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Leo Liuzza - National Striking Martial Arts Instructor of the Year

By Brett Hart Created: December, 2019 - Modified: November, 2022

Hard work and determination are at the core of success and that’s something Leo Liuzza of Shinkyoukushinkai Karate in Las Vegas, Nevada proves on a daily basis. Splitting his time and effort between being an athlete and instructor, Leo leads by example, which has also led to him developing a close-knit group of loyal friends both in and out of the dojo. His group recently developed and executed a plan to recognize and give thanks Leo for his positive impact on their lives through an annual national instructor of the year award contest. It paid off as Leo Luizza was selected as the 2019 Greatmats National Striking Martial Arts Instructor of the Year.

Leo is a third degree black belt in Taekwondo who has dabbled in MMA, including prepping former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir for is sparring matches at Striking Unlimited while learning jiu jitsu, boxing and muay thai from Ken Hahn. He’s now focused much of his attention to training and teaching Kyukushin, a form of Japanese Karate, and training kids in health and fitness at a couple of local gyms.

With all that he’s done in the world of martial arts, Leo says his biggest accomplishment has been raising his first black belt, Emma Davis, up through through the ranks, starting her as a white belt.

“She was just the perfect role model for young women,” he said. “It’s a fantastic feeling to see her take everything that I’ve learned and see it all the way through.”

As an athlete, Leo joked that he loves to suffer.

“I love to train,” he said. “I love to push my limits. I love to feel like I’ve reached max capacity.”

For Leo, the spirit of martial arts is more important that one’s fighting ability. It’s really about those moments where you feel like giving up but find the motivation to dig deep and push through.

“Martial arts is like a base aspect for a whole life to get us through those times where we’re down,” he said. “Somehow, we find the courage and the spirit to continue.”

This was something, his students modeled throughout the award contest, digging deep to compile nearly 21,000 votes.

“Outside of the dojo most of these guys are my close friends, my close family,” Leo said. “It was really nice to see everyone come together. It couldn’t have been better timing. Thanksgiving was my favorite day. I was sitting there at Thanksgiving and I look over and some of the people that were with me were still on there voting. I was like holy cow. It was so cool to see my picture on their screen for no reason at all.”

It all began with a group of his students coming up with a plan through a Facebook messenger group. Once the nominations were complete, they added Leo in the group so he could in a way go back and time and see how it all began.

“You could care less who wins the competition,” he said. “It’s cool and everything, but the team came together and continued to battle for something they wanted to get. It goes with everything we teach. You don’t give up.”

“(The award contest is) a good chance for the instructors to feel loved,” he added. “It’s a good reminder for us that we are doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We are changing lives. We are making a difference. We are changing people.”
Leo Liuzza
Shinkyukushinkai Karate
Las Vegas NV 89130