Tipping the Scales 1

People make assumptions about each other all the time. We always assume  what people are now is what they have always been. You have to wonder is it just our nature as humans or is being judgmental as product of our society.  Regardless, the labels we place on each other can sometimes be hurtful even without meaning to be. They can be limiting and most of all impact our view of ourselves. Whether it is intentional or not, to some extent we all do it.

After two surgeries and being severely ill, I put on roughly 50 lbs. I went from 120 lbs to 170 lbs. and a size zero to a size 14. This was not an easy adjustment physically, emotionally or mentally. I felt uncomfortable in my body, awkward and even embarrassed. I felt trapped. I was extremely self-conscious and had poor self-esteem. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror anymore.  I never before had a weight problem in my life. I would look at myself and wonder “Who was this fat girl?”

Coming back to training made it even worse. I didn’t fit my gi anymore, my belt was tight and I had gone from the light feather to super heavy division. During training I felt embarrassed to use my full weight. I didn’t want to smash or show how much I really weighted. Anytime someone groaned or squealed under me I grew even more embarrassed.  One time I got paired up with a girl around 110 lbs or so. She made a comment about how us being paired up against each other was like the absolute division. I know she didn’t mean it to be hurtful, but it stung especially since I was once in her division.

I think a lot of the times because you weight a certain amount it is assumed you are stronger or can better handle yourselves against the men because you are “big”.  But this is not necessarily true. Not always are you “stronger” “because you are bigger. At least I know this wasn’t the case for me. For a long time I struggled being constantly paired up with the men. I was constantly being man handled. It was frustrating and even scary at times. Especially as a brown belt the target on your back is even bigger.

It took me a long time before I started to get used to my body, to feel comfortable in my own skin and confident again. I learned how to operate my body and move with the extra weight. I no longer felt embarrassing when I pushed the air out of someone while rolling. I was a heavy weight and that was ok. There was nothing wrong with that. I felt that  I am who I am and this is my body.

Then I  also started to see things differently. Instead of being discouraged that I put on so much weight I realized that I had the unique opportunity to be on both sides of the squishing. Not everyone will ever have this opportunity. Now I had a new goal. As I continue to lose weight, I intended to earn medals in every weight division!  I realized that having this experience will help me become a better practitioner, competitor and person. But ultimately, I am still me. Whether a size zero or size 14, I  love myself and that is what’s most important. We are not defined by our size, race or gender. We are only defined by these labels if we let ourselves be.  I choose to be me.



 Shama Ko

Girls in Gis staff writer

Shama Ko is a brown belt with Gracie Humaita out of Austin, TX.  She has been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner since November of 2003.  She is a photographer, writer, community organizer and activist. She heads the Girls in Gis organization or as she calls it the “movement”. She describes herself as both a lover and a fighter. She loves to laugh and not take life too seriously.

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One thought on “Tipping the Scales

  • Kayla Greer

    Thank you for writing this article! I have been battling with weight gain myself. But even before my weight gain I was still tipping the brackets at tournaments out weighing my opponents by 40-80lbs. It has been and ongoing battle trying to cut back down and being confident in my own skin. But that goal, to metal in every weight bracket is such an inspiring way to look at it as more of a challenge. Thank you for touching on this topic.