Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is specifically your own – Bruce Lee
Pretty much the motto of Nelita Villezon, a Martial Arts Trainer, who has learned from the best in the business.
Nelita is a multi-talented star who runs her fitness studios & a gym wear brand, has featured in several commercial campaigns, and choreographed Daft Punk music videos.
We interviewed her to find out her secrets to success in multiple areas and how martial arts played a vital role in her life.
1. Hi Nelita! Tell us a bit about your childhood and family. Where did you grow up? How did you become a Martial Arts Trainer?
I grew up in Los Angeles California. I was homeschooled from a young age, so on my off time I trained and taught martial arts in my family’s martial arts school.
2. Martial arts teaches you lots of focus and discipline. Were you always this focused and disciplined? What were your inspirations in the early childhood?
Yes. I was extremely focused and disciplined as a child. Discipline and respect were something that was taught in my household growing up.
I also was always a focused and attentive kid. I took to heart what my parents and teachers told me. Martial arts and other activities just solidified that for me.
My inspirations were my parents. They were both extraordinary in everything they did. I also had a ballet teacher name Karen Mc Donald that taught a lot even outside of ballet.
3. Being a daughter of a Martial Arts Trainer, Erwin Villezon, did you always know that you will Kickass? When did you start training for your profession?
I didn’t realize I was kickass until my late teens years.
I only discovered it when I was teaching one of my friends one day and she was having a hard time picking it up. That’s when I realized what I could do did not come naturally to everyone.
My dad was like a legend when I was growing up. Everyone always had great stories about what Sifu Erwin could do. I always aspired to be as good as him and still do to this day.
My parents like to say they trained me from the womb. Before I could walk, my dad would lift my legs in the kicking motion. We have home videos of my hanging on to him as I try and kick. I’ve been doing this as long as I can remember.
4. Did you ever meet or train with your dad’s coach, Dan Inosanto, the training partner of Bruce Lee? What did you learn from them?
I grew up going to class with my dad. Dan and other legendary martial arts instructors have known me since I was a kid.
I even watched my dad spar with Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee). I learned a lot from Dan and continue to.
He just has an endless wealth of knowledge. Dan once said my dad was the closes in the movement to Bruce Lee that he has met.
5. You mentioned several martial arts in your bio; Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do, Eskrima, Tae Kwon Do, Wushu, Northern Shaolin, and many more. How do they differ from one another and what specifically did you train for and specialized in?
All of these arts differ in many ways, but also have some subtle similarities.
The greatest thing to know is that every art has something good to offer in it. It like Bruce Lee said, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless.”
I trained in all of these arts because my dad wanted me to be well rounded in martial arts, so he had me to train with some of the best instructors in each art that was available to me.
6. How was it like winning your first stick championship and earning a medal at US open? What did the contests teach you?
It was an amazing moment, but also mentally and physically tough. I learned about self-belief.
When I fought in the US Open, I was actually was a lower ranking than what I fought. My coach actually bumped me up at the last minute because he felt I could win against the more experienced fighters.
I admittedly was afraid at first, but came out victorious in the end.
7. You started managing some top gyms in L.A, UFC Gym and Equinox. Was that the point you started to create your career as Martial Arts Trainer?
I always had my career in MMA and fitness. I just got more exposure and experience when I became involved with other gyms.
8. You also trained celebrities like Becky G, Sophia Black, and Karrueche Tran for Sony Music Group. How was it like training them?
It was great. It’s really something to see people with such a strong work ethic. I’d see them come from long hours of shooting or rehearsals and they would still give training their all.
9. You became a licensed instructor in Zumba Fitness, and taught other dances as well. Were you always into dancing? How did your MMA skills and fitness help you rock the floor?
My mom was a dancer, so she always had us dancing. My parents also put me in dance classes growing up. They kept me very busy.
Martial arts helped in dance and vice versa. Each gave me great body awareness and control.
10. For what music videos of Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams did you get dance credits for? What was it like working on them?
I danced for Get Lucky and Lose Yourself to Dance. I was a lot of fun. They are very patient and dedicated.
11. What commercials, brands, and magazines did you feature in?
Wow, several!, Nissan, Honda, Square, Sketchers, Words with Friends, Fantastics Magazine, Dave and Busters, Women’s Health Middle East and more.
12. You also featured in a documentary and a reality show. Please discuss what were they and where we can catch more of you?
An amazing Director named Biuh Jumera found my story online and thought it would make for a great short film/documentary. We filmed and put a short edited version online. There were several shows that I was supposed to be part of while I lived in the states, but I decided to move to Dubai just as we were set to go into production.
13. You also created a brand, VIEBRANT ATHLETICS. Tell us something about the brand, its inspiration, type of apparel and your target audience.
I decided to create my own brand that solidified myself as a trainer and it was accompanied by a clothing line.
The inspiration was just my own style and being tired of buying things that I would eventually cut up and style myself.
My students and clients always loved what I wore and how I wore it, so I thought, “Why not do my own thing?” I created a women’s and men’s athleisure line.
My target audience was mean and women 18-35. The range of people who actually bought it was greater than this.
14. You also are a believer in giving back to the community. You started a charity, THE ROOFTOP PROJECT, in Philippines. Tell us about it.
My dad is from the Philippines and the majority of my family still lives there. Although the Philippines is seen as a great holiday destination, there is still a lot of poverty there. I decided to state a charity that would help provide for families in need there.
15. You have achieved a lot in such a small time. Is there anything that you haven’t done? What are your future plans? Why did you come to Dubai?
I often ask myself this because at this point in life I feel like I have completed most of what I wanted in life.
I, of course, would love to continue to grow my business and there are a few more places in the world I would like to see.
I think now I am more family-focused wanting to spend more time with my family and have one of my own one days.
Dubai feels like it fell into my lap. The short answer is that I wanted to change and simply “Why not?”
16. We want to know the secrets of your work ethic and discipline. What are the top 5 things you need to succeed at martial arts and in life?
1. Don’t make excuses for yourself.
2. Know that no one owes you anything.
3. If you doubt yourself, you’ve already lost.
4. When you are working on ideas, keep them to yourself for a while because people can sometimes give unintentional doubt.
5. Give to yourself. We often try to give so much to others without fully being complete with yourself.
Thanks, Nelita for your time!
Next time teach us some kick-ass moves 😉
Follow Nelita on Instagram and subscribe to her Youtube Channel.