Kumite Classic kicks it up a notch

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Dominic Leader, at left, of Team Kumite in North Huntingdon competes during the finals of the 2012 Kumite Classic at the Monroeville Convention Center.
An automobile accident in 1999 left Bill Viola Jr. with a fractured vertebrae in his neck.

The injury ended the career of one of the most accomplished karate competitors in the country. Viola had won multiple national championships.

It didn’t take long for Viola to get over his disappointment and funnel his energy into a new venture in the sport he loved. Later in 1999, he founded a martial arts competition called the Kumite Classic.

Fourteen years later, the Kumite Classic has grown into one of the biggest and most successful events of its kind, a national-level competition and fitness expo that annually draws participants from all over the country.

“I thought it would be successful, but not to this magnitude,” Viola said. “We bring in folks from all over the country. At times, every state has been represented, so it’s truly a national event.”

The inaugural Kumite Classic 14 years ago was held at the University of Pittsburgh, where Viola was a student at the time. Since 2004, its home has been in Monroeville at the Monroeville Convention Center.

This year’s event will be held from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

“I always had the vision of doing an expo, and the Monroeville site has the space to accommodate what we truly wanted to do. Every year we keep adding new things,” Viola said. “I call it a home show for fitness.

“You go to the Pittsburgh home show to find things to build your home. Our show gives you the opportunity to see the latest and greatest things to build your body.”

The 2013 Kumite Classic offers something for everyone, from kids to senior citizens.

“Our youngest competitor is 2-and-a-half, and our oldest is in their 80s,” Viola said. “We have 15 different competitions, so the action is non-stop throughout the weekend.”

Besides the martial arts tournaments, the event also offers a power lifting competition and the 2013 Ultimate Teen Challenge, which gives kids ages 13 to 19 the opportunity to win awards and possible scholarships in strength, speed and agility contests.

Younger kids can try to conquer a giant rock wall or show their team spirit in the Lil’ Sports Cute Kid Contest.

Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey will be there Saturday, from noon to 1 p.m., to sign autographs during a meet-and-greet session.

The expo also showcases the latest fitness products, exercise equipment, sports gear, clothing, natural supplements and health foods.

Doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors and other health professionals and educators will be on hand to offer on-site consultations and evaluations.

Viola, 36, owns and operates the North-Huntingdon-based Allegheny Shotokan, a martial arts training center founded in 1969 by his father, Bill Viola Sr.

“My father was one of the first in the area to teach the martial arts in the 1960s,” Viola said. “It’s the family legacy, and I grew into it.”

He doesn’t dwell on the disappointment of the vehicle accident that ended his competition career prematurely.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Viola said. “I get more satisfaction in promoting and seeing something thrive than I did when I was competing.”

For additional information about the Kumite Classic, visit www.kumite classic.com or www.pitts burghfitnessexpo.com.

Dave Schrecengost is a freelance writer.

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