Interview with Shama Ko, BJJ purple belt, champion competitor, blogger, photographer and all around really cool gal

There are lots of BJJ blogs around and I must admit I'm very picky with which one I read. What I look for is honesty and an interesting story. Shama's blog has these qualities aplenty.

The adventure I've been following (Shama's recently been changing academy and has therefore been around to many Austin academies) has been very intriguing to say the least and it got me interested in interviewing the girl behind the words and I was NOT disappointed. Shama was honest and very generous in her replies and I thank her for that. I give you here part one of two:

The Part Time Grappler Interviews Shama Ko:

Hello. Why don’t we start by you telling us a little about yourself?

My name is Shama Ko. As a kid I always wished I had a "normal" name, but now as an adult, I can't imagine my parents naming me anything else. My name comes from the Shama-thrush bird. I'm told that when my mom was pregnant with me she would sit in the rain forests on our goat farm in Palolo Valley and sing-talk with the Shama-thrush for hours on end. Needless to say my parents are hippies. I was born and raised in the island of Oahu, Honolulu, HI. Like most people from Hawaii, I'm a “mutt”. I am Korean, Irish, Ukrainian, Hungarian, German, French and a little Native American. I currently reside in Austin, TX. I've been here for over a decade so I guess I'm a Hawaiian-Texan now.

Are you currently working / studying? Is that Full time / Part time?

I am a full time freelance photographer and own my own company called Shama Ko Photography, which was established in 1999. I've recently launched a new brand called Mean Streak, which is primarily focused on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA photography. Photography, like any other technology-based industry, is constantly evolving and in order to keep up with the times I’ve returned to school to study the latest photography methods in the field. In addition, I am an organizer for two Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Women's groups called, Girls in Gis and Austin Women's Open Mat. In addition, I also do freelance writing for TXMMA and my blog, The Adventures of Shama Ko. I also periodically contribute to Gracie Magazine and BJJ Legends. As if I didn't have enough going on, I have a few other ventures in the works.

You also set aside time to practice a sport. Which sport(s)?

I got my start in Martial Arts with Muay Thai, which I trained in for three years before discovering my passion for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Currently, I only train in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. For fun, I also enjoy cycling, snowboarding, surfing and rock climbing.

How long have you done that?

I've been training Gracie Jiu-Jitsu since 2003. I am a purple belt. I got my start in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with Phil Cardella at Relson Gracie Austin. I trained with him until last year. I currently study and train Gracie Jiu-Jitsu at Gracie Humaita Austin with Donald Park and I’m loving it!

Do you follow any special diet? Do you use any dietary supplements?

I don’t exclusively subscribe to any of the popular diets like the Gracie, Paleo, Eat Right for Your Blood Type or Raw diets. However, I have incorporated elements from all of them. I eat a balanced diet with low carbs, sugar, dairy and no packaged or processed foods. However, I'm far from perfect and I admit I cheat from time to time.

For the most part I try to only eat organic, cage free and fresh foods. My diet consists of lots of veggies and protein. Eating healthy is crucial when an athlete of any kind. The old saying "you are what you eat" is 100% true. I also take Neocell Collagen Sport on a regular basis. It’s made with “nutrients you can trust”. It’s made a huge difference in my recovery from my injury last year.

How do you manage to fit your training around work, study and family time?

I think the more accurate way to say it for me is, how do I fit work, personal time and school around my training schedule. Training is a must! I have to train for my mental and physical health. It's my release. Of course sometimes work takes priority over training, but for the most part I structure my life around GJJ class times. I especially structure my life around training when I'm actively competing in tournaments. The time, energy and resources invested in GJJ can take on the role of another job.

I'm not the best tight rope walker. Keeping a balance with all my activities is tough. I have to work hard and diligent at being organized, having structured routines, planning ahead, being flexible and make time for "me".

Making a living is a big priority, because everyone needs to eat and pay the basic necessities. However, I've realized lately that taking time out for me is what is most important. Even machines need regular maintenance and upkeep. If you don't care for your own needs everything can quickly fall apart. Running on high non-stop is dangerous mentally and physically. Sometimes you have to just press the “pause” button on life and enjoy the things you want to do and not always focus on the things you have to do.

End of part one

Stay tuned for part two where Shama shares her best tips on time management and the secret to her motivation.


Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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