Leader earns top karate honor
TribLIVE Sports Videos
It took 18 years of work to go from Mighty Morphin to a mighty prestigious honor.
North Huntington Township's Billy Leader was named the “Player of the Year” at Sport Karate World Games, which was held Dec. 26-31 in Buffalo. The tournament is known as the “Super Grands” and is considered the Super Bowl of martial arts.
A Norwin graduate and junior at Penn State, Leader earned induction into the National Black Belt League Hall of Fame for the honor.
Not bad for a 21-year-old who first took up the sport when he was 3 — when his parents took him to Allegheny Shotokan Karate School in Irwin as they first were learning about their son.
“I don't remember everything,” Leader said by phone from State College recently, “but my mom would tell me that the reason I started was I wanted to be a Power Ranger.
“I was jumping off tables and kicking and stuff, so she thought, ‘Maybe we'll start him in karate or something.'” It quickly became a lifetime love.
“I started with (coach Sensei Bill Viola), and pretty much, (my mother) said I loved it right away,” Leader said. “I could never stop doing karate. If I was, say, waiting in line at school for food, I would be doing karate. I was always doing it and I never stopped practicing.”
All the way through the 23rd “Super Grands” late last month. Part of a field of more than 2,000 world-class competitors representing North America, South America, Asia and Europe who qualified through a series of regional and national events, Leader won the Men's Light Middleweight Continuous Sparring division.
En route to the final, Leader defeated Andres Garcia of Guatemala, the reigning six-time world champion. At the world games closing ceremonies Dec. 31, the NBL Executive Office voted Leader the NBL Diamond Award “Player of the Year.”
“Accepting that award, honestly, felt amazing,” Leader said. “Just knowing I'd been doing this since I was 3 years old, to work up to that and finally be able to win something like that, it meant more to me than winning any (other) title. Knowing I put all my effort into karate, there was a lot of pride.”
Leader served as captain of the Pittsburgh-based Team Kumite at the Super Grands, and he wasn't the only member of the team to win awards.
Leader's brother, Dominic, 19, also advanced to the finals. Ali Viola, Bill's sister, claimed her fourth continuous sparring world title. Viola had previously become the first female form Pittsburgh to win a world title (in 2006, '08, and '09). She won an adult title this year.
The Leader brothers and Ali Viola are roughly the same age and began training at the Allegheny Shotokan Karate School at approximately the same time as youngsters.
“We've been together pretty much since we've been babies,” Billy Leader said. “We've all been pushing each other and supporting each other. When they win, I feel like I'm happier for them than anything. And when I win, I know they're ecstatic for me. That's really nice.”
It was equally gratifying for Bill Viola, whose father opened the Allegheny Shotokan Karate School in 1969 as the first significant martial arts academy in the region. Having a “player of the year” at the world super grands in Billy Leader is quite the feather in the school's cap.
“He truly is the hardest-working student that I've had,” Bill Viola said. “I competed my whole life and won a bunch of championships, but, let me tell you, to see him excel, knowing how hard he works for it, that means more to me than any titles I won.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McCutchen, Pirates cruise past Twins
- Beaver County widow won’t lose home over $6.30 late fee
- Police: Scottdale man had child porn on computer
- Steelers unfazed by Brady suspension saga
- Judge adds 2 years to sentence of Baldwin Borough man acquitted of murder
- Gibsonia’s Saad shows off Stanley Cup at 911th Airlift Wing
- Steelers’ Wheaton adjusting his game moving to slot receiver
- Housing Authority to treat Brookline senior complex for bedbugs
- Plum High School teacher held for court on charges of intimidation
- Pirates notebook: Prospect Tucker unaware of ‘trade’ frenzy
- Sewickley Twp. man who received food stamps didn’t disclose gas royalties