Grand Master Lewis Lizotte (1935-2018)
Sensei Lizotte was born in Caribou, Maine on August 22, 1935. He started his Martial Arts in the Art of Judo in 1947 at the age of 12. In 1949, he started training in Jujitsu. Prior to going into the Military Service in 1952, he trained for a short period in the Arts of Shorin-Ryu and Goju-Ryu. In 1954, at the age of 19, he joined the U.S. Marine Corp. Like many other servicemen, Sensei Lizotte was looking for something to do during his off duty time. It was in 1955 when he decided to start training in Isshin-Ryu Karate. He met with and began formal training with Grand Master Shimabuku Tatsuo. Before leaving the Okinawan Island he would obtain brown belt level from Master Shimabuku. Sensei Lizotte would continue his training under Grand Master Don Nagle who was one of the chosen pioneers to head Isshin-Ryu in the United States. He received his black belt from Master Nagle in 1958. Sensei Lizotte was discharged from the Marine Corp. in 1959 and settled in the Chicago, Illinois area.
While in the Chicago area, he taught at the local YMCA. In 1960, he opened his own Dojo in the Chicago area. During the years in Chicago, he also taught self-defense tactics to various Law Enforcement Agencies. Later while in the Connecticut area he taught at area colleges and universities, such as the University of Massachusetts and Amherst College in Massachusetts.
On July 28, 1963, Sensei Lizotte became the first full contact Karate World Champion. In his first defense of the title in 1964, he was beaten by Mike Stone in a very close match. In 1964, he was chosen to perform a Martial Arts Demonstration at the World's Fair, held in New York City. Other notable Isshin-Ryu instructors on hand at the World's Fair included Gary Alexander, Don Bohan and Ed McGrath. Thousands of spectators were in attendance to witness the former World Champion perform. The following year, 1965, he was again chosen to perform at the World's Fair. Sensei Lizotte opened his first Dojo in the Enfield, Connecticut area in 1966. He then moved on to Holyoke, Massachusetts and opened a dojo. He also taught in his home in Somers, Connecticut until opening a dojo in Enfield, Connecticut.
In 1969, Sensei Lizotte began training with Grand Master Steve Armstrong, who at that time was the owner, director and Chairman of the Board of the AOKA, an organization founded by Tatsuo Shimabuku, Harold Mitchum, and Steve Armstrong in 1960. Master Armstrong was also one of the chosen Americans to head Isshin-Ryu Karate in the United States.