Durham, NC, December 1, 2020 – Jessie Bowen, Director of the American Martial Arts Alliance Foundation announced the release of highly anticipated 2020 MARTIAL ARTS MASTERS & PIONEERS CHUCK NORRIS BIO BOOK – US & World Edition.
The Viola Karate Family Honored in Chuck Norris “Who’s Who” Book
Father and Son karate experts, Bill Viola Sr. and Bill Viola Jr., have been inducted into 2020 AMAA “Who’s Who Legends Hall of Honors” alongside martial arts icon Chuck Norris. The pioneers are featured in the 2020 edition of Who’s Who in the Martial Arts Book, an autobiographical publication that is one of the most recognizable martial arts titles worldwide and is an essential guide for preserving history. Viola Sr. states, “It’s a huge accomplishment for an individual, but having us both recognized as pioneers is something special. Karate is our way of life.”
Bill Viola Sr. is the family patriarch of a Pittsburgh’s most famous karate legacy. He is one of the most well-known figures in the karate industry and last year Allegheny Country council honored him by naming September 23rd as “Sensei Viola Day” in recognition of his 50-year anniversary founding Allegheny Shotokan Karate in Western Pennsylvania. Viola Sr. began his journey in combat sports in 1955 in Brownsville, Pennsylvania taking up boxing lessons from the legendary Marion “Slugger” Klingensmith. In High School he took up Karate and has never looked back. In 1969 he opened his first dojo and then in 1979 he wrote the rules for mixed martial arts (MMA) competition. He has since been honored by the Heinz History Center as the co-creator of the sport of MMA more than a decade before the UFC. His life story was the subject of the books Godfathers of MMA (2014) and #1 bestselling sports book Tough Guys (2017) which inspired the Showtime film Tough Guys (2017) produced by an Academy Award winning accredited team. He is a member of the USA Karate Hall of Fame, and was named by California University of Pennsylvania as an Illustrious Californian Award (2020).
Bill Viola Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps taking the reins of the family owned and operated dojo which now includes the third generation of Viola’s (his daughter Gabby and son William Viola IV). Viola Jr., a multiple time USA Karate National Champion and All-American Athlete was named World Champion in 1998 by Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact it was Arnold that encouraged Viola to establish his own production company, and in 1999 he founded Kumite Classic Entertainment which grew into the mecca for martial arts and fitness in the Pittsburgh region.
Viola Jr. is an accredited associate producer, producer, and executive producer with credits in Pittsburgh area films including Warrior, Tough Guys, and most recently had a cameo as Mary Steenburgen’s “Karate Sensei” in the Hulu’s “Happiest Season” which debuted on Thanksgiving. ⬇️
Viola Jr. is a #1 bestselling author whose latest project CommonSensei is creating major buzz in the self-help genre. His book series, where each volume you can earn a different colored belt, is slated to launch in 2021. The project is aimed towards millennials and Gen-Z sharing, “everything they should teach you in school, but don’t.” Viola explains that the goal of series is becoming a, “Black Belt in Life.” He was just honored as “Author of the Month” (December 2020) by Elite Publications out of North Carolina.
The Pandemic has shifted the “Who’s Who” ceremony to an online presentation. December 5th, will be the official public release of the Chuck Norris Martial Arts Masters and Pioneers Biography Book and Online Emerging Leaders Conference with special guest speaker Laura Silva Quesada, world renowned transformational coach and author. There will also be online Seminars, martial arts demonstrations and a special salute honoring Grandmaster Chuck Norris, and the Violas.
Jessie Bowen (publisher of Who’s Who) explains, “We are dedicated to preserving and sharing our inductee’s extraordinary journeys with the world. The book is the first of its kind that combines a martial arts history book and directory all in one.
The new Chuck Norris book will be available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Lulu, and other book outlets.
For more information, interviews, and demonstration contact Bill Viola Jr. 724-640-2111
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
WHEREAS, Allegheny Shotokan Karate, or Viola Karate as it is more commonly known today, was established in 1969 at East Allegheny High School by Bill Viola, Sr. and is celebrating its 50th anniversary of educating students in martial arts in Allegheny County and western Pennsylvania;
WHEREAS, the family-owned and operated
dojo has had three generations of Violas carry on the legacy of Bill Sr., who
still teaches a black belt class every Monday evening, reminding students that
karate is a lifelong journey; his journey has been recognized with the
induction of Viola Karate into the USA Karate Hall of Fame who also named
Sensei V the Man of the Year in 2003 and his being given the honorific title of
WHEREAS, Shihan Bill Viola is credited
by the Senator John 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; his life was the
subject of the Amazon #1 selling book Godfathers of MMAwhich inspired a documentary film Tough Guys; in 2017 the Violas were published in the book, Who’s Who in the Martial Arts – Legends of American Karate;
WHEREAS, over the past half-century, Shihan
Bill Viola’s powerful brand of punches and kicks have translated some of life’s
most important lessons: respect, discipline and focus; the confidence he has
instilled in his students can be found on and off the mat, while the dojo
remains the most successful sport karate school in the Pittsburgh region; and
WHEREAS, we are fortunate to have Allegheny
Shotokan Karate in Allegheny County, and that the school, led today by the next
generation of Violas, has not only served our communities but used its
notoriety as an internationally-known and recognized martial arts school to
further benefit charities in our community for generations.
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.
Xander Eddy might look like a normal student while he’s walking the halls of Sunset Valley Elementary School in North Huntingdon.
But he’s got a secret weapon – his hands and his feet.
Xander, short for Alexander, recently became the youngest American to ever win the Pan American Kickboxing Championships, held Oct. 23 to Oct. 28 in Riviera Maya, Mexico. The fourth-grader is still basking in the glow of his record-setting performance, as was evident Thursday night as he trained at Allegheny Shotokan Viola Karate in North Huntingdon.
“I knew I had a very good chance. I just didn’t know I’d make it as far as I did,” he said.
Xander, 9, defeated a young Guatemalan competitor to take the gold medal in the open weight class for Team USA. More than 30 countries in the Western Hemisphere were represented in the competition.
Xander dominated six rounds against top-ranked athletes from Chile, Puerto Rico and Mexico with a combined score of 30-3, said his sensei, Bill Viola Jr. After two rounds in the finals, the score was tied, forcing an additional round to determine the champion.
“(Xander) scored a sidekick to take the lead, and as time expired, he executed his patented ‘ax’ kick to win gold,” Viola said.
Teammate Luke Lokay, 15, of North Huntingdon, took bronze for Team USA.
Xander said he was surprised by the championship, but his dad wasn’t.
“Every tournament we go to, I’m just in awe,” his father, A.J. Eddy said. “I just watch him and the things that he does, and I’m speechless. He does so well – it amazes me.”
Xander started taking karate lessons when he was 4. It didn’t take long for his parents and his sensei to sense something special in his abilities.
“The thing that set Xander apart right away was his attitude — he would put that work ethic in that a lot kids wouldn’t,” said Viola, whose father, Bill Viola Sr., founded the karate studio in 1969 and still gives lessons.
Viola also cited Xander’s “natural athletic ability” and his support system, including his parents, A.J. and Dana Eddy.
Xander trains at Viola Karate six days a week, mostly because he wants to be there. “I would say probably 90 percent of it is him,” A.J. Eddy said. “There may be a day within a month, at the most, where he might come home from school and say, ‘I don’t want to go to practice today.’ ”
He takes Tuesdays off. And when he’s not studying or training, he enjoys fishing, playing video games and hanging out with his friends.
Two months before the Mexico trip, Xander suffered a potentially career-ending injury when he shattered the growth plate in his foot while practicing. The injury affected his base leg, which is critical for kicking and movement.
Viola said Xander beat the odds through tenacity and extra training, ultimately making a full recovery in time for the Mexico tournament.
“He didn’t miss a class,” he said. “Little by little, he started showing signs of the old Xander. In the week prior, we pushed him hard. He peaked right at the right time.”
Xander said he now feels stronger than ever.
“I feel really confident with it now because (Viola) said it’s more stable and stronger than it was before I was hurt,” Xander said. “He worked with me on my kicks because I couldn’t balance really good on my foot. It was tough.”
In the weeks and months ahead, Xander has tournaments scheduled in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“Other than that, he’s just a normal kid,” his father said.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @shuba_trib.
A 9-year-old North Huntingdon boy is kicking his way toward the top of the martial arts world.
Xander Eddy earned a gold medal for Team USA in the male open weight 9 years category at the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations Pan American championships Oct. 23-28 in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
He was one of 10 entries from four countries. Competitors from Guatemala and Mexico came in second and third.
Bill Viola Jr., Eddy’s sensei, or teacher, with Allegheny Shotokan Karate in North Huntingdon, said the next big step is the 2019 World Karate Commission Championships in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
“We are already training,” Viola said.
Eddy came back from a foot injury, which made him determined.
“I trained a lot harder,” he said.
Eddy, a Norwin fourth-grader who has been kickboxing for five years, said he is improving following up with his hands.
Started in Europe in 1976, kickboxing is a contact fighting sport that includes punches, as well as kicks.
Eddy was one of two Allegheny Shotokan Karate members who qualified at the WAKO USA Nationals in Feb. in Kansas City, Mo.
Luke Lokay, 16, of North Huntingdon, a Norwin sophomore, competed in the male under-63-kilogram.
Viola said work ethic and attitude set Eddy and Lokay apart.
“They push each other with no ego,” Viola said. “They lead by example and inspire the rest of (the) students.
“Win or loss, they represent America with character. Their parents are hands-on and sacrifice a lot for them (to) compete.”
Lokay, whose father took him to his first class when he was 4, said his goal is to win the world championship.
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
indigenous forms of hand to hand combat fighting develops around the world
Roots of MMA
This infographic timeline and family tree outlines the evolution of MMA from theory, to combat, to modern sport. While the question of who invented MMA will never be answered, we can clearly define who created the first organized and regulated “American Sport.” CV [Caliguri and Viola] Productions created the blueprint for a multi-billion dollar business in 1979 by launching the first mixed martial arts league in United States history only to ignite a bitter turf war with a jealous boxing community over money, power and respect. Mixed Martial Madness reveals a clandestine plot that subverted a martial arts revolution that was poised to challenge boxing for preeminence as the king of combat sports.
Today, CV Production’s “anything goes” creation has evolved into one of the fastest growing sports in the world, albeit under the auspices of the Ultimate Fighting Championships. Nearly thirty years before the UFC garnered real mainstream acceptance, CV set up shop as the first mixed martial arts company in American history. Although enshrined at Heinz History Center in association with the Smithsonian Institution, you’ve likely never heard of them—until now. MMA is the sport of the 21st century: WOW Promotions popularized it, SEG Entertainment refined it, Zuffa LLC monetized it, but CV Productions created it. This is your exclusive ticket to travel back in time and relive the epic journey of the Tough Guys.
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 arts entrepreneurs pursued a dream that would change the sporting world forever. Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri, promoters from Pittsburgh, set out to prove once and for all who the “Toughest Man on the planet” was by inventing a radical new “sport.” Groundbreaking—sophisticated—progressive; their competition transformed the barbaric spectacles of an earlier era into a modern franchise more akin to the NFL than the Roman Coliseum.
The rise and fall of the first Mixed Martial Arts championships in the United States is nothing less than a spectacular David-and-Goliath story populated by a colorful cast of characters who bring the drama of MMA to life. Professional athletes, barroom brawlers, collegiate wrestlers, self-proclaimed bad asses, and aspiring “Rockys” all went toe-to-toe in what was the first legal “anything goes” competition in America. The testosterone-laced rollercoaster ride was ultimately buried by back alley politics and special interests in an effort to protect the “sweet science.”
In 1983, with the stench of corruption still in the air, the Pennsylvania legislature banned the new sport en route to setting the first legal precedent for MMA—ever. Outlawed and blacklisted by the “Good ol’ boys,” Mixed Martial Arts would sit idle until an upstart UFC finally emerged in 1993. Unfortunately, their “No Holds Barred” format was light-years behind CV Productions in terms of rules, regulations and safety precautions. It would take nearly thirty years of “catching up” for MMA to come full circle and gain mainstream acceptance. Godfathers of MMA is the untold story of the men who changed the game and a sport that was born ahead of its time.
Pick up the most comprehensive MMA history book available today.
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.”