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).
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.”
Pittsburgh was once again represented at the 23rd Sport Karate World Games aka the NBL National Black Belt League Super Grands by Allegheny Shotokan Karate and Team Kumite. Ali Viola claimed her 4th continuous sparring World Title and Championship in Buffalo New York over New Years. She defeated international competitors from Canada, Guatemala and Mexico in the finals. Team Captain Billy 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 to the main stage for the finals. His brother Dominic also advanced to the finals to face Hugo Mendoza of Mexico. The team sent six black belts to the competition and all six placed top three in the World and earned NBL title belt. Coach Bill Viola was very proud of his team stating, “This year our team had to face allot of adversity and injury. Ali had bad hamstring injury and Bill could hardly walk let alone fight, but they found a way to persevere. Each year they bring respect back to Pittsburgh. I am also impressed with our Rookies at the Super Grands. The Chase sisters all earned a belt in their first World Games.”
Black Belt Roster @ the Super Grands:
Also representing the team in the SKIL Sport Karate International Games were Liz Leaseburg and Cameron Klos who fought up in the NBL Continuous division with a 5-2 record against world class competition.
Inactive due to injury or sickness included:
Connor Burns: ACL
Joe Powell: Ribs
Raun Churchfield: Pneumonia
Ali Viola poses with her 2012 World Championship All-Star Gear Karate Gloves, and The Leader brothers Dominic and Billy pose with Ali after their big wins. Ali shows off the NBL 1st place belt and Coach Bill Viola Jr. Congratulates NBL Player of the Year Billy Leader
The Norwin Ninjas karate class celebrated downtown Irwin during the annual Light Up Night parade celebration for North Huntingdon. Norwin Ninjas is part of the Allegheny casino online Shotokan Karate School located on Rt. 30 in North Huntingdon.
Pictured: Marie Mosa, Cameron Klos, Rachel Bartuska, Lucy Lokay and Sara Russell