He authored the award-winning and critically acclaimed Godfathers of MMAthat peaked at #1 on Amazon in the sports category with its commemorative re-release (2017). His book inspired and was the basis of the SHOWTIMEdocumentary film,Tough Guys(2017). Viola co-produced the project 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).
Here are notable and famous quotes by Bill Viola Jr.
“I want to be a Sensei students need, not a Sensei that needs students.”
Bill Viola Jr. (CommonSensei Quote)
“The fool knows-it-all, the wise admits-all-they-know. “
Bill Viola Jr. (CommonSensei Quote)
“As CommonSensei, my mission is to mentor, motivate, and inspire the next generation though Life Skills I call the ‘Martial Smarts’
Bill Viola Jr. (CommonSensei quote)
“Genius lies in the intangibles; purveyors of instinct and action.”
Bill Viola Jr. (CommonSensei quote)
“Let me help you become a ‘Black Belt in Life’.”
Bill Viola Jr.’s slogan
“Sensei wasn’t just preparing me for a fight in the ring; he was preparing me for the Championship of life.”
Bill Viola Jr. (CommonSensei quote)
“While ignorance may be bliss, I say street smarts are divine.”
Bill Viola Jr. (CommonSensei quote)
“Students may sign a waiver to punch and kick, but they’re really investing in a life coach.”
Bill Viola Jr.’s latest project is Common Sensei. It teaches high school and college students, “how to kick ass at life.
School will NOT prepare you for the real world; FACTS⚠️. It’s not your fault — priorities have shifted from common sense education, to being really-really good at taking standardized tests😠.
The same kids who ace AP Calculus are later sinking in massive credit card debt and English majors can’t draft a decent resume. The system is lacking street smarts: instinct, application, and self-confidence.CommonSensei is your guide to 💯% legal ways to leverage your position as a Gen-Z student to “live your best life.” It’s loaded with trade secrets and inside info from experts who go off the record and share tips to kick ass at life. Coming soon…
Let me share. Life isn’t fair, the sooner you accept that the better. In 2018, completely out of the blue, my daughter Gabby was diagnosed with bowel disease, an incurable inflammatory form of colitis 😥. Without too much detail you’d never know she is sick on the outside, but on the inside, it is killing her: severe bleeding, dehydration, abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue, inflammation of joints, skin and eyes, and a swelling colon just off the top of my head. She was only seven years old; no family history of the illness! Why oh why?! Long story short, we continue to do what we have to do: Specialists, naturopathic and holistic experts, trials, infusions, diets, meds, steroids, tests, and therapy — the works😞. All you can do is 🙏 for remission.
In the meantime, she wanted to continue karate. It was her sanctuary, and her doctor gave it the👍. In July 2019, she attended the World Karate Commission Team Trials in Detroit, Michigan. Top placement earned a spot on “Team USA” to compete at the World Championships. Gabby and her teammates bled for this opportunity. She was one of the youngest competitors to enter and still only a brown belt, in a division dominated by seasoned black belts. The selection process is based on multiple rounds of competition. Day 1, she stumbled😱. The look of disappointment on her face broke my heart into a million pieces😭, but I couldn’t show it. Her little lip quivering, trying to hold back tears, I consoled her the only way I knew how. I said, “It’s time to unleash tora 🐯.” “Win or lose, show everyone your tiger spirit.”
We had something special up our sleeve, a symbol of her destiny. That weekend, I brought a 55+ year old brown belt with me. It was tattered and way too long, but it was magical. It was the same belt my father wore, that I wore, that my sister wore, and now Gabby. She knew the history behind the belt, and I told her she just needed to add her own sweat to it. In that moment, she showed “tora no me,” the “eye of the tiger.” It was a complete 360. She took the mat with a passion and fervor I’ve never seen. She absolutely nailed her kata, flipped the script, and catapultedto🥇. In that moment, not a single individual victory or title I’ve experienced could compete with the pride I felt.
Gabby still has good and bad days, but when the disease attacks, I remind her that she’s a fighter💪👊! It seems scary, but deep down she has the fortitude of a hundred kids. She proved it to me and all the bystanders that day in Detroit.
*This except was used with permission from the upcoming book CommonSensei.
Gabby has successfully competed in over 100 tournaments and has no plans on slowing down. Her dream is the attend the 2020 Olympics and watch her idol, Sandra Sanchez (Spain), go for the gold medal🥇 in Tokyo, Japan.
For those that are close to my family, you already know how this situation dramatically changed our lives. For twenty years I promoted the Kumite Classic (one of the largest and most prestigious independent tournaments in North America). The expo was a 24/7 – 365 type operation. Despite the show being apart of my identity, it does NOT define me. As they say, “family first” and I have retired from the Kumite until Gabby is in remission. Someday, I hope to pass the torch 🕯️to her, and she can reignite 🔥! I enjoy coaching my team, teaching, and traveling when she is 💯%. It’s a new chapter in a long book!
Today, Gabby is receiving biologic infusions at UPMC Children’s hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. Her Doctors are kind, compassionate, and very knowledgeable. The infusions are typically 3-4 hour procedures (she has to miss school for each treatment). It is taxing on her body and mind.
However, insurance doesn’t make it easy on these patients. The amount of red tape and outrageous medical bills is both frustrating and sad 😔. According to The National Center of Biotechnology (NCBI), the yearly cost of her current medicine is $25,000 to $45,000 annually, depending on the frequency needed 😡😤. Big Pharm 💊💉 should be ashamed. The polices and regulations need to change! As a result we choose to “fight” and get involved. Gabby has been asked to join a national effort to raise awareness for the disease. Beginning this May, she will be lobbying on behalf of patients (like herself) who suffer lack of access to certain treatment. She will be sharing her story as an advocate of IBD research, trying to convince Washington to support her cause. She hopes to be part of the solution and be a small part of one day finding a cure for IBD. She will be attending the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s “Day on the Hill” to meet with different Senators an Congressmen to plead with them to do more! Her trip will be mulitple meetings with legislators about policies impacting the IBD community. The event includes forums hosted by the National Council of College Leaders for parents and pediatric patients, informative advocacy training briefings, and a reception on Capitol Hill .
As a family, we have made the decision use this terrible diagnosis as a powerful teaching moment. We look for anyway to change a negative 👎 into a positive 👍. So we tackle this disease, the way we train at the dojo. with relentless determination! She promises to fight 👊 everyday, and I know she will inspire and empower other’s to do the same. This disease will not stop her from reaching her dreams, goals, and aspirations. There are be setbacks, but without them there are no comebacks.
Over the years, we have had to make multiple emergency stops to local hospitals, urgent cares, and medical facilities. Recently she was hospitalized at the 2019 US Open ISKA World Championships and admitted into Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital after nearly passing out. She was in a flare 🔥 and her body was attacked. Unfortunately, she was unable to perform to her standards the next couple months, and fell short of winning WKC Worlds. She could either spiral into self-doubt and depression, or double down on her training. I’m proud to announce she back to her winning ways taking 1st place 🏆 at NASKA’s 6-A COMPETE Internationals. The place really doesn’t matter, its continuing to “suit up,” time and time again, when other’s say “hang it up.” This journey will always have ups and downs 📈 but we fail forward ➡️. No matter how difficult the challenge, we continue to inch forward ➡️. We call is Kaizen (改善) continual self-improvement! 1% every day… Its our “Violosophy.”
🙏Please help us find a cure. Steroids and biologic medicine are only a temporary fix (a band-aid). The toll it takes on the body is heartbreaking. Just look at this little girl on and off drugs💔:
Understanding inflammatory type diseases: Inflammation 🔥 is the body’s response to fighting off harmful things. It could be an injury, infection, or something toxic. In Gabby’s case, she is always on 🔥. Her body is confused. This is called IBD or (Inflammatory bowel disease) not to be confused with the very common IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) which is not an inflammatory condition/disease. IBD is an umbrella covering both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Both Crohn’s and colitis are characterized by chronic inflammation 🔥 of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract. IBD is a “ninja” of sorts, because the symptoms often stealth like to the outside world. Patients often look totally normal to friends and family, but behind the scenes they are struggling with abdominal pain, fatigue, rectal bleeding, bloody stools, and persistent uncontrollable trips to the bathroom. Its cause is unknown, but Doctors do know it’s the result of a defective immune system. Essentially Gabby’s immune system is attacking itself causing the inflammation 🔥. While there is no cure, we search for ways to help her live a comfortable life, and hold on to hope that a cure will be discovered in her lifetime.
Often times people associate martial arts as a rough-and-tumble sport dominated by male competitors, but Gabby Viola is shattering the stereotype. 9-year-old Gabby was recently honored by the national karate media and their peers with nationwide “People’s Choice Awards.”Point Fighter Live is one the most popular media outlets in North America for the sport and recognized the top athletes.
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 total of the show. The physical award will be presented this April in Warwick, Rhode Island at the Ocean State Grand Nationals.
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 battling
bowel disease. At 7-years-old, she was diagnosed with chronic
inflammation and ulcerative colitis.
While there is no cure for the condition, 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 will travel to the Washington, DC this May to meet
with the Senate and Congress about funding new research to find a cure.
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.
Throughout the long season, Gabby 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 is a member 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. His Granddaughter Gabby and all the up and coming Senpai and Sensei (Lucy, Sammy, Taylor, Zoey, Haley, Abby, Riley) 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
# # #
Gabby began🥋 training at just 2-years-old and was the inspiration of the Nursery Ninjas program at Allegheny Shotokan Karate. She made her competition debut at the 2013 Kumite Classic and has since competed in over 100 tournaments across North America. In 2015 she won her first Grand Champion, and later that year was the youngest competitor at the World Games. She is a multiple time PKRA State Champion, USKA National Champion, WKC National Champion, and consistent champion on the NASKA World Tour. She is a 3rd generation Viola to carry on the family legacy. Gabby is committed to community service, and has been a top fundraiser to “Kick Parkinson’s Disease” a charity her father helped establish in memory of their Grandmother.
We would also like to extend this positive energy out to our Allegheny Shotokan dojo brothers who also suffer from GI complications: Sensei Conor Burns, Sensei Dave Zezza, and Senpai Mike Pietrzyk
WAKO Kickboxing / Karate joins the IOC (International Olympic Committee)
I am proud to announce that WAKO has officially joined the Olympic Family! As director of WAKO Region 10 for the Untited States of America (which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, West Virgina, and Washington, DC) we are dedicated to helping train and field athletes for Olympic level competition. We have already seen great success at the Pan American Championships and World Championships for Team USA. The future is bright for sport karate in America. –Bill Viola Jr.
IOC EB receives update on implementation of Athletes’ Declaration and other important issues
30 Nov 2018 -Olympic.org
The IOC Executive Board (EB) received updates on the endorsement of the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration and addressed key issues for International Federations and the Olympic Movement during the first day of its meeting in Tokyo.
An update on the implementation of the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration (Declaration) was given to the EB by Kirsty Coventry, Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission. After the official adoption of the Declaration at the IOC Session in October 2018, the Declaration continues to be expressly adopted and supported by sports organisations throughout the Olympic Movement as each of their congresses or general assemblies has been held.
Over the past few weeks, both the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) endorsed the Declaration at their General Assembly and Council meetings respectively.
At a continental level, representatives from more than 80 NOC Athletes’ Commissions at the PanAm Sports Athletes’ Forum in October and the Asian Athletes’ Forum in November fully supported the formation of the initiative and included the adoption of the Declaration as one of their Forum recommendations. Other athlete organisations to fully support the Declaration include the ANOC Athletes’ Commission, all five Continental Associations’ Athletes’ Commissions and the World Olympians Association. Others, like the Canadian Athletes’ Commission, have publicly expressed support.
On an International Federation level, the international Ski Federation (FIS) fully endorsed the Declaration at its autumn Council meeting, whilst the New Zealand NOC will begin the process of embedding the Declaration in its formal policies and processes.
Update on International Federations
The International Sambo Federation (FIAS), the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL), and the World Associations of Kickboxing Organisations (WAKO) were granted provisional IOC recognition for a period of three years by the EB. These three International Federations will now be able to receive funding from the IOC and can apply for development programmes, while full recognition has to be granted by the IOC Session.
The IOC Executive Board noted the very positive steps taken by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) to strengthen its anti-doping programme. The positive steps include the newly designed Tokyo 2020 qualification system, which links the number of quota places available per country to their history of doping and rewards clean sport; suspension and monitoring of nine national federations for up to one year each; the implementation of new strict anti-doping policies and procedures; the MoU between the IWF and ITA delegating remaining areas of its anti-doping programme throughout 2019; and no positive results to date from doping testing at the recent IWF World Championships.
At the same time, the IOC EB expressed its concern regarding the actions in allowing non-eligible athletes to participate in an exhibition at the recent IWF World Championships. The Board decided to continue to monitor the final report on the samples collected at the IWF World Championships as well as awaiting confirmation of a successful and smooth transition of key areas of the IWF anti-doping programme from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport to the ITA as of January 2019. These elements will be further reviewed at the next EB meeting, with a view to the option of lifting the conditional inclusion in the sports programme of the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
Changes of Nationality
Changes of nationality for two athletes were also approved by the EB: Odile van AANHOLT (sailing) switched from Aruba to The Netherlands; and Brisa HENNESSY (surfing), from USA to Costa Rica.
Allocation of International Sports Events
The IOC EB decided to recommend to all IFs and other recognised sporting organisations that the allocation of international sports events to a country must include the necessary guarantees to ensure equal treatment for the participating athletes and sporting delegations. This is in accordance with the basic principles of autonomy and non-discrimination which govern the Olympic Movement.
Countries that will host international sporting events must guarantee these principles, and all international sports organisations concerned should not allocate any international sports event to a country that does not provide the necessary guarantees.
In this framework, the IOC EB took note with concern about the difficulties encountered by the Kosovan athletes to participate with full rights and without discrimination in some international sports competitions organised recently in Spain.
At the same time, the IOC EB welcomed the firm engagement from the Spanish Government to redress this situation, as expressed in a letter from the Foreign Minister to the Spanish NOC.
It guaranteed, in Spain, the participation of the athletes from Kosovo with all rights and no discrimination in relation to other athletes, in all competitions under IOC auspices – this means all competitions organised by sports organisations recognised by the IOC.
# # #
WAKO USA is the United States’ division of the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations and the governing body of Amateur kickboxing sport certified by Sport Accord and now as of 2018 a member of the IOC. WAKO holds a world championships every two years, with youth (18 and under) and adults (18–45) on separate years; only national teams are accepted. Each member country can present only one competitor in each weight class. Competitors are commonly the national champion of their weight class in that particular kickboxing style and many are also officially recognized by their National Olympic Committees or Ministry of Sports.
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 IOC and SportAccord in 2010. WAKO once again participated in the 2013 World Combat Games which were held in St. Petersburg Russia in October of 2013 under the patronage of the IOC and SportAccord. Three rule styles were involved at the Combat Games – Low Kick, Point Fighting, and Full Contact.
WAKO USA and WAKO PRO govern and sanction the sport of kickboxing in three rule styles that compete inside a boxing ring: Full Contact, Low Kick, and K-1. WAKO USA governs and supports martial arts competition which takes place on a matted floor in four styles: Point Fighting, Light Contact, Kick-Light, and Musical Forms. Every two years the WAKO World Championships brings together the best athletes from around the world to compete in each rule style. Each of WAKO’s 85 affiliated national federations can present only 1 competitor in each weight class and the WAKO World Championships determines who truly is the best of the best.
Post from Roy Baker:
WE DID IT: Today, one of our dreams have been realised. WAKO has been recognised by the IOC as a member provisionally, at the IOC Executive Committee meeting today in Tokyo. This is the biggest step in the history of our sport. Special thanks goes to Espen Lund, and the legal team Francesca Falsoni and Nikolaus Gstättner and of course Barbara Falsoni. I AM PROUD TO BE PART OF THIS TEAM. This was an extrodinary team alongside and supporting our past presidents, Georg F. Brückner, Ennio Falsoni and Borislav Pelevich who had the energy and vision. It has been a long and tough road and something positive that our sport deserves. Now we must move forward, stronger, united and with a single vision. I am so proud today, I feel i am going to burst. THANK YOU to everybody that supported us along the way. WE DID IT #WAKOIOC#ONEWAKO
Some highlights of Team USA Members from Region 10 representing at the PAN AM Championships in Mexico: Xander Eddy (Gold Medalist) 🥇🥋
The “KICK” kickathon concept was developed Irwin native Bill Viola Jr., founder of Kumite Classic Entertainment, and former Monroeville Mayor and Pennsylvania 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 partnered 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 participants raised just over $5000 with 50 participants. This year we doubled both bringing us up to over $15,000 with just two kicksathons. The “KICKS” are a unique way to attract sponsors and big donors. It helps us raise the big numbers.”
Sean and Shannon LoganPIND offers a unique twist to the traditional 5K by incorporating Viola’s “Kick-a-thon” concept. Viola explains, “There are a lot of in-house kick-a-thons that take place at schools, but none that actually kick for distance in the heat. This is the first of its kind.” The estimated amount of kicks thrown by each participant was 1500 and with over 100 students, the total number was approximately 150,000 kicks.
The Viola Karate Dojo has made it their mission to KICK Parkinson’s disease—literally by assembling over 100 students kicking one mile non-stop though the racetrack at Boyce Park in Monroeville. The students showcased their skill during record setting heat and donated over $10,000 to aid The Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (PIND) for research. In all, over the past three years, the PIND event has raised over $1 million dollars through appropriations, grants and sponsors. 100% goes directly for experimental tests in hopes of finding the cure in Pittsburgh.
“The cause is near and dear to my heart. I’ve been looking for a way to fight this epidemic, and having my school ‘Kick’ for a cure was a perfect fit. Building character is an important part of martial arts. My students exceeded my expectations. Their selflessness is incredible.”
9-year-old Mike Barone led the group of by donating nearly $2015 followed by 11-year-old Aidan Thornton ($900) and 5-year-old Madden McKeever ($800). In just three years, through corporate sponsorships and race participants the 5k race, walk and KICK has surpassed over $300,000 in total donations for PIND which brings the grand total to over $1 million dollars in funds.
Viola has been involved in charitable work since his Senior year at Pitt, when he established Kumite International Collegiate Karate scholarships (The Acronym KICK). 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) presenting the scholarships with Viola at the 2004 Kumite Classic in Pittsburgh.
Although Viola is known internationally for his competitive success in karate he says,
“Trophies collect dust. Making an impact on the community is priceless. They are making a difference and learning the value of paying in forward. I tell them, every kick of kindness creates an endless a ripple in our community.”
PIND spearheads efforts to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Huntington’s Disease, Stroke, and Alzheimer’s Disease. The kids have already made plans to “Kick Parksinsons” again next year. For more information please visit: PIND5K.org
The $1 Million Dollar Mark!!
PIND Event race, walk and kick Donation Breakdown 2016-2018
Interview with Bill Viola Jr. Author of Amazon Best Seller ‘Tough Guys’
By Heather Holtschlag|
Tough Guys (2017) Kumite Classic Press available on Amazon
Why and when did you decide to write Godfathers of MMA?
The real story of who invented the sport of MMA in America was in jeopardy of being lost forever. My father and his business partner created a regulated MMA in 1979, and I needed to set the record straight. They deserved credit and I was shocked that all of the history books available were clueless. It began as a passion piece to provide information and morphed into the most the most comprehensive book on early MMA history. My cousin Dr. Fred Adams and I took on the task of documenting a forgotten time and place for the sport. We bring you back to the Golden Era of MMA.
What is the book about?
You get an inside look into the minds and events of the men who “mixed” the martial arts a decade before the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship.” They created a new sport in the form of the Tough Guys.
How did things with the movie get started?
Shortly after the exclusive preview run of Godfathers of MMA, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Robert Zullo stumbled upon the Tough Guys exhibit featured at the Heinz History center. The display recognizes Pittsburgh as the Birthplace of MMA. The display is located right next to Franco Harris’s immaculate reception and catches a lot of attention. Zullo explains, “I couldn’t believe I’d never heard about this story. I was enamored with the time, place and machismo of the whole thing. I just had a gut instinct to meet these guys.” Zullo reached out to his brother Will and childhood friend Craig DiBiase a producer [MinusL] and Director Henry Roosevelt from New York City. Zullo also got his Academy Award winning cousin, Ross Kaufmann, on board. Two years later after 52TB of filming, the Tough Guys Doc was born.
When did the movie start in production?
Production began in the summer of 2015. One of the feature locations was Allegheny Shotokan Karate in North Huntingdon. My favorite location was Ritters Diner which we retrofitted to look like a 1979 Dennys. I played my father in a famous scence where we hashed out the name ‘Tough.’
Was it all filmed in Pittsburgh?
We had 18 locations from Florida to New York but the bulk of the footage and interviews were from Western Pennsylvania (North Huntingdon, New Kensington and Pittsburgh).
How did the name Tough Guys come about?
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Pittsburgh was the epitome of a blue collar ‘tough’ city. This sport would be an open call for the ‘toughest’ guys on the planet to fight, so Tough Guys was fitting for the era.
Who starred in it?
The documentary stars the men who lived it. We were fortunate to film the original fighters and pioneers. One of the stars was Dave Jones. He trained at my father’s dojo and actually worked for North Huntingdon Township as part of a ‘road gang’ and laborer. Dave fought in the first fight and won by TKO. He was fearless–I looked up to him as a kid.
Can you tell me about the production process…your role, how production went, any details you can add about the highlights of the movie? I
had the unique experience to wear many hats on the project: the production end, consulting end, and even played a 1979 version of my father in the famous ‘Denny’s Restaurant’ scene. Since my book was the master outline, I had to on point.
When did the movie premiere?
Initial praise 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). The world premiere of “Tough Guys” took place at the American Film Institute (AFI) Docs on June 15th 2017 at the famous Landmark Theatre in Washington, DC. It was screened the day after the mega Mayweather / McGregor announcement. The film sold out.
And when did it air on Showtime? September 15th
Will it be shown again in the future? It aired all of September and October. Then it will be distributed internationally.
Do you have plans to write anymore books or be involved in any other movies?
After the Showtime debut, my commemorative edition of the book retitled ‘Tough Guys’. It just hit #1 on the Amazon Best Sellers list for sports today. It’s received critical acclaim and we’ve been getting offers for a screenplay to turn the journey into a major motion picture. That is my ultimate goal. With the right team, I know this could an Oscar worthy drama.
An interview with the Bill Viola Jr. (Author of Amazon #1 best seller Tough Guys).
How passionate are you about MMA?
I am most passionate about teaching and sharing my knowledge. It’s a family legacy. All my siblings are black belts and now I am mentoring my daughter (Gabby) and will have my son William Viola IV who was just born in September on the mat soon.
What, exactly, is MMA?
MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is a sport that combines all disciplines of combats sports (boxing, karate, wrestling, judo etc.) fighting into regulated competition. My father is credited for writing the first legitimate rule book in 1979. The UFC, the sports largest franchise, was sold for 4 billion dollars in 2016. If Pennsylvania didn’t outlaw the sport in 1983, my father and Frank would be at the helm of that empire.
Team Kumite has been the most successful sport karate school team in the Pittsburgh region. The team was established in 2000 after a void was left from 1980s/1990s powerhouse X-Caliber National Team. X-Caliber’s were lead by Captain Mike Shurina (NASKA/NBL World Champion) and coached by Leonard Jackson.
X-Caliber was a Western Pennsylvania sport karate team that fought out of Pittsburgh. Members included Bill Viola Jr., Doug Slechan,Todd Humes, Masai Turner, and other Western PA All-Stars. It was the first Jr. Team from the region during the team fighting boom era of the 1980s and 1990s. It was the first time in Pittsburgh that Jr. competitors from separate schools joined to represent a one team. The result was magic…
The UPSETS: X-Caliber was a “local” Pittsburgh-only based team that took on all the National Powerhouses of the era… and won. They often fought hand picked teams with champions from around the United States. At the the NASKA Capitol Classics in Washington DC, X-Caliber upset the unbeaten Jr. SMASH team. SMASH was considered the elite team to beat since they were sponsored by Sport Karate Magazine. The SMASH team was made up #1 ranked kids in NASKA from USA and Canada. X-Caliber was the first team to ever beat them.
Then at the Ocean State Nationals in Rhode Island, X-Caliber upset the then unbeaten Metro All-Stars in Team Fighting. The word was out, Pittsburgh had some of the top Jr. competitors in the nation. The team was absorbed by the New York City based Metro-All Stars in the early 1990s coached by Hector Santiago. They became the most dominate Jr. team in sport karate history winning NASKA and NBL World Titles.
By the mid-1990s Metro had lost its sponsorship and the older players had moved on to start families. Pittsburgh was without a national team until 2000 when Kumite Internatinal was established. It was to pay respect to the road that X-Caliber had paved. Since its inception, “Team Kumite” has been a fixture at the largest events in North American Sport Karate.
The Team trains @ Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate School, established by “Shihan” Bill Viola Sr. The school has been the most active tournament dojo in the Pittsburgh region and Western Pennsylvania for nearly 50 years. Through its sister program, The Norwin Ninjas, they are constantly searching for young new talent to work with. The Viola Family is internationally renowned, for coaching champions at all levels.
Our karate school staff has experience working with everyone from Olympic-level competitors to professional sports athletes from the NFL and MLB. “Home of National, International, and World Champions.”
The Viola Karate dojo has produced champions in Mixed Martial Arts MMA, Kickboxing, sport karate, and traditional karate.
A few recent accomplishments on why they are the best karate school in Pittsburgh for sport karate include:
Team Kumite wins Pittsburgh’s Largest Martial Arts Championships
The Viola Karate School was honored as the “Top Team” at the 2017 Kumite Classic martial arts championships at the 18th annual Pittsburgh Fitness Expo on May 26-27 at Monroeville Convention Center.
The Kumite Classic is the region’s largest multi-sport convention, with over 100,000 square feet of competitions and participation from around the world.
Team Kumite Earn Pro Status #WAKO North American Open
Team Kumite, a Pittsburgh-based all-star travel karate school team, achieved Pro Status winning Open Weight Grand Champions at the North American Open at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
“It is pretty exciting,” Team Kumite coach and president of Kumite Classic Entertainment Bill Viola Jr. said. “It is the first time anyone from the Pittsburgh area has earned these titles. We are very honored and excited to represent this region on a larger scale.”
Other winners came from Mexico, Great Britain, Quebec and two from California.
“There were only eight pro winners in the world, and three came from our school,” Viola said of the North Huntingdon-based facility. “I am super excited as a coach. We were very fortunate. We have a great squad and great group of kids that push each other. I am impressed but not surprised. They showed it all season long what their skill level is.”
Member of Team USAhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01XPVtbHYqw
Bill Viola Jr. is an Amazon Best Selling Author #1 Martial Arts book in America (Sept 2017) “Tough Guys” The book is the inspiration of the critically acclaimed Showtime Television documentary that bares the same name.
What do an NFL star, a United States Secret Service Agent, Sylvester Stallone’s bodyguard, and Muhammad Ali’s sparring partner all have in common? They were all characters cast in America’s original “anything goes” reality fighting drama, an “open call” that gave birth to a new sport—MMA.
Long before the Octagon was in vogue or Royce Gracie made his pay-per-view debut; decades before the UFC became a household brand and while the likes of Dana White were still in elementary school; two martial artists, Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri, set out to prove once and for all who the world’s greatest fighter was by creating a radical new “sport” in 1979.
Godfathers of MMA reveals the clandestine plot to subvert the “first” mixed martial arts revolution in American history, one poised to challenge boxing as the king of combat sports. Confounded by a freak accident (death in the ring) and widespread corruption, a massive struggle ensued over money, power, and respect between boxing’s gentry and an upstart MMA company from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. CV (Caliguri and Viola) Productions ignited a bitter turf war with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission that sparked a spectacular David and Goliath battle for leverage.
The legendary story, buried by rhetoric for years, casts a wide net reeling in everyone from politicians to mobsters, all with ulterior motives; all with eyes on a billion dollar blueprint. From boxing’s “Holy Territory,” the home of Rocky Balboa, to a bizarre connection with the Supreme Court that lead to the first legal precedent for MMA—ever, this is the ultimate inside look.
Godfathers of MMA is a testosterone-laced whirlwind tale of “what might have been” told by the trailblazers who fought for it. Relive the epic adventure of the “Tough Guys” later known as Super Fighters (the first mixed martial arts league, long before it was labeled MMA). Thirty years before the UFC gained a mainstream audience, KDKA-TV dubbed CV’s new sport, “Organized, Legalized, Street fighting” while the Philadelphia Journal proclaimed, “No holds barred as Superfighters take over.” Take a journey back in time to the “Iron City” and meet the fighters, the foes, and the visionaries who created the modern sport of MMA.
Academy Award-Winning Team debuts “Tough Guys” on Showtime
“Tough Guys” is based on the book Godfathers of MMA written by Pittsburgh native Bill Viola Jr. The book which he co-wrote with his cousin Dr. Fred Adams also documents Pittsburgh as the birthplace of MMA, which is now a billion-dollar business. Viola Jr. explains, “When most fight fans think MMA history, they immediately reminisce about the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) which made its debut in 1993. My dad and Frank created the sport over a decade before the UFC. This is the untold story.”
The movie is largely based in Western Pennsylvania and has strong ties to the city of Greensburg. In fact, the last “Tough Guy” event was held in Greensburg at “Hartys” on November 6-7th 1983.
Academy Award nominated documentarian Morgan Spurlock (SUPER SIZE ME) teamed with Oscar winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman (BORN INTO BROTHELS) to produce this film that chronicles the history of MMA beginning in Pittsburgh over a decade before the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) existed.
“Back then, my dad literally mixed up all the martial arts and invented the ‘Tough Guy’ competition not to be confused with Toughman, which was purely boxing,” Viola Jr. said. “Last year the UFC sold for $4 billion dollars.”
The film was executive produced by Spurlock, Kauffman and Spurlock’s business partner, Jeremy Chilnick. It was directed by award winning filmmakers Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo and produced by award winning commercial producer Craig DiBiase.
Although Godfathers of MMA has already been written and published, Viola Jr. plans to re-release the book as a commemorative edition to coincide with the network debut of the film and will include bonus material, a new chapter and rebranded as Tough Guys to match the film.
According to Viola Jr., in 1979, his father and Caliguri dreamed up a contest pitting barroom bigmouths against wrestlers, martial artists, boxers, bouncers and brawlers, billed as a no -holds-barred new type of competitive fighting. “When the fights succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, they were swept up in a chain of events that ended in the first mixed martial arts ban in the nation when the Senate passed the ‘Tough Guy Law’ in 1983.”
“Tough Guys” recounts the inception of Caliguri and Viola Sr.’s first bouts and the colorful, crazy cast of fighters who made them a hit, as well as the politicians who prohibited it. The film brings to life a moment when the national martial arts craze was building to a crescendo as the economies of Pennsylvania steel towns were plummeting to levels of unemployment never seen before or since, breeding desperate men looking for a chance to prove their worth and earn some money in the ring.
“The film presents the untold stories of scrappy brawlers and martial arts promoters,” said Viola Jr., who served as an associate producer. “And, it covers a broad audience of Pittsburgh-area characters.”