DNA of a Common Sensei

commonsensei book

20 Apr

2020

DNA of a Common Sensei

Common Sense meets street smarts…

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common sense
Meet your CommonSensei

com·mon /ˈkämən/ (origin Latin)   sen·sei  /ˈsenˌsā,senˈsā/ (origin Japanese)

Common Sensei Break Down:

Let’s break it down.  “Common” is an adjective of sound judgement based on perception of facts or the situation. Simply put, it describes things that should be standard or well known.  “Sensei” is a noun synonymous with teacher, but it’s not exclusive to karate. In Japan it is a blanket term for doctors, lawyers, politicians etc.  Its literal translation is even more symbolic:  Sen (先) translates as before and sei (生) means birth, making the definition “one born before.”  In laymen’s terms, Sensei is someone with loads of experience and knowledge (been there, done that).  When we drop the “i” from Sensei, we of course have “Sense,” which for our purpose is the ability to make reasonable decisions.  You will be majoring in the forgotten sense—common.  There is no consensus on the exact number of senses, but we all know the traditional 5:

The Traditional 5

  1. 👀 Sight  
  2. 👂 Hearing
  3. 👃 Smell
  4. 👄 Taste
  5. 🖐 Touch

The ever popularSixth sense” is an ability to know something without using the ordinary five senses.   In modern times, all kinds of other senses have been identified with fancy technical jargon like vestibular (balance) or proprioception (awareness), and the list continues to evolve. 

For me, #7 remains “common” sense, although it’s not a true sense of the word, it is the rarest.  While logic offers a single answer to a problem, common sense seems to defy the odds. The most powerful supercomputer in the world, in all its grandeur, still can’t replicate the common sense of a 7-year old child, just as a driverless Tesla can’t outwit a savvy New York City cabbie during rush hour (at least not in my lifetime). Intuition is the ultimate act of trusting yourself, and it is what makes humans unique.  Artificial intelligence is cool, but some things are immeasurable like the faith of a pastor, or the size of Rudy’s Rudy you say?  Trust me, grab some popcorn and stream it ASAP. 

Kickin’ Flicks🎬:  The 1993 film Rudy was inspired by the real life underdog story of Rudy Ruettiger who overcame insurmountable odds to make the Notre Dame Football team. It’s made plenty of tough guys and gals shed a tear.

The fun begins when we morph ‘em all together. The synergy of “Common” and “Sensei” is best described by a mashup of famous characters (past and present). Let’s mix the wisdom of Mr. Miyagi and Yoda with the intelligence of Professor Dumbledore and Gandalf; the awareness of John Wick with the charisma of Ferris Bueller; the poise of Doc Holiday with the spirit of Katniss Everdeen; the class of the Great Gatsby, with the street smarts of Tony Soprano; the Spidey senses of Peter Parker with the confidence of Black Panther, and the grit of Creed with the motivation and intensity of his coach, Rocky Balboa🥊.  Ironically, CommonSensei is anything but common; he’s a master of “life skills.” Ok-ok, as your CommonSensei, I may have jazzed up the imagery just a bit, but it’s attitude not aptitude that fuels aspirations. If I didn’t believe in myself, why would you or anyone read this book or come to me with tough questions? Go ahead; ask me anything!

Sensei Says🥋:  A portmanteau is a fancy word (I still can’t pronounce correctly😄) formed by combining two different terms to create a new entity. By blending the sounds and meanings it creates a new expression.  Sex+texting = sexting or Chill + relax =chillax. 

Punchin’ Playlist 👊🎶 “You’re the Best” (1984) is the anthem from All Valley Karate Championships in Karate Kid.  It will definitely put you in the mood to watch Cobra Kai on YouTube. FYI, the song was originally written for Rocky III but was replaced with “Eye of Tiger,” another must download.   

Truth be told, I don’t have all the answers, but in my Liam Neeson voice, “what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career.” I’m a jack of all trades.  I know what you are thinking, so I’ll say it out loud, “Master of none!”  That puts a negative spin on things, so bear with me.   

Sensei Says🥋: One of the first references of “Jack of all trades” appeared in 1592 as a term dismissing none other than Shakespeare—Ouch! But he turned out ok.

It’s all about interpretation, and I prefer the extended version, “Jack of all trades, master of none, but often times better than master of one.” — that’s sexier.  To me, when we’re all in, that little rhyme is the best hand ♦♣♠♥.  While we do tend to “ace” something, be it our college degree or passion, its broad based knowledge outside our expertise that helps us have a winning hand in life.  I’m your wild card 🃏 and what I can’t teach you, I do know who, what, when and where to lead you.  Think of me as a dealer of life hacks, calling out bluffs and stacking the deck in your favor.  Life’s a gamble, but CommonSensei will help you raise the stakes and beat the odds by learning a new strategy.    

Punchin’ Playlist 👊🎶 “The Gambler” was a #1 chart topper for Kenny Rogers (RIP) in 1978 when it was released on vinyl. It’s forever famous for the lines:

“You’ve got know when to hold ’em,

 Know when to fold ’em

 Know when to walk away

 And know when to run.”

Sensei Says🥋: Audio formats such as vinyl, eight tracks, cassette tapes, and compact discs (CDs) were all in vogue before mp3s were invented in 1993.  It wasn’t until 2001 with the release of the iPod before digital music really caught on.  FYI, There was no such thing as an iPhone until 2007.

Kickin’ Flicks🎬:  Rocky was the first sports movie to win an Oscar in 1977.  Burgess Meredith (Mickey)

was nominated for an Academy Award. Coincidentally, I was born later that year.

Many of these classics hit theaters long before your time.  Choose a couple as part of your Common Sensei curriculum:

Sensei Says🥋:  You can’t go wrong with the teen dramedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  He doesn’t wait until his 20’s to “start living.”    

  • Karate Kid (1984) avoid the sequels 
  • Star Wars – Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Harry Potter (2001-
  • Lord of the Rings  (2001-2003)
  • John Wick (2014, 2017)
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
  • Hunger Games (2012-2015)
  • Tombstone (1993)
  • Great Gatsby (2013)
  • Spider Man (anyone will do)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Sopranos (1999-2007) in my opinion the greatest television drama in history.
  • Any Rocky flick (with the exception of 5, that was a stinker) or Creed Movie

At face value, CommonSensei is just that, a teacher of common sense, but its play on words is unique to my own personal brand of self-discovery.  While I didn’t score 2400 on my SAT’s, I’ve since graduated at the top of my class in gut instinct, adaptability, and confidence.  So let’s get inside my head and explore the method to my madness🤪, 

Bill Viola Jr. AKA Ryōshiki sensei 良識先生

common sensei chapters

Bill Viola Jr.

dna of common sensei

Meet the author, Sensei Bill Viola Jr.

Common Sensei
Common Sensei

Bill Viola Jr. is a bestselling author, film producer, and creator of Sensei Says® life skills curriculum.  He is currently President of Kumite Classic Entertainment based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He authored the award-winning and critically acclaimed Godfathers of MMA that peaked at  #1 on Amazon in the sports category with its commemorative re-release (2017).  The book inspired the SHOWTIME documentary film, Tough Guys (2017).  Viola co-produced the project which attracted a star studded lineup of executive producers including Academy Award® Nominated Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) and Oscar® winning writer Ross Kaufmann (Born in Brothels).   Viola a made a cameo playing his father and is currently developing the screenplay for a major motion picture adaptation of  Tough Guys.  He has served as an independent consultant for number major motion pictures including Warrior (2011) and producing credits for films such as Tapped Out (2014), Gridlocked (2015), The Sound (2017).

He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and moved to Hollywood, California to gain hands-on experience in the entertainment industry.  Subsequently, he was accepted into the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio and established his own company, Kumite Classic Entertainment (KCE).  He gained notoriety from his role in the Britney Spears video Stronger (2000) and was able to network and build relationships with leading directors and producers.  

His company’s signature event, the self-titled “Kumite Classic,” is regarded as the mecca for martial arts in Western Pennsylvania.  KCE also produced the annual Pittsburgh Fitness Expo, recognized as the largest and most established multi-sport convention in Western Pennsylvania attracting sports and entertainment icons such as Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, Antonio Brown, Ice-T, and Royce Gracie over the years. Viola has served as a consultant, referee, and event coordinator for some of the largest martial arts events in the world. In 2017 he brokered a partnership with Century Martial Arts and WAKO to produce the North American Open in Las Vegas, Nevada in conjunction with UFC Fight Week. 

Viola experienced the “Golden Era” of MMA firsthand as his father, Bill Sr., is credited as the co-creator of the sport (a decade before the UFC) by the Heinz History Center, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute.  In 2011, Viola’s research and documentation of martial arts was honored with a permanent exhibit installed at the Western PA Sports Museum and Senator John Heinz History Center.  The display is located next to the Franco Harris “Immaculate Reception.” Jr. and Sr. are both official Sport Karate History Generals and recipients of the Sport Karate Museum’s “Lifetime Achievement” award.  The duo was awarded the Champion Associations Willie Stargell M.V.P. Award (2011) for community service, a tribute that includes Michael Jordan and Muhamad Ali as alum. In 2017 the Viola’s were published in the book, Who’s Who in the Martial Arts – Legends of American Karate.  The dojo is home to the only karate athlete’s honored with the “Positive Athlete” award and featured on KDKA’s Hines Ward Show.  In 2016 his work was honored by Pittsburgh Magazine who named him to the prestigious “40 under 40” list recognizing the most influential young leaders in the city.

Viola is an award-winning journalist and blogger whose bylines include Black Belt Magazine,  Martial Arts Success, Sport Karate Magazine, Shotokan Magazine and Sport Karate Illustrated.  He is the senior writer for mmahistory.org.  He established Kumite Quarterly magazine in 2003, serving as publisher and overseeing distribution throughout North America until 2007.  In 2016, he co-authored Go Ask Your Dad, an inspirational book about fatherhood which debuted on the Amazon best-sellers list.

Viola Jr. began his career following in his father’s footsteps as one of the most consistent sport karate competitors in the nation recognized as a multi-time United States of America Karate Federation (USAKF) National Champion and All-American Athlete.  He was the most successful Pennsylvania State Karate Champion of the era. As a Junior at the University of Pittsburgh, he was recognized by Arnold Schwarzenegger as a World Champion at The Arnold Sports Festival, Columbus, Ohio in 1998.  In 1999, he sustained a cervical neck injury in an automobile accident followed by surgery on his esophagus that ended his competitive aspirations.

Viola is the owner or “Sensei” of Allegheny Shotokan Karate, the gold standard for martial arts in Western PA (celebrating its 50-year anniversary in 2019).  The family-owned and operated dojo is blessed with 3 generations of Violas who carry on the legacy.  Over the past fifty years, Viola’s karate school has welcomed and transformed everyone from children struggling with autism to Olympic level competitors.  “It doesn’t matter if they are a professional athlete or a teenager who is coping with bullies,” Viola Jr. says,   “Each and every student is on their own personal journey of self-enlightenment and courage. Our goal is to help them reach their potential and go beyond.”  This formula of empowerment inspired Viola Jr. to package the family secrets into an Award-winning curriculum—Sensei Says®. This life skills education course is the cornerstone of Allegheny Shotokan’s sister programs Norwin Ninjas (4-7 year olds) and Nursery Ninjas (2-3 year olds).  The growing Pittsburgh karate legacy includes all four of his sisters and now his daughter, Gabriella Capri Viola (2018 US Open International Champion) and a son, William Viola IV born 2017.  On September 23rd 2019 (William Viola IV’s birthday) The City of Pittsburgh celebrated “Sensei Viola Day” to recognized the schools 50th anniversary.

Bill is the head coach of “Team Kumite,” an all-star travel team that represents Pittsburgh on an international level. Most recently his protégé Xander Eddy won the Pan American Championships in Cancun, Mexico.  Eddy became the youngest American in history to win Gold and was honored by the Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and WTAE featured athlete.   The team is slated to visit Tokyo, Japan in the Summer of 2021 for the Olympic Games.

Viola has been involved with charitable work since his Senior year at Pitt when he established Kumite International (KI), a scholarship foundation (the first of its kind in the United States) through a partnership with Western PA Police Athletic League and Eckert Seamans Law Firm. KI allocated $50,000 in scholarship funds for karate athletes and made national news when Lynn Swann (The Chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Physical Fitness and Sports) presented the scholarships with Viola Jr. at his 2004 Kumite Classic. He has raised tens of thousands of dollars for research for Muscular Dystrophy and Parkinson’s Disease. Currently, Viola has made it his mission to KICK Parkinson’s disease—literally.  After he lost his Grandmother to complications from the disease, he created a mobile 1-mile “kick-a-thon” in conjunction with the former State Senator Sean Logan’s PIND (Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases) 5K.  In all, over the past three years, the PIND 5K event has raised over $1 million dollars through appropriations, grants and sponsors — 100% of the funds are earmarked for experimental testing and research in hopes of finding a breakthrough in Pittsburgh.  

In 2018 Viola’s daughter Gabby was diagnosed with Indeterminate bowel disease, an incurable inflammatory form of colitis 😥.  In 2020 the two became advocates for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.  They joined the national effort to raise awareness for the disease. Today they lobby for a cure by meeting with legislators, congressman, and senators to help fund research and improve healthcare.

His latest project, CommonSensei, is a self-help (HOW TO) book series aimed at teaching life skills.  

Edition 1:  “H🤔W TO KICK A$$ @ LIFE”

Edition 2:  “H🤔W TO EARN A BLACK BELT IN LIFE”

For more information about him check out: 

Bill Viola Jr.  Wikipedia

Bill Viola Jr. IMDB

commonsensei book

20 Apr

2020

Sensei Says

Get to know the author: Sensei Says® is Sensei Bill Viola’s signature life skills curriculum (a federal trademark)

SENSEI SAYS?

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” –Bruce Lee 

Konnichiwa!  My name is Bill Viola Jr., but 99% of the people in my life call me Sensei.  Exactly how I earned that title is a labor of love, fueled by an endless journey of mistakes, missteps, and mishaps that ultimately lead me to enlightenment 💡.  To understand where I’m coming from, you’ll need to take a quick peak at where I’ve been to appreciate my Violosophy and see what inspired this curriculum of awesomeness! 

Life hits hard, and it can completely knock you out cold without some defense.  It’s like Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” While it’s true that, “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger,” I’d rather dodge Iron Mike’s (or your generation’s Jon “Bones” Jones) right hook if I can, wouldn’t you?  Luckily, my convictions taught me to how to “block and counter.”  I can teach you how to outmaneuver the bullies, but as they say, “you need to weigh-in to wrestle.”  The game of life is filled with spectators and/or players so it’s up to you to take action!  Don’t watch life pass you by.  Let’s play. 

SENSEI SAYS

Simon says put your left arm up.  Simon says touch your nose.  Sit down.  You’re out!  Having flashbacks to Kindergarten yet?  Who hasn’t played the age-old classic at one time or another?   I often reminisce about those carefree days and wide-eyed wonderment of being the last man standing.  If Simon was in your corner, it gave you limitless confidence; you could conquer the world.  Simon could be your best friend🙂. 

The game, in its simplicity, parallels life.  One person, the controller🕹️, essentially influences your next move.  It could be a friend, foe, or even your subconscious, but someone or something is always telling you what to do.  Either you listen carefully or stumble; make a conscious decision to follow the leader or deliberately disobey.  Sometimes it’s a sudden lapse in judgement—a mistake.  Nonetheless, at the end of the game, there are only a few winners. Life is tough.

At school, the teacher is the controller.  At home, it’s our parents.  As we grow older the game is more complicated with bosses, spouses, friends, siblings, doctors, politicians, and of course your faith—God. You get the idea; it’s a spider web of Simons telling us what to do or not to do.  To make matters worse, those Simons begin to contradict themselves and pull you in opposite directions. Your wife says left👈while your mom says right👉.  Your Pastor says up☝️ and your boss says down👇. Suddenly, you don’t like Simon anymore.   

While Simon is merely a fictional character in my game-of-life analogy, I grew up with a real life figure.  In my household, Simon’s reign was short-lived, replaced with a much more formidable figure—Sensei. You see, my father, Bill Sr., is a badass karate master. Affectionately known as Sensei, his wisdom is revered.  In my world, Sensei and dad were one in the same. The game had changed. 

My father was born with strong Sicilian roots bearing the stereotypical fruit — a red hot Italian temper and equally famous short fuse💣. One could say nitroglycerin flowed through his veins.  His fiery temperament runs deep, but passion may better describe his explosions.  That dynamite personality allowed him to love as hard as he worked.  He believed everyone had unrealized ability (aka potential).  He saw something in me, and so our journey began.   

Violosophy is steeped in martial arts tradition: discipline, respect and honor. My home away from home was the dojo.  Some days I was in the “zone,” and others, sluggish. The tone and language could become quite colorful depending on my demeanor. One can imagine when Sensei Says… you sat up a little straighter.  He employed a serious no-nonsense approach to working out.  I had to leave everything in the ring.  Yes, Sensei could be a tyrant at times, but his mission was admirable.  Why?  To quote one of my favorite movies The Bronx Tale, because, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” 

Kickin’Flicks🎬:  Bronx Tale (1993) was Robert DeNiro’s directorial debut.  This coming of age gem is loaded with street wise characters.  The film tackles racism, while teaching you to follow your heart❤. Definitely worth a 120 minutes of your time. 

So, day-in and day-out, my blood, sweat, and tears poured onto the tatami (mat).  When failure seemed eminent, Sensei would preach “will over skill” and somehow, someway, my mind prevailed.  Under his watchful eye, I spent thousands of hours honing my craft. I was always the smallest, never the fastest, and certainly not the most naturally gifted athlete at the time; however I was gritty and driven. He’d remind me, “Hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle.” My arms and legs would scream exhaustion, but the 😢 fell on deaf ears.  Just before my breaking point, Sensei had an uncanny way to squeeze out one extra percent of effort. For that I am forever grateful.  I found a way to win, and I won over and over again.  When I failed, it was haunting. When I survived, it was euphoria — an adrenaline shot💉of confidence you can’t describe.  In those moments, I had won a round of Sensei Says.

Victory was exhilarating, but being pushed to the limit can conjure love/hate emotions. While other kids played outside, I was hitting a heavy bag.  I didn’t always appreciate the sacrifice, but I did obey Sensei. Deep down, he was strengthening me for life’s battles.  Sensei Says became a domino effect.  The work ethic and principals spread to my school work, studying for tests, or even helping afriend.I had become an overachiever, and no goal was unattainable.  Sensei wasn’t just preparing me for a fight in a tournament; he was training me for the ultimate crown, the championship of life🏆.  That competitive spirit has driven me to be the man I am today.  I’ve never been satisfied with Bs, second place, or vice president; I wanted high honors, the grand championship, and the VIP parking space.  Obviously, I’ve come up short at different points in my life, but my confidence never waivers.  It’s a testament of Sensei’s Molotov cocktail that always fired me up.   

Even though Sensei ruled with an iron✊, he loved us dearly.  His persona was larger than life, a man everyone seemed to admire. As a kid, I remember random men bowing to him at a bank or gas station.  I didn’t fully understand why, but I was enamored. Strangers would thank me for what my dad had done for them, how he changed their life, or pushed them to become successful.  He wasn’t just my dad; he was Sensei to an entire community. I wanted to be that guy.

I began to wonder, do I have what it takes?  I began to think about my dad’s remarkable focus and drive.  Where did it stem from?  I tried to imagine his childhood.  My Grandfather and namesake (William Viola I) was the “Godfather of Brownsville,” a charismatic figure who, for lack of better words was a Don

Sensei Says🥋:  Brownsville, Pennsylvania was once the gateway to the West.  In the 1800s People used to say, “Pittsburgh will amount to nothing — it’s too close to Brownsville.”  Today, Pittsburgh’s metropolitan area is 2,324,743 people while Brownsville has dwindled to 2,249.  Don is an honorific title (prefix) in Italian with historical roots with nobility.  It is reserved for people of high esteem such as priests, civic leaders, and powerful men.    

He was loved by many, feared by some, but respected by everyone.  Sadly, he cashed in his chips far too soon leaving my dad (an only child) as the man of the house in middle school.  Those moments can break a man’s psyche, but my father chose to fight.  He fought for everything, every day to make his family proud.

His workaholic attitude was born out of survival — a determination fueled by the void in his household. He put himself through college and feverishly studied the martial arts. Soon he was teaching science by day while operating karate schools at night.  In between he always had side hustles: real estate, sports memorabilia, antiques you name it.  Those paid the bills, but he wasn’t satisfied.  The fight game was his 🦄and he almost lost it all chasing the dream.

Kickin’Flicks🎬:  The SHOWTIME film Tough Guys (2017)was inspired by my father’s life story chasing his dream of creating the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in 1979.  If you’re into MMA, check it out on iTunes.

He was a master pitchman and negotiator, but more than anything he was the quintessential tough guy. I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps 👣.  At some level, I was channeling my Grandfather’s courage and moxie. In retrospect, my dad’s success was paying homage to his father who never got the chance to see his potential.  My father created his own way and vowed to protect me from the struggles he faced.   It planted a seed. 

Sensei is a guardian. He wanted to give his children a better life, and sacrificed to give us that opportunity.  His kids, all of whom earned their black belts, found success though his methods:  two doctors, one lawyer and one teacher with a Master’s in Education. They entered the real world with no college debt, a gift from Sensei,and a strong family support system.  Each won a round of Sensei Says.  I however, the first born, took the road less traveled 🚧. 

Sensei Says be a politician.”  Of course I followed orders and graduated Summa Cum Laude, naturally, with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.  Gradually I began to second guess my decisions, but stayed on course. Sensei Says was starting to frustrate me😖.  My passion was filling his shoes as a “Sensei,” yet my aspirations went ignored. After college, “Sensei Says go to law school.” For the first time in my life, I didn’t listen. I stood still 😮.  My father’semotions echoed Vito Corleone, “I worked my whole life, I don’t apologize, to take care of my family. And I refused to be a fool dancing on a string held by all of those big shots. I don’t apologize, that’s my life, but I thought that when it was your time, that you would be the one to hold the strings. Senator Corleone. Governor Corleone.”  It was as if the script was written about our relationship.  He quoted those lines to me in jest a hundred times, but a hundred times I refused. 

Kickin’ Flicks🎬:  Vito “Don” Corleone is quoted from The Oscar winning The Godfather (1972). At nearly 50 years old, its lessons of loyalty, respect, family and power are timeless.  Many critics hold it as the single greatest piece of cinema.  Go; download and stream it.  Better yet, get some friends together and have a gangster themed party.  @ 177 minutes though, keep in mind that good things come to those who wait.

I took a leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles to learn the entertainment biz 🎥. What?!?  I wanted to be a promoter just like my Sensei, and thought Hollywood 🎬 was the ticket.  I knew absolutely nothing about the industry, so my friends and family were skeptical to say the least. Fake it till you make it, right?  I borrowed my dad’s swagger and walked in like I owned the place. I had instant success.  Confidence is contagious, there is no other explanation.  SAG card in hand, I worked with A-listers; everyone from Britney Spears to Arnold Schwarzenegger, and all along the way, despite my decision, no one was prouder of me than my father.  I knew a conventional job wasn’t for me.

I’ve accumulated a treasure trove of experiences in my own right, but I still listen to what Sensei has to say.  At 72 years old, my dad has seen the highest of highs, creating a new sport with all its fanfare, and the lowest of lows, seeing that billion dollar 💸 dream slip through his fingers. He’s won, lost and finished everywhere in between. He’s war-torn and softened a bit, but the glimmer remains. Over time, Sensei’s commands have become less authoritative and more suggestive. The gameevolved; Sensei was not just as a disciplinarian or instructor, but now an advisor, a mentor and my consigliere. It’s a new level of the game.

I’ve been blessed to wear many hats in my 42 years on earth as a serial entrepreneur, ever since flipping baseball cards in the 6th grade.  I’ve been self-employed and self-assured ever since.  Whether it’s working with 5-year olds struggling with autism or hosting UFC legend Royce Gracie in my hometown, I’ve seen and done it all in the martial arts industry.  Outside karate, I’m diversified:  I dabble in the equity game, real estate, and stock market.  I’ve been a personal trainer, talent scout, and manager.  I’ve authored bestselling books and produced multi-million dollar films alongside Academy Award big wigs.  For 20-some years, I promoted the most epic martial arts events in America as President of my own entertainment company [Kumite Classic].  As the boss, I never delegated and always regulated; my blood and sweat lubricated every moving part of the company.  Some perks have been glamourous like rubbing elbows with Olympic champions, supermodels and professional athletes, but it wasn’t always glitzy.  I started in the trenches as a grunt, gutting houses literally littered with 💩 at my dad’s rentals and labored over endless piles of gravel on construction sites (pro bono mind you), and then continued as a soldier at hundreds of events he produced. I’ve been the CEO and the janitor across the board, and I have learned to appreciate the process.   I’ve been lucky to be on the receiving side of major sponsorships and have reciprocated my good fortune by awarding kids college Scholarships. I believe in passing it forward.

Not all jobs are 9-5.  During my first year of marriage, I unexpectedly became a 24/7 caregiver.  My maternal grandmother, God rest her soul 🙏, was struck with a nasty trifecta: Parkinson’s disease, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s after a stroke. Sad, frustrating and depressing, it tested every bit of my mettle as she died holding my hand😢. 

I grew up fast in general — an independent latch-key kid (Gen-Xer) from a broken family (my parents divorced when I was a toddler).  Although my mom and dad mixed like oil and water, I was an emulsifier:  Mom, nurturing, Godly, and compassionate; Dad, practical, savvy, and responsible.  I was a well-blended and blessed to have two amazing role models.

Still, as my resume continues to evolve, only one title truly defines me—SENSEI.   As the oldest child of five siblings, and the only boy, it seems as if I was preordained to be the next Sensei, although my father never wanted the stress to fall on my shoulders. I’ve accepted the immense responsibilities that come with my new title, and vow to be the shoulder to😭on, the sincere advisor, and the honest counselor.  I promise to educate with a calm voice of reason and firm hand.

Today I’m raising my own clan. On August 17, 2010, my wife Jennifer gave birth to a precious 9lb 5oz baby girl, Gabriella Capri Viola.  It was a game changer. William Viola IV would follow September 23, 2017. 

sensei says
Sensei Bill Viola and his daughter Gabby

Sensei Says🥋:  My daughter is a member of Gen Z: (1995-2015).  This book is dedicated to you guys, so don’t make the same mistakes as those pesky millennials (my younger sisters) did 😆.

It wasn’t until I became a father myself that I fully understood the depth of Sensei Says. The cliché “someday you’ll understand,” had come to light, and his version of tough love clicked.  Sensei was tough because he had to be, and the hard exterior complemented hard decisions; decisions that hold your kid’s future in the balance—heavy. While I’m not quite as brash as my dad, some say I’m more diplomatic in my approach, I’ve accepted my calling. The truth is, being a Sensei isn’t for everyone, but everyone needs a Sensei. The ceremonial torch has been passed, and a family tradition continues. How we approach the game may be slightly different, but our end-game is the same—confidence.   It’s finally my turn to call the shots and I🙏each day for the wisdom to give the right “instructions” in this crazy game. My parents believed in me, and now I will do the same.  Deep down Gabby and Will have what it takes, but it will take all they got! 

I’m obviously proud of my biological family, but I’m equally attached to my extended “karate family.”  Countless students from all walks of life have entrusted me with their well-being, and I’ve felt the heartache💔and optimism😃of tens of thousands more that my father has touched. Since being my dad’s apprentice from day one, I’ve been exposed to the all the good, the bad and the ugly in people.  That experience gave me a knack for judging character. I had no choice but to become wise beyond my years. For as long as I can remember I’ve been the resident psychologist, mediator, principal, therapist, father figure, and everything in between (playing the good guy and bad guy), from kids battling depression to adults overcome by jealousy. I didn’t fully comprehend the power of my position until a 10-year-old student confided in me that they were suicidal; while I was able to talk him off the ledge, it was sobering😔. Over the past half-century, my family’s brand of self-defense has camouflaged life’s most important lessons and it really made me think.  They may sign a waiver to punch and kick, but what they’re really investing in is a mentor. I had an epiphany🤔; why not share my experiences with an even larger family—YOU and the millions of other “blunder kids” who are lacking someone to give it to ‘em straight. 

I work with thousands of teenage students and I’m amazed how easily they can fall apart when mom and dad aren’t there to hold their hand.  I’m not knocking them, they have been🔗“connected” since birth, it’s all they know – but when the wifi drops, panic sets in.  There is a big difference between being smart and being quick (able to adapt), so my mission is to prepare Gen Z to be more self-sufficient.  Whether it’s balancing your checkbook or handling a traffic stop, there isn’t an industry type that hasn’t set foot in the dojo to give me the scoop, so all the resources were at my disposal.  CommonSensei was born.     

I know that was a bit long winded, but I didn’t want to gloss over my journey.  I wanted you to feel my emotional investment; it is the soul💗of this book. 

Now that you’ve gotten to know me, let’s get to the meat and potatoes. CommonSensei was created out of necessity to be the streetwise self-help coach for Generation Z: 1 part motivation, 2 parts determination, all the common sense missing from the education system.  Your manual is chock full of tips on how to set goals, “apply” knowledge, and find your “way.”  I’m here to offer insight on all the skills they forgot to teach you🤷. Every chapter in this book is based on real stories and testimonial from students, friends, and colleagues that I’ve been blessed to bond and connect with through my marital arts adventures.     

As your CommonSensei, I welcome you into my dojo of empowerment and present you with the ceremonial white belt.  Each rank level serves to train, educate, and encourage you along your journey towards a black belt in common sense🎓.  Are you ready to win at life?

Sensei Says, “Let’s kick some ass.” 

🙇BOW

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