Master Mary Murphy Edwards owned her first martial arts studio in 1984 in Montreal, Canada where she taught Fred Villari’s Shaolin Kempo Karate. In 1989, she opened our current studio on State Street. During her career she operated several schools, trained exceptional instructors who continue to teach in Madison and beyond, and launched one of the first local kickboxing programs in the 90’s.
A pioneer for women in the martial arts, she passed her legacy to her daughter Ali Treviño-Murphy in 2007, who soon after initiated the transition to cooperative ownership while pursuing her masters degree in social work. We officially became Villari’s Martial Arts Cooperative in 2013. Since then, we’ve deepened our expertise in Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD), an evidence-based violence prevention strategy.
During the pandemic pause, we were forced to close our doors for over a year, but we made it through with the support of our incredible community. Now, with the addition of online courses and increasingly customized private self-defense workshops, we reemerged as Underground Self-Defense. While martial arts instruction will always be our foundation, we wanted to highlight our continued focus on self-defense at a time when competition and sport fighting have become the trend in the industry. Underground is a nod to our location, but also speaks to the power that lies below the surface in each of us, waiting to be unleashed.