Preserving Tough Guys Heritage. Norwin resident Bill Viola Jr. authors book about the history of mixed martial arts.
Preserving Tough Guys Heritage. Norwin resident Bill Viola Jr. authors book about the history of mixed martial arts.
“Pittsburgh” is recognized in the network broadcast premiere of the mixed martial arts inspired film “Tough Guys” debuting on Showtime September 15. The free event will offer open seating available on a first-come, first-serve basis celebrating local fighters, fans, and MMA pioneers.
The movie 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 1980.
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 big mouths 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.”
On September 18th 2017 “Tough Guys” was #1 Best Selling Sports Book on Amazon! Congrats Bill Viola Jr. and Dr. Fred Adams
Norwin Ninjas / Allegheny Shotokan Honored as Pittsburgh’s Top Ranked Team for 2017
North Huntingdon, PA – June 21, 2017
The Allegheny Shotokan Karate School was honored as the “Top Team” at the 2017 Kumite Classic martial arts championships held at the 18th Annual Pittsburgh Fitness Expo at the Monroeville Convention Center May 26-27th. The Kumite Classic is the region’s largest multi-sports convention, featuring over 100,000 square feet of competitions and participation from around the world.
100 students from the North Huntingdon, PA based Allegheny Shotokan Karate school and their sister program “Norwin Ninjas” competed at the tournament. The school brought home more top honors than any other school in North America.
The team is qualified to compete in Las Vegas, Nevada over the Fourth of July for the WAKO North American Championships, part of UFC International Fight Week at the MGM Grand.
The team is coached by Sensei Bill Viola Jr. and Shihan Bill Viola Sr. Allegheny Shotokan has been family owned and operated since 1969. For more info visit www. Norwinninjas.com
ACADEMY AWARD® NOMINATED MORGAN SPURLOCK JOINS ACADEMY AWARD® WINNER ROSS KAUFFMAN FOR THE MIXED MARTIAL ARTS DOCUMENTARY “TOUGH GUYS”
DOCU FILM ON THE ORIGINS OF THE MIXED MARTIAL ARTS COMPETITION PHENOMENON IS SET TO WORLD PREMIERE THURSDAY AT AFI DOCS IN WASHINGTON DC
June 12, 2017 – NEW YORK, NY Academy Award® nominated documentarian Morgan Spurlock (SUPER SIZE ME) teams with fellow Oscar® winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman (BORN INTO BROTHELS) to bring TOUGH GUYS – the story of the origins of the mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting phenomenon – to the big screen. The film is executive produced by Kauffman and Spurlock together with Spurlock’s business partner Jeremy Chilnick.
TOUGH GUYS is directed by two award-winning filmmakers, Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo and produced by the award winning commercial producer Craig DiBiase. This moving and insightful non-fiction cinematic film chronicles the origins of the MMA beginning in Pittsburgh, PA in the early 1980s. Back then, these fights were known as the “tough man,” or “tough guy,” or “battle of the brawlers,” or “battle of the superfighters” matches. These fighting bouts have now achieved multimillion-dollar fight status.
“When I was around 12 years old, my dad took me to my first “tough guy” competition in my hometown of Beckley, WV,” says Spurlock. “And I have to admit, it was one of the greatest things I’d ever seen. So when the opportunity came along for me help tell the story of its origin, I jumped at the chance. TOUGH GUYS is an unbelievable tale about the creation of this one of a kind, man against man, skill against skill, sport of the ages. Films like this are rare discoveries, and the characters behind them are even more incredible. If you like watching guys get punched in the face as much as I do, then you are going to love this movie!”
In 1979, Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri dreamed up a contest pitting barroom bigmouths against wrestlers, martial artists, boxers, bouncers and brawlers, billed as 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.
Presented through the untold stories of scrappy brawlers and amateur promoters, TOUGH GUYS chronicles the inception of Caliguri and Viola’s first bouts and the colorful, crazy cast of fighters who made them a hit as well as the politicians who brought it all crashing down. 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 chance to prove their worth and earn some money in the ring.
“Like my previous films, BORN INTO BROTHELS and E-TEAM, TOUGH GUYS is about underdogs striving to achieve the impossible,” states Kauffman. “In TOUGH GUYS, the
underdog is America’s working class who are searching for respect and ultimately a way to survive. When I got involved I didn’t know how timely the story would be.”
TOUGH GUYS will have its world premiere on June 15 at the AFI DOCS Film Festival in Washington, DC.
ABOUT TOUGH GUYS Told through the colorful stories of scrappy brawlers and amateur promoters, TOUGH GUYS brings to life the birth of mixed martial arts competitions in 1980’s Pittsburgh. The idea to legitimize street fighting by putting it in the ring, brought big money, crowds, copycat competitions and ultimately scrutiny and tighter control. The film is directed by Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo and produced by award winning commercial producer Craig DiBiase. It is executive produced by Oscar winner Ross Kauffman together with Oscar nominated director Morgan Spurlock and his producing partner Jeremy Chlinick.
ABOUT MORGAN SPURLOCK Morgan Spurlock is an Oscar® nominated filmmaker and founder of Warrior Poets, a New York-based production studio. His first film, SUPER SIZE ME, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004, winning Best Directing honors. The film went on to win the inaugural WGA Best Documentary Screenplay award, as well as garner an Academy Award® nomination for Best Feature Documentary. Since then he has directed, produced, and distributed multiple film, television and online projects, including THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD; WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN?; RATS; MANSOME; CNN’s INSIDE MAN; and more.
ABOUT ROSS KAUFFMAN Ross Kauffman is the Academy Award winning Director, Producer and Cinematographer of BORN INTO BROTHELS, winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary. He is Co-Director of E-TEAM, a documentary about the high-stakes investigative work of four human rights workers and winner of the 2014 Sundance Cinematography award. He served as Executive Producer on the documentary feature IN A DREAM, which was short-listed for the 2009 Academy Awards and as Consulting Producer on the Academy Award nominated film POSTERGIRL. Ross is a Founder and Creative Director of Fictionless.
In December, she competed in the 2014 World Games, known as the “Super Grands.” She added two world titles to her resume: one for women’s middleweight sparring and one team title.
“I’m going to compete as long as I can. I fell in love with it. I’ll always be here. I’ll always be teaching,” Viola said.
She is one of five siblings whose father, Bill Viola Sr., founded martial arts training center Allegheny Shotokan Karate, now based in North Huntingdon.
All five have earned black belts and remain involved in the sport.
“Everybody does it. It’s in the DNA,” her brother said.
Viola Jr. is the head coach and instructor at the family-run school.
“I was here before I could walk. This was legitimately my day care,” he said.
“Same story,” Ali Viola said.
Now, the third generation is growing up at the school.
Several Viola grandchildren study martial arts under the instruction of their grandfather and other adult family members.
Bill Viola Jr.’s daughter, Gabby, 4, traveled to the December World Games competition in Buffalo, participating in the 4-and-under division.
“She was the youngest competitor throughout the season,” her father said.
Gabby came in fourth and earned an Amateur International Title. More importantly, she is learning the character-building skills her family tries to pass on through martial arts, her father said.
The school’s motto is “Building Champions in Life.”
Ali Viola said martial arts has given her the confidence to speak before a crowd and to defend herself physically.
“I could get out (of a bad situation) alive,” she said.
“That self-esteem, self-confident boost, lessens the likelihood of being prey. I want my daughter to have that,” Viola said.
The winner of multiple international karate championships, Bill Viola Jr. moved into producing and coaching full-time after a career-ending automobile accident in 1999.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” he said.
A book Viola wrote, “Godfathers of MMA,” to be published in a few months, details the journey of his father, credited as co-creator of the sport of mixed martial arts, online casino and his business partner, Frank Caliguri.
Working with his siblings and instructing classes has brought him great satisfaction, he said.
Viola teaches online casinos Norwin Ninjas, which instructs children ages 4 through 7 in karate basics, Japanese terminology and balance and agility.
“Gabby is my ninja assistant,” he said.
Gabby, a tiny blonde who has earned a yellow belt, demonstrated her favorite move, a blocking hand motion called shuto.
Bowing from the waist, she showed how her karate classmates greet each other with the Japanese word for friends — “tomodachi.”
Viola believes the discipline needed to stick with martial arts at a young age can carry through from academic success to standing up for oneself or others who are being bullied.
“I see (students) picking people up instead of putting them down. They work together,” he said.
Champions in the making are all about attitude, the siblings believe.
“A student has to want it. He has to be focused and driven. You can’t teach that,” Ali Viola said.
“You can see it in a kid’s eyes. You have it or you don’t,” her brother said.
Ali Viola received a diamond ring and a belt in championship winnings.
But she said pride — not a prize — is her strongest motivator.
Future competitions will depend on her class and work schedule.
“At this point in my life, school comes first,” she said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Viola family is a Pittsburgh martial arts legacy. Bill Viola Sr. is the co-creator of the modern sport of MMA while his children continue to spread his teachings. Great read about Pittsburgh Karate champions.
February 12, 2015 12:00 AM
When Bill Viola Sr. attended middle school in Brownsville in the early 1960s, an older friend taught him some Shotokan karate he had learned in the military.
“After getting a taste of the martial arts, Dad just never stopped,” recalled his son Bill Viola Jr., 37, of North Huntingdon.
Since the 1960s, Mr. Viola Sr., now 67 and also of North Huntingdon, has been a karate pioneer and is credited as a founder of the sport of mixed martial arts. In 1969, he established Allegheny Shotokan Karate and was champion competitor until he retired in 1979.
In 2011, the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum and the Heinz History Center honored him with an exhibit documenting Pittsburgh as the birthplace of the sport he helped create. Two years later, he celebrated 50 years as a martial arts practitioner.
He also taught karate to all five of his children, all of whom have gone on to obtain the rank of black belt and follow him into the competitive arena.
“Dad got us started on this journey,” Mr. Viola Jr. said. “All of us have gone on to win state championships and [daughters] Ali, Addie and I have won world championships.”
Ali Viola, 22, a Duquesne University law student, is the winningest Viola. She’s captured seven National Black Belt League World Championships, making her the most successful female karate fighter in Pittsburgh history.
In the 2014 Karate World Games held in New York in December, she won her last two titles, but also watched as her 4-year-old niece, Gabby, joined her as the youngest competitor in the games. Not only did Gabby represent another generation of Violas to contend in the competitive online casinos arena, she came in fourth in her division.
“It seems as if we Violas start to get involved in karate as soon as we can walk,” Mr. Viola Jr. said. “Being in my father’s karate studio is my earliest childhood memory.”
As Gabby’s father, he said mobile casino he didn’t force his daughter into the sport, but because her four aunts all participate in karate it just seemed natural. The 4-year-old goes to her grandfather’s studio in North Huntingdon three or four times a week.
“Some of our success must have to do with genes, but, first and foremost, it depends on building character, which casino spiele casino spiele creates an atmosphere of discipline and a good work ethic,” he said. “The motto at our school is ‘The more you sweat here, the less you bleed out there.’”
The family’s competitive drive seems to have spilled over into their professional lives. All five siblings have college degrees. Besides winning an international title, Addie Viola, 35, teaches kindergarten in Bethel Park. Her sister, Jackie, 23, is a pharmacist, and sister Jocelyn, 21, is studying pharmacy at West Virginia University.
Ali Viola, short for Allison, started martial arts at age 3 and hopes to be involved in the sport indefinitely.
“Karate is a life-long activity that you can keep doing into your 60s and 70s,” she said. “If I have children I plan to encourage them to study martial arts because they’re so beneficial to so many other areas of life.”
Mr. Viola Jr. retired from competing in early 1999 after suffering a broken neck in a car accident. “One of the most terrible events in my life, it did allow me to refocus my love of the sport into coaching and film making,” he said.
Every weekend, an all-star group of 30 young karate students train under his tutelage for three hours at the studio his father founded.
“Dad oversees everything, and when he comes in everyone sits up a little straighter,” he said.
Mr. Viola Jr. created the Kumite Classic competition and is a film producer of movies mostly in the karate genre. He’s also authored a book on the history of mixed martial arts and his father’s contributions as a pioneer of the sport. Titled “Godfathers of MMA,” the book is scheduled for release soon.
Besides Gabby, Mr. Viola Sr. has two other grandchildren from daughter, Addie; granddaughter, Ella, 6, and grandson, Noah, 4, are also involved.
“Titles come and go, but a legacy is forever,” the senior Mr. Viola noted.
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: email@example.com.
Allegheny Shotokan and Kumite Classic 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. PKRA Karate Champion 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!
The demonstration included Hines learning to best online casino 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/