don’t commit sexual violence” – men need to be aware of the social & cultural forces that suggest that sexual violence doesn’t happen, isn’t a problem, is a joke, etc. Men should talk about these things openly, with one another and with women. They should understand what exactly constitutes sexual violence – that it isn’t always a strange guy jumping a woman in an alley somewhere. They should see adult men treating their female partners with respect.”

Men absolutely must be a part of the movement to end sexual violence. I send so much love and appreciation to the men who are already there. I challenge women who are doing this work to reach out to  men as allies, friends and brothers and welcome them.

P.S. Shout out to West High’s (directed by my dear friend, teacher and mentor ). High school kids perform about racism, sexism and other issues like these to elementary through high school audiences. Check out this video of Benny and Terri discussing consent in front of a very awkward high school audience. It’s pretty darn cute.

Interested in taking a class? Check out this video to see some former SAFE students who started with no previous experience and went on to train in Shaolin Kempo Karate:

Upcoming SAFE classes at Villari’s Martial Arts (401 N Lake St; Madison, WI)–

Wednesdays Feb 2-Feb 23 5:30-7pm and

Saturdays Feb 26 & March 5 9am-12pm

6 hrs instruction/ $59. Current Villari’s members get 50% off. $10 off if you bring a friend!

Call (608) 251-7755 or e–mail murphy@villarismadison.com to register for the class.


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