History of EXCEL Learning Center for Martial Arts was founded in 1980 by Steve Schatvet after many years of studying Shotokan in Sharon, MA. At a time when it was rare to see a martial arts ‘business’, the Learning Center was simply a group of students collecting wherever and whenever they could including areas in Norwood, Norfolk, Canton, Sharon, and Mansfield. Always eager to learn, Steve Schatvet along with many of his top students Vinnie Guerrini, Mike Hebert, Marshall Wolff, and Paul Curtin began studying under Professor Nick Cerio of Nick Cerio’s Kenpo. The Learning Center, although still in various locations, was now centered in Norwood and in Mansfield. By the mid-80’s the school had well over 300 students. In 1990, Steve Schatvet had separated from Professor Cerio and was looking to expand his curriculum. He began seeking out professionals in their art, who could bring new ideas into the Learning Center. These individuals included Kenny Wagner (Boxing/ Kickboxing), John Cabrall (Jui Jitsu/ Judo), Thomas Sotis (Analytical Combat/ Filipino Arts), Bob McKittrick (Isshin-Ryu), and Peter DeBlaiso (Tai Chi Chu’an). Through the 1990’s student Cody Robyn began training as an assistant instructor and later as full time instructor at the Norwood Learning Center. By 1995, Cody began intense training for his Black Belt. Around the same time, John Hagman, a former student of the Murnanes and Steve Schatvet, returned and began training for his 2nd degree Black Belt. In April of 1996, both tested for their new rank and began teaching together at the Norwood Dojo.
John Hagman was the 5th student to receive his 1st Degree Black Belt at the Learning Center for Martial Arts
In February 1997, John and Cody took over the Mansfield Learning Center at that time located on 30 Crocker Street. Following the tradition of the instructor, John and Cody decided to also seek out professionals in their art to add to an already successful program. These individuals included Paul Curtin (Eclectic Karate), Greg Morgan (Filipino Stickfighting), Tom Sotis (AMOK! Knifefighting), George Dillman (Ryukyu Kempo), Evan Pantazi (Kyusho Jitsu), and Dave Bilyeu (Internal Arts/ Tai Chi). As our instructors and students became more and more adept to the various styles, it became necessary to define a style that would not only add to the system already being taught, but to format it in a way that would invite more as we continue to learn. That system is called American-Te®. In 2003, the Mansfield Learning Center took full control of the Norwood Learning Center, thus bringing them back together.
The Norwood Dojo is now located at 165 Nahatan Street in Norwood Center. The Mansfield School is now located at 397 Oakland Street in Mansfield near the Foxborough/ Mansfield line.
In April 2014, John and Cody took over Excel Studios located at 585 Washington Street in Canton and later that year the Dojo of Champions at 1193 North Main Street in Randolph. In 2015, the school known for 35 years as Learning Center for Martial Arts, became Excel Martial Arts, uniting the 4 locations and including the Recreation Department Programs of Mansfield, Norwood, Canton and Sharon.
History of American-Te®
Shihan Steve Schatvet (Shotokan/ Kenpo/ Jiu-Jitsu)
Professor Tom Sotis (AMOK!/ Analytical Combat)
Shihan Evan Pantazi (Kyusho International™)
Professor Nick Cerio (Nick Cerio’s Kenpo)
Sifu David Bilyeu (Internal Arts/ Tai Chi)
LCMA Master Instructors (American-Te®)
In 1974 Steve Schatvet began training in Japanese Karate at Massapoag Martial Arts under Donald Murnane and his son Brian Murnane. In 1978 Schatvet received his 1st Degree (Shodan) black belt and in 1980 left to begin his own school, taking with him his top students, Steve Giampa, and Vinnie Guerrini. In the early 1980’s Steve Schatvet began training with Professor Nick Cerio, eventually earning his 5th Degree in 1990. Steve Schatvet brought many of the best local martial artists to the Learning Center including Kenny Wagner (Boxing / Kickboxing), Toms Sotis (Stickfighting/ Knifefighting/ Analytical Combat), and Robert McKittrick (Isshin-ryu/ Pressure Points). In 1995 Steve Schatvet began his training with his current instructor Peter DeBlasio Jr. (Dong Family International Tai Chi Chuan Association) in the Chinese art of Tai Chi Chuan attended seminars and classes with DeBlaiso and his instructor Grand Master Dong Zeng Chen. In 2000, Steve Schatvet received his 7th Degree (Shichidan) black belt in Analytical Combat, under Professor Thomas Sotis.
Thomas Sotis began formal Martial Arts training when he was 11 studying Kenpo / Kobudo supplemented with Ju-jitsu, Judo, Boxing, Kung fu, and Tae Kwon Do. After becoming WPKO Lt. Middleweight Kickboxing Champion in 1980, Sotis began studying Kali while working security and as a bounty hunter. Returning to the east coast, Sotis continued his Kenpo training with Gene Coutu and opened his first school. Sotis was introduced to Kuntao and studied under Frank Masiello, where he began to see the blade translations that were available in this art. Tom Sotis began teaching his own street combat system called Analytical Combat and in 1992 founded the International Blade Fighter’s Guild with Guru Steve Perrin. In 1994 Sotis began studying in the Philippines under Grand Tuhon Nene Tortal. Sotis’s time in the Philippines allowed him study Pikiti-tirsia Daga, to gain the status of Professor in Dagaso-Tirsia and membership to the Dogeaters fraternity by 1996. Professor Thomas Sotis continues his study of bladework under Dave Gould (Lameco Escrima) and under Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje in the Philippines. Professor Thomas Sotis currently teaches AMOK!, his own system of knifefighting along with Kuntao / Silat, Pikiti-Tirsia Daga, and Dagaso Tirsia.
Evan Pantazi began Judo in 1975, but was led towards Wing Chun for its sensitivity and striking. Later Pantazi sought softer styles like Tai Chi, Ba Qua, Jujitsu, Aikido, and later, in 1984 the healing arts Tui Na and Chi Gong (both of which he is a certified therapist). In 1985 Pantazi began studying Wu Shu under Rich Branden, as well as Tai Chi Chuan/ Tong Bei/ Ba Gua (Bo Sim Mak). Evan Pantazi studied a variety of Jujitsu styles since 1990, including Small Circle Jujitsu with Wally Jay, Leon Jay, and Ed Melaugh since 1992. In 1993 Evan Pantazi was awarded his 4th Degree (Yondan) black belt in Kenpo under Professor Nick Cerio. In 1999 Pantazi was awarded the title of Shihan (master) by Uechi-ryu’s George Mattson. In 2001, Pantazi received his 7th Degree (Shichidan) black belt from George A. Dillman in Kyusho Jitsu. Master Evan Pantazi now heads Kyusho International™, an elite sytem in Pressure Points for healing and combat. Along with the other founders, Master Jim Corn, Master Gary Rooks, and Master Mark Kline, Evan Patazi has brought Kyusho to over 38 counties around the world. In addition to Kyusho, Master Pantazi continues his training in Uechi-ryu, Shorin-ryu, Ryukyu Kempo, Liu Ha Ba Fa Chuan, Sil Lum Kung Fu, Modern Arnis, Kobudo, and Praying Mantis
Nick Cerio began studying boxing at the age of 10 in 1946 in Providence, RI. Cerio continued boxing in the Air Force, and later Judo under George McCabe. In 1961, Cerio studied with Ted Olsen (Tae Kwon Do) and in 1962 with George Pesare (Karazenpo Goshinjutsu). Cerio received his 1st Degree Black Belt under George Pesare in 1966 and opened Cerio’s Academy of Martial Arts. Through tournament competition Cerio met Master Edmund Parker, who introduced Cerio to Pofessor William Kwai Sun Chow. While in Hawaii, Nick Cerio began studying under William Chun Sr., a student of Chow, in 1966 and received his Black Belt in Chinese Kempo. In one year, Cerio earned the right to train with Chow himself and on August 15, 1967 he earned his 1st Degree and the title of Sensei. Chow trained Cerio for the next three years and encouraged him to develop his own style of Kenpo. His training led to further studying under James Benko (Hakkoryu Jiu-jitsu), Larry Garron (Hakkoryu Jiu-jitsu), Fumio Demura (Shito-ryu), Gee Gin Soon (Tai Chi Chuan), and Ernest Lieb (Chung Do Kwan), who would later introduce Cerio to Tadashi Yamashita (Shorin-ryu). In 1969, Cerio received his 3rd Degree from Master Parker. In 1970, Cerio received his 4th Degree from Yamashita in Shorin-ryu, in 1971 his 5th Degree from Chow in Chinese Kenpo, and 1973 his 8th Degree and title Sifu from Gan Fong Chin in Sil Lum Kung Fu. In 1973 Cerio received his 5th Degree from both Yamasita and Lieb. In 1974, Cerio founded Nick Cerio’s Kenpo combining his knowledge of Chinese, Okinawan, Japanese, and Korean arts. In 1983, Cerio received his 9th Degree in American Kempo Karate by Master Ed Parker and also the title of Shihan (master). In 1989 Nick Cerio received the title of Professor under Soke Thomas H. Burdine and thereby named himself 10th Degree (Jundan) black belt in Nick Cerio’s Kenpo under the power of the World Soke Council. Professor Nick Cerio had a strong influence on the Learning Center’s Steve Schatvet, Vinnie Guerrini, Mike Hebert, and Marshall Wolff throughout the 1980’s. He also taught Analytical Combat’s Tom Sotis, and Kyusho Jitsu’s Evan Pantazi. Professor Nick Cerio passed away on October 7, 1998.
Dave Bilyeu has been a life-long martial artist, starting in judo at the age of 6, then migrating into other traditional martial arts, and then Chinese arts in the late 60s. Sifu Dave holds a variety of black belt ranks including some high level rankings in Chinese arts. Sifu Dave founded Nei Gung Chuan Fa “Internal Fist Way” which is a martial art focused on the hidden potential of internal connection in all martial arts. Sifu Dave is also Clinical Somatics practitioner and graduate of the Somatic Systems Institute Class of 2008. Sifu Dave trained John Hagman and Cody Robyn to their 3rd Duan in Internal Arts, before moving to his childhood home in Missouri. His program continues at the Learning Center and Sifu Dave returns annually to run seminars and classes.
Shihan Vincent Guerini Vinnie Guerrini has been a member of the Learning Center since its very start. After training many years under Don Murnane, Vinnie has one of the first students to earn his Black Belt under Steve Schatvet. Vinnie has been involved in nearly all curriculum development at LCMA, having trained with Nick Cerio, Tom Sotis, and Dr Bob McKittrick. His interest in pressure point fighting helped the Learning Center find George Dillman and eventually Evan Pantazi, founder of Kyusho International™. Shihan Vinnie is a founding member of American-Te®, along with John Hagman and Cody Robyn. Vinnie Guerrini currently holds a 6th Degree Black belt in Ryukyu Kempo and in American-Te®. In 2013, Vinnie was awarded his 5th Level and the title of Shihan in Kyusho International™.
Shihan Michael Hebert (see Our Instructors)
Shihan Marshall Wolff (see Our Instructors)
Master Anthony Rotella (see Our Instructors)