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Allegheny “Viola” Shotokan Karate Dojo School Est. 1969-2019 (50 years)  


pittsburgh karate history

Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate School (ASK) was established in 1969 by Shihan (Master) Bill Viola. Allegheny Shotokan has a rich tradition serving Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania for over 50 years. The karate school is a pillar of the community, noted as the oldest and most established school in the Irwin North Huntingdon area. The Viola Family are internationally renown coaches & instructors with experience you can trust! 
Shihan Viola Sr. (9th Dan) is the authority on Martial Arts in the area with over 60 years experience. He is credited by the Heinz History Center in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution as the co-creator of Mixed Martial Arts “MMA” a decade before the Ultimate Fighting Championship UFC. In 2011 the Western PA Sports Museum established a permanent exhibit to honor him as one of the founding fathers of the sport. Stop by and take a look, it’s located right next to Franco Harris’s immaculate reception statute!
mma history museum
His life is the subject of the book, “Godfathers of MMA” (2014) authored by Sensei Bill Jr.  It was the inspiration of the Showtime Film “Tough Guys.” Shihan has had the unique opportunity to teach all of his five children martial arts and instruct all of them to black belt.
Tough guys showtime
Viola Family

William Viola trained all five of his kids in the art of Shotokan Karate: Bill Viola Jr., Addie Viola, Jacque Viola, Alison Viola, and Joce Viola.  Each have earned black belts and have served as instructors at the dojo.  His grandchildren Gabby, Will, Ella, and Noah are all students.

viola karate family
Addie, Jacque, Ali, Shihan, Bill Jr., Joce
karate school

Allegheny Shotokan Karate, established in 1969, has been a leading Martial Arts (Karate, Kickboxing, Mixed Martial Arts) School in the suburbs of Pittsburgh in Western Pennsylvania. The club was founded by Sensei William Viola. The name “Allegheny” was chosen for marketing reasons.  “A” was first in the phone book and represented the school’s first location in Allegheny County (East Allegheny High School) where Viola Sr. began as a science teacher. “Shotokan” is a traditional Japanese style of Karate-do, and the main curriculum for the dojo. Over the past 50 years the school has held classes in the suburbs of the “Steel City” including Turtle Creek, Irwin, North Versailles, Paintertown, White Oak, North Irwin.  The honbu dojo resides in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania under the direction of Sensei Bill Viola Jr.

Grand Master Robert Trias with Shihan Viola

The karate dojo was established under the traditional framework of Japanese Karate Association (JKA) Shotokan Karate. Later the dojo aligned with with the United States Karate Association when Shihan earned rank with the (USKA) and Robert Trias (Father of American Karate) and then the USA Karate Federation (USAKF) under the guidance of George Anderson (Father of Olympic Karate) –RIP.  Today the school is a member of the United States Association of Martial Artists.

In the late 1960s Viola began giving private lessons.  His first student was Denny Costello, a football player from Cal U. By 1969 Viola began formal instructing at at East Allegheny High School. Hi first EA studenet was career with Keith Bertoluzzi, the Master of Ceremonies at the Holiday House, Monroeville, PA. Bertoluzzi used his musical influence to invite several celebrities to attend karate classes including 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.”

karate testimonials

During the 1970s and 1980s the karate school was a dominant force at martial arts competitions, successful in both karate and kick boxing championships. The school is credited with sponsoring numerous championships including the Laurel State Karate Championships founded in the 1970s.

In 1979, Shihan Bill Viola wrote the first codified set of mixed martial arts rules implemented in over 130 bouts.  MMAhistory.org recognized him as the “Father of MMA” based on his innovate rule set.  Those standards parallel the unified rules of today.  He is credited by the Heinz History center as the co-creator of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) a decade before the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).  MMA is now a multi-billion dollar entity.  CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions introduced open regulated mixed martial arts competitions to the United States March 20, 1980 in Pittsburgh, PA.In 1980, members of the dojo entered in the first mixed martial arts style fights in the United States know as Tough Guy competitions. His life is the subject of the best-selling book Tough Guys (Authored by Bill Viola Jr.) and the Showtime documentary film Tough Guys.  

pittsburgh mma
Jimmy Cvetic, Bill Viola Sr., Dana White (UFC President), Mike Murray, Frank Caliguri, Dave Jones


In 1987 Shihan Viola established USA Karate Allegheny Mountain Region.  The RSO was a qualifier for the USA Karate Federation (USAKF) National Championships for over a decade.  The USAKF was the national governing body for Karate in the United States (1985-1995), and member of the US Olympic Committee. George Anderson (USAKF President) was the father of “Olympic Karate”  Without his contributions and his team during the 1980s and 1990s karate would have not reached the Pan American Games.  In 1992 Viola hosted the USA Karate Junior Olympics at the University of Pittsburgh Field House with Master George Anderson.

George Anderson USAKF
George Anderson USAKF President and Bill Viola Sr. USA Karate Allegheny Mountain Region President

During the 1980s and 1990s many members of the USA Karate Team got their start under Shihan.  US Members such as Jack Bodell, Rich Sowash, Doug Selchan and Dustin Baldis all began their shotokan training at the dojo. Sensei Bodell was the first black belt at ASK promoted by Shihan Viola.  He is famous for being the “President’s Bodygaurd,” a moniker he earned as a member of the United States Secret Service protecting President Jimmy Carter. He also served as a referee for CV Productions during the Tough Guy Contest craze (The first mixed martial arts competitions in America).  Bodell would open additional schools in the late 1980s including West Newton, PA (School of Orthodox Shotokan Karate).  Their he oversaw Selchan and Baldis before relocating south to Memphis, Tenn.  Selchan took over as head instructor for the dojo. Doug went on the win a Gold Medal the 1999 Pan-American Games  in the +80kg Kumite for the United States.  While in Tennessee, Bodell trained USA Karate Team Member Clay Morton.  Shihan Viola was inducted into the USA Karate Hall of Fame and honored as the 2003 Man of the year (Lifetime Achievement).

Jack Bodell, Bill Viola Sr., Bill Viola Jr.
Jack Bodell, Shihan Viola, Bill Viola Jr.

Sensei Bill Viola Jr. was recognized as the only black belt “Triple-gold Medalist” at USA Karate’s Jr. Olympics earning top honors in Kumite, Kata, and Kobudo. As a Junior his was a multiple-time national champion and All-American Athlete. Master George Anderson personally asked Viola Jr. to be a member of USA Karate Team. He entered the Adult division in 1995 and earned at least one Gold Medal 1995-1998 each year making him a 4x USAKF National Champion before retiring in 1999 due to a neck injury.  In 1997 he was the only Adult Male to win “Triple Gold” at USA Karate Federation Nationals (Kata, Kumite, -65kg Kumite).  Sensei Bill split his time competing in both Olympic-style USA Karate and Open Style NASKA/NBL events throughout his career.

Allegheny Shotokan Karate is the only karate school in Pennsylvania Karate Rating Association (PKRA) history to win all seven grand championships at the Pittsburgh Karate Championships in 1996 promoted by Master Frank Caliguri. Viola’s son, Bill Viola won 8-consecutive black belt overall state titles (1992-1999) and was inducted into the PKRA Hall of Fame. In 1998 the school was honored by Arnold Schwarzenegger as the #1 Martial Arts team in the United States of America and World Champions!

world champions pittsburgh
Arnold Schwarzenegger congratulates Addie Viola and Bill Viola as World Champions

Allegheny Shotokan has produced hundreds of regional, national, and international champions including titles from; Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), United States of America Karate Federation (USAKF), United States of American National Karate Federation (USANKF), National Black Belt League (NBL), Sport Karate International (SKI) North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA), and Police Athletic League (PAL) Pennsylvania Karate Rating Association (PKRA).

Modern Champions at Viola Karate School:

Allegheny Shotokan is the home of Team Kumite, an all-star travel team. The dojo is the most successful sport karate school in the Pittsburgh region producing the only NBL World Champions in the past decade (< 2015) including; 3x World Champion Terrance Tubio (who also won USANKF Kumite Gold), World Champion Nichole Sullivan, 7x World Champion Ali Viola,  3x World Champion Dominic Leader, 2x World Champion Sara Russell, Multi-World Champion Hope Chase and Multi-World Champion Brigid Chase.  Read More

In 2018 Xander Eddy and Luke Lokay won the WAKO USA Team Trials and became Members of the United States Karate Kickboxing National Team.  Eddy won Gold at the 2018 Pan American Kickboxing Championships making him the youngest US athlete to ever win. read more.

xander eddy
Xander Eddy, USA Karate Kickboxing Team

USA Karate Kickboxing Team
Luke Lokay, USA Karate Kickboxing Team

Senior Instructors:

pittsburgh karate masters
Master Ranks: Bill Viola Jr., Dave Zezza, Shihan Viola, Ray Adams, Ray Walters (not pictured Jack Bodell)

Notable Karate School Alumni:

Keith Bertoluzzi, The first karate student in Allegheny Shotokan Karate history. -1969 Co-worker of Sensei Viola at East Allegheny School District.

Jack Bodell, Former agent of the United States Secret Service charged with protecting President Jimmy Carter.

Art Timko, Department of Tobacco and Alcohol

Ray Walters, Senior Ranking Allegheny Shotokan Black Belt Instructor

Ray Adams, Longest tenured active student -since 1970

Dave Jones, Recorded a TKO of Mike Murray in round 2 March 1980 in the first mixed martial arts competition in United States.

Rich Sowash, USAKF National Champion:  represented the United States at the 198 Pan American Junior Championships in San Jose, Costa Rica winning a bronze medal in WUKO Kata.

Doug Selchan began his training at Allegheny Shotokan and represented the United States at the 1999 Pan-American Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada winning a Gold Medal in 80+ Kilo Kumite.

Bill Viola Jr. Jr. Olympic Triple Gold, 4x adult USA Karate National Champion, Member USA Karate Team (USAKF), Sport Karate International Champion, Founder of Kumite Classic Entertainment, Best-selling Author of Tough Guys, Godfathers of MMA, and Go Ask Your Dad.

Addie Viola USA Karate National Champion

Rocky Whatule Professional comedian and actor, Host of Hollywood Rockin’ Wrap-up, USAKF National Champion

Terrance Tubio 3x NBL World Champion, USANKF National Champion – Gold Kumite

Billy Leader Team Kumite Captain, NBL World Games

Ali Viola 7x NBL World Champion Continuous Sparring: 2006 weight World Champion, 2008 Middleweight World Champion, 2009 Middleweight World Champion Buffalo, New York. 2010-present Division 1 Goal Keeper for Youngstown State University.

Dominic Leader 3x NBL World Champion, Hines Ward Positive Athlete

Connor Burns Hines Ward Positive Athlete

Xander Eddy 2018 Pan American Kickboxing – Gold (9 year old Open Weight). 2019 WKC World Gold Medalist, 2019 NASKA World Champion 10- Open Weight, 10- Point

Luke Lokay: 2019 NASKA World Champion 16-17 boys (Short/Light)

Cameron Klos: 2019 NASKA World Champion 16-17 boys (Tall/Heavy)

luke lokay, xander eddy, cameron klos
NASKA World Champions

positive athlete

Hines Ward Positive Athletes for Martial Arts



Most recently Shihan Viola and Sensei Bill were honored in the Chuck Norris Who’s Who Book available at Barnes and Noble.

bill viola sr bill viola jr

Norwin Ninjas: Sister program of Allegheny Shotokan

Empowered by Sensei Says life skills curriculum.