The World Karate and Kickboxing Commission (WKC) hosted the 2023 National Championships June, 2-3 in Detroit, Michigan. The North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania based Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate Dojo sent their best athletes to represent Western Pennsylvania. The Team qualified regionally to attend by winning the annual Christmas Kumite.
Competitors who medal (top 4) in their divisions earn a sport on Team USA. Sensei Viola’s “Team Kumite” qualified 17 members, making them the largest group form a single dojo to make the United States Team.
The US Team is comprised of elite athletes from across the country who win the National Team trials and earn a position to represent the United States at the World Championships. Last year, Gabby Viola and Riley Evans medaled in in Killarney, Ireland at the 2022 World Championships. This year, the event moves back to the United States and Orlando Florida in October. Sensei (coach) Bill Viola Jr. said, “It was very expensive to travel to Europe, so I am excited that more students will get a chance to travel to Florida. I know next year will be in Germany, so we need to defend home turf this year.”
Top honors went to Gabby Viola and Xander Eddy. Both are former World Champions who had a rare clean sweep at nationals. Gabby winning 5 gold medals, and Xander winning 4 Gold medals.
Medaling for Team USA representing Western Pennsylvania:
Pictured Left to right
All the competitors are a apart of “Team Kumite” and all-star travel team that trains at the Viola Karate Dojo. The team will next compete locally at the annual “Summer Shiai” hosted by Sensei Bill Viola at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.
World Karate and Kickboxing Commission WKC – Ireland 2022
The World Karate and Kickboxing Commission (WKC) hosted the 2022 World Championships October, 9th -14th in Killarney, Ireland. The weeklong event hosted the world’s best in WKC Tatami-style martial arts competition. North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania based Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate Dojo sent three athletes to Europe for the championships.
Team USA is comprised of elite athletes from across the country who won the National Team trials in Detroit this past June. Gabby Viola (12-years-old), Riley Evans (14-year old) and Daniel Barrett (17-years old) from Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate Dojo earned positions to represent the United States at the World Championships.
Sensei (coach) Bill Viola Jr. said, “I’m beyond proud of them for just stepping on the mat and representing both American and Western PA. It is such an honor to bring medals home to North Huntingdon.”
The team traveled to London, England for a cultural experience, before arriving in Ireland for the week long tournament. Eighteen countries sent their best competitors to Killarney, Ireland for the WKC World Championships, an event which is hosted by a different country annually.
Gabby Viola, who won the World Title in 2021, said, “This year was the toughest competition she’s faced at the WKC. I was very impressed with the British fighters. They earned my respect. I’m proud to bring home medals in both my categories.” Riley Evans agrees, she actually exchanged her team USA uniform with a competitor from England as a keepsake and sign of camaraderie. Daniel Barrett wasn’t able to garner a medal, but cherished the experience, “I’ve never been overseas, so beyond the competition this is something I’ll always remember.” Barrett lost in sudden victory overtime to Canada in the quarter finals.
14-year old Riley Evans, Silver 🥈 (-45kg continuous sparring), 🥉 Bronze Medal (-45kg sparring).
Gabby is a 6th grader at Hillcrest Intermediate School.
Riley is a 9th grader at Christian Academy.
The girls are a apart of “Team Kumite” and all-star travel team that trains at the Viola Karate Dojo. The team will next compete locally at the annual “Christmas Kumite” hosted by Sensei Bill Viola. It is the qualifier and first step to attend Detroit in 2023. The squad has every intention of making the US Team again and representing American next year.
Pittsburgh area Team Kumite headquartered at Allegheny Shotokan Karate Dojo earns World Titles.
SAINT VINCENT STUDENT KICKS HIS WAY TO A WORLD KARATE TITLE
The World Karate and Kickboxing Commission (WKC) hosted the 2021 World Championships November, 23rd-30th in Orlando, Florida. The weeklong event hosted the world’s best in WKC Tatami-style martial arts competition. Pittsburgh based Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate Dojo earned over 20 medals, including top honors from 20-year-old St. Vincent student Cameron Klos, who was recognized as the overall “Grand Champion.”
Team USA is comprised of 300 athletes from across the country who won the National Team trials in Detroit this past June. Twelve members from Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate Dojo earned positions to represent the United States at the World Championships. Of that group, ten students advanced to the medal rounds and stood on the podium. Sensei (coach) Bill Viola Jr. said, “It is so amazing to see our athletes represent Western PA on an international level. When they play the star spangled banner for one our students, it’s a special moment. Cameron is leading by example.”
The highlight of the week was Cameron Klos earning top honors in the Adult Black Belt Overall Finals. Klos earned a spot to compete by winning gold for his traditional kata (pattern) during elimination rounds. The finals pitted gold medal winners and elite athletes in various disciplines to determine the “best of the best.” The final four international champions represented Canada, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Klos for the United States. In the end, Klos was named Grand Champion of the WKC.
Senator Kim Ward presented Cameron with a proclamation for his victory upon his return to Pittsburgh. He will perform for the County Commissioners at the Greensburg Courthouse of December 16th.
Klos, a Cyber Security major at St. Vincent College, holds a 4.0 GPA. Sensei Viola Jr. says, “It takes a special kind of work ethic to juggle an international karate schedule and remain at the top of his class in college. Cameron personifies dedication. His is earning a ‘black belt in life’.”
The 2022 WKC World Championships will be held in Dublin, Ireland. The team will be fundraising throughout the year to attend and defend their titles. For more information visit www.alleghenyshotokan.com
Immediate Release: 2/13/20 Contact: Call/Text Bill Viola Jr. 724-640-2111
Pittsburgh Karate Girls Honored by Peers with National “People’s Choice” Meet Gabby Viola and Lucy Lokay
Often times people associate martial arts as a rough-and-tumble sport dominated by male competitors, but two Pittsburgh area karate girls shattering the stereotypes. 9-year-old Gabby Viola and 14-year-old Lucy Lokay were recently honored by the national karate media and their peers with nationwide “People’s Choice Awards.” Sportmartialarts.com and Point Fighter Live are the equivalent to the Academy Awards and Grammys for sport karate. They are the two most popular media outlets in North America and recognize the top athletes at the beginning of each season with year-end recognition.
Gabby Viola was nominated as “Competitor
of the Year” by Point Fighter Live. The honor, dubbed as a “Power Award” was voted on by coaches,
competitors, and promoters from across North America. After a nationwide poll, Viola not only won
her category (edging out a talented competitor from El Paso, Texas) but was the
highest vote getter of the show. The physical award will be presented this
April in Warwick, Rhode Island at the Ocean State Grand Nationals.
Gabby is a third generation Viola to win national honors. She’s following in her Dad Bill Jr. and Grandfather Bill Sr.’s footsteps. She began her training as a toddler and has been a national champion since she debuted at the 2013 Kumite Classic. She’s a member of Team USA, and defending Gold Medalist from the WKC Nationals Championships. Gabby is an inspiration to other girls as she’s been battling bowel disease. At 7-years-old, she was diagnosed with chronic inflammation and ulcerative colitis. While there is no cure for the condition, but she is fighting for remission every day and proving that nothing can stop her karate dreams. She is currently treated with infusions at UPMC Children’s hospital and is scheduled to visit Washington, DC this May to lobby for new treatments for the disease with .
When asked about the recognition Gabby said, “I’m really happy. I hope this helps get me to Japan!” She’s on a mission to fund raise to watch her Idol Sandra Sanchez from Spain compete for a gold medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Gabby had the opportunity to train with Sanchez in Orlando, Florida this past July. When she’s not competing, she loves playing piano, dance, and teaching her 2-year-old brother karate.
Lucy Lokay was recognized by Sportsmartialarts.com in the “Overall
Youth Female” category. She received enough preliminary votes
nationally to beat out thousands of other competitors and earn a nomination in
the final four, and a trip to Chicago, Illinois for the awards ceremony. Lokay explains, “I was so honored. I mean these other girls are already starring
in TV shows and movies, and I’m just a small town girl. I’m just getting
started. It’s crazy.”
coach Bill Viola Jr. agrees, “Lucy was the youngest in the field nominated by
SMA. This puts her name on the radar for
the entire league. She has a bright
future.” Although Lucy took runner up,
just to share the stage with North America’s top female martial artists was
empowering. She is ranked #2 in the
World Rankings by the North American Sport Karate Association. Not since one of her mentors, Ali Viola, a
decade ago has any female from the tristate area ever been nominated for an SMA
dedicated to giving back as a representative of the Western PA Police Athletic
League, volunteering for their community initiative. She works alongside Pittsburgh Police and
community leaders to help those less fortunate learn martial arts and boxing
and helps organize “Stuff-a-Store” toy drives with her mother Amy.
the long season, Gabby and Lucy traveled to Illinois, California, Georgia, Florida,
Michigan, New York, West Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey and Canada to compete. The honors are based on an entire year’s body
and Lucy are members of Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate Dojo which recently
celebrated its 50 Year Anniversary. The
Dojo was honored with a proclamation from County Executive Rich Fitzgerald who
recognized “Sensei Viola Day” on September
23rd 2019 for the Pittsburgh region.
Sensei Bill Viola Sr. has 4 daughters, all of whom have earned their
black belts. Now his Grand Daughter
Gabby and Lucy carry on the tradition of strong inspiring ladies from the dojo!
team is gearing up for the 2020 WKC World Championships held in Madrid, Spain
and fundraising to visit Tokyo, Japan and attend the 2020 Olympics.
The North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) sanctions the most prestigious karate tournaments in the country and abroad. For the last thirty years, the league has tracked and ranked competitors throughout the tournament season to determine the World Tour Champions. The ratings are compiled annually, with the highest point total determining who earns the World Championship Belt and ring.
North Huntingdon residents Xander Eddy (10 years old), Luke Lokay (16 years old), and Cameron Klos (17 years old) became the first Western Pennsylvania martial artists to win a NASKA title since their Coach, Bill Viola Jr. and his sister Addie were ranked #1 in NASKA in the 1980s.
Sensei Bill Viola Jr. said, “I am so happy to pass the torch to these kids. They are an inspiration to this community and a testimony of hard work and dedication. They made all of Norwin and Pittsburgh proud.”
The 2019 World Championship awards were presented at the AKA Warrior Cup in Chicago, Illinois. It is the longest running tournament in America founded in 1964. The tourney hosted the NASKA Banquet on Thursday January 23rd 2020. NASKA President Larry Carnahan from Minneapolis, MN presided over the ceremony in which the three Western Pennsylvanian black belts earned #1 rankings and World Titles for their age categories.
NASKA World Tour Champions:
10-year-old Xander Eddy World Champion (10- Open Weight and 10- Black Belt)
16-year-old Luke Lokay World Champion (16-17 Light Weight Black
17-year-old, Cameron Klos World Champion (15-17 Open Weight
16-17 Heavy Weight black belt
The trio are members of Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate Dojo which recently celebrated it’s 50 Year Anniversary proclaimed by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald as “Sensei Viola Day” on September 23rd 2019 for the Pittsburgh region.
Xander, Luke, and Cameron traveled to Illinois, California, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, New York, West Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey and Canada to compete during the season. The honor is based on an entire year’s body of work.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that I, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, by virtue of the authority vested in me, do hereby proclaim September 23, 2019 as “Sensei Bill Viola Day” in Allegheny County. We congratulate Sensei Bill Viola and the Allegheny Shotokan Karate School on their 50th anniversary and wish them many more successful years to come.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the County of Allegheny to be affixed this 23rd day of September, 2019.
Hey Google, when is
Tribune Review Article:
Learning the discipline of karate requires humility, but operating a successful karate studio for 50 years requires self-confidence, self-promotion and even a certain amount of bravado.
William Viola Sr. doesn’t see a contradiction between the two.
What keeps his feet on the ground are the expressions of gratitude he regularly gets from students.
“I always thought that if I could change one person … that, to me, is so much more important than papers and glittery things,” he said. “When you change someone’s life positively, that is more important.”
Viola, 71, of North Huntingdon, has plenty of accolades on his walls but prefers to think of the tens of thousands of students who have passed through the doors of Allegheny Shotokan, now known as Viola Karate.
“I have some kids who started with me when they were 4-5 years old who are still here,” he said recently.
Viola will soon be able to add proclamations from Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to his list of accomplishments. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has designated Monday as “Sensei Bill Viola Day.”
The proclamation notes that Viola not only helped popularize karate in Western Pennsylvania but also became an advocate for the sport worldwide, leading to its acceptance as an Olympic sport in Tokyo in 2020. As co-creator of the sport of mixed martial arts, he is the subject of a book, a documentary and a museum exhibit.
On the 50th anniversary of Viola Karate, the founder said, “Nothing I did in the 1970s would work now, but the basic concepts of character and self-discipline are the same — those are the things you have to keep. Those are the building blocks.”
A native of Brownsville, Fayette County, Viola was introduced to karate in the early 1960s by “one of my friends throwing me around, knocking me down, kicking and punching me.” The friend, Medick Capirano, had learned martial arts as an ROTC student at West Virginia University.
“I said, ‘Geez, this is great.’ … That really piqued my interest,” he said.
While a student at what is now California University of Pennsylvania, Viola started giving private karate lessons to football player and friend Denny Costello. Upon graduating and accepting a teaching job at East Allegheny High School, he started an after-school karate program for adults and began teaching karate to students as an extracurricular activity.
“We were one of the first American public high schools to offer karate as an accredited course,” he said.
It didn’t hurt that at the time, in the late 1960s and early ’70s, karate was enjoying a “golden era” courtesy of TV shows such as “The Green Hornet” and “Kung Fu.”
The level of interest was high enough for Viola to open his first studio in 1969 in an old community center in Turtle Creek. He rented the space for $50 a month.
“The catch was: the furnace didn’t work, we had to put buckets out because the ceiling leaked, the floors had cracks in them. I thought it was great,” he said.
He later opened studios in White Oak, Irwin, Paintertown and West Newton, although he has spent the longest amount of time on U.S. Route 30 in North Huntingdon.
Viola said the secret to his success was combining his skills as a teacher — he taught science at East Allegheny for 30 years — with his love of martial arts. He still teaches a black belt class at Viola Karate every Monday night.
His first black belt student was Jack Bodell, who went on to become a Secret Service agent assigned to President Jimmy Carter’s security detail. Viola is a ninth-degree black belt.
Capitalizing on the “mystique” of the martial arts, Viola taught karate as a way of life and not just as a way to break boards, kick and punch. He retained students by learning their names and something about each one of them.
“That’s why I’ve kept so many students for so long,” he said.
His longest-tenured student is Ray Adams, 76, who joined the studio in 1971 and still actively trains today. “I just earned my master rank and have no plans of slowing down,” Adams said. “My next test will be in my 80s.”
In 1980, Viola and business partner Frank Caliguiri, sitting in a Denny’s in Monroeville, dreamed up the first “tough guy” contest in Western Pennsylvania. The idea was to recruit men who fancied themselves as good street fighters and put them in the ring with a referee.
The first “tough guy” contest was held March 20-22, 1980, at the New Kensington Holiday Inn, with a finals match at the Stanley Theater (now the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts) in downtown Pittsburgh.
Tough guy contests were banned in Pennsylvania in 1983. But times changed, and by 2009, the ban had been lifted. In 2011, Viola and Caliguiri were memorialized as co-creators of mixed martial arts, or MMA, in an exhibit at the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.
Viola gets a kick out of the fact that the MMA exhibit is adjacent to the one honoring Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception” for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In 2017, Showtime debuted the documentary “Tough Guys,” which tells the story of the early tough guys contests and controversies. The documentary, which features extensive interviews with Viola and Caliguiri, was based on the 2014 book “Godfathers of MMA,” written by Viola’s son, Bill Viola Jr., and his cousin Fred Adams.
Viola Jr. has received the mantle from his father and now operates Viola Karate. In 2017, one of his students, 9-year-old Xander Eddy, won the gold medal in his age category at the Pan American Kickboxing Championships in Mexico.
In addition to being “Sensei Bill Viola Day,” Sept. 23 is the birthday of Viola’s grandson, William Viola IV, who, along with his sister, Gabby, is a fixture at the studio.
Viola also has four daughters, Joce and Jacque, who are pharmacists in North Huntingdon, Addie, a teacher in Bethel Park, and Ali, a lawyer in Pittsburgh.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280
“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. Viola Jr. has since created the CommonSensei self-help book series. Here are some of his famous quotes.
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).
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
Karate kid Gabby Viola kicks back at bowel disease
MARY PICKELS | Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, 1:33 a.m.
Her blonde ponytails and bare feet flying, the purple belt she’s earned in karate cinched at her waist (the same belt dad Bill Viola Jr. earned many years ago), Gabby Viola appears happiest when in motion.
She kicks, jabs, spins, all with a look of determination surprising for a 7-year-old.
Gabby has been learning karate since the age of 2, and began competing at age 3.
Viola puts his daughter through her paces as her mother, Jenn Viola, and brother, Will, 10 months, watch. Gabby is a member of Team “Kumite,” an all-star travel team composed of martial artists from Allegheny Shotokan.
The illness, Viola says, has elements of both Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
“It was very scary at that point,” he says.
A treatment of oral steroids for inflammation has not helped.
The family recently visited Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a second opinion and to get more information. Gabby is trying a different round of treatment, her father says, and the family is hoping she will go into remission.
A new normal
Gabby’s diet has had to change since her diagnosis.
“I can’t have gluten, dairy or grain. And limited sugar. I love chocolate,” she says.
“So we’re working hard on that right now,” her father says sympathetically.
“We’re a very proactive family. We are trying everything, looking into holistic approaches. We want to touch on every possible solution,” Viola says.
Another student at the karate school has the same diagnosis, and his parents are able to share some advice with the Violas.
“She has a buddy here who can help her,” Viola adds.
“There is no cure. You can only fight to get it into remission. That’s what she’s fighting to do,” he says.
No stopping her
Gabby’s participation in the U.S. Open ISKA World Championships, Viola says, “was a game-time decision.”
“We were worried at first she wasn’t going to be able to do it because of the diagnosis,” he says.
Gabby, however, never saw her health issue as an impediment.
She says she was confident she would do well, and believed she would take first place.
“It didn’t matter if she won or lost. We were just proud of her that she did it,” Viola says.
‘Kicking’ for others
On Sept. 3, Gabby will once again participate in the Kick-A-Thon to raise funds for the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegnerative Diseases event at Pittsburgh’s Boyce Park.
The goal is to “kick” Parkinson’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s Disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s Disease, according to the event’swebsite .
Viola, who lost his grandmother to neurodegnerative complications, developed the kick-a-thon , along with former state Sen. Sean Logan, who developed the 5K after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
Her family believes she can be an inspiration to the other students in the dojo.
“She’s so little and she’s so strong. … That’s why we’re sharing this story. We are all about hope,” Viola says.
“What does karate teach you, Gabby?” he asks his daughter.
“Be tough, and have courage,” she says.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MaryPickels.