Gita Suharsono needed just two weeks to change the course of her life.
After dabbling in Muay Thai in an effort to lose some weight, the Indonesian journalist traveled to Thailand for a training holiday, and never went back to work.
She was motivated to make the switch from reporter to martial artist, and now, she finds herself in ONE Warrior Series.
This is quite an accomplishment for the 25-year-old, who has endured a tremendous amount of hardship just to get to this point. In fact, she walked a lonely road to get here.
A Strict Upbringing
Suharsono grew up in a small mining community in Indonesia, where her father worked as a doctor. At home, she was part of a very pious family, and lived under a strict set of rules that were not meant to be broken.
“As a woman, I am not allowed to play basketball. I had to go home straight from school, and I had to cover myself. I had to be a woman that was submissive,” she explains.
“[My parents] conveyed to me that women should be girly, and should not do sports. You either study or you marry. That is it. I did not have any other choices.
“It was such a feeling that there was a lot of injustice [in the world] because I was a woman, so I cannot go out, and I could not play basketball. I had to do it all secretly because of my gender.”
Over time, Suharsono decided to forgo any kind of athletics. Instead, she focused on her schoolwork, read a lot, and watched the news. While watching a news program, she felt inspired.
“There was one night when I turned on CNN, and I said, ‘I want to work there,’” she remembers.
An Incredible Career Change
With athletics seemingly behind her, Suharsono decided to put all of her energy into a journalism career. She would have to work twice as hard, however, as she suffered from dyslexia.
Ultimately, that hard work paid off.
Suharsono landed a highly coveted internship with CNN International, and then became a local producer in Indonesia for the network in April 2010. She graduated from the London School of Public Relations in 2013, and then moved to China to work for NET TV and CCTV as a video journalist.
The Jakarta native loved her job, but the arduous workload did not leave much time for any kind of physical fitness. Also, her eating habits were not exactly the healthiest.
“Burger King was my best friend,” she says with a laugh.
The breaking point came after a conversation with her boss, who told her she was gaining too much weight.
“Their stereotypical reporter had to be pretty and slim,” she says. “It was really bad because it really hurt my confidence. I was embarrassed, and I was body-shaming myself. I was not loving myself.”
While the message being conveyed was obviously hurtful, Suharsono took it upon herself to get back into shape. That is what motivated her to try martial arts.
“I started doing Muay Thai during my lunch break instead of eating, and I started doing private lessons because that was the only time I could do it,” the Indonesian says.
”The coaches told me about this gym in Thailand called Tiger Muay Thai, and I thought I might try it for two weeks. I was put in a beginner’s class, and it was sheer willpower that got me through, because it was so hard.”
Although it was challenging, Suharsono was in love. That prompted her to call her boss and tell him to fill her position, because she was not coming back to the office.
Shunned From Home
As happy as Suharsono was about her decision to become a full-time martial artist, she still had to tell her mother and father about her plans.
“I still remember that conversation. I even remember it was raining at the time when I was on the phone,” she recollects.
“I told them I quit my job, I was living in Thailand, and I was going to be a fighter. They said, ‘You’re doing what? You studied hard, you’ve built your life, you became a journalist, and you’re quitting to become a fighter? Like, you’re hitting people?’
“There was a long pause, and basically, they cut me off from the family.”
That was the last time she heard from her mother and father.
Suharsono tried to contact her parents multiple times, and has done everything possible to reconcile their relationship, but to no avail.
“They do not want me to do this — one, because I am a woman; two, because of my attire; and three, for them, I broke so many rules in society for women.”
The Indonesian admits there have been moments when she contemplated giving up her new career just to appease her estranged mother and father.
However, she decided against that option, and is excited to see where her martial arts journey leads — even without her parents’ support – as painful as it may be.
“I always have those empty feelings,” she says.
“You just wish someone was going to sit there and watch you fight, and give a tap on the shoulder during your hard training. It may or may not happen for me.
“My parents, right now, they do not talk to me at all. When I try to call, they reject. When I send a message, they read it, but they do not reply.”
A New Adventure
From Muay Thai, the Indonesian transitioned to kickboxing, and eventually mixed martial arts.
She bounced from gym to gym and country to country trying to find the best place to further her martial arts education. Currently, she splits her time between Capital Training Center in China, and ASTA in Indonesia.
It was in China when Suharsono was first told about ONE Warrior Series, and decided to submit an application. Soon thereafter, the producers invited her to the group tryouts in Beijing.
“A few girls were at the tryouts and a lot of guys, and [the hosts] said they were going to call a few names [after the workout],” she recalls.
“I tried not to put my hopes high because I was in China, I was a foreigner, and there were a lot of good guys. I felt like my stomach was twisting.”
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Fortunately, it did not twist for long. She was selected to participate in ONE Warrior Series, and has a chance to secure a contract to compete in ONE Championship.
Suharsono has overcome plenty of adversity in pursuit of her dreams. Now, she hopes her story will inspire others to reach for the stars, too.
“You’ve got to set a goal, and so far I have been drowning in cold water,” she says.
“But now, I am swimming in it. So now, I am going to set a bigger dream. It may seem like a crazy dream to people, but what I have already been doing is crazy.
“I want to have a message delivered that you can be what you want to be — you just have to believe in yourself.”
Photo Credit: Bryan Watkins Photo