Villari’s instructors at the Plattsburgh studio (Left to right) : Assistant Instructor Casey Belrose, Master Instructor Mike Flanagan, Second Degree Helper Abbie Farley, Certified Cardio Instructor Leisa Boise, Master David Boise, and Assistant Instructor Carter Timon.
When the Villari’s studio opened 30 years ago, karate and the martial arts were such little-known sports that Master David Boise found it difficult to find a landlord who would rent him space for his studio.
Boise, a ninth-degree black belt, founded the Villari’s Self Defense Center of Plattsburgh in 1986. Boise, along with his wife Leisa and their assistant instructors, run a variety of courses for clients age 4 and older.
This September they will celebrate 30 years of education and fitness in Plattsburgh.
“My instructor, Grand Master Fred Villari’s, started opening stores and he asked me if I would open in Barre, Vt,” Boise said. “No one would rent to me because they didn’t know what karate was.”
Boise said the idea of teaching the sport was still relatively uncharted territory at the time.
“It is a sport of tradition, generally taught from one generation to the next and certainly not main stream,” Boise said. “We didn’t teach anyone under the age of 18 then, it was considered a brutal sport and none of us knew how to train children.”
After having no luck in finding prospective properties in Barre, Boise said he turned to Plattsburgh because his father was serving at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base and his mother was teaching locally. He found the property on 54 Margaret Street and with “a lot of hard work and discipline” he was able to introduce karate to the Plattsburgh area.
“Generally in ‘83 there was no model, you worked outside or at your instructors house,” Boise said. “It was before the Karate Kid, before Ninja’s and MMA fighting made people come into the studio.”
Boise said he learned along with other instructors how to tailor classes for younger children.
“It’s been kind of unique, we teach discipline and self discipline and our number one rule is respect and treating people the way you want to be treated,” Boise said. “Our principles are the same for all age levels and we expand that as the students make it to new levels.”
For each class Boise said he generalizes moves while tailoring moves for the individual student.
“The martial arts is nice because it’s a very neat type of workout. Even though you’re in a group class it’s a very individualized activity,” Boise said.
The Plattsburgh studio offers a wide range of courses from self-defense, weights, abdominal/core workouts, setup aerobics and cardio kickboxing.
The reasons behind clients coming to the studio are very different, Boise said, but at the studio they can receive an individualized lesson in martial arts to teach discipline, self defense and empowerment.
“For everyone our class serves as both physical fitness as well as a stress reliever,” Boise said. “A lot of people like the challenge because not only are you getting a good work out physically but mentally it’s very stimulating that’s why people like it because it is never the same class; we never do the same thing.”
Boise said another component people are attracted to is the rich history and traditional values the sport teaches students.
Karate classes are offered for both men and women. There are also female-only cardio kickboxing classes taught by Leisa.
“The biggest benefit is self defense. It’s kind of like the cardio and kick boxing Leisa has been doing that since 1995,” Boise said, “which comes after 18 years of experience. I think the best thing for women is when they come in and see a change within the first couple weeks.”
Leisa said the women who come to the class can be shy at first. Oftentimes, however, they are the women who “cannot be peeled” from the bag at the end of the class, she said.
“The cardio people like it because it is very empowering. When we started it we didn’t want it to be very co-ed. Women like to get girls together and kick, punch and sweat,” Leisa said. “It’s empowering because self defense empowers you to speak your mind better, be more assertive and is a huge confidence builder. They say it’s a very therapeutic release.”
Boise said the classes are especially good for women as they tend to internalize stress. He said his students say they love coming in and taking it out on the punching bag.
“It’s a great workout — it’s not just physical but mental,” Leisa said.
With cardio and martial arts class, Boise said there is always going to be those down days “where you didn’t sleep well, eat well, and feel like they only put 60 percent into it.
But, he said, “that’s okay. You put as much into it as you want to get out of it.”
One of the best things about working out at Villari’s, Boise said, is the courses encourage students to work every muscle group in the body and really engage them.
Boise said for his upcoming anniversary the studio will be offering discounted memberships.
“Martial arts are now more professional and people are more educated, the traditional arts will always be around,” Boise said.
The crew at Villari’s challenges anyone interested in participating in the sport a free introductory course.
In September, in honor of their anniversary celebration, they will be offering discounted memberships, including a free uniform, with monthly memberships of $55. Original prices were $125 monthly membership, plus a $35 charge for uniforms.
“Come in and train with the professionals,” Boise said. “We model success because we work really hard and we hope for 30 more years in Plattsburgh.”
For more information on the studio, call Villari’s at 561-8592 or email Boise at firstname.lastname@example.org.