black belt

Black Belt in Life ®

Hustle. Happiness. Harmony.

Black Belt in Life ® is a federal trademark of Kumite Classic Entertainment and Bill Viola Jr. A black belt in life is the continuous pursuit of self-perfection. It’s being BAD A$$ in all aspects of being! This self-help curriculum has sharpened the swords of thousands of people seeking a warrior’s mindset, and now it’s available to you.  Earning this belt is mastering balance.  Balance between wants and needs.  Balance between career, education, health, family, relationships, recreation, and spiritual development.  Balance between work and play.  In essence, black belt balance represents discovering “happiness,” the most cherished commodity in the world!  Happiness is more precious than any lottery won, stock discovered, or diamond collected. 


Meet “Sensei” Bill Viola Jr., a bestselling author and master of commonsensei!  He’s created the award-winning Black Belt in Life®, Common Sensei®,, and Sensei Says® book series. He is the Founder and President of Kumite Classic Entertainment based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“Black Belt in Life” is a concept promoted by Bill Viola Jr. that extends the philosophy and principles of martial arts beyond the dojo into everyday life. Viola, a highly respected figure in the martial arts community, emphasizes that the discipline, respect, perseverance, and other values learned through martial arts training are not just for competition or self-defense but are essential tools for personal and professional success.

Bill Viola Jr. has often spoken and written about how martial arts principles can be applied to overcoming challenges, setting goals, and achieving success in various aspects of life. This philosophy encourages individuals to live by the ethical and moral codes of the martial arts, such as integrity, humility, and courage, in their daily interactions and pursuits.

black belt in life

The “Black Belt in Life” idea suggests that achieving a black belt is not just an end goal but the beginning of a lifelong journey of learning, growth, and improvement. It’s about taking the lessons learned on the mat and applying them to become a better person, make positive contributions to society, and lead by example in all areas of life.

Through his teachings, writings, and community involvement, Bill Viola Jr. inspires martial artists and non-martial artists alike to strive for excellence, maintain a positive outlook, and face life’s challenges with the strength and wisdom of a black belt.99

Sensei Bill’s 99philosophy of being a “Black Belt in Life” revolves around the idea that the virtues and disciplines learned in martial arts can serve as a foundation for personal development and achievement in all areas of one’s life. This concept is not solely about martial arts techniques but about the mindset and character-building aspects that martial arts training instills.

Core Elements of Being a Black Belt in Life:

  • Discipline and Focus: Martial arts require a high level of discipline and focus, traits that are equally important in personal and professional endeavors. Viola Jr. advocates for applying the same level of dedication to achieving goals outside the dojo.
  • Resilience and Perseverance: The journey to black belt status is filled with challenges and setbacks. Viola Jr. emphasizes that overcoming these obstacles in martial arts trains individuals to face life’s difficulties with resilience, turning setbacks into opportunities for growth.
  • Respect and Humility: Martial arts teach respect for oneself, others, and the environment. This respect, coupled with humility, guides individuals to treat people with kindness and to approach life with an open mind and heart.
  • Continuous Improvement: The concept of “Kaizen,” or continuous improvement, is central to martial arts. Viola Jr. encourages individuals to pursue lifelong learning and to constantly seek ways to improve themselves, their communities, and the world.
  • Leadership and Service: Being a black belt comes with a responsibility to lead by example and to serve others. Viola Jr. believes in using the skills and confidence gained through martial arts to make positive contributions to society.

Application in Daily Life: Kaizen 1% daily gains:

The 9philosophy extends beyond personal success; it’s about cultivating a holistic approach to living that benefits oneself and others. Whether it’s in education, career, relationships, or community service, the qualities of a black belt can lead to a more fulfilling and impactful life.

Bill Viola Jr.’s “Black Belt in Life” philosophy serves as a metaphorical guide for achieving excellence not just in martial arts but in every aspect of life. It’s a reminder that the principles learned through the pursuit of a black belt have universal applications, offering a path to personal growth, ethical conduct, and making a positive difference in the world. Through this philosophy, Viola Jr. inspires individuals to aspire to be black belts in every endeavor, embodying the best qualities of martial artists in all they do.

black belt in life quote

Black Belt in Life teaches you how to set worthwhile goals, take action, and reveal your “reason for being.” Bill Viola Jr. (aka CommonSensei) says, “When you chase purpose, you’ll catch happiness.” It’s not illusive; it’s just elusive, and CommonSensei holds the treasure map:  X marks the spot!

black belt in life
black belt in life

“Black Belt in Life” is a series of books created by Bill Viola Jr., who is also known as the “Common Sensei.” Viola is a bestselling author and has been recognized for his contributions to martial arts and self-help literature. The “Black Belt in Life” series, along with the “Common Sensei” and “Sensei Says” book series, are part of his award-winning work. These books aim to teach readers how to achieve a warrior’s mindset and apply martial arts principles to personal growth and self-improvement​ (Black Belt In Life)​.

Bill Viola Jr. describes the essence of the “Common Sensei” as a guide to earning a “Black Belt in Life,” emphasizing the continuous pursuit of self-perfection. He advocates for changing one’s life by dedicating 864 seconds a day towards self-improvement, aiming to transform ordinary individuals into modern-day samurais. The book targets readers looking to adopt a warrior’s mindset and seeks to equip them with life skills necessary to excel in various aspects of life​.

For more detailed insights, the book might cover topics such as leveraging one’s position, personal growth, and achieving balance in desires, necessities, careers, and relationships. It seems geared especially towards younger generations, providing them with a curriculum for self-help and personal development grounded in martial arts philosophies​. Read more.

Pittsburgh’s world champion Gabby Viola is a martial artist that packs a fierce punch

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – They say good things come in small packages. But here in Pittsburgh, even small packages pack a punch.

“I am a seven-time state champion, a three-time national champion, and last year I won my world title,” Gabby Viola said as she laid out her impressive resume.

“The Viola karate legacy starts back in the 1960s with my father,” Bill Viola, Sr. said. “He was a pioneer of the martial arts. He opened his first dojo [Viola Karate] in 1969 here in western Pennsylvania. And throughout the seventies, eighties, and nineties, the dojo became a dominant force,” Viola added.

The Viola name became synonymous with champions in this region.

“As I came up through the ranks, I also became national champion, and lo and behold, I have my kids, and they become the third generation of Violas to represent the storied tradition of our school. And so now, my son, Will, and my daughter, Gabby, represent the dojo throughout North America,” the senior Viola said.

“Gabby competes in kata, kobudō, and kumite, those are the three levels,” Bill Viola added.

Gabby then laid out the differences between the fighting styles.

“Kata is empty-hand or an imaginary fight. Kobudō is when you use a weapon to do a form, kind of like kata. Kumite, or sparring, is when you actually fight someone,” Gabby said.

This October, Gabby will be competing internationally, traveling overseas to represent the country, and western Pennsylvania, in the world championships.

“I actually won my world title in kumite, but this year, I’m going to try and get the world title in kata, too,” Gabby said.

Gabby has been training at the dojo since the age of two. She trains by herself seven days a week and then takes additional classes five days a week as well.

She even passes on what she’s learned to those even younger than her, including her brother.

“I like teaching. It’s harder to teach my little brother,” Gabby said with a smile. “He doesn’t listen to me, but the rest of them do.”

Gabby’s father, Bill, told the Fan N’ATion crew how surreal this experience has been, seeing Gabby develop into a champion, because of the time he spent with his father. Now, the elder Viola is sharing his expertise and passing that down to his children.

“We call it a family. I don’t look at our students as clients that come through the door. They’ve become one with us. It’s embedded in our culture here,” Bill said.

“All my family has done it, and I really enjoy doing it. If I have a family one day, I would want them to do karate,” Gabby said.

Let’s wish her LUCK ☘️☘️☘️

空手🥋㊗️🈴🙌🇯🇵💪🙌🥇🏆💯🥷#norwinninjas #pittsburgh#karatenerd#karate#pittsburghkarate#norwin#naska#martialarts#dojo#violakarate#shotokan#senseisays#karatefamily#karatelife#sensei#blackbelt#pittsburghmartialarts#sportkarate#kumiteclassic#sparring#karateka#karatedo#karatekid#pittsburghshotokan#teamkumite#cobrakai#kumiteclassic#alleghenyshotokan#commonsensei#toranome#zentensity

Gabby Viola – Driven by Zentensity

“Zentensity” is a concept coined by Bill Viola Jr. that describes a profound connection between the body and mind, enabling an individual to surpass perceived limitations. It embodies the fusion of intense focus and Zen-like calm, facilitating exceptional achievements and personal growth. This mindset is particularly applicable in martial arts, where mental strength and physical prowess are equally important, but it’s also relevant to overcoming challenges in everyday life.

Gabby Viola is an inspiring young martial artist who embodies the term “zentensity,” a concept highlighting a powerful body-mind connection that pushes beyond perceived limits. This term was coined by her father, Bill Viola Jr., to describe the extraordinary focus and effort Gabby applies both in her life and in karate. Despite facing significant health challenges due to an incurable form of inflammatory bowel disease, she has achieved remarkable success in karate, becoming the youngest Black Belt at Allegheny Shotokan and earning recognition as a multi-time state champion, a national champion, and even securing a place on Team USA. Gabby’s journey in martial arts is a testament to her resilience, underpinned by a supportive family legacy in the sport that dates back to the 1960s. Her achievements include winning gold at the World Karate Commission National Championships and being ranked first in the North American Sport Karate Association for black belt sparring​.

Gabby’s dedication and perseverance, despite her health struggles, offer a powerful message of strength and determination. Her story is not just about martial arts; it’s about overcoming obstacles and striving for excellence, making her an ambassador for the sport and an inspiration to others facing their own battles.

-By Joe Napsha

Tribune Review

Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022 

A North Huntingdon girl has earned her first-degree black belt in karate at age 11, persevering through an inflammatory bowel disease that can be debilitating.

Gabriella “Gabby” Viola, 11, the daughter of Jennifer and William Viola Jr., became the youngest holder of a black belt among those who have trained at Allegheny Shotokan Viola Karate Dojo, a North Huntingdon karate school operated by her father, Bill Viola Jr., and founded in 1969 by her grandfather, Bill Viola Sr. She earned her black belt on Aug. 17, which was her birthday.

Gabby Viola

“Gabby has what I call ‘zentensity,’ a body-mind connection that pushes past what you thought was possible,” her father said.

Having a black belt runs in the family. Both her father and grandfather have their black belts, as well as four of her aunts — Addie, Jacque, Ali and Joce Viola. Fewer than 100 people who have trained at Allegheny Shotokan over the past 50 years have earned a black belt, her father said.

“I wanted to be like my dad. My black belt is better than any trophy,” said Gabby, who shared the honor with six teammates who also took the test.

The youngster, a fifth grade student at Norwin’s Hillcrest Intermediate School, has been “kicking before she could walk,” her father said.

“She literally grew up in the dojo,” said her mother, Jennifer, of the karate school. “It was like her playground.”

Gabby, who trains three or four times a week, said she underwent a six-hour test in which her skills were judged to earn her black belt. She had gone through a four-month process which involves learning the history of martial arts, Japanese terms, hundreds of techniques, endless combinations, self-defense maneuvers and physical endurance.

Gabby has accomplished this while suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, her father said. It is an incurable form of colitis, an autoimmune condition that attacks the healthy tissue in the intestine. She has dealt with bouts of severe bleeding, dehydration, abdominal pain, cramping and joint and skin inflammation, her father said. She has had to endure a number of setbacks and emergency room visits.

“Martial arts teaches perseverance, and she decided that nothing would stop her from earning her black belt,” her father said.

She undergoes monthly infusions of medication at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh as part of the treatment regime that includes medical trials, diets, medication, steroids, tests and therapy.

Despite the risk of having a flareup of major symptoms after a period of remission, Gabby has competed nationally. She won a gold medal at a World Karate Commission National Championships for martial arts in 2019 and earned a spot on Team USA. She has been recognized as a five-time state champion and ranked first in the North American Sport Karate Association for black belt sparring in 2020.

As for earning her second-degree black belt, Gabby said she must wait until she is 16 to take that test.

She is joined in her family’s love of the sport by her 4-year-old brother, William Viola IV, who trains in the “Nursery Ninja” program and holds a yellow stripe belt.

Gabby is an ambassador for the sport, promoting it to other youngsters.

“They should try it. It is fun, and it is good exercise,” Gabby said.

“Zentensity” is a phrase coined by her father and author Bill Viola Jr. Zentensity is a manifestation of mind over matter, pushing someone to new levels of achievement. Read more in the book CommonSensei

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