Tag Archives: bill viola

Gabby Viola “3rd Generation” Black Belt

gabby viola

Gabby Viola Joins the Viola Karate Legacy

On August 17th 2021, Pittsburgh area karate champion Gabby Viola celebrated her 11th birthday and simultaneously became the youngest Black Belt at Allegheny Shotokan, a dojo that dates back to the 1960s.  Gabby joins a Pittsburgh karate legacy that includes three generations of Viola black belts including her Grandfather, Bill Viola Sr., father Bill Viola Jr., and four aunts (Addie, Jacque, Ali, and Joce). 

Her granddad aka “Papa Sensei” is accredited as the co-creator of mixed martial arts (MMA) and karate pioneer, while her father, Bill Jr., is a former World Champion and bestselling martial arts author. She’s following in her family’s footsteps literally as her dad explains, “She’s been kicking before she could walk.” Her mom, Jenn Viola, tells us, “She literally grew up in the dojo.  It was like her playground.”  The rank itself is an accomplishment that less than 100 people have achieved in over fifty years, but what’s even more impressive is that she did so fighting an incurable form of colitis – Inflammatory bowel disease.   

bill viola sr, bill viola jr, gabby viola

In 2018, Gabby was diagnosed with bowel disease, and her immune system has been constantly under attack since.  From the outside it is difficult to tell she is sick, but on the inside she suffers from severe bleeding, dehydration, abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue, inflammation of joints, skin and eyes, and a swelling colon.  She was only seven-years-old when discovered; no family history of the illness.  Martial arts teaches perseverance, and she decided that nothing would stop her from earning her black belt someday. She chose to be a “fighter,” and has been proactive meeting with the best specialists, naturopathic and holistic experts.  Treatment includes trials, diets, meds, steroids, tests, and therapy. She is under the care of Dr. Sandra Kim, a nationally recognized expert in pediatric and adolescent inflammatory bowel disease at UPMC Children’s Hospital where she is treated with monthly infusions.  Although she has had a number of setback and emergency room visits, earning her black belt has remained in focus.    

gabby viola olympics

He father, Bill Jr., is a USA National Champion and All-American Athlete has passed the torch to his daughter. Despite the risk of having a “flare” (major symptoms after a period of remission) she has competed nationally across the country.  In 2019 she won Gold at the WKC National Championships and earned a spot on “Team USA.”  She was one of the youngest participants (only a brown belt), in a pool of seasoned black belts.  She has been recognized as a 5x State Champion and ranked #1 in the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) for black belt sparring in 2020 before the global Covid pandemic. Her efforts paid off when the August issue of Black Belt Magazine ranked Gabby as a “Top 5 Female” competitor in the North America.  Most recently at the 2021 US Open in Orlando, Florida she was awarded “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 getter of the show. Her dad couldn’t be more proud saying, “Win or lose, Gabby leaves it all on the mat. She’s had to fight harder than the average kid, but that has made her stronger. She has indomitable spirit.” Her winning ways opened doors and the opportunities to train with the best athletes in the world, including Sandra Sánchez of Spain, the first Olympic champion in karate history.  Inspired to say the least, Gabby named her Olympic edition Barbie “Sandra.” Gabby and her teammates cheered for Sánchez on from the dojo, watching the Olympics live on 20-foot outdoor screen like a drive-in theater.  Gabby said, “I knew Sandra was going to win.  She is the most powerful woman I know.”   

sandra sanchez olympics

Bill Jr. explains, “Gabby has what I call ‘zentensity,’ a body-mind connection that pushes past what you thought was possible. That is a term he coined the book “CommonSensei.” It’s a mindset that leaves nothing to be desired – 100% effort. Outside the ring she is shy and reserved.  Inside the ring, she transforms into tiger.”   “Zentensity” is what has led her to this moment.  She chose her birthday to partake in the final most difficult part of her young martial arts journey.  The shodan test (1st degree black belt) is a grueling mental and physical challenge.  It is a four-month process that encompasses learning a vast history of martial arts, Japanese terms, hundreds of techniques, endless combinations, self-defense maneuvers, and physical endurance.  Many organizations award black belts in a short window of time, but Allegheny Shotokan is “old school” and upholds the strictest of standards. The Viola family including Gabby is held to a higher standard.   The final exam represents nine years of training, thousands of hours of practice, and hundreds of competitions.   Gabby says, “I wanted to be like my Dad.  My black belt is better than any trophy.”

Allegheny Shotokan Karate black belts

She shared this honor with teammates and lifelong friends who also took the test including Remington Whatule, Lucy Lokay, Sammy Pietryk, Michael Pietryk, Taylor Provence, and Riley Evans.  Whatule traveled from Los Angeles, California to test with Gabby, a special honor set up since he is the son of Sensei Bill’s best friend, 4th Degree black belt Rocky Whatule who began his training at Allegheny Shotokan nearly thirty years ago.  Viola Jr. says, “The bonds formed in martial arts are lifelong.”  

remington whatule

Birthdays have a special place in Allegheny Shotokan lineage.  On September 23, 2019 the Pittsburgh region celebrated “Sensei Viola Day” in honor of Allegheny Shotokan Karate’s 50-year dojo anniversary.  It was symbolic as the date coincided with William Viola IV’s birthday.  That is Gabby’s 4-year-old brother’s birthday who trains in the “Nursery Ninja” program, and holds a yellow stripe belt.  Now Gabby’s birthday will forever be a reminder of her most important victory, and constant reminder she can do anything.  Viola Jr. says, “The belt is something physical around your waist, but the lessons learned are from the heart.  She is on her way to being a ‘black belt in life,’ and that’s all that matters.”   

viola karate dojo

For more info.  Contact Bill Viola Jr.  724-640-2111 bill@kumiteclassic.com

Active Lifestyles

Memorial Day Weekend May 22-23rd 2015 Monroeville Convention Center. Kumite Classic presents the Pittsburgh’s most established fitness expo.  The media has dubbed The Kumite Classic fitness expo as a “One stop shop for everything fitness.” The expo showcases the latest fitness products, exercise equipment, sports gear, clothing, nutritional supplements, health foods, and cutting edge cosmetic advancements.

Health and wellness consultations are available with industry professionals and onsite evaluations are presented by doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and natural health experts. The Kumite Classic fitness Expo collaborates with health professionals and educators on comprehensive and sustainable approaches to preventing and reducing serious health problems from both conventional medical and holistic approaches. The expo provides spectators the opportunity to participate in workouts, seminars, certification courses, competitions, and challenges.

The general public can meet & greet with celebrities, professional athletes, Olympic champions, and fitness icons. The expo highlights sports performance athletes, strength competitors, and fitness experts though a multitude of athletic skills competitions and world class sport championships.

The Kumite Classic campaign is dedicated to promoting healthy active lifestyles through a full scale interactive consumer fitness expo. The event is Pittsburgh’s most established fitness expo, celebrating its 15th annual season attracting thousands of fitness enthusiasts and health conscious consumers from across the country. The multifaceted expo is surrounded by “non-stop action” playing host to simultaneous championships, competitions, and demonstrations in one expansive area for spectators to enjoy. The audience is one of the most diverse (demographic & geographic) in the fitness industry attracting fans from over 15 different sports. The prestigious Kumite Classic brand is synonymous with athletic excellence.

WHY EXHIBIT:

If your target audience is health conscious fitness enthusiasts, than look no further! The 13th annual Kumite Classic is Pittsburgh’s largest and most established fitness expo, targeting a multi-billion dollar health and fitness industry. The Kumite Classic fitness expo offers maximum exposure into the most popular year round fitness and sports trends in America. The family oriented weekend is a very cost effective way to impact people from all walks of life. Over the past decade, our teams of professionals have paved the way for thousands of people to pursue healthy active lifestyles, building a loyal fan base! The multifaceted expo is surrounded by “non-stop action” playing host to simultaneous championships, competitions, and demonstrations all in one expansive area. The unique concept provides advertising opportunities within an untapped market. The Kumite Classic Expo is the only event of its kind in the Pittsburgh region providing the best opportunity to reach your target audience.

NATIONAL AWARENESS:

May is National Physical Fitness & Sports Month an initiative developed by The President’s Council on Physical Fitness in Sports. The expo collaborates with corporate leaders in an effort to help build a healthier strong community. The Kumite Classic fitness expo brings national awareness to many health related concerns and issues including the growing problem of childhood obesity! The events emphasize the importance of regular physical activity and healthy choices by featuring, “Kidz of Steel” a non-profit partnership program with Western PA Police Athletic League

Join us Memorial Day Weekend at the Kumite Classic Fitness Expo May at the Monroeville Convention Center.

Summer Smash Karate Tournament

The first annual Summer Smash is in the books, and team Kumite had an impressive showing at the tournament.  Sensei Bill Viola was the head referee and Sensei Ali, Billy and Dom were coordinators.

summer smash

Billy Leader wins the adult black belt Grand Championship with Gojushihosho proving he is not just a national sparring champion but a well rounded martial artist.

Dominic Leader won the black belt sparring championship while his brother Billy took home the top honors in traditional kata.  Cameron Klos won the Jr. Black Belt Sparring title casino jameshallison and Rachel Bartuska took home the advanced grand championship.  The team dominiated the kids sparring divisions, and young Brady Johnson had a standout performance winning the 7-8 division.  Congrats to everyone who attended.  Hope Chase, Bridgid Chase, and Bess Chase aka the Chase sisters all took first places in the Jr. Black Belt divisions.  Special thanks to Ron and Diane Cain for serving has head coordinators, and all our NBL friends who were in attendance to support the event.

Congratulations to White Viper and Peter Chase and Bridgid Chase for hosting a fun and organized competition.

The City of Champions

bridge

Team Kumite represents Pittsburgh Karate and Martial Arts nationwide at NBL National Black Belt League tournaments, competitions and championships. The team is based in Irwin / North Huntingdon, PA and coached by Bill Viola.

2013 Team Kumite NBL Schedule:

Tecumseh Conference:

Kumite Classic:  May 24-25th  Contact:  Bill Viola

North American Intl’s:  Sept.13-14 2013  Contact:  Connell Loveless

Spooktacular:  Oct.19th 2013  Contact:  Christine Fisher

Can-Am Conference: 

SMAC:  March 8-9th 2013   Contact:  Ron Cain

Grand Slam:  April 19-20th 2013   Contact:  Jeff Doss

Kumite Classic:  May 24-25th 2013   Contact:  Bill Viola

bridge

Team Kumite is a Pittsburgh karate tradition.

NBL Player of the Year

Pittsburgh Martial Artist and Team Kumite Classic member Billy Leader receives the 2012 NBL Diamond Award Winner for Sport Karate “Player of the Year”

The 23rd Sport Karate World Games known internationally as the “Super Grands” was held 26th-31st in Buffalo New York. The tournament is sanctioned by the National Black Belt League (NBL) and Sport Karate International (SKIL) which are responsible for the largest sport karate ranking system and league for black belts in the world. The competition is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for martial arts with thousands of world class competitors representing North America, South America, and Europe each year at the Games. The competitor must compete at a series of regional and national events to earn a seed and qualify for the competition, a process similar to NCAA tournaments that is required to secure an invitation.


At the closing ceremonies of the World Games, the NBL Executive Office votes on a series of Hall of Fame categories that represent the entire league. For the first time in Pittsburgh history, a local resident was honored with the NBL Diamond “Player Award” The 21-year-old Billy Leader of North Huntingdon Township was inducted into the NBL Hall of Fame on December 31st 2012 and honored with this prestigious title. Leader’s coach Sensei Bill Viola Jr explains, “It is a special honor, an award for his entire body of work as a competitor. He was in contention with thousands of international competitors worldwide. This is huge, it puts Pittsburgh on the map when it comes to sport karate.” The Norwin Graduate and Penn State Junior has studied martial arts since he was three years old at the Allegheny Shotokan Karate School in atoledo Irwin, PA.
Allegheny Shotokan was founded in 1969 and since has produced more World Champions than any other school in the Pittsburgh region. They school as a rich tradition of representing Pennsylvania and the United States at the World Games dating back to the establishment of the league. Serving as captain of the Pittsburgh based all-star Team Kumite Classic, Leader defeated Andres Garcia of Guatemala (the reigning 6-time World Champion) in the Men’s Light Middleweight Continuous Sparring division en route to an appearance on the main stage for the finals. His brother, 19-year-old Dominic Leader, also advanced to the finals to face Hugo Mendoza of Mexico. Leader’s teammate also includes 20-year old Ali Viola who claimed her 4th continuous sparring World Title by defeating the top international competitors from Canada, Guatemala and Mexico in the finals. Viola had previously become the first female form Pittsburgh to win a World Title in 2006, 2008, and 2009 before winning the Adult title this year.
The Team Kumite Classic Roster also includes a trio of sisters; 14-year-old Bridget Chase, 13-year-old Hope Chase, 11-year old Bess Chase all of Imperial, PA and 17-year-old Connor Burns of North Huntingdon who was inactive due to a torn ACL two weeks prior to the tournament. All of the athletes compete in Black Belt Continuous Sparring, a hybrid of kickboxing which requires high levels of endurance and physical toughness.  Coach Viola was very proud of his team stating, “In all, we qualified six black belts who attended the World Games, and all six placed top three in the World. Its an incredible winning percentage, especially when you consider that our school is the only one in the Pittsburgh area to bring home a World Title. They are a special group of students and Billy [Leader] works harder than any other student I have ever had. Winning player of the year is well deserved.” Congrats Billy.

To see Billy or any of the Team Kumite members in action, mark your calendar for the 2013 Kumite Classic Karate Tournament in Pittsburgh at the Monroeville Convention Center May 24th-25th.

Kumite Classic NBL Sport Karate

The world’s best martial artists visit Pittsburgh! The Kumite Classic is the cities largest karate tournament.  The championship is proud to be apart of the NBL National Black Belt League Can-Am National Conference. The NBL is the worlds largest league of sport karate tournaments with a ranking system for black belts.  The 2013 schedule includes:

SMAC Internationals   March 8-9th      Ron & Diane Cain

Grand Slam Open         April 19-20th     Jeff Doss

Kumite Classic               May 24-25th      Bill Viola

Survivor                         July 26th-27th    Corky Sikes

 

2013 Kumite Classic Sport Karate

The 2013 Kumite Classic is set for Friday-Saturday May 24-25th 2013 at the Monroeville/Pittsburgh Convention Center. The Open Martial Arts and Sport Karate Tournament is Pittsburgh’s largest event of its kind with competition for point sparring, continuous sparring, traditional kata (separate Japanese, Korean, Chinese & Kenpo), open forms, traditional weapons, open weapons, self-defesne, breaking, team demo, grappling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and more . Vendor booth for the expo are available on a first come first serve basis. The Kumite Classic is part of the NBL National Black Belt League Can-Am National Conference, a qualifier for the Super Grands World Games. Visit www.kumiteclassic.com or contact Bill Viola 724-861-5162 for more details.

Karate Tournament

kumite kick

The 14th Annual Kumite Classic is an international martial arts championship known as the mecca for sport karate in the Pittsburgh region. The annual karate tournament is open to all schools and styles including tae kwon do, karate, tae kwon do, kung fu and american systems of martial arts. The competition has Japanese, Korean and Chinese styles forms divisions as well as creative and contemporary categories to create a diverse atmosphere and a fair open competition. Sign up for point sparring, continuous sparring, traditional forms or kata, weapons, self-defense, breaking, grappling and brazilian jiu-jitsu. The best of the best from Pittsburgh and around the world compete each Memorial Day Weekend.

The Karate tournament is promoted by Bill Viola Jr. and is  sanctioned by Boice Lydell’s NBL National Black Belt League & SKIL Sport Karate International and by Frank Caliguri’s PKRA Pennsylvania Karate Rating Association.

 

Hines Ward Show

hines ward kumite classic

Kumite Classic champions represent Pittsburgh Karate on the Hines Ward Show. WPXI host Alby Oxenreiter, Brett Keisel and Hines were on hand for the program that features Positive Athletes in Pittsburgh. Connor Burns, NBL World Champion Dominic Leader, and Coach Bill Viola all represented sport karate and martial arts. Hines was able to learn some karate on air, and warned the Baltimore Ravens to watch out!

Hines Ward demonstrates his best front snap kick and kiai!

Here”s a clip from behind the scenes on the Hines Ward show on youtube:

 

The demonstration included Hines learning to retrodbonus block a roundhouse kick and counter with a reverse punch. Connor Burns was interviewed by Hines for his community service and taking time out to mentor younger kids. He emphasized self-discipline and the confidence that karate instills. Team Kumite sported the custom kumite classic black & yellow all star gear gloves. Yeah, Champions bleed black & gold! The team is based in North Huntington Irwin, PA. Dominic Leader was the first recipient of the Western PA Positive Athlete award for martial arts last year and continues the tradition of team kumite with the program!

From dancing with the stars, football and even karate, Hines ward is a true sport and great role model! Visit his website http://www.positiveathlete.org/

Pittsburgh MMA

pittsburgh mma

Fighters Only Magazine, the World’s leading mixed martial arts and lifestyle magazine features Pittsburgh MMA and the history of mixed martial arts in America dating back to 1979 in Western Pennsylvania in this months issue. The first competition, Battle of the Tough Guys, made the front cover. “Tough Guy Contest The Real Beginning of MMA in America” Take a look. The story is title:

“Mixed martial arts in the United States was not conceived by the Gracie
family and Art Davie in 1993, it actually began life 14 years earlier
in a Pennsylvanian diner. FO reveals the untold story of… MMA’s Forgotten Forefathers”

The magazine is available on newsstands now.

The Pittsburgh region is finally getting the respect it earned over thirty years ago. A great article on the history of the sport of MMA in the United States.