Category Archives: Olympics

Gabby Viola – Fighting in 🥋 and out ⚕️ of the Ring

karate gabby viola

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 catapulted to🥇. 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.

Gabby Viola with WKC team USA karate
TEAM USA – 2019

*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.  

-Bill Viola Jr.

The People’s Champ 👑💪🏆

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.

Gabby 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

A few highlights:

World Games

Super Grands

#IBD #inflammatorybowel #UlcerativeColitis #UC #colitis #crohnsdisease #crohns #indeterminateboweldisease #Inflammatoryboweldisease

gabby viola

WAKO – IOC Olympic Membership Kickboxing / Sport Karate

wako ico

WAKO  Kickboxing / Karate joins the IOC (International Olympic Committee)

wako kickboxing PA 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.

wako olympics

wako ioc letter

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 olympics

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) 🥇🥋

Karate 2020 Olympics

karate 2020 olympics

Karate 2020 Olympics

From Sport Karate Illustrated, May 2016: -By Bill Viola Jr.

karate olympics

Judo made its Olympic debut in 1964, Tae Kwon Do in 2000. Karate, however, has yet to make an appearance.  Although poised, seemingly forever, karate has been rejected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on three separate occasions; Beijing, London and Rio games.  Why- oh-why has karate been shutout from the Olympic stage for so long?  Long story short: Politics.  Who is to say what style of karate is best?  Compound that problem with egos attached to those styles and well… you can see why we have been absent.

I personally grew up amidst the Olympic hubbub of the 80s and 90s as my father was a regional director for the USA Karate Federation (then National Governing Body for Karate under the US Olympic Committee and member of the World Union of Karate-Do Organizations (WUKO).  Excitement mounted as my family was invited to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea for Tae Kwon Do’s inaugural demonstration.  Back then, the “talk” was karate is next!   Naturally, our dojo jumped at the opportunity and churned out numerous USA Team members who traveled the globe in quest of Olympic status (none more prolific than Doug Selchan, America’s most dominant Kumite Champion of the era).  WUKO sat in the driver’s seat speeding toward an Olympic dream—one that ultimately sputtered.  Sadly, every four years the hype train rolled into the United States with all its fanfare and visions of Olympic rings, and time and time again left us holding broken promises.  The base was disheartened.

Many, including myself, grew weary of the power struggle and drifted away until Tokyo was announced as the home for the 2020 Olympics. The IOC gives the host city influence in nominating additional sports, so karate with its roots in Okinawa, rose as a top contender shortlisted among four other candidates including sports climbing, surfing, skateboarding, and a combined bid of baseball and softball.   A final decision will be taken at the 129th IOC Session in Rio in August 2016.

Just as Korea positioned Tae Kwon Do as an exhibition, collectively we cross our fingers that Japan will carry the same weight for karate as it did for Judo in the 1960s.  The World Karate Federation (WKF), the successor to WUKO, has positioned itself under the IOC to make history.  Its groundbreaking news I’ve waited over thirty years to witness.  I sat down with some WKF competitors to hear their thoughts:  USANKF TEAM MEMBERS: Kieran Tamondong“Having karate in the Olympics gives kids like me an ultimate goal.”  Adrian Galvan“Amazing, it’s the biggest stage.” Ariel Torres: “I’m honored to be a part of the movement.”  Marissa Meandro, Karate Canada Team Member:  “Each tournament is an experience that will hopefully lead to the Olympics.”

The Kumite Classic May 27-28th is a National Qualifier for the USANKF.  Now is your chance to try out Olympic-style competition.  More info:  www.kumiteclassic.com/usankf

Bill Viola Jr. is a Pittsburgh based martial arts promoter, author and producer of the Annual Kumite Classic.  He is the head instructor at Allegheny Shotokan Karate (member of the USANKF) founded by his father Bill Viola Sr. in 1969. 

 

Copyright © 2020 Kumite Classic Entertainment Corp.  Designed by Holt Web Design LLC.