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.
An inspiring group of martial artists have made it their mission to KICK Parkinson’s disease—literally. On September 3rd 2018 the Viola Karate Dojo and their sister program Norwin Ninjas assembled over 100 students to make a bold statement and kick non-stop for one mile at Boyce Park. The students showcased their skill and donated over $10,000 to aid The Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (PIND) for research.
The “KICK” concept was developed Irwin native Bill Viola Jr., founder of Kumite Classic Entertainment, and former Mayor and State Senator Sean Logan. Logan was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease in his mid-forties and Viola spent years caring for his Grandmother who passed away from neurodegenerative complications.
Logan developed a 5K to promote his “Do Something” campaign as means to encourage exercise. Physical activity has been proven to be an effective method to combat Parkinson’s disease. Viola parented with Logan in 2017 to add a “Kick-a-thon” element to the 5k, and its growth has been exponential. Viola explains, “Last year the KICK raised just over $5000 with 50 participants. This year we doubled both brining us up to over $15,000 with just two kicks-a-thons.
PIND 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. 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.
Viola said, “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 PIND 5k has surpassed over $300,000 in total donations for PIND.
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, Kick with kindness and create an endless a ripple.”
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
Dr Freddie Fu Gives Karate Standout a Second Chance
Luke Lokay Represents United States Kickboxing / Karate Team in Quest for Gold Medal
Six years ago Luke Lokay thought he’d never walk straight again. This October Luke will represent America as part of USA Karate Kickboxing team in Cancun, Mexico at the PAN AMERICAN Championships. His story of determination is one that inspires his teammates and the community.
In 2012, Lokay was in fourth grader in the Norwin School District where he was recruited by Sensei Bill Viola Jr. to join “Team Kumite” (an all-star traveling karate team). Viola remembers, “I just saw something in Luke. He had the intangibles I look for. He had that the eye of the tiger—heart.” I wanted to work with him and get him ready for the big leagues.”
Lokay was poised to compete for his first national karate championship when a fluke accident sent his body and dreams crashing. Lokay recalls, “I was riding my bike and my neighbors dog [Kippie] just charged at me. He was just playing, but he knocked me to the ground awkwardly and pinned my knee. I knew immediately something was wrong.” Luke’s parents, John and Amy, took him to multiple specialists and hospitals in the area. Initial emergency rooms didn’t treat him with urgency and said the leg wasn’t broken. He was told to “just rest” the injured leg. The recommendation didn’t sit well with his dad. John Lokay recalls, “I wasn’t satisfied with what they were saying at all. He was in real pain, and he never complained about anything. I went out on a limb and ignored the prognosis. A friend of mine told me to get ahold of Dr. Freddie Fu. That call saved my boy. He actually called me on a Sunday from New York. He got us in the next day.”
Luke was rushed in for a 3rd Opinion where Dr. Fu (Chair of Orthopedic Surgery at UPMC) confirmed Luke had in fact torn his ACL, meniscus and broke his tibia that pulled into the knee cap. The diagnosis was severe for anyone, especially for someone that young. Dr. Fu told the family that if he didn’t perform surgery the next day, the leg may never straighten again. The Lokay’s followed his advice, rehabilitation and course of action. At the time, karate was out of the picture but Dr. Fu was optimistic that if Luke followed the rehab he could someday make a return.
Luke underwent surgery and began the long journey of rehabilitation. Although he couldn’t train, he still remained active with his karate school by attending martial arts tournaments to cheer on his teammates. Sensei Viola remembers, “Luke remained positive throughout the entire experience. Most kids would have quit, but there is something special about him. Everyone was rooting for him. I’ve never seen a kid with such a serious injury be able to bounce back like he did. His parents and his doctors did a wonderful job!”
Flash forward to 2018, and Luke is currently on a quest for Gold. He represents the United States as a member of the prestigious 2018 “Team USA” and will fight at the Pan American Kickboxing Championship this fall. In the upcoming months while other kids are enjoying summer break, 15-year old Luke Lokay will be training to compete at the highest international levels for sport martial arts. Viola says, “We train the mind as much as the body by incorporating ‘mokuso‘ into our workouts. I think this helps keep Luke grounded.”
Luke earned a spot on “Team USA” at the WAKO Trials in Kansas City, Missouri in February in the 63- Kg division and his teammate, 9-year-old Xander Eddy, secured the 30- Kg weight class. The selection process is limited to the current national champions officially recognized by their National Olympic Committees or Ministry of Sports.
Lokay, now going into 10th grade at Norwin High School explains, “Representing my country is such huge honor. I wasn’t supposed to be able to walk, let alone compete for a Gold medal. I’m making the most of my second chance. I’m dedicating this journey to Dr. Fu, who fixed me up.” Lokay has been training at Allegheny Shotokan “Viola” Karate in North Huntingdon since he was 5-years-old. Lokay and his training partner Eddy are the first US Team members to earn a team selection for The World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) from Western Pennsylvania.
WAKO is the largest international organization of kickboxing, and the governing body of Amateur kickboxing sport certified by SportAccord. WAKO is affiliated in 128 nations on 5 continents officially recognized by either National Olympic Committee or relevant National Government Sports Authority responsible for than 4,000,000 practitioners from across the globe. WAKO kickboxing was one of thirteen combat sports participating in the first ever World Combat Games which were held in Beijing, China under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). WAKO is a member of the “Olympic Channel,” a multi-platform global media destination for the Olympic Games which includes other combat sports such as Karate slated for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Luke will be traveling to Orlando, Florida in July for the US Open World Martial Arts Championships in preparation for the PanAmerican Championship. He is in search of community based support to offset the financial burdens to his family to travel and compete.
About Luke Lokay: Luke is a goodwill representative for the Western PA Police Athletic League (PAL) where is serves as an advocate for disadvantaged youth. It’s a role his Sensei held when he was Luke’s age. Loaky is also a “Junior Leader” for the University of Pittsburgh’s PIND (Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegerative Disease) 5K Kick-a-thon where he and his team raise funds to “Kick Parkinson’s Disease.” He will kick for 1-mile straight non-stop on Labor Day to raise awareness of the cause.
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.
GREENSBURG — The stars came out on Friday night at The Palace Theatre for a special showing of Showtime’s “Tough Guys” documentary that takes a first-hand look at what Brownsville native Bill Viola, Sr. and Frank Caliguri started 13 years before the first UFC event took place.
Viola and Caliguri, who co-founded the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), were in attendance with many of the fighters who competed in the first event on Mar. 20, 1980, at the New Kensington Holiday Inn, including Mike Murray, who attended Belle Vernon Area High School, and Dave Jones, who fought Murray in the first official bout.
The fans, friends and family in attendance were able to watch the film free of charge and were able to ask questions following the showing, and the fighters and promoters involved signed autographs and posed for pictures.
The film is a must see and will be repeated on Showtime in case you missed it on Friday.
Without giving away the plot, it is a true story of the little guy getting crushed by “the man.”
Viola and Calguri’s first event was a huge success, with the first event being sold out and people being turned away at the gate, but following a few events, confusion between the “Tough Man” and “Tough Guy” contests, a death during a boxing-only “Tough Man” event and some politicians, CV (Caliguri & Viola) Productions was in trouble due to Senate Bill 632.
Viola’s son, Bill Jr., who is the co-author of the book, “Godfathers of MMA,” was in attendance.
An exhibit at the Heinz History Sports Museum displays the first event that inspired the making of the documentary.
Obviously, there is a great deal of violence and language, so the documentary may not be suitable for all members of the family.
It is great to see these men recognized for what they have done but my only question is: Where was the UFC?
The biggest MMA company in the world was in Pittsburgh at PPG Paints Arena for an event, and no one involved in “Tough Guys” was contacted by the organization.
UFC President Dana White will probably never read this, and even on the one and a million chance that he does, doesn’t care what I have to say, but I think a tribute inside the ring would have been fitting.
Those involved at the event on Friday didn’t seem too worried if White and his organization would acknowledge them publicly but hopefully the film takes off and it has to be addressed.
“Dana White was probably in second grade when we started this event,” Viola Sr. said. “There’s no hard feelings. They produced a great product. They do not recognize us, but I think after the show comes out, the facts will speak for themselves, and I think we will get our day.”
Murray probably best summed it up with this statement: “Maybe Dana White should come here to this event and see Frank (Caliguri) and Bill (Viola).”
I totally agree, Mr. Murray.
Herald-Standard Sports Writer Jonathan Guth can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.”