My stories as I remember them during my journey in the Martial Arts

Monday, March 30, 2009

A little LaVallee's History thanks to Rob V

Here is the history of Liverpool Martial Arts known as LaVallee’s Sport Karate Studio, now as Steve LaVallee’s East Coast Karate.

Lee Thompson owned the studio and decided to sell it to Steve Cravic. I think the year was 1974. LaVallee was upset that Thompson didn’t sell it to him so he left and moved to California. A student named John Vanelli kept calling him and asked him to come back; the school needed him. He came back and bought the school from Cravic. LaVallee’s older brother George worked for a bank and told him it was a very bad investment. The school was in debt. Working many side jobs and teaching karate, LaVallee was determined to make it work. He even picked up a job as a repo man.
The school and LaVallee were very successful on the karate circuit. The problem; people didn’t realize Liverpool Martial Arts was Steve LaVallee. He changed the name to LaVallee’s Sport Karate Studio.

The original students were taught one private lesson and two group classes per week. Instructors would teach the private lessons and then LaVallee would teach the group classes. This was possible because the studio only had about 50 students! As the studio grew, the teaching style would later change to what we have now.

At the time, black belt exams were all done on a one to one test. The order of black belts are as followed:
1. Bill Stanley
2. Rick Iannuzzo
3. John Vanelli
4. Jeff Iannuzzo
5. Scott Ogata
6. Jeff Snoggles
7. Rob Vanelli

*Bill Stanley came up under Thompson’s rein, but LaVallee tested him when he took over the studio. The remaining black belts were all taught directly under LaVallee.


  1. In my opinion, this list represents the absolute best Steve L trained. These were the benchmarks that very few people met. 20 years later I still remember Rob V smashing his foot w/his staff by accident since we all were super pumped at tournaments. Everyone saw it but he just kept going.......

  2. Yes, every one on the list was/is a great martial artist. Who can forget the greatness of Jeff I (R.I.P.)? How many people that were hit my John Vanelli’s (R.I.P.) reverse punch will forget how that felt? The awesome Katas of Scott “Ichi” Ogata are something current day students should see. While all these people were “old school” they were also pioneers. Jeff I. and Scott Ogata were performing musical katas before most local tournaments even had a separate musical kata division. Before there was XMA there was Rob V. performing this type of kata in brown belt division! Yes the people that came from that era were/are something special. I am glad I have had the opportunity to learn from Rick I on a one to one basis and I am privileged to still be training with Mr. I today. I was also privileged to have begun my training when these indivduals were still training at the old Dojo in Liverpool. I was also privileged to have learned from Rob V., Bill Stanley, Scott Ogata and the others in my early training days.

  3. Rob Vanelli was my first instructor at LaVallee's in 1984. He was still a brown belt then. I attended Shihan Jim Andrello's pro kickboxing match this month in Liverpool and saw Jeff Snoggles there. Jeff recently retired from the police force after 20 years. Lots of great memories. I just started training again myself at the Rochester school.

  4. oscarkallet@yahoo.comJune 16, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    These comments bring back fond memories. Lavallee's 1984-1987. These were great times with fantastic instructors.