“Sensei” Bill Viola Jr. is a best-selling author, film producer, mixed martial arts historian and international karate arts champion who is currently President of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based Kumite Classic Entertainment. His most recent projects are the CommonSensei® life skills book and Sensei Say® curriculum.
Viola Jr.’s award-winning and critically acclaimed Godfathers of MMA, available on Amazon, rose to #1 in the sports category with its commemorative re-release (2017). The book inspired and is the outline of the documentary film, Tough Guys (2017) on SHOWTIME. Viola Jr. published the book the same weekend as the Showtime film Tough Guys made its network TV debut. Viola co-produced the project with MinusL productions which attracted a star studded lineup of executive producers including Academy Award® Nominated Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) and Oscar® winning writer Ross Kaufmann (Born in Brothels). Viola Jr. grow up around the “Tough Guys” and was able to experience the “Golden Era” of MMA firsthand as his father; Bill Sr., is credited as the co-creator of the sport (a decade before the UFC) by the Heinz History Center, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute. Dana White was still in elementary school, we Viola Sr. made his bones in the MMA industry.
Viola Jr. began his career just as father (Bill Viola Sr. already a legend in marital arts) as one of the top sport karate competitors in the United States, recognized as a multi-time United States of America Karate Federation (USAKF) National Champion and All-American Athlete. During his time, he was the most successful PKRA state champion in history and inducted into the Pennsylvania Karate Hall of Fame.
When he was a Junior at the University of Pittsburgh, his he was recognized by Arnold Schwarzenegger as a World Champion at The Arnold Sports Festival, aka the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio in 1998. The “Governator” inspired him to establish his own expo and production company. “Kumite” (組手), literally “grappling hands”(layman’s terms to “fight” in Japanese) and “Classic” an ode to Arnold.
In 1999, he sustained a cervical neck injury in an automobile accident followed by surgery on his esophagus that ended his competitive aspirations.
Viola Jr. was a university scholar who graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Upon graduation, he moved to Studio City, California to gain real world experience in the entertainment industry. Subsequently, he was accepted into the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio and established his own company, the aforementioned Kumite Classic Entertainment (KCE). He gained notoriety from the Britney Spears video Stronger (2000) and was able to network and build relationships with A-list directors and producers.
His company’s signature event, the self-titled “Kumite Classic,” is regarded as the most significant karate event in the Pittsburgh region and noted by the media as mecca for martial arts in Western Pennsylvania. KCE also produces the annual Pittsburgh Fitness Expo, the largest and most established multi-sport convention in Western Pennsylvania attracting sports and entertainment icons such as Kurt Angle, Sean Kannan, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, Antonio Brown, Ice-T, and Royce Gracie over the years.
Viola has served as an international consultant, referee, coordinator for some of the largest martial arts events in the world including NASKA (North American Sport Karate Assocation) USA Karate, NBL (National Black Belt League) and WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Organizations). In 2017 he brokered a partnership with Century Martial Arts and WAKO to produce the North American Open in Las Vegas, Nevada in conjunction with UFC Fight Week along side his friend Raymond Daniels (Bellator Kickboxing Champion).
He has served as an independent consultant for major motion pictures including the mixed martial arts movie Warrior (2011). His credits include associate producer, producer and executive producer for films Tapped (2014) starring former Kumite Classic champion’s Nick Bateman and Cody Hackman and former UFC champs Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva., Gridlocked (2015) starring Dominic Purcell, The Sound starring Rose McGowan (2017) and Tough Guys (2017) based off of his best-selling book.
Executive producers for Tough Guys included Academy Award® Nominated Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) and Oscar® winning writer Ross Kaufmann (Born in Brothels). In addition to being part of the production team, Viola had a cameo in the film playing his father in the famous 1979 Denny’s restaurant scene where the sport of MMA was created.
Viola is developing the screenplay for Tough Guys and negotiating the deal for a major motion picture.
Viola is the owner “Sensei” of Allegheny Shotokan Karate, the gold standard for martial arts in Western PA (celebrating its 50-year anniversary in 2019). The family-owned and operated dojo is blessed with 3 generations of Violas who carry on the legacy. In 2011, Viola Jr. began his work as an MMA historian. His research lead him to establish the website www.godfathermma.com. Soon after, he and his cousin began working n the book Godfather of MMA. His extensive documentation of the mixed martial arts (particularly 1979-1983) earned permanent exhibit installed at the Western PA Sports Museum and Senator John Heinz History Center. The display solidifies and recognizes his father, Viola Sr., as the co-creator of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts a decade before the UFC (the showcase is adjacent to the Franco Harris “Immaculate Reception” display).
Viola Jr. and Sr. are both official Sport Karate History Generals and members of the Hall of Fame. Gary Lee honored them with 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 Jr.’s biography was published in the book, Who’s Who in the Martial Arts – Legends of American Karate.
The dojo is home to the only karate athlete’s honored with the “Positive Athlete” award and featured on KDKA’s Hines Ward Show.
Viola founded Kumite International (KI), a scholarship foundation (the first of its kind in the United States) through a partnership with Western PA Police Athletic League and Eckert Seamans Law Firm. KI allocated $50,000 in scholarship funds for karate athletes and 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 his 2004 Kumite Classic.
Currently, Viola has made it his mission to KICK Parkinson’s disease—literally. After he lost his Grandmother to complications from the disease, he created a mobile 1-mile “kick-a-thon” in conjunction with the former State Senator Sean Logan’s PIND (Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases) 5K. In all, over the past three years, the PIND 5K 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 2018 Viola’s daughter Gabby was diagnosed with Indeterminate bowel disease, and in 2019 the two are planning advocacy efforts at the Capital to lobby for improvements to our healthcare system.
Kumite Classic Entertainment set up a publishing division in 2014 (KCE Press). Viola’s Godfathers of MMA became the companies first published book. Viola Jr. has gone on to be a bestselling author, journalist and blogger whose byline includes Martial Arts Success, Shotokan Magazine, Sport Karate Illustrated, and Sport Karate Magazine where he covered events in Canada, Mexico and across North America. He established Kumite Quarterly magazine in 2003 where he was the publisher of the North American operations for the magazine until 2007.
In 2014, Viola Jr. published the critically acclaimed non-fiction book Godfathers of MMA inspired by the life of his dad. His work was the subject and the outline for the documentary film Tough Guys (produced by an Academy Award accredited team) and made its network television debut on SHOWTIME (2017).
In 2016, he co-authored Go Ask Your Dad, with his friend Dom Domasky (Motivation Champs) an inspirational book about fatherhood which debuted on the Amazon best-sellers list.
In 2016 his work was honored by Pittsburgh Magazine who named him to the prestigious “40 under 40” list recognizing the most influential young leaders in the city. His latest project, CommonSensei is a self-help book aimed to teach high school and college age students skills they weren’t taught.
Viola Karate Dojo:
Over the past fifty years, Viola’s karate 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). He is part of a growing Pittsburgh karate legacy that that includes all four of his sisters and now his daughter, Gabriella Capri Viola (2018 US Open International Champion) and new born son, William Viola IV.
Today, Bill is the head coach of “Team Kumite,” an all-star travel team that represents Pittsburgh on an international level. Most recently he coached Xander Eddy to Gold at the Pan American Championships in Cancun, Mexico who was honored by the Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and WTAE featured athlete. In 2020, the team is slated to compete at the Irish Open in Dublin, Ireland and visit Tokyo, Japan for the Olympic Games.
– Mr. Bill Viola Jr. over the years:
President of Kumite Classic Entertainment Corp.
President of Viola Karate (established in 1969 by his father, Bill Viola Sr., the co-creator of the sport of mixed martial arts).
- University of Pittsburgh, Summa Cum Laude
- BS Political Science, 1999
- University Scholar, 1998
» Work Experience
Allegheny Shotokan Karate Inc., North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania
Master Level Instructor, 6th Dan
- Began training, 1979
- State, National, International Champion 1983-1999
- USA Karate Jr. Olympic Gold Medalist
- Recognized as World Champion by Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1998
- USA Karate All American Athlete, 1995-1999
- USA Karate National Champion, 1995-1999
Kumite Classic Entertainment Corp., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
President & Founder, 1999-Present
- Viola Karate Dojo (est. 1969)
- Gold standard for martial arts in Pittsburgh
- Annual Pittsburgh Fitness Expo
- Pittsburgh’s largest multi-sport convention
- Film producer and writer
- Talent Management
Non-Fiction, 2003-Present: Notable work
- Go Ask Your Dad (2016) Debuted on Amazon Best Seller List
- Godfathers of MMA (2015) Inspiration of the documentary film Tough Guys
- Tough Guys #1 Amazon Best-Seller (boxing, martial arts, sports)
Kumite Quarterly Magazine., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Eckert Seamans Law Firm, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
KI Scholarship Program Director, 2001-2007
Congressman Ron Klink (PA 4th District), North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania
Congressional Intern, 1997
Western Pennsylvania Police Athletic League Martial Arts Chairman, Union member of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio, PIND 5K.
- 40 Under 40 Class of 2016
- Who’s Who in the Martial Arts – Legends Edition
- Willie Stargell “MVP Award” for community service, 2011
- Sport Karate Museum History General
- PKRA Pennsylvania Karate Hall of Fame
- Lifetime Achievement Award, Sport Karate Museum, 2005
- Inducted into NBL Hall of Fame, 2003
Pittsburgh Magazine named Bill Viola Jr. as one of the “40 Under 40” most influential people in the city in 2016.
Further Reading about Bill Viola Jr and Viola Karate:
Other books by Bill Viola Jr:
Further reading on Bill Viola Jr: