Skip to main content

Villari's Self Defense Centers Syracuse

America's Martial Arts Professionals Since 1968
About Us
Contact Us & Map
Site Map
Programs of Study
Shaolin Kempo Karate Root
Videos and Links
Syracuse Schedule
The Masters Bios
About Us   
 Great Grandmaster Fred Villari recognizing Ken for 30 years of studies with him and promoting Master Ken Canestraro to 7th Degree Black Belt at the 45th anniversary seminar in 2013





Ken and Ninjutsu legend and pioneer An-shu Stephen K. Hayes                                      Villari flyer        How to Choose a School

An-Shu Hayes personally authorized Ken to introduce To-Shin Do  to

new students in central NY.

Family is a central focus of our new studio. Besides the fitness and martial arts you can all share, you and your family can enjoy participating in some of our events such as Movie Night, Family Night, Arts on the Beach, Summer Bash, and all the fun community events we are committed to.


           Don't like annual contracts?  Neither do we...  Don't like inflated pricing plans? Nah we're not big fans either...


                      So there's your sneak peek into what's coming at the brand new Villari's Martial Arts & Wellness Center

Gorgeous new studio with true dojo feel. Brand new climate control system for comfort

                                                              Company history
Founded in 1968 in Waltham, MA, our organization continues to grow across North America as the premier martial arts instruction chain.  Mr. Fred Villari envisioned that martial arts should become a practical vehicle for everyone to learn self defense, fitness, and a healthy activity.  To that end, we changed the paradigm of the industry from dimly lit dojos in church basements or corners of smelly gyms with questionable instructors to professional retail storefronts in safe neighborhoods with wall to wall carpeting, trained & experienced instructors, separate classes for adults and children, with rates most anyone could afford.  We've taught generations of Americans, now it's your turn !

The name synonymous with the growth of martial arts in America

 Great Grandmaster Villari is a 12th degree black belt, the highest rank one can attain in a martial art, and is the founder of the Shaolin Kempo Karate system – an innovative approach that combined Japanese martial arts with Chinese martial arts and Western boxing.

His organization is the world's largest chain of professional martial arts studios, and has been so since its inception more than four decades ago. This method has spread throughout the world as more than 500 schools have been opened that teach his method. He has been inducted into the World Masters Hall of Fame alongside Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Jackie Chan.

For more than 48 years, Fred Villari has been a pioneer in the martial arts. By bringing many styles together to form an effective unity of disciplines, he revolutionized the way martial artists thought about fighting. Over the years, his schools have brought Asian martial arts to the western world on unprecedented levels. He has developed many of the respected masters teaching today in the United States and Canada, and overseen the training of more than 20 million students.

“Martial arts has become accepted as part of the mainstream of America,” noted Villari who was one of the leading pioneers of the industry.

"I see a very bright future for the sport
and innovative ways that are evolving with these challenging times."

With the threat of terrorism and street crime, there is an even greater need to be prepared to defend yourself. Villari continued, “From the oil crisis to the high cost of living, there is a lot of stress today. Stress leads to bad things. Working out via martial arts helps relax the student and, at the same time, develops a calm, confidence that they can manage any situation that may come along.”

Growing up Fred Villari studied martial arts with his father. Later he was exposed to and studied several martial arts styles. During this period he trained under Nick Cerio that was a student of Professor William K.S. Chow. Fred Villari's approach to Kempo was to maintain the style as he learned it through Nick Cerio and that is how it is presented in the Fred Villari System today.  Fred Villari realized, because of his varied wealth of experience and his dedication in seeking the ultimate fighting system, that each method offered something unique, and each also had its glaring weaknesses that could make a fighter vulnerable.

Grandmaster Fred Villari concluded that there really were only four ways of fighting.
  1. With your hands (punching, striking - open or closed hand) or use of any part of the arms, elbows, forearms, etc.
  2. Kicking (with foot, leg, knee, shin)
  3. Felling - that is to knock an opponent off his feet by throwing, tripping, pulling, pushing, shoving, or scooping him
  4. Grappling - by either wrestling, holding, breaking, locking bones or joints against nerve centers

Grandmaster Fred Villari realized that the ultimate in self-defense lay not in one way or style of fighting.


By combining the "Four Ways of Fighting." he devised and developed ways to integrate diverse methods of fighting into one, eliminating weaknesses and vulnerabilities. This is the central theory and method behind Villari's art of Shaolin Kempo Karate. The backbone of the Fred Villari's style is the Shaolin system since he felt it was the best for promoting overall good health, wisdom and longevity. This system is well balanced, incorporating mind, body and spirit into one.

Grandmaster Villari promoted his ideas well through solid instruction and modern business practices. Eventually his method was spread throughout the world. His contribution helped open the way of the Asian martial arts, on a massive scale, to the ordinary layman. Grandmaster Villari is still actively teaching and demonstrating the martial arts in his schools today.

Special events like local and national tournaments and seminars with Great Grandmaster Villari and his Masters are held throughout the year for fun and making new friends.

3 of Master Canestraro's old Black Belts judging a kata at a Villari's tournament 

People are talking...
TESTIMONIAL from an associate of a student of ours, who also studies another martial arts system....

You have worked very hard for your previous black belts and I know you will work even harder for this one. I do have to tell you that I went to a seminar in Mass. last weekend and we stopped at a Villari's school. We sat quietly and watched. What we saw was very impressive and what we heard was amazing. First, it makes me happy to hear that you are learning from one of the best in the Villari's system. The instructor in the Mass. School spoke very highly of Master C and it made me smile. Second, we left saying "Holy Crap" and I am not kidding. There was absolutely no fluff, no flash and excuse me, but no monkey business going on. What we saw where people blocking and dropping quicker than we could say WOW! You always told me Kempo was a very effective but real form of martial arts and you where not joking. I enjoyed and appreciated what I saw. 


TESTIMONIAL FROM STACY:  Best thing I've ever done. And honestly your teaching saved my life at least once. Seriously! Thank you!


TESTIMONIAL FROM CONNIE: That we were made to feel at home and at ease the second that we walked in, which is very important to me as a parent considering the amount of time that my son will be spending there !


TESTIMONIAL from Michelle - Awesome self defense class can't wait to come back after softball season


TESTIMONIAL from Shawn - I started training with Master Leggeri in 1984 and although I had to stop training, I always liked how complete the system is. I'm glad Villari's has come to Syracuse!


TESTIMONIAL from Chris - Villari's is the best place to learn martial arts - a blend of traditional martial arts and real-world practical self defense material. It's family friendly and has a welcoming atmosphere.


From Adam- Master Ken Canestraro has been with the Villari organization for over three decades and teaches this revolutionary system in it's pure unadulterated form focusing on history, tradition, self-defense, positive values for children and wellness for adults. While Martial Arts schools are a dime a dozen, what is offered by Master Canestraro and the Villari system is something truly unique and utterly invaluable in today's high stress, high risk world.


From Ali - Very friendly and comfortable environment. Thank you guys


From Anthony - It really fun to learn karate


From Matt - Great place!


From Timothy-

Really appreciate how Master Ken & Adam interact with the students and their families. Well worth the investment.


From Jamie-One of the questions that I get asked the most when it comes to training, martial arts, fighting, fitness, ect is..."where did it all begin?"...

Well, here's your answer, 26 years ago in the upstairs of the Oswego YMCA with Master Ken Canestraro. He's my Yoda, Mr. Miyagi, and Yip Man. Anyone who I ever trained, trained with, or beat up(HA) can thank this guy...because that's where it all started...  I felt like that same small skinny 15yr old kid walking in to the Y for the first time in awe of my teacher. I wish I had the time to speak to your younger students about "this was where it began for me"...

Like I told that woman in the waiting area...that was where I started 26yrs ago...


From Vanessa - Vanessa- Ken, it is an honor to (virtually) meet you and thank you. Your impact on Jamie's life has trickled down its effects to this 29 year old in Orlando. To see that after over two decades, Jamie continues to visit and pay respect to his roots is a testament to the impact that you've had on his life. He has a tremendous amount of respect and love for you, and so do I.


From Julie: Fantastic!! We were welcomed with open arms! Small class sizes make it much more intimate and personalized!!! Loving the positive atmosphere and would highly recommend!

From Master Mark Grupposo, 10th Dan, President of Villari's -Master Ken Canestraro, Senior Instructor - “Master Ken” is one of the most dynamic teachers in the Villari organization. Ken’s high-energy, upbeat attitude and emphasis on developing positive character is reflected in the success of his students. Master Ken is an expert in a variety of the traditional martial arts weaponry and is an avid sport karate enthusiast. Ken dotes on his two daughters Shelby and Shayla. 
 Master Instructor Ken Canestraro has three decades of experience teaching martial arts for Villari's. He's led studios in Boston, Marlboro & Natick MA over the years and now is home to Syracuse.  He loves a family focused dojo with non stop special and fun events thru the year.  A special point of pride is in his students that become Black Belts and then go on to operate their own schools and continue the tradition.  He's had the honor of  raising some very talented champions and gifted teachers in New England over the years that he still calls friends.
Ken was promoted to Chief Instructor of his own school  in 1987, promoted personally by GM Villari to Master in 2001, currently is a 7th Dan, and has been training and teaching in the same system and with same organization for 30 years!No change in school names, styles, methods, organizations, etc.  This offers THE truest instruction in Authentic Shaolin Kempo Karate !
He's been asked by Great Grandmaster Villari to be one of the Masters who head up the expansion of the organization across North America and support new operators and instructors.  He's happy to be a personal associate and friend of Mr. Villari.
 He's currently in the Retired Reserve for the US Army Reservewhere he served a career in military law enforcement and armorer. He also served in the US Navy in the crypto field for several years.  He currently volunteers with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary where he can serve America in Homeland Security and on the water ways in Upstate NY. 
For those serving as LE/Military, Ken teaches tactical knife, firearms, firearms retention and disarms. He's a Glock Professional Certified Armorer.
He and his daughters live locally so this new location for a school and regional HQ is very important to him.

To-Shin Do Ninjutsu has also been a passion of Master Canestraro for many years and he's happy to be bringing the art to Syracuse! 

An-Shu Stephen Hayes personally authorized Ken to introduce To-Shin Do  to

new students in central NY.

Come see why his infectious enthusiasm for the arts has been enjoyed by students for decades and made positive changes in countless  lives...