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Zamora Jr. loses more than 100 pounds en route to judo black belt
In the fall of 2006, Jose Luis Zamora Jr. saw a picture of himself as a freshman in high school.
At 327-pounds, Zamora Jr. realized he had put on around 100 pounds since he was a teenager.
“Wow,” he thought, looking at the photograph. “I need to lose some weight.”
Flash-forward to Thursday night, in the activities room at Woodward Junior High, Zamora Jr. took his newly awarded size-6 judo first-degree black belt and wrapped it around his 195-pound body.
“This is what got me into shape,” Zamora Jr. said of judo. “And I love it.”
“He's consistently worked out and he's lost a lot of weight. He's gotten faster, he's gotten quicker and he really enjoys competition,” said Joe Murek, a sixth-degree black belt who teaches a judo class at Arizona Western and is a sensei for the Yuma Judo Club.
Zamora Jr., 26, said there were challenges starting a judo class tipping more than 300 pounds on the scale. Not only was it physically demanding, but temptations still lurked their ugly head.
“At first it was hard with the eating temptations and eating wrong, junk food, fast food,” he said. “But after I got into the swing of it, with my training, it wasn't even a temptation anymore. I watch more what I eat now.”
He said he wants to drop down to 175 pounds in time for nationals.
Having participated in more than 20 United States Judo Association competitions, Zamora Jr. said he's won five state championships and finished in second place at nationals. The Yuma Judo Club, which features eight black belts members, is competing in the 2013 Arizona State Open Judo Championship on Friday and Saturday in Phoenix.
But on Thursday, with him kneeing on the far end of a row of nine of his peers, Zamora Jr. stood and received his black belt – along with a ceremonial slams by each of the four other blackbelts present.
“When he first came out for judo I thought it would be a quick, passing thing,” said Zamora Jr.'s younger brother, Javier. “He stuck with it and he's paid for a lot of things he had to do for it, and I'm proud that he stuck with it and got his black belt instead of hitting brown belt and stopping like a lot of people did.”
In judo, a Japanese martial arts that became an Olympic sport in 1964, there are 10-degrees of black belts so Zamora Jr. recognizes that his accomplishment is just one in a long journey in the sport. While the name “judo” comes from the Japanese to mean “gentle way,” it certainly doesn't mean it comes easy.
“Most people don't stay in this sport. It's too hard,” said Murek, who studied judo in Japan while he was a Marine stationed in Iwakuni. “It's physcially demanding. It's more demanding than jujitsu because you're involved in throws, arm locks, chokes and everything.”
“I didn't think it would be very strenuous, but it turned out to be really good,” said Zamora Jr., whose friend suggested the judo class at AWC.
But there are plenty of benefits to the sport – a shrinking waistline, for one.
“Within the last two years, people who haven't seen me in a long time, they're like ‘Wow!' And I tell them it was my martial arts. Judo,” Zamora said. “It's a good feeling. It's a super good feeling.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.