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MMA Pioneer Jack Bodell

jack bodell

The appeal of knock-down-drag-out combat to the Western Pennsylvania personality was a natural.  Guys who grew up fighting on the streets had less interest in point sparring than they did in the pragmatic knowledge of how to lay out an opponent quickly and efficiently with a well-placed kick or punch.  “Fighters from my school and Bill’s would gather in my dojo to spar and learn to box.  It was a breeding ground for the top full-contact fighters in Pittsburgh.  The best of the best included the likes of Jacquet Bazemore, former world-heavyweight kick boxing champion; Jack Bodell, ranked U.S. Kick boxer; Michael Grotefend, lightweight champion; and Ed Shannon, heavyweight Pennsylvania champion.”

By the late 1970s, Caliguri and Viola were top shelf promoters (tagged jokingly as “The Barnum and Bailey of Martial Arts” by the media) who saw the value of a good hook to attract public attention with any event.  Caliguri recalls, “What we wanted to do was combine martial arts, the traditional nature of the sport, with a high-powered entertainment factor to appeal to the masses.” Viola adds, “The ‘reality’ of martial arts mesmerized the nation; somebody just had to combine the two.”

We knew the fight business; what was good, what was bad. That’s why we developed the World Martial Arts Fighting Association (WMAFA), a sanctioning body to set a higher standard. We had strict requirements and detailed safety protocols.  We wanted to have a national governing body for the sport like the WBA or WBC was for boxing. It became the first regulatory body of its kind with provisions for pro-am competition.  (see appendix 3 p. 375).   Our top choice for a commissioner was Jack Bodell (a veteran fighter, referee, and member of the United States Secret Service).”

Selecting referees for the event posed another interesting task: who could control the less disciplined among the contestants if they got out of hand during a bout?  “We needed someone who would be respected and feared by all the fighters, and we provided two of them.”  Jacquet Bazemore and Jack Bodell, two of Viola and Caliguri’s most intimidating students, were tagged for the job.

Jack Bodell, Viola’s first black belt student, was a professional kick boxer and feared karate champion. Bodell was an absolute beast in the ring, known to lay people out with a single reverse punch.  His unique skills landed him a position with The United States Secret Service.  At the time of the competition he was charged with the personal protection of then President Jimmy Carter. He was known around Pittsburgh as “The President’s Bodyguard.” The pair ensured order in the ring.

Jack Bodell Pittsburgh Karate Legend

Sensei Bodell was contracted by CV Productions Inc. as a national MMA referee in 1979 and worked fights in New Kensington, Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Philadelphia and Greensburg along side World Heavyweight Kickboxing champion Jacquet Bazemore.  Bodell was know around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as the “Presidents Bodyguard” due to his position in the United States Secret Service (responsible to proteting President Jimmy Carter).  Bodell was the first black belt promoted by Bill Viola, the founder of Allegheny Shotokan Karate and co-creator of the sport of MMA.

jack bodell

Allegheny Shotokan Karate Alumni. Jack Bodell was a martial arts student and black belt under Master Viola. He was at the time an agent of the United States Secret Service responsible with protecting President Jimmy Carter.  He was know around Pittsburgh as the “President’s Bodyguard”