Allegheny “Viola” Shotokan Karate School Est. 1969
Allegheny Shotokan Karate, established in 1969, is a Martial Arts (Karate, Kickboxing, Mixed Martial Arts) School based in Western Pennsylvania. The club was founded by Sensei William Viola. The name “Allegheny” represented the school’s first location in Allegheny County (East Allegheny High School). Traditional “Shotokan,” is the base style of Japanese Karate-do taught. Over the past 50 years the school has held classes in the suburbs of Pittsburgh including Turtle Creek, North Versailles, Paintertown, White Oak, Irwin, North Irwin and currently residing in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
The karate school was founded on the traditional principles of Japanese Karate Association (JKA) Shotokan Karate. Later the school became affiliated with the United States Karate Association (USKA) under direction of Robert Trias (Father of American Karate) and USA Karate Federation (USAKF) under the direction of George Anderson (Father of Olympic Karate).
In the late 1960s Viola began giving private lessons. His first student was Denny Costello, a football player from Cal U. In 1969 Viola began his formal instructing career with Keith Bertoluzzi, the first student at East Allegheny High School. Bertoluzzi was the Master of Ceremonies at the Holiday House, Monroeville, PA. Bertoluzzi used his musical influence to invite several celebrities to attend karate classes including 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.”
During the 1970s and 1980s the karate school was a dominant force at martial arts competitions, successful in both karate and kick boxing championships. The school is credited with sponsoring numerous championships including the Laurel State Karate Championships founded in the 1970s.
In 1979, Shihan Bill Viola wrote the first codified set of mixed martial arts rules in 1979; implemented in over 130 bouts. MMAhistory.org recognized him as the “Father of MMA” based on his innovate rule set. Those standards parallel the unified rules of today. He is credited by the Heinz History center as the co-creator of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) a decade before the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). MMA is now a multi-billion dollar entity. CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions introduced open regulated mixed martial arts competitions to the United States March 20, 1980 in Pittsburgh, PA.In 1980, members of the dojo entered in the first mixed martial arts style fights in the United States know as Tough Guy competitions. His life is the subject of the best-selling book Tough Guys (Authored by Bill Viola Jr.) and the Showtime documentary film Tough Guys.
In 1987 Shihan Viola established USA Karate Allegheny Mountain Region. The RSO was a qualifier for the USAKF National Championships for over a decade. The USAKF was the national governing body for Karate in the United States (1985-1995), and member of the US Olympic Committee. George Anderson (USAKF President) was the father of “Olympic Karate” Without his contributions and his team during the 1980s and 1990s karate would have not reached the Pan American Games. In 1992 Viola hosted the USA Karate Junior Olympics at the University of Pittsburgh Field House with Master George Anderson.
USA Karate Team Members Jack Bodell, Rich Sowash, Doug Selchan and Dustin Baldis began their training at the school. Bodell was the first black belt promoted by Shihan Viola and would go on to be a member of the United States Secret Service protecting President Jimmy Carter. He also served as a referee for CV Productions during the Tough Guy Contest craze (The first mixed martial arts competitions in America). Bodell would open additional schools in the late 1980s including West Newton, PA (School of Orthodox Shotokan Karate). Their he oversaw Selchan and Baldis before relocating south to Memphis, Tenn. Selchan took over as head instructor for the dojo. Doug went on the win a Gold Medal the 1999 Pan-American Games in the +80kg Kumite for the United States. While in Tennessee, Bodell trained USA Karate Team Member Clay Morton. Shihan Viola was inducted into the USA Karate Hall of Fame and honored as the 2003 Man of the year (Lifetime Achievement).
Sensei Bill Viola Jr. was recognized as the only black belt “Triple-gold Medalist” at USA Karate’s Jr. Olympics earning top honors in Kumite, Kata, and Kobudo. As a Junior his was a multiple-time national champion and All-American Athlete. Master George Anderson personally asked Viola Jr. to be a member of USA Karate Team. He entered the Adult division in 1995 and earned at least one Gold Medal 1995-1998 each year making him a 4x USAKF National Champion before retiring in 1999 due to a neck injury. In 1997 he was the only Adult Male to win “Triple Gold” at USA Karate Federation Nationals (Kata, Kumite, -65kg Kumite). Sensei Bill split his time competing in both Olympic-style USA Karate and Open Style NASKA/NBL events throughout his career.
Allegheny Shotokan Karate is the only karate school in Pennsylvania Karate Rating Association (PKRA) history to win all seven grand championships at the Pittsburgh Karate Championships in 1996 promoted by Master Frank Caliguri. Viola’s son, Bill Viola won 8-consecutive black belt overall state titles (1992-1999) and was inducted into the PKRA Hall of Fame. In 1998 the school was honored by Arnold Schwarzenegger as the #1 Martial Arts Demo team in the United States of America and World Champions!
Allegheny Shotokan has produced hundreds of regional, national, and international champions including titles from; Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), United States of America Karate Federation (USAKF), United States of American National Karate Federation (USANKF), National Black Belt League (NBL), Sport Karate International (SKI) North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA), and Police Athletic League (PAL) Pennsylvania Karate Rating Association (PKRA).
Modern Champions at Viola Karate School:
Allegheny Shotokan is the home of Team Kumite, an all-star travel team. The dojo is the most successful sport karate school in the Pittsburgh region producing the only NBL World Champions in the past decade (< 2015) including; 3x World Champion Terrance Tubio (who also won USANKF Kumite Gold, World Champion Nichole Sullivan, 7x World Champion Ali Viola, 3x World Champion Dominic Leader, 2x World Champion Sara Russell, Multi-World Champion Hope Chase and Multi-World Champion Brigid Chase. Read More
In 2018 Xander Eddy and Luke Lokay won the WAKO USA Team Trials and became Members of the United States Karate Kickboxing National Team.
William Viola has had the opportunity to teach all five of his children Shotokan Karate; Bill Viola, Addie Viola, Jacque Viola, Alison Viola, and Joce Viola have all earned black belts and have served as instructors at the.
Notable Karate School Alumni:
Keith Bertoluzzi, The first karate student in Allegheny Shotokan Karate history. -1969 Co-worker of Sensei Viola at East Allegheny School District.
Jack Bodell, Former agent of the United States Secret Service charged with protecting President Jimmy Carter.
Art Timko, Department of Tobacco and Alcohol
Ray Walters, Senior Ranking Allegheny Shotokan Black Belt Instructor
Ray Adams, Longest running active student -since 1970.
Dave Jones, Recorded a TKO of Mike Murray in round 2 March 1980 in the first mixed martial arts competition in United States.
Rich Sowash, USAKF National Champion: represented the United States at the 198 Pan American Junior Championships in San Jose, Costa Rica winning a bronze medal in WUKO Kata.
Bill Viola 4x USA Karate National Champion, Member USA Karate Team (USAKF), Sport Karate International Champion, Founder of Kumite Classic Entertainment, Best-selling Author of Tough Guys, Godfathers of MMA, and Go Ask Your Dad.
Addie Viola USA Karate National Champion
Rocky Whatule Professional comedian and actor, Host of Hollywood Rockin’ Wrap-up, USAKF National Champion
Terrance Tubio 3x NBL World Champion
Billy Leader Team Kumite Captain, NBL World Games
Ali Viola 7x NBL World Champion Continuous Sparring: 2006 weight World Champion, 2008 Middleweight World Champion, 2009 Middleweight World Champion Buffalo, New York. 2010-present Division 1 Goal Keeper for Youngstown State University.
Dominic Leader 3x NBL World Champion