Back to California


Sensei Farzin Omidvar & Christopher N. Geary (San Clemente, California).When I got back to the U.S., I went back to my school in San Clemente and continued to work with Sensei Omidvar. He told me that I had to enter a tournament to get my blue belt. At the tournament I saw Professor Nick Cerio for the first time and found out that he was the advisor to Charles Mattera, the man who owned or was in charge of USSD. This tournament had it all: smoke, mirrors, and music, whatever. Professor Cerio was doing his thing. Then at the end of the show/seminar he promoted Charles Mattera to his eighth-degree black belt. Someone told me later that he had already been promoted to eighth degree, but this time was for show. It was pretty cool. I remember him doing some mass attacks (fending off multiple attackers). He asked one of the biggest guys (who appeared to be about 6'3" and more than 250 pounds, in comparison with Nick Cerio who was about 5'5" tall) to come up on the stage and try to break his arm. The purpose of this demonstration was to show the devolvement of chi (breathing exercises that control internal strength). Everyone had a very clear understanding that Professor Cerio was the man.

I continued my studies with Sensei Omidvar until I went on my last tour overseas in the Marine Corps. This time I went to Okinawa and Korea. When I returned I had only about five months left in the Marines, so I wanted to get my green belt as fast as I could before I got out. I didn't really know how I was going to get my black belt at that time, but I knew that I wanted to teach. I knew for certain that I didn't want to be part of USSD. I really got the feeling that their focus was on draining money from the students, and I didn't want to have anything to do with that. I wanted someone to truly look at my technique and tell me what I was worth.

I returned to my school to find that my instructor had left or been replaced. From what I understood, all kinds of things were going on. Professor Cerio was gone, and Sensei Omidvar was doing his own thing. I did talk to him once or twice on the phone after that and found out that he was teaching in Orange County. I wanted to keep training with him, but it was too far to travel. I could barely make it to class in San Clemente by taking buses and hitchhiking with other Marines. It took me about an hour just to get to the school in San Clemente.

So I finished my Kempo training under a middle-aged woman named Taroze Vizier, a first-degree black belt with USSD who had taken over the school. She pretty much taught me from a book for about four months. At times it was clear to me that she was totally lost. I remember her telling me that she had tested in front of Fred Villari a while back. Years later, someone told me that Fred Villari had owned the name United Studios of Self Defense and had sold it to Mattera or something like that. Fred Villari had also been a black belt student of Nick Cerio and had taken ideas from him and left with some of Nick Cerio's instructors. Years after leaving Nick Cerio, Fred Villari reappeared as a tenth-degree black belt. No one knew how he got it, but I think most agree that he got it from himself. Taroze Vizier told me that she had really clocked Villari hard during her black belt test and that he had told her it was very disrespectful of her to do that. I was under the impression from what she told me that he had said, "Defend yourself," and she had got the best of him. I remember seeing her as more of a friend than an instructor, but she could definitely hold her own. I was discharged from the Marine Corps in the late spring of 1994 with an honorable discharge. When I headed home to Omaha, I had attained the rank of E-4 (Corporal) from the Marines and the rank of green-brown in Kempo Karate. Both ranks brought me feelings of pride and accomplishment.

Since I left USSD I have heard from many of its former instructors and students. They have confirmed my belief that the top priority at USSD seems to be maximizing profits. I don't have a problem with making money, and I realize that businesses need to make money to stay afloat. When profit becomes more important than anything else, though, the system is messed up and everyone suffers. I have heard that USSD students are required to pay high fees for belt promotions, tournament participation, and so on, and people end up running schools simply because they have invested a certain amount of time and money, even though their skill level may be inadequate for teaching kempo. As a result, USSD students often pay a lot of money for poor-quality instruction. In June 2006 I heard rumors that Villari was planning to buy out USSD and to replace all of the district managers with his own people by mid-July 2006. I also heard that Mattera was planning to retire after a USSD China Trip in the summer of 2006 and then Villari would take over and change the name back to Fred Villari’s Shaolin Kempo. From what I’ve been told, the students at USSD have no idea what’s to come. It makes me glad I have stayed far away from them over the years.

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