About the author: Bill Viola Jr. is Amazon best-selling author and creator of the award-winning Sensei Says® life skills curriculum. He experienced the "Golden Era" of MMA firsthand as his father, Bill Sr., is credited as the co-creator of the sport of mixed martial arts in 1979. His book Godfathers of MMA inspired the critically acclaimed SHOWTIME film Tough Guys where he acted as a producer alongside an Academy Award accredited team. The Viola family owns and operates Allegheny Shotokan Karate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania now celebrating their 50-year anniversary (1969-2019). He is currently the President of Kumite Classic Entertainment Corp.
Norwin’s catcher Sara Russell signals an out for her team during softball against Latrobe at Greater Latrobe High School in Latrobe, on Friday, April 6, 2018.PreviousNext
Sara Russell sometimes gets the urge to bow to pitchers when she comes to the plate for Norwin. Not that she is showing weakness or submissiveness — quite the opposite.
It’s just a habit from her decorated ventures in martial arts. Just like how she braids her hair.
“I won my first (National Blackbelt League) championship fight with a braid in,” she said. “I’ve done it for every game of softball since, too.”
And while her uniform belt is navy blue, the belt she is most proud of, the one she earned at age 12, is black.
Meet Norwin’s karate kid.
The junior catcher is a model of toughness and skill and a calming presence behind the plate for the Knights (1-0) who, like most WPIAL teams, are ready to chop through a cement block in frustration as rain, snow and cold temperatures continue to plague games.
“Sara is a very hard worker and is highly dedicated to her craft,” Norwin coach Brian Mesich said. “She will play a key role for our pitching staff — communication and positive support of her teammates.”
Russell, an IUP recruit, attributes much of her on-field success to martial arts. She is a two-time NBL world champion in karate. She competes with Allegheny Shotokan, Team Kumite, out of Irwin.
“Competing in both kata and sparring at an international level requires intense focus and discipline,” she said. “And that has definitely carried over to catching and hitting.”
Russell batted .382 last season with 16 RBIs. She threw out 15 of 38 would-be base stealers and added three pickoffs. Hi-yah!
Like almost every budding softball prospect, Russell plays travel ball, for Pittsburgh Nitro. With eight years of karate training — two or three practices a week, she said — one can imagine how busy her schedule was at times.
She remembers a whirlwind couple of days, in particular.
“When I was 14, I was fighting in a major tournament in Pittsburgh,” Russell said. “The championship fight was on stage at 12:30 a.m. I had a softball game at 8 a.m. the next morning in Hagerstown (Md.). My dad and I went to a hotel right after my fight. I showered and slept for a few hours.”
Russell left at 4 a.m. and made it to the field on time.
“I played four games in 90-degree weather, and I think that was the most exhausted I have ever been in my entire life,” she said.
Softball, like karate, was something Russell became enamoured with from a young age. Both brought out her impetus to compete and improve, never settling or claiming to know too much.
“Sara is a student of the game,” Mesich said. “Her knowledge and leadership comes from learning from her successes and failures on the field. She has good surveillance and reactionary skills.”
Russell also considered Buffalo, Cal (Pa.) and Saint Vincent, but IUP had the math and physics requirements she wanted and seemed like the best fit.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BillBeckner.
Stow, Ohio-The USA Karate Federation has unveiled its 2019 Hall of Fame Class, to be inducted at a black-tie ceremony on March 9, at the SYB Party Center 4157 Hudson Drive Stow, Ohio. Bill Viola of Pittsburgh, PA was nominated as an inductee into the Hall of Fame as a Pioneer of USA Karate for his contributions to the Olympic karate movement during the 1980s and 1990s. He is a previous member of the class of 2003, inducted as USA Karate “Man of Year” and “Distinguished Service.” His son Bill Viola Jr., was nominated as an Athlete but was unable to attend the ceremony.
The 2019 Hall of Fame Class includes the entirety of the overall effort to raise the standing of Karate competition to Olympic quality. This includes individuals who competed Nationally and Internationally as athletes, Regional Sports Organization Administrators, and National and International referees, coaches and officials.
All of the inductees were selected by a determination of a selection committee of the USA Karate Federation and past members of the Hall of Fame.
This year the USA Karate Federation will also honor its former President, the late George E. Anderson, who is world renowned as man responsible for getting the Olympic Karate Movement started by posthumously awarding him a 10th Dan in Karate. Hanshi Anderson had over 50 years of martial arts experience, and was President of both the AAU Karate and USA Karate programs as well as a member of the United States Olympic Committee. He was also the founder of the USA Karate Federation (USAKF), which became the National Governing Body for Sport Karate in the United States. Internationally Anderson was President of the Pan American Union of Karate-do Organization, and was senior vice-president of the World Union of Karate-do Organizations, the international governing body for sport karate as well as serving as their chief referee.
Sadly, and unexpectedly, Anderson passed away on August 6, 2009. However, in 18-months his dream of having karate participate in the Olympic Games will become a reality in Tokyo 2020. In his honor, the USA Karate Federation will be presenting special Pioneer Awards for those who helped Anderson achieve Olympic recognition.
“For many years the best karate athletes in the United States were part of the USA Karate Federation. This is where the Olympic Karate movement started, and today the coaches, administrators, and athletes of the USA can thank the pioneers of the USAKF for making their Olympic dreams come true,” said Patrick Hickey, current president of the USAKF. “We are thrilled to induct another outstanding group of individuals into our Hall of Fame. This event is truly a special night to honor their accomplishments and recognize the foundation they have laid for the karate athletes of today.”
In 1987 Shihan Viola established USA Karate Allegheny Mountain Region. The RSO was a qualifier for the USA Karate Federation (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. Sensei Bill Viola Jr. was a triple Gold Medalist at the Jr. Olympics. The only athlete to win Gold in kata, kumite and kobudo.
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). Bill Jr. was a USA Karate All-American Athlete, multi-time National Champion and Member of USA Karate team in late 1990s.
“That’s one small step for karate; one giant leap for martial arts.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
Google the “history of mixed martial arts.” Sometimes, the name of action star Bruce Lee pops up. Other times, it might be Art Davie, who created the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993.
But for practical purposes, a couple of guys from the Pittsburgh area got there first.
At 9 p.m. Friday, Showtime will premiere “Tough Guys,” a documentary feature that revisits the “City of Champions” era — one that spawned a series of streetfighter-type competitions.
In spirit, if not legally, it was the grassroots beginnings of MMA.
“For me, growing up in the ’80s in Pittsburgh, I had no idea any of this existed,” said Craig DiBiase, a Peters Township High School grad and producer of the film. His New York-based MinusL production company financed “Tough Guys,” and one of its directors, Henry Roosevelt, co-directed with William Zullo.
“Tough Guys” is a sideburn-wearing stroll through the evolution of bikers, bouncers and steelworkers brawling for cash, honor and the sheer thrill of beating each other up.
At the beginning of the film, karate promoters Bill Viola, who grew up in Brownsville, and Frank Caliguri, of Arnold, talk about the night they laid the groundwork for their tough guy competitions.
“Some great ideas start in laboratories. Some start in classrooms. But ours started at America’s diner: Denny’s,” Mr. Viola said.
They’d seen all sorts of bar fights and, as martial arts experts, were familiar with various forms of self-defense. What might happen if you put boxing, wrestling and martial arts together? Even better, what would happen if the participants were amateurs, fighting mainly for pride and street cred?
Would anyone come to watch? Resoundingly yes: more than 3,500 fans crammed the 2,000-seat ballroom at the New Kensington Holiday Inn.
Mr. Viola and Mr. Caliguri put up posters recruiting “tough men” to compete in a three-day event beginning March 20, 1980. With $6,000 in prize money available, the response was great. Three secretaries were hired to handle the flood of entries.
“In the late ’70s and early ’80s, ‘Rocky’ was the biggest movie out,” Mr. Viola said. “Everyone was listening to the song [‘Gonna Fly Now’], drinking eggs in the morning
“He was fictitious, but we were going to have the real ‘Rocky.’ ”
These were fighters like Dave Jones, a kickboxer and road laborer; Mike Murray, a car salesman, and Danny “Mad Dog” Moyak, a construction worker with a wild Charles Manson beard.
“A lot of them were from the New Kensington area, real streetfighters,” Mr. Caliguri said. “When we put the word out, they came.”
“Tough Guys” competitions had a loose set of rules (no eye-gouging, biting or “kicking anyone in the jewels”). Knocking out your opponent helped get you to the next round.
Competitors wore boxing-style headgear as well as padded footwear and gloves for safety. That didn’t entirely prevent injuries: one, Frank Tigano, a steelworker from Braddock, broke his jaw but still competed the following month.
There would be other, bigger events, such as the regional finals at the old Stanley Theatre in Downtown Pittsburgh, now the Benedum Center. But according to the film, death in the ring involving a rival promoter’s event would lead to Pennsylvania legistlators banning the sport.
Based on a story idea by Robert Zullo, a former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer, “Tough Guys” was shot in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, as well as parts of New York and New Jersey.
Many of the fighters were not only tough, they were survivors who seemed happy to tell their stories on camera. In addition to archieved footage of the fights and promotions (remember Liz Miles and Dave Durian on “Evening Magazine”?), there are re-creations of certain scenes that brighten the look of “Tough Guys.”
“We played a little with the narrative,” Mr. DiBiase said. “We made it fast-paced; there’s never a lull.”
Besides Mr. DiBiase, at least another key player in making the documentary has Pittsburgh ties. Brad Grimm, director of photography, is a Monroeville native working in New York City.
Robert Zullo, father of the writer and director, even played Monroeville’s legendary boxing promoter Al Monzo in one re-creation scene.
Executive producers include Morgan Spurlock (the Oscar nominated “Supersize Me”) and Ross Kauffman (who won an Oscar for “Born Into Brothels”).
“Tough Guys” had its cinematic debut in June, when it played to a sold-out crowd at the American Film Institute’s Docs festival. A free, public showing is set for 9 p.m. Friday at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg.
In an early scene, Mr. Jones, the kickboxer, is duking it out with Mr. Murray, the car salesman. Reeling, Mr. Jones tucks into the corner, but it seems he’s just playing possum. As his opponent moves in for the kill, Mr. Jones gives him a vicious kick to the chest and wins the match.
Team USA Member Xander Eddy – Youngest American to Win Gold at WAKO Pan American Championships
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
Sammy and Remmi are holding a fundraiser at the UPS Store in White Oak this Saturday starting at 10AM to support Andrews Avengers. They will have chocolate covered goodies, baked goods, drinks and more. Help them KICK Cancer!
The efforts support the family, friends and supporters of Andrew O’Neil (2011-2016) who suffered from neuroblastoma.
Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate Dojo is proud to announce a milestone moment for five of its members. On Saturday September 1, 2018 the black belt candidates tested for Shodan (1st Degree) Junior Black Belt. The students have been training between 7-8 years each to be eligible to test. Earning the title of Shodan are 11-year-old Zach Farroux, 15-year-old Gabriel Anthony, 13-year old Stephen Jackowski, 12-year old Owen Orth, and 13-year-old Matt Morrow. The students logged in over internship 100 hours, completed a 4-hour physical test, passed character education development and a martial arts history exam.
It was a record setting exam at the Dojo. 5 black belt all passed. It is the largest group in dojo history. Congrats to our new Sensei’s. Examiners were Shihan Viola, Sensei Ray Walters, Sensei Bill Jr. and Sensei Ray Adams. Sensei Gary was also invited to observe.
Congratulations to these karate-ka:
The history portion was scored very well, but in the heat of the moment we did have some inside jokes including a yak & camel, bald headed monks in orange robes, shiane temples, and buttism. Gentlemen, always remember that karate is a “journey” and not a destination. We hope that you realize that the real learning begins at black belt. Always remember that quitting karate after getting your black belt is like getting your driver’s license and never driving…
A form: A choreographed pattern of movements that simulates a “imaginary fight.”
Japanese prounuciation 型 “kata” Translates as “Form” or a mold, law, or model.
Chinese pronunciation 型 “hsing”
Korean pronunciation 型 “hyeong”
Important Kata Terms:
分解 Bunkai (analysis)
応用 Oyo (application)
演武線 Embusen (kata line)
Circa 1891 The Japanese Army was very impressed with “te” but lost interest due to poor organization and outdated training methods. Master Itosu took steps to modernize karate by intoducing the “Pinan” Kata as a form of physical fitness and removed the dangerous elements (tegumi). (Funakoshi later named them Heian to suit Japanese nationalism). In 1901, Itosu started teaching Karate at the Shuri Jinjo Elementary School and by 1905 he teaching at the First Junior Prefectural School. Karate became part of the official physical education of Okinawa’s school system, eventually making its way to mainland Japan via Funakoshi in 1922.
“Heian” The word “Heian” is Japanese and shortened from two words – 平 heiwa (peace) and 安 antei (stability)
Heian 1-5 are the most popular kata in the world.
平安 Pingan (Chinese) “stay safe”
平安 Pinan (Okinawan) “stay safe”
平安 Heian (Japanese) “peaceful”
平安 Pyong-an/Pyung-Ahn (Korean)
SHITEI 指定 Kata “designated” (Heian & Tekki Shodan) These kata introduced by Yasutune Itosu
平安初段 Heian Shodan – (peaceful mind, first level)
平安二段 Heian Nidan – (peaceful mind, second level)
平安三段 Heian Sandan – (peaceful mind, third level)
平安四段 Heian Yondan – (peaceful mind, fourth level)
平安五段 Heian Godan – (peaceful mind, fifth level)
Okinawan “Naihanchi” kata and naihanchi-dachi demonstarate elements of Tegumi and tai sabki. This Shōrei-Ryu kata was later remaned “Tekki” 鉄 Tetsu (Iron) 騎 (to ride or sit horseback) by Funakoshi who also renamed the straddle stance to Kiba-dachi (Cavarly Horse Stance)
鉄騎初段 Tekki Shodan – (iron horse riding, first level)
鉄騎弐段 Tekki Nidan – (iron horse riding, second level)
鉄騎参段 Tekki Sandan – (iron horse riding, third level)
SENTEI 選定 Kata “Selection” are (4) required kata (compulsory):
9. Bassai Dai (Passai) 拔塞 (to penetrate a fortress – major/big) Japanese meaning of 拔(batsu) is “to pull out or to extract” in Chinese “拔 (bá)” can mean “to seize or capture” and 塞(sai/soku) means a “place of strategic importance” or fort. Bá sāi (拔塞) would mean “to seize or capture” a “place of importance. Some moves symbolize a battering ram used against fortress walls. Introduced by Peichin
10. Kanku Dai 観空大 (Kushanku) (to view the sky – major/big) The first movement views the sky, which symbolizes the universe and shows your opponent that you are unarmed. It was Master Funakoshi’s preferred kata. Introduced by Kung Hsiang Chun
11. Jion 慈恩 (love and goodness) or mercy is a term in Buddhism. It is also the name of a temple (Jionji 慈恩寺) in China.
12. Enpi 燕飛 (Wanshu/excellent wrist) The quick up and down movements of this kata are reminiscent “flying swallow” where it gets its name . Enpi is one of the oldest kata in Shotokan. The “Funakoshi 15” Heian 1-5, Tekki 1-3, +4 Sentei kata, + these (3) Introduced by Wang Ji
13. Hangetsu 半月 (Seisan) meaning half moon based off the hangetsu dachi (half moon stance). Bushi Matsumura
14. Jitte 十手 (ten hands) also spelled Jutte is designed to fight against ten opponents.
15. Gankaku 岩鶴 (Chinto) (crane on a rock) The main stance in this kata (tsuruashi dachi) resembles a crane ready to strike at its prey. The movements are supposed to simulate a fight in the narrow alleyways of Okinawa. The former name was Chinto. Bushi Matsumura
17. Kanku Sho 観空小 (Kushanku) (to view the sky – minor/small) Kanku Sho was created from Kanku Dai. The movements and performance line are similar.
18. Sochin 壯鎭 (Hakko) (strength and calm) The name of this kata comes from its stance (sochin or fudo dachi), a strong, rooted stance. The purpose of this kata is to teach defense against a stick. Yoshitika Funakoshi
19. Chinte 珍手 (rare or extraordinary hand) Chinte has a lot of circular and roundhouse techniques. These are rare and are not typical of the shortest distance between two points concept of Shotokan.
20. Goju Shi Ho Dai 五十四歩大 (fifty four steps – major/big) This kata is one of the most advance kata of Shotokan. Master Funakoshi called it hotaku (knocking of a woodpecker) because some of the techniques resemble a woodpecker tapping its beak against a tree. Yasutsune Itosu
21. Goju Shi Ho Sho 五十四歩小 (fifty four steps – minor/small) This is a smaller version of Goju Shi Ho Dai. It is also one of the most advanced kata of Shotokan. Yasutsune Itosu
22. Meikyo 明鏡 (Rohai) (bright mirror) The first movements of this kata suggest the smoothing of water to make it as calm and even as a mirror. The triangle jump at the end of this kata is said to have a secret meaning portending to a miracle. Tomari-te
23. Niju Shi Ho 二十四步 (twenty-four steps) The movements in this kata resemble waves breaking on a cliff. The former name of this kata was ni sei shi. Seisho Aragaki
24. Unsu 雲手 (cloud hands) Unsu has several techniques that symbolize parting the clouds with open hands. Classically pronoucned “un-shu” Considered Rare Kata: Seisho Aragaki
25. Wankan 王冠 (king and crown) The shortest kata in Shotokan introduced by Funakoshi’s son (Gigo/Yoshitaka).
26. Ji’in 慈陰 (love and shadow) or inverted mercy. Along with Join and Jitte begin with left hand covering right (ancient Chinese) Tokui kata 得意 is your “free” or favorite kata. It translates into: speciality, pride, triumph aka your best! Its pronounced: (toe ku eee) *Kata has been described as the soul of karate. Tomari te
There are 26 standard Shotokan Kata. Some count Taikyoku “first cause” (Kihon Kata) as a 27th
27. Gigo Funakoshi also created partner kata known as “Ten no Kata” 天の形 Which translates as kata of the universe/heaven in 1930s. He was sent to learn kata from Okinawan master Kenzo Mabuni and as a result of these teachings, the curriculum of Shotokan is believed to have included Sochin, Nijushiho and Unsu.
On Wednesday August 29, 2018 history was made at the Allegheny Shotokan Viola Karate Dojo. North Huntingdon / Irwin Residents Sensei Ray Adams, 76, and Sensei Dave Zezza, 63, were promoted to Master Rank in the art of Shotokan karate. It has been a lifetime of study, practice, and diligence that both men agree that has been, “a journey and not a destination.”
Karate is a journey, not a destination
Adams first donned a karate gi (uniform) in 1970. It’s a routine he still carries on today. He was a photography teacher at East Allegheny High School when and met fellow teacher Bill Viola Sr. (Founder of the dojo). Adams explains, “In those days karate was brand new. Sensei [Viola Sr.] had been teaching the students in the high school gymnasium and I wanted in on the action.” Nearly fifty years later, Ray is still kicking, teaching and loving living the martial way.
His training partner Dave Zezza, shares his passion as both men obtained 5th Dan (degree). Zezza, a systems consultant, began in his late thirties, and at age 63 he’s never looked back. Affectionately nicknamed “Tombo” or dragonfly in Japanese, he is the resident Kobudo weapons expert at the dojo. Zezza sports a dragonfly tattoo on his arm to signify his commitment. Viola Sr. explains, “Our philosophy is ‘old school.’ Black belts come and go, but to be a master we require a unique combination of character, skill, and teaching ability with decades of training.”
Adams and Zezza are still “learning.” They explain that a black belt is just the beginning. Now at master rank, they don’t plan on slowing down. Zezza explains, “I’m always thirsty for knowledge.” Both men thank Shihan Viola and Sensei Ray Walters for pushing them. They also acknowledge their friend and fellow Alumni of the dojo, Sensei Joe Bauccio, who relocated to Florida. Bauccio is training towards joining them in the ranks soon.
Adams and Zezza join a very elite club where only a few other Masters have ever etched their names. The exclusive fraternity requires a lifetime of dedication to be inducted. The only other Masters in the Allegheny Shotokan Karate Association are Bill Viola Sr., Bill Viola Jr. Ray Walters, and Jack Bodell.
The men exemplify that age is truly just a number, as both plan on kicking as long as their bodies allow them. If they can’t kick, they will just punch 👊. Adams and Zezza also teach and share their knowledge weekly with the younger members of the dojo and train themselves every Saturday morning and attend Shihan Viola’s black belt class every Monday night.
The official presentation to the dojo members and “gong” ceremony will take place Wednesday September 5, 2018.
Master can be defined as an artist of consummate skill. Adams and Zezza are a perfect examples of men who continue to evolve and share their experience. We are blessed to have them apart of our karate family. The Viola Karate dojo will celebrates its 50-year-anniversary in 2019. The new Masters are looking forward to a reunion workout .
Master Zezza and Adams know all 27 Shotokan Kata (listed below) so Shihan gave them a challenge outside of their comfort zone. They had to learn a kata other than Shotokan style and learn the differences in method, technique, and execution. The Goju kata Suparinpei was chosen.
1. Taikyoku Shodan / Kihon kata (太極初段) Means ~ first cause first level Introduced by ~ Gichin Funakoshi 2. Heian Shodan (平安初段) Means ~ Peaceful begining level Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu 3. Heian Nidan (平安二段) Means ~ Peaceful second level Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu 4. Heian Sandan (平安三段) Means ~ Peaceful third level Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu 5. Heian Yondan (平安四段) Means ~ Peaceful fourth level Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu 6. Heian Godan (平安五段) Means ~ Peaceful fifth level Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu 7. Tekki Shodan (鉄騎初段) Means ~ Iron Horse first level Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu 8. Bassai Dai (披塞大) Means ~ To penetrate a fortress (dai=major) Introduced by ~ Peichin. 9. Kanku Dai (観空大) Means ~ To view the sky (dai=major) Introduced by ~ Kung Hsiang Chun 10. Enpi (燕飛) Means ~ Flying swallow Introduced by ~ Wang Ji 11. Hangetsu (半月) Means ~ Half Moon Introduced by ~ Bushi Matsumura 12. Jion (慈恩) Means ~ Thought to be named after the Chinese temple Jion-ji. kata and comes from Tomari te 13. Sochin (壯鎭) Means ~ Preserve Peace Introduced by ~Yoshitika Funakoshi 14. Meikyo (明鏡) Means ~ Mirror of the soul and comes from ~Tomari-te 15. Ji’in (慈陰) Means ~ Named after the saint and comes from Tomari te 16. Gojushiho Dai (五十四歩大) Means ~ 54 steps Introduced by ~Yasutsune Itosu 17. Jitte (十手)Means ~ Ten hands and comes from Tomari te 18. Gankaku (岩鶴) Means ~ Crane on a rock Introduced by ~ Bushi Matsumura 19. Tekki Nidan (鉄騎二段) Means ~ Iron Horse second level Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu 20. Tekki Sandan (鉄騎三段) Means ~ Iron Horse third level Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu 21. Chinte (珍手) Means ~ Incredible hands Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu? 22. Bassai Sho (披塞小) Means ~ To penetrate a fortress (sho=minor) Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu 23. Kanku Sho (観空小) Means ~ To view the sky (sho=minor) Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu 24. Nijushiho (二十四步) Means ~ 24 steps Introduced by ~ Seisho Aragaki 25. Unsu (雲手) Means ~ Cloud hands Introduced by ~ Seisho Aragaki 26. Wankan (王冠) Means ~ Kings Crown Introduced by ~ Gigo Funakoshi 27. Gojushiho Sho (五十四歩小) Means ~ 54 steps Introduced by ~ Yasutsune Itosu
Suparinpei – “108 Hands”
Suparinpei is the most advanced Kata in Goju-Ryu and contains the greatest number of techniques. It is translated as the number “108.” 108 is suggested to have origins in Buddhism and can represent the “108 sins of man”. On the Chinese New Year, temple bells are rung 108 times to “drive away the evils of man.” In japanese we call this kata Hyakuhachiho.