Category Archives: featured

50 Year Anniversary – Pittsburgh Karate Legacy

pittsburgh karate

Summer of 69’

“That’s one small step for karate; one giant leap for martial arts.”

pittsburgh karate school
East Allegheny Karate Class Circa 1970

1969 was a glorious time to be alive; a new home cost a paltry $15,000, 90% of kids walked to school, and Woodstock was in vogue.  America was on top of the world as Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Mario Puzo released The Godfather, and a little known dojo named “Allegheny Shotokan” set up shop in the gritty suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Yes, it was the golden era of Karate, and those who donned a crisp white “gi” and tattered black belt had a special swagger about themselves.  The martial arts were provocative and mysterious, and if you wanted to learn its vast secrets, Bill Viola was your man. Unbeknownst to him, the Viola name and Pittsburgh karate would become synonymous.

“Sensei” Viola was a no-nonsense disciplinarian who lived the mantra, “The more you sweat in here, the less you bleed out there,” an ode to his simple yet effective philosophy of intensity and self-protection.  This sense of unwavering willpower has manifested itself through the tens of thousands who have trained under his hand.  Over the past half-century, his powerful brand of punches and kicks has camouflaged life’s most important lessons: respect, discipline, and focus.  The Viola’s preach, “Character is a commodity that can’t be bought, only built.” You aren’t rich until you have something money can’t buy, and for Viola his passion is priceless.  The confidence he has instilled in his students can be found on and off the mat, from the classroom to the boardroom, or from raising a family to protecting a loved one.  Viola smiles, “It’s that indomitable spirit that builds champions in life. Our dojo is a family.”

Allegheny Shotokan Karate (1969-2019) is celebrating its 50-year anniversary as the gold standard for martial arts in Western PA.  The family-owned and operated dojo is blessed with 3 generations of Violas who carry on the legacy.  All five of Viola’s children have earned black belts and his eldest, Sensei Bill Viola Jr., now heads the school. Viola Jr.’s daughter Gabby and son Will [William Viola IV] are fixtures at the martial arts studio.  Sr.’s other children Joce and Jacque are Doctors of Pharmacy in North Huntingdon, Addie, a teacher in Bethel Park and Ali, a Lawyer downtown. He’s proud that their karate foundation has helped them pave the way for fulfilling careers.

Viola Family

Viola Sr., now 71, still teaches his black belt class every Monday evening, a reminder to everyone that karate is a lifelong journey.  In fact Ray Adams, 76, joined the club in 1971 and is still actively training today. He is the longest tenured student and says, “I just earned my Master rank and have no plans of slowing down, my next test will be in my 80s.” One of Adam’s favorite training partners and the dojo’s first black belt was Jack Bodell.  Known as the “President’s Bodyguard” as a member of the United States Secret Service in charge of protecting President Jimmy Carter, Jack explains, “Sensei gave me the skills to succeed in life.” Jack Bodell, Ray Adams, Ray Walters, Dave Zezza and Viola Jr. round out the “Master” ranks at Allegheny Shotokan.  Viola Sr., 9th Degree Black Belt, remains the patriarch.

Viola Karate (as it’s more commonly known today) accolades include induction into the prestigious USA Karate Hall of Fame, who named “Sensei V” the Man of Year (2003).  In 2011, Viola was honored with a permanent exhibit installed at the Western PA Sports Museum and Senator John Heinz History Center recognizing him as the co-creator of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (the display is located next to the Franco Harris “Immaculate Reception”).

Godfathers of MMA / Tough Guys Museum Exhibit

Jr. and Sr. are both official Sport Karate History Generals and recipients of the Sport Karate Museum’s “Lifetime Achievement” award.  The duo was awarded the Champion Associations Willie Stargell M.V.P. Award (2011) for community service, a tribute that includes Michael Jordan and Muhamad Ali as alum. In 2017 the Viola’s were published in the book, Who’s Who in the Martial Arts – Legends of American Karate edition.  Viola Sr.’s life was the subject of the Amazon #1 selling book Godfathers of MMA which in turn inspired the SHOWTIME documentary film Tough Guys (2017) produced by an Academy award winning team. Viola Jr., who authored the book, was also a producer on the film, making a cameo playing his father.

Viola Jr. has been a member of Screen Actors Guild since 2000 after a stint in Hollywood which included stunts, commercials and work on the Britney Spears “Stronger” video. He founded his entertainment company [Kumite Classic] after Injuries sustained in a car crash that ended his competitive career (1999). The company produces the Pittsburgh Fitness Expo (regions largest multi-sport convention) and has a publishing division which has included Kumite Magazine and Tough Guys.  Viola Jr. is currently adapting his book into a screenplay and is in negotiations for a major motion picture. He was featured in Pittsburgh Magazine “40 under 40” list in 2016.

The dojo is internationally renowned as the most successful sport karate school in Pittsburgh region, garnering the only dual Pan American Gold Medalists in both traditional karate (WKF) and kickboxing (WAKO), as well as countless national, international and world titles.

In 1998 Arnold Schwarzenegger recognized them as the #1 school in America and Hines Ward selected Viola’s students as Positive Athletes to represent marital arts (2012-2013).

As karate approaches its first Olympic berth at the 2020 Tokyo Games, Viola was instrumental in the movement as he hosted the USA Karate Jr. Olympics at the University of Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Field House in 1992 under the auspices of the United States Olympic Committee. Incidentally, Viola Jr. was a triple Gold Medalist, the only athlete to earn that status. In March 2019, USA Karate honored Viola with the “Pioneer of USA Karate” award for his dedication to the Olympic karate movement. The Viola dojo has always had its finger on the pulse of anything and everything martial arts, and continues as the heartbeat of Pittsburgh karate today.

usa karate pittsburgh olympics
USA Karate Jr. Olympics

Over the past fifty years, the school has welcomed and transformed everyone from children struggling with autism to Olympic level competitors.  “It doesn’t matter if they are a professional athlete or a teenager who is coping with bullies,” Viola Jr. says,   “Each and every student is on their own personal journey of self-enlightenment and courage. Our goal is to help them reach their potential and go beyond.”  This formula of empowerment inspired Viola Jr. to package the family secrets into an Award-winning curriculum—Sensei Says. This life skills education course is the cornerstone of Allegheny Shotokan’s sister programs Norwin Ninjas (4-7 year olds) and Nursery Ninjas (2-3 year olds).

Brownsville:

Viola got his first taste of combat sports in 1955 studying boxing from family friend, the legendary Marion “Slugger” Klingensmith (later to become the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commissioner, Brownsville Mayor and Police Chief, Fayette County Commissioner, and Congressman). He discovered martial arts in the early 1960s as a teenager in high school.  Viola recalls, “My friend Medick Capirano picked up karate at WVU in the ROTC program.  I thought I was pretty tough, but he threw me all over the room when we’d work out on the weekends.  I was addicted.”  He continued training throughout college at California State under The All American Karate Federation, a split-off from the Japanese Karate Association, and then gaining rank under icons Grand Master Robert Trias, the father of American Karate, and Grand Master George Anderson the founder of the Father of Olympic Karate.

Origins of “Allegheny” Shotokan: (1969-2019) 50 Years serving Pittsburgh, PA

The name “Allegheny” represented the school’s first location in Allegheny County (East Allegheny High School) and traditional “Shotokan,” is the base style of Japanese Karate-do taught. Viola began teaching students in the summer of 1969.  His first student was former California State football player Denny Costello, and droves of EA students followed.  The first teacher to join the ranks was Keith Bertoluzzi. Bertoluzzi was the Master of Ceremonies at the Holiday House, Monroeville, PA. He used his musical influence to invite visiting celebrities to attend karate classes including members of the Beach Boys and other musical acts of the era. As Shihan Viola remembers, “Karate in the 60s and 70s was so popular; we [the Senseis] were the rock stars.” By 1971, East Allegheny had become what is known as a “progressive” school incorporating new curriculum.  The district offered Viola the opportunity to teach a regular elective karate course, the first in the nation in a public school.   Over the past 50 years the school has held classes in the suburbs of Pittsburgh including North Versailles, Turtle Creek, Paintertown, White Oak, Irwin, North Irwin and currently residing in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

Shihan Viola and Denny Costello Spar (late 1960s)

Philanthropy/Community Service

The school is endorsed by Western PA Police Athletic League (PAL) where Viola Jr. served as a goodwill ambassador as a youth.  He has been involved in charitable work since his senior year at the University of Pittsburgh, when he established “Kumite International” collegiate scholarships.  The partnership program with Western PA Police Athletic League and Eckert Seamans Law Firm allocated $50,000 in scholarship funds for karate athletes.  The program made national news when Lynn Swann (The Chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Physical Fitness and Sports) presented the scholarships with Viola Jr. at the 2004 Pittsburgh Fitness Expo / Kumite Classic in Pittsburgh (the mecca for martial arts competition).

Bill Viola Jr and Lynn Swann Award College Scholarship

The dojo has raised tens of thousands of dollars for various causes such as Muscular Dystrophy and Parkinson ’s disease.  In 2017 Viola Jr. and former State Senator Sean Logan created “Kick Parkinson’s Disease”– a cause close to both men as Logan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in his mid-forties and Viola Jr. spent years caring for his Grandmother who passed away from neurodegenerative complications.  The Viola Karate Dojo has since made it their mission to KICK Parkinson’s disease—literally.  Each year they assemble hundreds of students to kick one mile non-stop though the racetrack at Boyce Park in Monroeville in conjunction with the Logan’s PIND (Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases) 5K.  The students showcased their skill during record setting heat in 2018 and bumped their 2-year donation to $15,000 to aid PIND.  The In all, over the past three years, the event has raised over $1 million dollars through appropriations, grants and sponsors — 100% of the funds are earmarked for experimental testing and research in hopes of finding the cure in Pittsburgh.

kick parkinsons disease

In 2019 Viola Jr. and his Daughter Gabby will begin advocacy efforts at the Capital to lobby for improvements to our healthcare system as she battles inflammatory bowel disease (Crohns Disease).

#violakarate #alleghenyshotokan #senseisays #senseiviola #pittsburghkarate #pittsburghmartialarts #pittsburghmma #shotokan #karate #budo #pittsburghkaratelegacy

pittsburgh karate history

Pan American Gold

Team USA Member Xander Eddy –  Youngest American to Win Gold at WAKO Pan American Championships

Xander Eddy
Pittsburgh Martial Artist, Xander Eddy wins 2018 Pan American Championships – Gold Medalist

9-year-old Xander Eddy of North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, has become the youngest American to win the Pan American Kickboxing Championships in history.  His record setting performance took place in Cancun, Mexico October 23-28 at Barceló Maya Beach.  Eddy claimed a Gold Medal in the open weight class for Team USA.

Eddy earned a spot on the United States Kickboxing Team by winning the selection trials in Kansas City, Missouri in February.  His teammate, Luke Lokay, a 15-year-old also from North Huntingdon, won the 63- Kg division to qualify. The selection process is limited to one competitor per weight class who is the current national champion officially recognized by their National Olympic Committees or Ministry of Sports.  World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) is the largest international organization of kickboxing, and the governing body of Amateur kickboxing sport certified by SportAccord. WAKO is affiliated in 128 nations on 5 continents officially recognized by either National Olympic Committee or relevant National Government Sports Authority responsible for than 4,000,000 practitioners from across the globe

Both athletes faced adversity leading up the championship.  In August, Xander shattered the growth plate in his foot practicing for the event.  The injury was severe to his base leg which was critical for kicking and movement.  It was questionable if he could participate. His training partner Luke tore his ACL and meniscus and broke his tibia and knee cap in 2012. Doctors speculated he may never play sports again. Both competitors overcame the odds and competed at the highest level for kickboxing this side of the hemisphere.

Xander Eddy, the youngest American to win Gold at WAKO Pan American Kickboxing Championships

Competitors from over 30 countries represented. In the final bracket, Eddy dominated 6 rounds against the top ranked athletes from Chile, Puerto Rico and Mexico by a combined score of 30-3. In the finals, he faced Guatemala in a heated fight that pitted chants of “USA” vs “Guate.”  In dramatic fashion, after 2 rounds the score was tied forcing an additional round to determine the champion.  Eddy scored a sidekick to take the lead and as time expired, he executed his patented “axe” kick to win Gold for America.  He became the youngest athlete to win a Gold Medal for Team USA at the Pan Am Championships in history.  Lokay also represented well, but fell to Guatemala in the final bracket claiming Bronze for Team USA.

Lokay and Eddy each have been training at Allegheny Shotokan Viola Karate in North Huntingdon since they were 4-years-old.  Their Sensei, Bill Viola Jr., is the director for WAKO region 10 which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, West Virgina, and Washington, DC. He explains, “Luke and Xander set themselves apart with work ethic. Win or lose this kids are great role models. They have character.”  Eddy was asked to carry in the American flag by his teammates during the opening ceremonies. Eddy accepted, “I just wanted to make my dojo, parents and country proud.” The duo represents Pittsburgh and all of Western Pennsylvania on the international kickboxing and karate circuit.

Luke Lokay and Xander Eddy warm up for competition

Eddy has won every recent major tournament he has attended including Open-Weight Grand Championship Title at North American Open in Las Vegas, Nevada (part of UFC’s International Fight Week), The Battle of Atlanta in Georgia, and US Open ISKA World Championships in Orlando, Florida. His “Norwin” community has gotten behind him in a big way!

congrats xander BK
Norwin Showing its Support

WAKO kickboxing was one of thirteen combat sports participating in the first ever World Combat Games which were held in Beijing, China under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  WAKO Kickboxing is slated to gain IOC membership this December joining traditional Karate which will be represented at the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan under the World Karate Federation.

It was nearly 20 years ago that Allegheny Shotokan Alum Doug Selchan won Gold in +80kg Kumite at the 1999 Pan Am Games for Karate in Winnipeg, Canada. Even though kickboxing and karate are technically different sports, Xander’s parents say they are honored for him to follow in such prestigious footsteps.  Pittsburgh has a rich tradition of world-class martial artists.

doug selchan pan am gold

 

Next up, Xander, Luke, and their dojo will be traveling to Los Angeles, California this February for the “COMPETE International Championships.”  #kickboxing #pittsburgkickboxing #teamusa #usakickboxingteam

 

 

 

US Open

us open karate

Viola Karate – Pittsburgh Area Karate Dojo Wins

US Open ISKA World Martial Arts Championships

The All-Star Team “Kumite” traveled to Orlando Florida for the 2018 The US Open held July 6-7 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Convention Center.  The tournament, broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN3, is recognized as the world’s largest sport martial arts competition with over 40 countries and 6 continents present. The two-day tournament showcased 200,000 square feet of competition that included karate and kickboxing.

 

Representing Pittsburgh were 10 members from the Viola Karate Dojo including Sensei Bill Viola Jr., (Head Coach), Sensei Cameron Klos (Player Coach), and Sensei Gary Klos (Assistant Coach). All members placed in the top two in their respective divisions.  The students were the only champions from the Western Pennsylvania region.

Results include: Luke Lokay:  Gold 14-15 black belt sparring, Silver Clash Contact Fighting, Stephen Jackowski:  Gold 12-13 Advanced Kata, Bronze Advanced Weapons, Nicolette Jackowski: Gold 14-15 Intermediate, Silver Kata, Lucy Lokay: Gold 12-13 Advanced Gold sparring,  Gabby Viola Gold 6-7 year old Advanced Sparring, Silver Kata, Taylor Provence: Silver 10-11, Silver Sparring and Xander Eddy 4x Gold 8-9 year Advanced.

Lokay and Eddy each earned a spot to represent the United States as members of the 2018 “Team USA” at the Pan American Kickboxing Championship in Cancun, Mexico October 24-28th.  Lokay will represent America in the 63- Kg division and Eddy secured the 30- Kg weight class. The selection process is limited to the current national champions officially recognized by their National Olympic Committees or Ministry of Sports.

Lokay, a Norwin High School student explains, “Representing my country is such huge honor. I am training every day to make my family and coaches proud. I know a lot of the kids at the dojo are counting on me.” Lokay and Eddy each have been training at Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate in North Huntingdon since they were 4-years-old. Their Sensei, Bill Viola Jr. explains, “Luke and Xander set themselves apart with work ethic. They are both naturally talented, but it’s what you do with that talent that gets you to the next level. They have the determination and dedication to win.”

Eddy is one of the youngest members to make Team USA but has already amassed an impressive resume. In 2017, he earned the Open-Weight Grand Championship Title at North American Open in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event was part of UFC’s International Fight Week. Eddy proudly explains, “I only had one thing on my mind—win.” The victory put him on the radar of the coaching staff. Lokay and Eddy are the first US Team members to earn a team selection for The World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) from Western Pennsylvania.

Read more

 

 

WAKO North American Champions

The North American Open in conjunction with Century Martial Arts was held at the Las Vegas MGM Grand Conference Center July 6-7, 2017.  The Tournament was sanctioned by World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) the National Governing Body for the sport under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee.  The “Road to Vegas” culminated with UFC International Fight Week coinciding with the championship.  The show was produced by Bill Viola Jr. (President of Kumite Classic Entertainment), Raymond Daniels (WAKO USA Tatami Chairman) and Jarrett Leiker (AmeriKick).

wako usa

The world’s best converged to compete in WAKO Tatami-style divisions.  Top ranked athletes from the United Kingdom, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Scotland, Canada, and the United States were represented.

Three students from “Team Kumite,” a Pittsburgh All-Star travel team won top honors and earned their “Pro-Cards.”  Xander Eddy (8-years old) Gold Medalist, Sammy Pietrzyk (9-years old) Gold Medalist and Lucy Lokay (11-years old) Gold Medalist, all from North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania were recognized as Open Weight Grand Champions.  Eddy and Lokay entered the event as the #1 seeds (a ranking they earned in Charlotte, North Carolina) while Pietrzyk entered as a wildcard.  All the students train at Allegheny Shotokan Karate located in Irwin. The students have the distinction of being the first WAKO champions ever from the Pittsburgh region.

Top honors included “Pro Cards” awarded to the overall grand champion in the prestigious open weight categories:

2017 North American Open Europa-Pro Grand Champions

18+ Male                     Jack Felton                 United States, California

18+ Female                 Mariana Cortes           Mexico

14-17 Male                  Finlay Wright              Great Britain

14-17 Female              Elizabeth Rouillard     Quebec, Canada

10-13 Female              Lucy Lokay                 United States, Pennsylvania

10-13 Male                  Roland Dumlao          United States, California

9- Male                        Xander Eddy               United States, Pennsylvania

9- Female                    Samantha Pietrzyk     United States, Pennsylvania

In 2017 WAKO formed a strategic partnership with the Europa Games and Century to cultivate professional sport karate athletes. The Europa Games is one of the world’s largest multi-sport conventions attracting over 250,000 attendees throughout its tour. Grand Champions from the North American Open were awarded Europa-Pro status.  The champions will enjoy the 2017-2018 season as sponsored competitors.

The tournament is recognized as the only national WAKO event in the United States, and serves as a recruiting pool for potential USA Team Members qualifying for the World Championship in Wroclaw, Poland and future international championships.

Currently, WAKO boasts 126 affiliated nations in the five continents, with 95 officially recognized by their respective Olympic Council.  WAKO is an official member of Sport Accord and is recognized as the governing body for kickboxing globally.  WAKO champions have the distinction of competing at The World Combat Games under the patronage of the IOC and SportAccord.

Other medalists from Pennsylvania included 14-year old Luke Lokay (Bronze), 15-year old Cameron Klos (Silver) and 12-year old Aidan Hudson (Bronze).  The team will kick off the next season at the Europa Games in Phoenix, Arizona this October.  For more information visit www.alleghenyshotokan.com

40 under 40

bill viola jr on stage

Congrats to Sensei Bill Viola Jr.

The 2016 class of 40 Pittsburghers Under the age of 40 who are shaping our region was celebrated by Pittsburgh Magazine October 21st at the Rivers Casino.  For the past 18 years, Pittsburgh Magazine and the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project has complied a prestigious list to honor and recognize outstanding people ranging from CEOs to non-profit leaders who are changing the city for the better. These influential leaders are featured in November’s issue of Pittsburgh Magazine, now on newsstands.  The list is considered the premier honor for young professionals in Western Pennsylvania.

The process to narrow an entire city and region down to just 40 recipients is a daunting task that included a through selection process.  Viola Jr. caught the eye of the committee through his reputation as a leader in the martial arts industry and the recent award winning books.  As the author of “Godfathers of MMA,” his work is recognized at the Heinz History Center, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute with an exhibit that chronicles Pittsburgh as the birthplace of modern mixed martial arts.  The book, inspired by his father’s [Bill Viola Sr.] life story is the subject and basis of the film; Tough Guys (now is post production).

As graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he is the creative force behind Kumite Classic Entertainment which oversees the region’s largest multi-sport event (The Pittsburgh Fitness Expo).  His resume includes film producing, talent management, journalism, and mixed martial arts historian.  He is a member of the Sport Karate Museum Hall of Fame and recipient of the Willie Stargell Pittsburgh MVP Award.  His most recent work is the creation of the “Sensei Says” martial arts curriculum, which has had a direct positive impact on the North Huntingdon community implemented with “Norwin Ninjas.”  Norwin Ninjas is the sister program of his families karate business (Allegheny Shotokan Karate) which his father, Bill Viola Sr., established in 1969.  The Ninjas teach life skills, and mentor kids to become future black belts.  Viola Jr. explains, “We build champions in life.” He is part of a growing Pittsburgh karate legacy that that includes all four of his sisters and his daughter, Gabriella Capri Viola, a Kindergartner at Stewartsville Elementary.

The award has garnered the attention of community leaders, as Viola Jr. has received congratulations  from The United States Senate, as well as the Allegheny County Council who issued an official proclamation honored Viola Jr. for his achievement, and praising his, “passion, commitment, visibility, diversity and overall impact on the region.”

The ceremony was is presented by Dollar Bank and in association with BNY Mellon, Carlow University, Junior Achievement, UPMC Health Plan among others.  The full list of 40 under 40 winners can be view at www.pittsburghmagazine.com

Viola Legacy

Ali Viola world champion

A Pittsburgh Legacy “Building Champions in Life”

Pittsburgh, PA — January 5th, 2015

Winning World Titles is nothing new for the Viola family, especially for Duquesne University law student Ali Viola.  Over the course of the past decade, she has become a 7x National Black Belt League (NBL) World Champion with international honors that have made her the most successful female karate fighter in Pittsburgh history. She has followed in the footsteps of her martial arts pioneer father and International Champion brother, Bill Viola Sr. and Jr.  Although she doesn’t have anything further to prove on the mat and wasn’t planning on competing in 2014 due to college commitments, it was a very special season for the family.

Photo Courtesy of Pittsburgh Tribune Review

The 2014 World Games marked a ceremonial passing of the torch, a karate tradition that has been a rooted in Pittsburgh for fifty years.  Ali Viola competed alongside her 4-year-old niece, Gabby Viola, the youngest competitor at the World Games and the next generation of Violas to represent Pittsburgh.

The 25th Annual Sport Karate World Games known internationally as the “Super Grands” was held 26th-31st in Buffalo, New York. The tournament is sanctioned by the National Black Belt League (NBL) and Sport Karate International (SKIL) which are responsible for the largest sport karate ranking system and league for black belts in the world. The competition is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for martial arts with over thousands of world class competitors representing North America, South America, Asia and Europe each year at the Games. The competitors must compete at a series of regional and national events to earn a seed and qualify for the competition, a process similar to NCAA tournaments that is required to secure an invitation.

Gabby’s Aunt [Ali] added two World Titles to her resume, one for Women’s Middle Weight sparring (defeating a contender from France in the semi-finals and then the number #1 ranked fighter from California, Ashlee Grant, in the finals); the second victory was a team title that included teammates Willie Hicks (Texas) and Luis Jimenez (Mexico).  Jimenez, a friend of Ali’s coach and brother Bill, also entered his son Joey Jimenez (the second youngest competitor at the World Games).

Gabby and Joey formed a unique bond that extended beyond the ring as they learned about family, respect and tradition.  Although neither Gabby nor Joey won the overall division (Gabby 4th and Joey 6th) they learned something much more valuable—the importance of carrying on a legacy!  Each walked away with an Amateur International Title and took the first step towards creating their place in martial arts history.

As Viola Sr. says, “Titles come and go, but a legacy is forever.”  The school’s motto is “Building Champions in Life.”  He prides his students on being community leaders and exceling in the education.  Ali Viola is a first year law student at Duquesne University and former Division-1 soccer star at Youngstown State.  She currently works at Eckert Seamans Law Firm and is an assistant coach for “Team Kumite” the all-star travel team founded by her brother.  She avidly supports the Western Pennsylvania Police Athletic League and also trains boxing at the Third Avenue Gym downtown Pittsburgh in her free time.

Gabby Viola is currently a yellow belt in the Norwin Ninjas program at Allegheny Shotokan Karate and is coached by her father (Bill Jr.) and instructed by her Aunt (Ali) and Grandfather (Bill Sr.) aka “Papa Sensei.”  For the past fifty years, the Viola name has been synonymous with martial arts excellence and Gabby is next in line to carry the tradition.  More importantly, she is learning how to build character through martial arts.  Viola Jr. adds, “Respect, discipline and focus are the cornerstones of karate and those traits will help you throughout your schooling, your job, and life.”

For generations, the Viola family has put Pittsburgh on the map in the world of martial arts.  Bill Viola Sr., the family patriarch, has been a pioneer of karate since the 1960s and is credited as the co-creator of the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) in 1979, a decade before the UFC was a household name. In 2011 The Western PA Sports Museum and Heinz History Center honored him with an exhibit documenting Pittsburgh as the birthplace of modern MMA. In all, Viola Sr. has five children [Bill Jr., Addie, Jacque, Ali, and Joce], all of whom have earned black belts and excelled in international competition.


Bill Viola Jr. has created the Mecca for martial arts in Pittsburgh, promoting the region’s largest and most prestigious competition known worldwide as the “Kumite Classic.” He’s an accomplished martial arts author and movie producer whose credits that include Tapped (2014) starring UFC Champions Lyoto Machida and Anderson “Spider” Silva.

About Allegheny Shotokan:  Bill Viola Sr. established Allegheny Shotokan Karate in 1969, and has since produced more World Champions than any other school in the Pittsburgh region.  The school has been representing Pennsylvania and the United States at the World Games dating back to the establishment of the league.  www.alleghenyshotokan.com

Other students from Allegheny Shotokan and Team Kumite who represented at the World Games were:

  • Sara Russell
  • Cameron Klos
  • Nick Kosan
  • Hope Chase
  • Bess Chase
  • Brigid Chase
  • Luke Lokay
  • Brady Johnson
  • Austin Hladek

Voted Best Karate School

irwin pa karate

Allegheny Shotokan Karate voted best martial arts school in the Westmoreland Country area by Trib Total Media.

Pittsburgh based Allegheny Shotokan Karate was voted the best martial arts school in the region by Trib Total Media! We thank all the friends and families that make our dojo special.

Allegheny Shotokan Karate: A Pittsburgh Family Martial Arts Tradition

Martial Arts are great way to build self-confidence and boost self-esteem in children. Every mom and dad wants to instill respect, discipline and focus in their kids, but with so many options available today it can be difficult to find the right program. Parents across the region have been raving about the Irwin based Norwin Ninjas, winner of the Trib Total Media Readers’ Choice Gold Award. As Western Pennsylvania’s premier youth marital arts course, the programs are structured to develop positive “character” traits that reinforce strong family values. The award winning classes have been honored for their creativity and unique curriculum developed by certified teachers and educators. Gary Klos of North Huntingdon has a son in the school and tells us, “Every class is exciting, and the workouts challenge the kids mentally and physically. I’ve been around a lot of other martial arts and this is simply the best program for my son. He loves it.”

The energetic group of students is led by the Viola family; three generations karate champions. Master Bill Viola Sr. has over fifty years’ experience in the martial arts and has enlisted his black belt family; son Bill Jr, and daughters Addie, Jacque, Ali and Joce to help run the school. Over the past 6 decades Viola Sr. has taught thousands of students, making him the authority on karate in the Norwin area. In 1969 he founded Allegheny Shotokan Karate, the first martial arts school in the area. Viola Sr., a retired school teacher, has used his education background and years of hands-on experience to help devise a program that not only teaches self-defense and Shotokan karate, but more importantly building character in young people.

The Norwin Ninjas emphasize a child’s “SELF” image and uses goal oriented objectives to encourage them. Every student sets goals and works towards reaching them. Sensei Bill Viola Jr. says, “We strive to build positive role models, and as our students advance, they are taught to set an example. To us, it’s all about building future leaders. The mental focus and determination they learn in karate will carry over to school, family and life. It starts a young age and I have seen so many kids improve their grades, behavior, and coordination after joining the class. I couldn’t be prouder of the kids who have graduated from our programs.” In fact Connor Burns and Liz Leaseburg were honored by former Steeler Hines Ward as male and female “Positive Athletes of the Year” for martial arts. Viola continues, “Kids like Connor and Liz are making a difference in the community. They epitomize the motto, ‘Building Champions in Life.’”

Michael Russell of North Huntingdon has a daughter in the teenage class. He says, “I love that it is a family run school. All the instructors are exceptional and they make you earn everything! This is not a chain; you will progress at your own pace. They have really brought out the best in Sara.” Sara recently competed at the National Black Belt League World Games representing the United States and won a World Title. Eight years ago she began as a Norwin Ninja, and now after years of dedication has become yet another role model for the next generation of Norwin Ninjas. Sensei Viola ads, “We teach all our Ninjas that to in order to achieve, you have to embrace the three ‘D’s’ Desire, Determination, and Dedication.”

New students are now being accepted for Monday and Wednesday classes at our Irwin and North Huntingdon locations. If you would like to reserve a spot for a free lesson at no obligation, call Sensei Bill Viola at 724-864-3495.

www.alleghenyshotokan.com

irwin pa karate

 

 

2013 Kumite Classic

Congrats to all Allegheny Shotokan Karate and Norwin Ninjas for a great performance at the 2013 Kumite Classic!

Photos: Norwin Ninjas on the main stage, Sara Russel throws a Cartwheel kick, Billy Leader sweeps his opponent, and the Kumite Classic expo entrance

NBL Player of The Year

Pittsburgh Martial Artist Billy Leader named NBL Diamond Award Winner for Sport Karate “Player of the Year”

The 23rd Sport Karate World Games known internationally as the “Super Grands” was held 26th-31st in Buffalo New York. The tournament is sanctioned by the National Black Belt League (NBL) and Sport Karate International (SKIL) which are responsible for the largest sport karate ranking system and league for black belts in the world. The competition is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for martial arts with over 2000 world class competitors representing North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe each year at the Games. The competitor must compete at a series of regional and national events to earn a seed and qualify for the competition, a process similar to NCAA tournaments that is required to secure an invitation.

NBL Karate logo
At the closing ceremonies of the World Games, the NBL Executive Office votes on a series of Hall of Fame categories that represent the entire league. For the first time in Pittsburgh history, a local resident was honored with the NBL Diamond Award “Player of the Year.” 21-year-old Billy Leader of North Huntingdon Township was inducted into the NBL Hall of Fame on December 31st 2012 and honored with this prestigious title. Leader’s coach Sensei Bill Viola Jr explains, “It is similar to a league MVP type honor, an award for his entire body of work as a competitor. He was in contention with thousands of international competitors worldwide. This is huge, it puts Pittsburgh on the map when it comes to sport karate.” The Norwin Graduate and Penn State Junior has studied martial arts since he was three years old at the Allegheny Shotokan Karate School in Irwin, PA.
Allegheny Shotokan was founded in 1969 and since has produced more World Champions than any other school in the Pittsburgh region. They school as a rich tradition of representing Pennsylvania and the United States at the World Games dating back to the establishment of the league. Serving as captain of the Pittsburgh based all-star Team Kumite Classic, Leader defeated Andres Garcia of Guatemala (the reigning 6-time World Champion) in the Men’s Light Middleweight Continuous Sparring division en route to an appearance on the main stage for the finals. His brother, 19-year-old Dominic Leader, also advanced to the finals to face Hugo Mendoza of Mexico. Leader’s teammate also includes 20-year old Ali Viola who claimed her 4th continuous sparring World Title by defeating the top international competitors from Canada, Guatemala and Mexico in the finals. Viola had previously become the first female form Pittsburgh to win a World Title in 2006, 2008, and 2009 before winning the Adult title this year.
The Team Kumite Classic Roster also includes a trio of sisters; 14-year-old Bridget Chase, 13-year-old Hope Chase, 11-year old Bess Chase all of Imperial, PA and 17-year-old Connor Burns of North Huntingdon who was inactive due to a torn ACL two weeks prior to the tournament. All of the athletes compete in Black Belt Continuous Sparring, a hybrid of kickboxing which requires high levels of endurance and physical toughness.  Coach Viola was very proud of his team stating, “In all, we qualified six black belts who attended the World Games, and all six placed top three in the World. Its an incredible winning percentage, especially when you consider that our school is the only one in the Pittsburgh area to bring home a World Title. They are a special group of students and Billy [Leader] works harder than any other student I have ever had. Winning player of the year is well deserved.”

billy leader nbl
Billy Leader holds the NBL Diamond Award for Sport Karate Player of the Year inducted into the National Black Belt League Karate Hall of Fame