Villari’s Martial Arts Instructor Team












Master Jesse Harding, Director 

7th Degree Black Belt, Chief Instructor (2003-2023) & Director (2002- present).  Training in martial arts for nearly 40 years and teaching professionally for over 25 years!

Master Of Medical Qigong. AMOK! Instructor. Tai Chi & Qi-Gong Advanced Certified Instructor. Adjunct University Professor  (AGMU & previously Salve Regina University).

More Info on Jesse Harding- Click Here



Sensei Thomas Schmid, Chief Instructor

2nd Degree Black Belt, Chief Instructor (since 2023). Villari Certified Instructor (since 2010), began his Karate training in Germany in 1978 and earned his Black Belt in Shotokan Karate in 1989. Sensei Thomas served in the German Military Special Forces (1988-1999). He earned his 2nd Dan Black Belt in 2002 in Hawaii. Sensei Thomas has won first place in numerous International Karate Tournaments in Kata (Philadelphia International Tournament in 2012, Rhode Island International Tournament in 2013, Philadelphia International Tournament in 2014). He also won first place in numerous Villari Tournaments for Kata.

Sensei Thomas’s Villari Connection: Sensei Thomas brought his son to a Karate Birthday Party at Villari’s in 2005 and was impressed with how Master Jesse worked with all the kids. He signed his son up for classes here at Villari’s and joined adult classes to train with Master Jesse. Sensei Thomas went through Instructor Training with Master Jesse, worked with our Demo Team and taught classes at our school (2007-2012). Sensei Thomas has returned and we look forward to having him as an active instructor at our dojo!



Joe Goff- Villari Instructor, Office Assistant & Dojo Ambassador of Positive Vibes

Salve Regina University Graduate;  Business and Marketing

with a Masters in Holistic Counseling and Integral Leadership.

Former Captain of Salve Regina University’s Champion Rugby Team and Now Serves as Head Coach Of the Team.

Joe has a passion for  Meditation, Tai Chi, Qi-Gong and The Taoist Healing Arts. Joe is one of Villari’s certified Meditation and Qigong Instructors, who has studied

with Master Jesse for over 5 years.

Joe enjoys being creative with his talents and gifts. Joe is on a mission of spreading peace, love and goodness while being “unattached to the outcome”.

Joe took some of Master Jesse’s college courses at Salve Regina University (Art & Science of Meditation and Taoist Philosophy), then interned at Villari’s and “the rest is history.”

Joe teaches Kids Karate classes, does private lessons and teaches classes in Meditation and Qigong at Villari’s.



Avary Serpa, 1st Degree Black Belt, Assistant Instructor

Demo Team Captain, Black Belt Club, STORM & Leadership Team.

Avary has been training consistently since she was 5 years old.

Avary has had a long history of success in competing at Karate Tournaments.

In one tournament she won first place in all 3 events: Sparring, Kata and Weapons!

Avary has been a huge part of our Dojo Team and now assists with teaching classes.

The kids love her fun, positive and enthusiastic style of teaching.



Deb Leong 

Master Deborah Leong, Chief Instructor of Villari’s Martial Arts Center of Cranston, RI.

Master Deb, 6th degree Black Belt, spent 10 years as a software engineer at various companies contracting for the Department of Defense (Navy); 8 years in hospitality operating her family Chinese Restaurant business; 30 years in the martial arts teaching self defense (Shaolin Kempo Karate) and T’ai Chi (Yang, S’un, and Chen styles). Master Deb, a long time friend of Master Jesse, taught at our school for many years (from 2002-2012). Master Deb and Master Jesse both studied with Judan John Fritz for nearly 30 years. Some of her achievements include:

Dr. Paul Lam – Tai Chi for Diabetes, Arthritis, Back Pain
Salve Regina University – Professional Cert. Expressive Arts Therapy

2000 37th International FVSSD (Fred Villari Studios of Self Defense) Tournament (Grand Champion Weapons, Grand Champion Kata, 2nd Place Sparring, 3rd Place Push Hand
Nominee for the Distinction of “Minority Small Business Advocate of the Year 1997”.
1996 Outstanding Asian Community Leader.
1996 & 1997 T’ai Chi Forms Gold Medalist – Villari’s International Organization.
1994 Grand Champion World Max International Martial Arts Tournament (Karate Forms, Weapons, & T’ai Chi Forms ).











Sensei Paul Zasada
3rd Degree Black Belt, Certified Instructor. AMOK! and Tai Chi-Qigong practitioner.  Over 15 years of training!

LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor) and Certified Hakomi Therapist.  Adjunct professor at Salve Regina University.

BA in Philosophy and minor in Psychology. MA in Holistic Counseling (Salve Regina University).  Eagle Scout.

Paul had an office at Villari’s from (2012-2020) where he conducted “Integral Psychotherapy” and is still available for counseling sessions virtually.

To learn more, please contact Paul directly and visit his website at the link below. He is still taking new clients and can meet virtually for those who are good with that option.

Sensei Paul is married with 4 children and lives out of state but will always be part of our Villari Family! Sensei Paul trained with Master Jesse for many years.

Email:       Website:












Sensei Matthew Murphy

4th Degree Black Belt, Certified Instructor. Over 15 years of training!

Captain of the Middletown Villari’s Demo Team. STORM Team & Leadership Team Coach/Instructor.

BA in Administration of Justice (Salve Regina University) and MA in Education (University of Rhode Island). Rhode Island Certified Elementary Teacher.

Matthew is a top-notch instructor who “goes the extra mile” to always find ways to bring out  the best in all those who he works with!

Mr. Murphy taught at Gaudet Middle School and other local schools for a few years. In 2021 he moved to New Hampshire where he teaches high school and

lives with his lovely wife. Sensei Matt still trains with Master Jesse privately and is working toward his 5th degree Black Belt. When Sensei Matt visits the area

he stops in to join us for classes, which is awesome! He has been a big part of our dojo for many years.

For several years, Sensei Matt also offered Academic Tutoring Services & Martial Art Personal Training at our dojo.



black belt brian dube

Brian Dube- Assistant Instructor

1st Degree Black Belt.  Over 10 years of training with Master Jesse at Villari’s!

Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Brian has a passion for Tai Chi, Qi-Gong, Meditation and the Shaolin Arts.

Brian moved to California in 2021 with his wife Kim.

Master Jesse and Brian are still in touch and get together when possible.












Chris Vaillancourt- Assistant Instructor

1st Degree Black Belt, Assistant Instructor. Over 10 years of training with Master Jesse at Villari’s!

Chris is a professional musician and performs with several bands in Rhode Island and through New England.

Chris has a passion for AMOK! Combatives, Kuntao and the Shaolin Arts.

Chris is also available to teach private guitar lessons by request and taught private guitar lessons at Villari’s for several years.

Chris moved out of town with his girlfriend and pops into visit and train with us when he is in the area.












Jimmy Adams

1st Degree Black Belt, Assistant Instructor. Over 10 years of training!

Member of the Middletown Villari’s Demo Team. STORM Team & Leadership Team Member. FIST Team Member.

Jimmy was always AWESOME with all of the kids he worked with and brought lots of ENTHUSIASM and FUN to every class!

Jimmy went off to college and is engaged in numerous projects and work. We are delighted anytime he pops in to visit the dojo.












Jade Burns

Blue with Stripe, Office Assistant. FIST Member. Summer Camp Leader. LARP expert. King Richard’s Fair worker.

Jade spent many years with us at Villari’s training, along with her husband Pat and son Owen, and assisting in the office.

Jade was a big part of our Villari team assisting with special events, parties, classes, movie nights. Jade is awesome!

We are always happy when she can visit to say Hi.












Sheila Joyce

2nd Degree Black Belt. Instructor Assistant. Over 15 years of training!

Sheila, now a college graduate, trained with us consistently from 4 years old to college age!

Member of the Middletown Villari’s Demo Team. STORM Team & Leadership Team Member. FIST Team Member.

Sheila was a big part of our Villari Family for 14 years, before moving away to college!

She learned the most amount of Weapon Katas (Bo staff, Tonfa, Kamas, Katana, Kali Sticks, Fan, Sai, Tai Chi Sword, Broadsword, Double Daggers,

Butterfly Swords, Nun-Chucks…) from Master Jesse, more than any other student. LOL. She enjoyed learning those weapon forms!


jesse bday IPhone Mar 5 2016 740











Paige Goter

2nd Degree Black Belt, Assistant Instructor. Over 12 years of training!

Paige, now a college student, has been training with us since she was 4 years old!

Member of the Middletown Villari’s Demo Team. STORM Team & FIST Team Member.












Sean Nalle  

1st Degree Black Belt, Assistant Instructor. Over 8 years of training!

Member of the Middletown Villari’s Demo Team. STORM Team & FIST Team Member.



storm team picture cropped

S.T.O.R.M. TEAM MEMBERS (Student Team Of Role Models) OVER THE YEARS:

STORM Team Pic old school villaris martial arts

STORM Team members assist in kids classes and receive training in leadership and teaching skills.

If your child is interested in joining the STORM team speak to us in the office to learn about to get started.

These are pictures of some of our STORM Team members over the years. STORM members where a Blue Gi Top or Blue School Shirt and White Pants.

Jes picsJuly Aug 2011 922img_4174A stance

Student of Month Villaris Middletown RI NOV 2015Student of Month Feb 2020Karma Student of Month OCT 2018 Villari's Martial ArtsIMG_6228



Student of Month March 2018 Villari's Studio Middletown RIVegas 2006 009


Tribute to Master Andy Levine

Andy Levine has served Middletown and the Aquidneck Island as Chief Instructor and Director of

Villari’s Studios of Self Defense from 1985 to 2002.

How do you thank someone who has been such a positive force and presence in the lives of so many people, for so long? This tribute is just one small token of appreciation. We here at Middletown Villari’s are eternally grateful to Andy Levine for bringing Villari’s to this area and for his 17 years of dedicated service to his students and our community. Andy has served as a force for good, positively shaping hundreds of lives through his example and teaching of martial arts.


These are just a few of the ways Andy has served our community: D.A.R.E. programs, “kick a thon” fundraisers, summer camps, holiday parties, working in school systems and teaching Tai Chi in local senior centers.  All of us who currently enjoy the Tai Chi and Amok! classes here owe thanks to Andy for introducing them to Middletown Villari’s.


Andy comes from his heart and his deep and genuine caring for people is clear. Through the years, Andy always went “the extra mile,” investing countless hours above and beyond “the call of duty” in his mission of service.  Andy always taught that the martial arts are about personal development and self-improvement in all areas of one’s life and as an instructor, he looked to bring the very best out in each person, mentally, physically, and emotionally.


In the Dojo, Andy was friendly, personal, very observant and insightful, at times playful and humorous, yet always focused on conveying the most important and appropriate lessons. One of Andy’s greatest strengths as a teacher is his ability to “empty his cup” and he demonstrated this consistently in the classroom by listening deeply to people with a clear and open mind.  What set Andy apart from most instructors is the fact that he knew how to ask the right questions, well thought, empowering questions that stimulated the mind and expanded awareness.  Andy use to ask: What does it mean to be a Black Belt?  Is being a Black Belt just about knowing how to punch and kick or is it more than that?  Andy taught that being a Black Belt is a way of life and about being humble, “to walk softly, carry a big stick.”  One phrase that summarizes Andy’s teaching philosophy is: “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”  Thank you Andy for always teaching us how to fish!


All of us who have had the honor of studying with Andy have received a priceless gift that will forever live within us.  All of us who now practice and train here at Middletown Villari’s owe a humble and grateful bow to Andy.  Andy you have made a major positive difference in our community, you have set a tone that continues to carry on in this school and you will forever hold a special place in the heart of Middletown Villari’s!  Andy we wish you the very best on your journey and whenever you walk into this Dojo you are welcomed with the greatest respect and highest honor.