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.”
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
Pittsburgh was once again represented at the 23rd Sport Karate World Games aka the NBL National Black Belt League Super Grands by Allegheny Shotokan Karate and Team Kumite. Ali Viola claimed her 4th continuous sparring World Title and Championship in Buffalo New York over New Years. She defeated international competitors from Canada, Guatemala and Mexico in the finals. Team Captain Billy 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 to the main stage for the finals. His brother Dominic also advanced to the finals to face Hugo Mendoza of Mexico. The team sent six black belts to the competition and all six placed top three in the World and earned NBL title belt. Coach Bill Viola was very proud of his team stating, “This year our team had to face allot of adversity and injury. Ali had bad hamstring injury and Bill could hardly walk let alone fight, but they found a way to persevere. Each year they bring respect back to Pittsburgh. I am also impressed with our Rookies at the Super Grands. The Chase sisters all earned a belt in their first World Games.”
Black Belt Roster @ the Super Grands:
Also representing the team in the SKIL Sport Karate International Games were Liz Leaseburg and Cameron Klos who fought up in the NBL Continuous division with a 5-2 record against world class competition.
Inactive due to injury or sickness included:
Connor Burns: ACL
Joe Powell: Ribs
Raun Churchfield: Pneumonia
Ali Viola poses with her 2012 World Championship All-Star Gear Karate Gloves, and The Leader brothers Dominic and Billy pose with Ali after their big wins. Ali shows off the NBL 1st place belt and Coach Bill Viola Jr. Congratulates NBL Player of the Year Billy Leader
Team Kumite had a spooktacular time at Christine Fisher’s annual karate tournament in Millersburg, Ohio. We represented with 30 competitors and brought home big wins in almost every division. Matt Morrow started off the day winning the 6- boys sparring division with his first big win at an NBL tournament. All of the Norwin Ninjas showed courage and gave 100% in their first travel team event. Cameron Klos won 4 straight matches to win first place in his point fighting in a very competitive group. Gabe Anthony also dominated his division for a big first place win. The team did great in kata as well with Marie Mosa pulling in first place with her Bassai Dai. We are very proud of the heart and intensity that each and every team member showed in the continuous sparring divisions. Bess Chase and Sara Russell put on a great show as the final two standing in the younger girls continuous division while sisters Hope and Bridget took top honors in the older girls group. The Chase sisters brought home a ton of hardware earning some very important points towards The NBL Supergrands. Liz made her first appearance in a black belt division and won her first match in a slug fest Highlights also included Sara Russell defending her “most spooktacular” costume (plus big first place win in sparring) and Rachel Bartuska winning funniest costume.
Thanks to all the parents who took time to support their kids at the competition. The event is the final tournament of the year for the NBL National Black Belt League’s Tecumseh conference which included Bill Viola’s Kumite Classic in Pittsburgh and Connell Loveless’s North American Karate International NAIKC in Michigan. Next stop the Christmas Kumite on Dec. 16th in White Oak.
Allegheny Shotokan and Team Kumite represent Pittsburgh Karate on the Hines Ward Show. WPXI host Alby Oxenreiter, Brett Keisel and Hines were on hand for the program that features Positive Athletes in Pittsburgh. Connor Burns, Dominic Leader, and Coach Bill Viola all represented sport karate and martial arts. Hines was able to learn some karate on air, and warned the Baltimore Ravens to watch out!
Hines Ward demonstrates his best front snap kick and kiai!
Here’s a clip from behind the scenes on the Hines Ward show on youtube:
The demonstration included Hines learning to block a roundhouse kick and counter with a reverse punch. Connor Burns was interviewed by Hines for his community service and taking time out to mentor younger kids. He emphasized self-discipline and the confidence that karate instills. Team Kumite sported the custom kumite classic black & yellow all star gear gloves. Yeah, Champions bleed black & gold! The team is based in North Huntington Irwin, PA. Dominic Leader was the first recipient of the Western PA Positive Athlete award for martial arts last year and continues the tradition of team kumite with the program!
Team Kumite traveled to the first Fall Brawl in Altonna, PA hosted by Steve Morrissey and the PMA Pennsylvania Martial Arts Alliance. Billy Leader was honored as the Grand Champion “Best of the Best” for sparring. He also took an inadvertent elbow that gave him a bloody nose, but if you know anything about the Leaders… that only motivated him more! Also winning first place at the tournament were Liz Leaseburg, Gabriel Anthony, Cameron Klos, Ryan Frankovic, Marie Mosa. Second place winners Rachel, Gavin and Travis. Winning third place was Luke and Colten. In most cases, the team had to eliminate each other in the run offs, but everyone showed great sportsmanship. Next stop… the NBL Spooktacular Karate Championships in Millersburg, OH.
Team Kumite traveled to Novi, MI (just outside Detroit) to compete in Connell Loveless”s North American International Championships, part of the NBL National Black Belt League Tecumseh Conference. Representing the team were: Coach Bill Viola
Billy Leader: 1st place continuous
Dominic Leader: 1st place continuous , 1st place point
Connor Burns: 2nd place point
Bri Chase: too many to list
Hope Chase: too many to list (on stage for The high school uses a cohort model in which a vice principal, a counselor, and two resource teachers follow the students from 6th to 8th grade, providing academic, emotional, and social continuity throughout out their years at King. Grand Champion)
Bess Chase: 1st place continuous among others
Cameron Klos: 1st place point, 3rd kata
Sara Russell: 1st place point
Gabe Anthony: 1st place point, 1st place weapons
Liz Leaseburg: 2nd kata, 3rd point
Team Kumite collected some important points towards the NBL Supergrands. Next stop is Christine Fisher”s Spooktacular in Millersburg Ohio to finish out the conference.
Ali Viola has made a successful crossover from Sport karate into D-1 Athletics as the Goal Keeper for the Youngstown State University Girls Soccer Team. As an NBL World Karate Champion she has made a name for herself as one of the toughest and dominant continuous sparring competitors in the country. That tenacity helped her to earn a major college sports honor this week.
The 2010 Norwin High School Graduate was named NCAA’s Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week for her stellar performance at Goal Keeper for Youngstown State girl’s soccer team. The accomplishment marks only the fourth time YSU has been honored since joining the league 2001. At 4-0-0, the Youngstown State Lady Penguins are off to the best start in casino online the program”s history. Viola did not allow a goal in 180 minutes of play, collecting her second and third shutouts of the year. Against Buffalo, Viola was instrumental in the Penguin win, making nine saves in the game, the second-highest single-game total in the Horizon League this year. With twackwear back-to-back shutouts last week, the junior goalkeeper has moved into third on the YSU career shutouts. She also is tied for second on the single-season chart with three, and hopes to break that record this year. In 2011 Viola turned in the best single-season goals-against average in school history, collecting 60 saves while posting a 1.34 GAA and a save percentage of .779 last season. As a scholar athlete, Viola has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her college career, with plans to attend Law School.
Although her soccer schedule has kept her away from most of the major sport karate events in 2012, she was able to attend the 2012 Can-Am Survivor tournament in Jessup Georgia. She proved she hasn”t missed a beat, winning 1st place in both Woman”s Continuous and Woman”s point fighting at the National event. Ali is a kumite classic champion and a member of the Pittsburgh based Team Kumite and The Allegheny Shotokan Karate Club.
The Penguins will host Niagara on Sunday, Sept. 9. The Horizon League Network will have live coverage of the match, beginning at 4 p.m. ET