Master Liz Fitzgerald
NWMAF Wonder Women: Our Origin Stories in Our Own Words
This month, we’re spotlighting Master Lissette Fitzgerald of KSA Martial Academy in Nashville, Tennessee.
When I was little, I used to watch my Godfather practice Judo on a regular basis. My Grandparents had been really supportive of his love of the art as he was growing up, even sending him to Japan to train for a while, and it became a lifelong love for him. Today, in his 70s, he still practices.
I would watch him practice and hear his dojo stories and I knew I wanted that same experience. My Mom, however, really wanted a perfect little doll of a daughter, which always put us at odds. So, I ended up in ballet instead, which I made sure I was not in for long, if you know what I mean… *wink, wink* Yes, I was “that” child.
Let us fast-forward through 24 years of schooling, motherhood, and a busy career life to the day I met my 3rd husband, Cat. His being a movement specialist and martial arts instructor, and me moving to self-employment in my career, suddenly removed the main obstacle to training and I jumped at the chance. I joined his Aikido class at the University of Miami, and I was just as hooked as I suspected I would be. I added Tae Kwon Do a bit later, and then Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali. I could not get enough! I was in my mid-thirties and ready for self-care. Martial Arts practice was my spa time.
Since then, Cat and I authored a gender-inclusive empowerment self-defense program inspired by our oldest son’s need to gain confidence and the skills needed to defend himself. We launched this program in Miami, implementing it in in-patient eating disorder clinics, Public and Private schools in the area, several social organizations, at-risk youth groups for girls and boys, and non-profits addressing the needs of foster children aging out of the system, including single moms in the system, LGBTQ+ youth, and as many other as could benefit from the practice.
Back in 2013, we moved to Nashville, TN and opened KSA Martial Academy, thereby turning my 3-day per week spa visits into a career path with the aim of creating a safe space for all to train without fear of judgement or injury. In my time as a martial artist I have ranked in Aikido, Tae Kwon Do and Jeet Kune Do and am incredibly proud of the work I have done.
As with each and every one of us, regardless of gender, my path to the Martial Arts has been far more complicated and emotional than any quick bio can reflect, involving, in my case, everything from forgiving myself to forgiving my mother, my deep appreciation for the amazingly strong Grandmother that always encouraged me to do as I pleased and fight for myself, to years of abuse and relationship patterns that took the first 3 decades of life to recognize and break. All of those bits, the need to overachieve, overdeliver, find acceptance, belong somewhere, all while staying detached and too-cool-for-school, lead me to Martial Arts and the discovery that my improvement, in the arts and within myself, was dependent on hard work, certainly, but more importantly, on having a good sense of humor about myself, on my ever-increasing ability for vulnerability, on my ability to trust in my body, and on the discovery that we are, regardless of background and story, all in it together.