SENSEI GENE VILLA – IOGKF USA CHIEF INSTRUCTOR – 6th Dan
I started my martial arts training in 1963 at the age of five under the instruction of my father, Gene Villa Sr. My father studied judo and shotokan karate while stationed in Japan, however, he excelled in judo and was a member of the U.S. Air Force Judo Team and competed all over the country.
I continued my training in judo until 1972, when the Kung Fu movie craze hit America. I was 14 and thought the movies I saw were the coolest things I had ever seen. So, naturally, I wanted to try something other than judo. My father, concerned that I might abuse what I learned on my four younger brothers, said that he would teach me the basics of karate and that if I showed restraint in regard to disagreements with said brothers, I could later join an actual martial arts school. It was difficult, but I learned some self-control and was allowed to begin my journey of the striking arts.
The first school I went to was a Thai kickboxing school. I don’t remember much about the techniques taught, but remember a lot about the physical conditioning. It was hard work, but I loved it. Unfortunately, at fifteen years of age, I made little money and found I had to stop for financial reasons. I continued to train on my own and when I had money would investigate other schools. This lead me to try kenpo, a shotokan class, another kenpo school and finally, a U.S.A. Goju school. It was there that I remained from 1978 to 1989.
Also in 1978, I was taking classes at the community college and met and trained with Teruo Chinen Sensei. That was my first introduction to Okinawan Goju-Ryu. However, since I was a student of the USA Goju, I remained with that school. During
that time I became that instructor’s first black belt, later earning a nidan. The school heavily emphasized tournament competition and I became one of the top competitors in the Northwest and at one point being ranked 3rd in the region. While training in USA Goju I was also introduced to Chinese Wushu and was able to spend six weeks in China training. It was an amazing experience for me as a young man.
It was in 1983, I began my dream of starting my own school. As an instructor I began to realize what a great responsibility I had to the people who came to me for instruction. It lead me to ask many questions about what I had learned and what I still hadn’t learned. Unfortunately, along the way my instructor and I no longer saw things the same way. How he lived his life was in total opposition to what I believed an instructor should be like. We parted ways and I found myself wondering what direction to take my school.
In the summer of 1990, I sought out the advice of a respected instructor in the Northwest who directed me to seek out a man named Sensei Morio Higaonna. I had no idea who he was, other than he had trained Sensei Chinen, but I was intrigued enough to go to the 2nd Miyagi Chojun Festival and meet him. The rest as they say is history.
To say Sensei changed my life doesn’t even cover it. To say I didn’t really start studying karate until I met him, is pretty accurate. I truly had no idea how much I didn’t know until I started training with Sensei. Under his guidance I continue to learn, develop and grow as an instructor, but more importantly as a person. I can never repay what Sensei has done for me over the years, but by passing on what I have learned from this extraordinary man, I hope I at least honor his teachings. Thank you Sensei.
See a Sensei Gene Villa Kata Clip Below: