Category Archives: viola karate

Gabby Viola and Lucy Lokay Sport Karate People’s Choice

lucy lokay gabby viola karate

For 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

Gabby Viola and Lucy Lokay in karate action
14-year-old Lucy Lokay and 9-year old Gabby Viola

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.    

9-year-old 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. 

Gabby Viola dreams of Olympic karate
Gabby Viola hopes to attend the 2020 Olympics

14-year-old 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.”

Her 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 award. 

Lucy is 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. 

Throughout 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 of work.  

Gabby Viola and Lucy Lokay Karate girls
Gabby and Lucy

Gabby 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!

The 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.  

For more information visit www.alleghenyshotokan.com  

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#gabbyviola #lucylokay #karategirls #karate #pittsburgh

WKC World Champions

world champions
WKC World Champions

For Immediate Release:  11/21/19                   Contact:  Call/Text Bill Viola Jr. 724-640-2111

2019 World Titles brought home to Western Pennsylvania

The World Karate and Kickboxing Council (WKC) hosted the World Championships November, 3rd -9th in Niagara Falls, New York.   The world’s best from 22 countries converged to compete in WKC Tatami-style divisions.  The competition was the largest WKC championships in history with thousands of athletes.

wkc champion
Riley Evans on the podium

Team USA was comprised of athletes from across the country who won the National Team trials in Detroit this past June.  13 members from Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate Dojo earned positions to represent the United States at the World Championships.  Of that group, 5 students advanced to the medal rounds and secured top honors.  These medals are the first ever for the Pittsburgh region.    

Sensei Bill Viola Jr. said, “I am proud of the way these kids represented our community and the United States.  Win or lose, they demonstrated respect and determination.  We they play our National Anthem for Gold, it makes all the sacrifice worthwhile.”

xander eddy karate
Xander Eddy Wins Gold

Medaling for the United States:

  • 10-year-old Xander Eddy, Gold (male kickboxing team)
  • 18-year-old, Cameron Klos, Silver (classical kata) Silver (traditional kata)
  • 12-year-old Sammy Pietrzyk, Silver (female kickboxing team)
  • 12-year-old Taylor Provence, Bronze (female kickboxing)
  • 12-year-old Riley Evans, Bronze (female kickboxing)

 The 2020 WKC World Championships will be held in Madrid, Spain.  The team will be fundraising to send a team to Spain and to visit Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.

For more information visit www.alleghenyshotokan.com  

Sensei Viola Day

September 23rd 2019 was named “Sensei Viola Day” in Pittsburgh 🥋.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald enacted the day in honor of the dojo’s 50-year anniversary. Congrats.

Sensei Viola Day in Pittsburgh Trib

Pittsburgh Post Gazette Article

Pittsburgh Tribune Review Article

Pittsburgh Karate Sensei Viola Day Trib

Read more about Sensei Viola Day.

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

Sensei Viola Day
Sensei Viola Day

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.”

Kick start

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.”

Getting tough

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

50 Year Anniversary – Pittsburgh Karate Legacy

pittsburgh karate

jack bodellSummer of 69’

“That’s one small step for karate; one giant leap for martial arts.”

pittsburgh karate school
East Allegheny Karate Class Circa 1970

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.”

Read more in Black Belt Magazine

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 karate
Viola Family: Addie, Jacque, Ali, Bill Sr., Bill Jr., Joce

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.

Viola Karate (as it’s more commonly known today) accolades include induction into the prestigious USA Karate Hall of Fame, who named “Sensei V” the Man of Year (2003).  In 2011, Viola was honored with a permanent exhibit installed at the Western PA Sports Museum and Senator John Heinz History Center recognizing him as the co-creator of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (the display is located next to the Franco Harris “Immaculate Reception”).

Godfathers of MMA / Tough Guys Museum Exhibit

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.

In 1998 Arnold Schwarzenegger recognized them as the #1 school in America and Hines Ward selected Viola’s students as Positive Athletes to represent marital arts (2012-2013).

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.

usa karate pittsburgh olympics
USA Karate Jr. Olympics

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).

Brownsville:

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.

Shihan Viola and Denny Costello Spar (late 1960s)

Philanthropy/Community Service

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).

Bill Viola Jr and Lynn Swann Award College Scholarship

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.

kick parkinsons disease

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).

#violakarate #alleghenyshotokan #senseisays #senseiviola #pittsburghkarate #pittsburghmartialarts #pittsburghmma #shotokan #karate #budo #pittsburghkaratelegacy

On September 23rd, 2019 Allegheny County Council proclaimed “Sensei Viola Day” for the Pittsburgh Region!  

Allegheny County recognizes ‘Sensei’ Viola for devotion to karate
Sensei Viola Day Sept. 23rd
Governments, students honor North Huntingdon karate instructor Bill Viola

pittsburgh karate history

Tough Guys – Showtime

tough guys mma on showtime

TOUGH GUYS – SHOWTIME

Showtime documentary proves Pittsburgh-area early mixed martial arts fighters were ‘Tough Guys’

By MARIA SCIULLO Pittsburgh Post-Gazette msciullo@post-gazette.com

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.

“The MMA,” he said, “was born right then.”

Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or @MariaSciulloPG.

the original tough guys
Frank Caliguri and Bill Viola the Godfathers of MMA and inventors of the Tough Guy Contest

Pan American Gold

Team USA Member Xander Eddy –  Youngest American to Win Gold at WAKO Pan American Championships

Xander Eddy
Pittsburgh Martial Artist, Xander Eddy wins 2018 Pan American Championships – Gold Medalist

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.

Xander Eddy, the youngest American to win Gold at WAKO Pan American Kickboxing Championships

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.

Luke Lokay and Xander Eddy warm up for competition

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!

congrats xander BK
Norwin Showing its Support

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.

doug selchan pan am gold

 

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

 

 

 

Journey Continues for Master Ray Adams and Master Dave Zezza

black belt

The Journey Continues for two North Huntingdon

Martial Arts 🥋Masters

pittsburgh karate masters

karate masters
Left-Right: (The Masters Club) Bill Viola Jr., Dave Zezza, Bill Viola Sr., Ray Adams, Ray Walters.  Not pictured Jack Bodell

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. 

 

Zezza and Adams follow the “martial way” Budo.

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.  

$10,000 Donation Made to KICK Parkinsons

Kick Parkinson’s Disease 2018

We gave Parkinson’s a swift KICK this weekend!  Very proud to announce that Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” karate and its sister program Norwin Ninjas in conjunction with Team Kumite to have combined to raise over $10,000 for The Pittsburgh Institute of Neurological Diseases #PIND  Read more. 

Sensei Bill’s Grandmother

The “KICK” concept was developed Irwin native Bill Viola Jr., founder of Kumite Classic Entertainment, and former Mayor and State Senator Sean Logan.  Logan was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease in his mid-forties and Viola spent years caring for his Grandmother who passed away from neurodegenerative complications.

Logan developed a 5K to promote his “Do Something” campaign as means to encourage exercise.  Physical activity has been proven to be an effective method to combat Parkinson’s disease.   Viola parented with Logan in 2017 to add a “Kick-a-thon” element to the 5k, and its growth has been exponential.  Viola explains, “Last year the KICK raised just over $5000 with 50 participants. This year we doubled both brining us up to over $15,000 with just two kicks-a-thons.

 

 

 

kick parkinsons disease

Over 100 kickers!  Thanks to everyone who made a donation to Kick Parkinson’s:  Here are the top 10 for 2018

First Name Last Name Amount
Mike Barone 2015
Aidan Thornton 900
Danielle McKeever 800
Grace Weingberger 726
Katelyn Regina 620
Gabby Viola 560
Riley Evans 363
Ariana Trout 325
Henry Francisco 210
Aaron Goettler 210
Rayden Galley 206

kick parkinsons disease

Doug Selchan USA Karate Pan American Games Gold Champion

selchan kumite

Profile:  USA Karate Champion Doug Selchan

U.S. Karate Team Captures Gold in Men’s Kumite

Doug Selchan
Doug Selchan USA Karate and Pan American Games Champion

U.S. Olympic Committee Press Release  WINNIPEG, Canada

The U.S. karate team ended its competition at the 1999 Pan American Games the same way it began the Games — with gold medals.

George Kotaka (Honolulu, Hawaii), John Fonseca (Northbrook, Ill.) and Doug Selchan (North Huntington, Pa.) each won a gold medal in men’s kumite in their respective weight divisions to give the U.S. a total of five individual gold medals. Akiru Fukuda (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Kellie Kennedy (Seattle, Wash.) won gold medals in men’s and women’s kata on Sunday.

“We started with gold, and we ended with gold,” an elated U.S. head coach Tokey Hill said. “I can’t ask for more out of my boys and girls than that. They delivered.”  Kotaka came back to defeat Alberto Espejo (COL) in the finals of the under 65kg. After giving up the first point with 2:43 remaining, Kotaka scored five times and held Espejo scoreless for the remainder of the bout.  “It was really nerve-wracking, but once we got out there, the jitters were gone and it was time to fight,” Kotaka said. “I initiated the attack and he (Espejo) countered it on the first point. But I knew that sooner or later, because there were three minutes, I could come back and get some points back.”

Fonseca never trailed in his bout against N.L. Sardenberg (BRA) in the men’s under 80kg, needing only two minutes to score the maximum points to earn the gold. “He (Sardenberg) is a very strong fighter, very sharp,” Fonseca said. “But  every body has good and bad days, and I felt very on today and maybe he was a little off.”

Selchan completed the karate competition with a hard fought win over Altamiro Cruz (BRA) in the men’s over 80kg. The bout was stopped several  times after Selchan suffered a scratch above his right eye early in the match. Selchan recovered to take a 3-2 lead with 27 seconds remaining and then scored an Ippon with 10 seconds remaining to put the match out of reach. Cruz scored with three seconds left, but time expired with Selchan leading 5-3. “I knew I had it all along,” Selchan said,

“Not to sound conceited, but  this week I was very confident. I was in pretty good shape, felt strong and felt good. I needed this win. It was a big win for me.”

Men’s Kumite Individual +80kg Gold Medal Match

  • Doug Selchan (USA)
  • Altamiro Cruz (BRA)
  • 3T. Manuel Costa (URU)
  • 3T. Yoel Diaz (CUB)

Norwin Student Gets a Kick From Karate -Pittsburgh Post Gazette By Torsten Ove