Category Archives: Team Members

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

Connor Burns

Connor Burns pictured above with Pittsburgh Steelers Brett Keisel and Hines Ward on the set of the Hines Ward Show.

Connor Burns is currently a senior at Trinity Christian School in Pittsburgh, PA.  Burns transferred from Kiski Prep in 2012 in order to continue his training in the sport of karate and pursue his dream of winning a National Black Belt League (NBL) World Title.  He is currently the #2 ranked competitor in of the Can-Am National Conference.  He has earned a seed for the 2012 World Games held in Buffalo, NY. Connor is recognized as the #1 ranked competitor in Pennsylvania in the 15-17 year old 143- lb Sparring category.  Connor has been studying Shotokan karate for over 10 years and won numerous state and regional titles. He is a member of the prestigious Team Kumite all-star travel team.  The team is responsible for the only NBL World titles in the Pittsburgh region over the past decade.

He was honored in 2010 by Trib Total Media and selected to receive the “Outstanding Young Citizen Award” in recognition for his exemplary character, outstanding academic achievement and generous community contributions.  He was honored for his dedication in supporting local food banks through the “scouting for food” initiative.  He also volunteers his time weekly to mentor younger kids apart of his karate school and competitive sport karate team.

Burns is a well rounded scholar athlete.  In addition to his martial arts training, he is deeply committed to earning the Boy Scouts highest rank of “Eagle Scout.”  As a member of Troop Unit No. 257 he is currently an Eagle Scout candidate working on his final project to benefit the Norwin Public Library.  The Eagle Scouts are expected to be leaders in life, and set an example for the entire community. As a senior patrol leader, he was responsible for 65 kids in charge of organizing all troop events, meetings and activities.  Burns finished the 2011 school year with a 3.75 GPA.

Connor is also an accomplished pianist, playing since he was 4 years old.  He was selected to perform for the CFA commencement program in 2009, and has volunteered for numerous chapel services at Christian Fellowship, Saltsburg Baptist Church, and Calvary Baptist Church throughout the years.  He is a model student, champion athlete and avid supporter of the community.

Ali Viola

Ali Viola

3x NBL National Black Belt League World Continuous Sparring Super Grands Champion Ali Viola represents Team Kumite based in Pittsburgh, PA.  The All-star karate team trains in North Huntingdon Irwin at Allegheny Shotokan Karate. She is  the only female NBL World Champion in Pittsburgh history and the #1 ranked fighter in Pittsburgh. She has been training in martial arts since she was 3 years old.  She currently leads the D-1 YSU Youngstown State girls soccer team as the goal keeper.

Ali Viola vs Colbey Northcutt.  Ali wins Survivor 2012 over Northcutt.  Great fight by both ladies.

Ali Alison Viola vs Colbey Northcutt.  Viola wins by 18

ali viola

Pittsburgh sport karate champion Ali Viola is a kumite classic team member and Norwin graduate. She is a state, national, international, and World Champion.