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.”