Sensei Gene Villa started his martial arts training in 1963 at the age of five under the instruction of his father, Gene Villa Sr., a sandan in judo, who had studied both judo and shotokan karate in Japan while in the US Air Force. In 1973 at the age of fourteen, young Gene told his dad he wanted to learn karate. Gene Villa Sr. taught his son the basics and said he could join a school later.
The first school Sensei Gene attended taught American Kenpo Karate. Later, he got involved in Muay Thai Kickboxing. In 1978 he started training in the USA Goju system. Although the school heavily emphasized tournament style karate, they required kata for grading. Sensei became quite meticulous in his approach to perfecting the forms they taught, but he would later decide that the instruction in kata was not up to his personal standards. In 1981 Sensei Villa became a shodan in the USA Goju system.
In March 1983, Sensei Villa began teaching at a local health club, as well as Fairchild Air Force Base. In teaching, he began to realize what a great responsibility an instructor has to his students; Not only to perfect one's own skills, but to impart that knowledge to others. Even though he had great success in tournaments, winning in both kata and kumite at every major tournament in the Northwest, he began to question what he had been taught. There seemed to be no connection between what was taught in kata and what was taught in kumite. In 1989 Sensei Gene and his old instructor parted ways.
Seeking answers to the true nature of karate, an instructor recommended Sensei Villa go to meet a man named Morio Higaonna. In October 1990 Sensei Villa met Sensei Higaonna for the first time at the 2nd Miyagi Chojun Festival. Meeting Sensei Higaonna was a life-changing experience for Sensei Villa. Sensei Villa believes that through Higaonna Sensei's teachings and example, he has become a better martial artist, a better teacher and a better human being.
Sensei Gene continued studying Goju-Ryu and became a member of the IOGKF. Sensei Gene Villa was awarded the rank of Rokudan (6th degree black betl) in Okinawa at the 2004 World Budosai by Higaonna Morio Sensei. At the 2009 Miyagi Chojun Festival, Higaonna Sensei Announced that Sensei Villa would take on the responsibility of Chief Instructor of the United States.
Sensei Gene retired from the position of IOGKF-USA Chief Instructor in 2019
Sensei Villa continues to operate Family Karate Center, in Spokane, Washington.
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