The Girl Who Chased Her Dreams and Inspired Many | Zeda Zhang's Story
by Submission Shark
What got you interested in jiu-jitsu and martial arts?
I watched pro wrestling, college wrestling, and martial arts and fighting movies as a kid and always had an interest but was too shy to take any martial arts. Eventually when I lived in an unsafe city and had some close encounters where my life was in danger was when I realized I needed to take some form of self-defense and Jiu-Jitsu was the one I chose because I've always been interested in grappling.
What made you want to transition from MMA to pro-wrestling?
It allows me the opportunity to enjoy all forms of art. I enjoy martial arts but also acting, singing, dance, etc.
I don't have a favourite one constantly, but one of my favourites would probably be a crucifix choke if in gi and head and arm choke if in gi or no-gi.
Who’s your all-time favourite pro-wrestler?
I am still pretty new to pro wrestling so I don't know if I have an all-time favourite. I guess from pro wrestling, I admire Kurt Angle. He is a legit badass.
Explain your experience with the jiu-jitsu community, were they supportive and willing to teach you new techniques?
I've been pretty fortunate to have some good coaches willing to teach me.
Does jiu-jitsu help teach fundamental disciplines like self-respect and respect for others?
Definitely. jiu-jitsu changed my life and gave me the self-confidence and drive to pursue my dreams.
I never thought I’d become an athlete being that I was a quiet, shy art girl. Athletes were popular and I wasn’t exactly the popular kid growing up but through martial arts, it has not only turned me into an athlete but has changed my life in every aspect. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t go into athletics. @teamsheis understands the importance of athletics especially for females like myself. It started as a way to protect myself and now not only do I feel safe, confident and empowered but I live a healthy and fulfilling life that helps me physically, mentally and emotionally.
What causes people to be violent towards innocent people? Is it a lack of guidance and a positive outlet, or are some people just simply evil?
It is definitely a lack of guidance. no one is born evil. it is from their upbringing and surroundings. if everyone was just taught proper discipline and respect, the world would be a better place.
Why is the domestic abuse problem so important to you?
I've personally dealt with it and I used to think that is something that would never happen to me. I thought only weak-minded women got into those situations but when it actually happened to me, it happened when I was in a great place in my life, pursuing my dreams fully and happily.
I was stuck in a situation that I could not get out of, embarrassed that I even got into in the first place and felt stupid and afraid to tell anyone. Eventually, I feared for my life and know if I didn't escape that situation, I would not be alive today.
Here's the shocking statistic of domestic violence:
85% of domestic violence victims are women.
1/4 of women worldwide will experience domestic/dating violence in their lifetime. Women between the ages of 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is most likely to take place between 6 pm and 6 am.
The costs of domestic violence amount to more than $37 billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical and mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies.
As many as 324,000 women each year experience intimate partner violence during their pregnancy.
Boys who witness domestic violence are 2 times as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
1/2 of all homeless women and children in the U.S. are fleeing from domestic violence.
Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
In 60% to 80% of intimate partner homicides, no matter which partner was killed, the man physically abused the woman before the murder.
Often, attackers will go completely unnoticed by the general public but a large number of cases are unreported because others aren't willing to step up and talk with authorities about suspicious activity. It's up to all of us to protect the ones that can't protect themselves but what if you don't know what an abusive relationship looks like? Abusive people can be hidden in plain sight.
What would you tell someone that is currently responsible for domestic abuse?
If you truly love that person, then you wouldn't hurt them. Either you let them go or you get help.
What would you tell a victim of domestic abuse and how can they get out of that relationship and live their lives without fear of their attackers?
You have to leave. I know it's not easy and there are so many things that you fear would happen, but most domestic violence cases end in death and if you stay, you're only living in fear before the day you die by your attacker's hands.
Not blaming the victim, but with the large amounts of domestic abuse cases, do you believe self-defense programs like jiu-jitsu should be promoted more so everyone can effectively defend themselves better?
Yes, I feel all women should learn jiu-jitsu. It is the most effective form of self-defence against someone larger/stronger.
Do you feel more confident in yourself and your ability to defend yourself now that you have experience in MMA?
I definitely feel that way. Jiu-jitsu and MMA changed my life in all aspects. I feel confident within myself and my abilities and safe within my own skin.
Who introduced you to pro wrestling?
I was referred by Paul Cheng, a former fighter of ONE FC.
What’s your relationship with your family? Did they support your decisions to pursue this career?
It took my whole life to convince them, but they are now fully supportive of me
What would you tell someone that wants to pursue their dreams in a non-traditional way but is facing harsh resistance from their family?
You should do what makes you happy and have a serious talk with your family about it. At the end of the day, it is your life. If you choose to go your path then do not expect anything from your family. You either work your butt off and do well to prove to them you deserve to do this and not ask them for money or burden them in any way or you do what they want you to do. I would choose to just work my butt off and never ask anything from my family and when they see I'm successful, my actions will be more than enough reason to prove to them this is where I belong.
You have an amazing work ethic. Did you learn that from your family as well?
I would say so. My parents grew up poor and worked from nothing and so I believe seeing that growing up affected my development.
Other reasons are due to all the bad things that have happened in my life that has given me the fuel to want to push that much harder. People doubting me, putting me down, bullying me and telling me I can't only give me the fuel to want to prove them wrong.
If your parents were reading this, what would you tell them?
I would tell them that I appreciate that they finally decided to support me and although we had our differences while I was growing up, I'm glad we came to a point where we are closer than ever.
I know you’ve lost your grandma and I’m sorry for your loss. If you could tell her one thing, what would it be?
I lost my grandma back when I was 15. I would tell her that I love her and appreciate everything she's done for me. She took care of me while my parents were too busy. She was one of the most generous, selfless and kind people I've ever met. If it wasn't for her and all she's done for me, I wouldn't be who I am today.
You managed to get the WWE’s attention early in your career. How was your experience working with that organization?
It was a good learning experience. Very tough but also very rewarding. I'm very happy I had the opportunity to work for them.
I know it was a long road to get to where you are now, but could you explain to me the hardest part of your life/career?
There honestly were several. I feel like I've been through so much at this point that it's like I lived through 6-7 different lifetimes. I look back at my life and can't believe that I went through that. It doesn't even seem like it's me. It feels like I lived someone else's life.
I've been bullied since childhood, as young as preschool all the way up for most of my schooling. I had bad social anxiety and low self-esteem. I found diaries that I wrote as young as four years old saying how "I hate my life. I wish I had someone else's life".
Going through my first breakup was another tough time in my life. Having social anxiety and being extremely shy, it wasn't easy to get close to anyone, so when I finally let my guard down and opened up, it was a big deal. Then getting hurt, it made it really hard to deal and I was always kind of a loner and had no one to turn to or talk to so I had to deal with a lot of problems on my own.
The domestic violence was another very tough time in my life and then being homeless when I moved to LA was another very tough time in my life. Chasing this dream within itself has many ups and downs and there were several times throughout my chase where it was extremely tough mentally, physically and emotionally.
What motivated you to keep pursuing your dreams even when it seemed difficult to keep going?
The fact that I can not imagine myself ever working a regular job. I've always known it wasn't for me and the only way I can ever be happy is to pursue the arts. Also, I guess I'm kind of vengeful. I want to prove all the haters wrong. =D
What would you tell someone that is on the verge of giving up on their dreams and is having trouble finding the motivation to keep pushing through?
You've come this far. You either keep going and allow yourself the chance to succeed or you just give it all up and end with nothing. In the long term, do you think you'll be happy working whatever job you'll be working?
If you could restart your journey in life, would you do anything different?
Start chasing my dreams way earlier and be more rebellious and go my own path rather than try to make everyone around me happy. I need to put myself as a priority and not care so much of what others think.
As a Chinese-American, and being an introvert, did you have trouble fitting in when you were younger?
Yes. Very much so. I was one of the few Asians in my whole town. It also doesn't help that I was shy, didn't really know English, am into art and not into sports.
You mentioned anti-bullying was important to you. Did you experience bullying in your life?
Basically my whole schooling. As young as preschool was the bullying but before that, I was always an outcast and never accepted.
How can people do more to prevent and help the victims of bullying?
Education. Teachers should be more active when they witness bullying. Students and peers should also be more active and kids should be taught to stand up for someone who is being bullied.
What would you tell a youth that is having trouble finding friends and doesn’t feel like their good enough?
They aren't alone. They need to stand up for themselves, find an adult and talk to their family about this issue.
Do you think bullying causes emotional stress such as depression and anxiety?
Yes, I know this is the reason why I've developed anxiety and had depression in my life.
Where do you think depression and anxiety come from and what would you tell someone that is going through similar mental health problems?
I've had social anxiety my whole life and to be honest, I still have it, but it gets better every day with practice. I've had depression and I've luckily got myself out of that. I've also had an eating disorder for most of my life.
For anyone who has mental health problems, it is not as uncommon as you think. Many people have them but suffer in silence because they're too scared to talk about it. The great thing about the internet these days is it's easy to find similar groups to talk about your problems so you won't feel so alone.
You seem like a very outgoing and confident person now, what caused this change and how can others find their own form of confidence?
It took most of my life to be this way. I'm not perfect and many days I have to convince myself to be outgoing.
For those trying to find their own confidence, they have to start by being realistic with themselves. Why is it about themselves that they can improve on? We all have things we can improve on. If you know you lack in one aspect of your life, take the time to make that better and in time, confidence will come.
People often talk about the future. Focusing on what is to come. We are so conditioned to think that way and although it is very important to do that, don’t forget the present is also very important. Make sure you live in the moment, appreciate it and give it all your attention because the present are your building blocks.
I see it this way, if you were building a house, the past would be your foundation. You know all your mistakes and successes so that it allows you the knowledge to choose the right pieces to lay down for a sturdy base. The bricks you lay is your present. You need to be 100% when you lay each brick down, making sure it is straight so that way the future (which is the overall product of your house) will be strong and be able to withstand the storms.
This is why I say the present is so important. Focus on laying each brick straight so your future households up strong, because if not...the big bad wolf is gonna huff and puff and blow your house down and then that’ll really suck. Those 3 pigs should’ve studied construction. See what happens when you don’t study and prepare?
What are your short term and long term goals?
The short term is getting as many bookings as possible to wrestle around the world. The long-term goal is to give my family everything they've ever wanted and been someone who can be an inspiration to the world.
Do you plan on training and staying active your whole life?
Yes. I am going to keep going until this body can't go anymore. =)