“Watching Bruce Lee movies with my father, I dreamt of learning martial arts someday”, recounts Vandana Rao as she traces her journey into the world of punches and kicks. Vandana was athletic as a child and has an outstanding academic record completing her Masters in Mass Communication and Journalism with a gold medal. She went with the flow of life and her dreams were safely tucked away until six months after her daughter’s birth when she started taking lessons in karate. Vandana is now a third degree black belt in the Korean martial art Tang Soo Do.
“With my stressful job my body began to crack up. Nothing aligns your priorities like adversity”, says Vandana who chose to give up her job in the Silicon Valley to be a stay-at-home mom. “I learnt about a martial arts school in my neighborhood from a television show. I enrolled at the school and was part of the same show for seven years to follow”, she says with a broad smile. Vandana trained at the First Tang Soo Do of Fremont, California under Master David Bell. Here she developed a deep passion for Tang Soo Do and went on to win medals at the Regional and World Tang Soo Do Championship held in Florida, USA. “Martial arts also gave me avenues to explore my degree in media and communication”, she says mentioning her involvement in the production of the television show, website development and working on the school’s newsletter. After moving to Bangalore Vandana established The Healing Arts Centre, where she imparts training in Chi Kung (a Chinese meditative healing art) and Yoga apart from Tang Soo Do.
“Martial Arts is not about violence and physical assault”, says Vandana clarifying that she does not run a fight club or encourage aggression. “Tang Soo Do is a peaceful and defensive martial art. We first learn how to block and then learn to counter attack. Patience is the key”, she adds. While Tang Soo Do is a high-energy kick intensive martial art involving free sparing, combination drills, forms and weapons, Chi Kung is a meditative practice that requires tremendous discipline. “Tang Soo Do, Yoga and Chi Kung may have visual differences but the essential principles and energy centers are the same. Breathing is the cornerstone of all three arts. They come from three different countries but take you to the same place. It’s all about striking a balance between the mind, body and spirit,” explains Vandana.
Vandana currently trains about 50 students ranging from the age of 5 to 45. The batches comprise of people from mixed age groups, genders and levels of physical fitness. While some have taken up the arts for weight loss others are there to fight health ailments like high blood pressure and cholesterol. Martial arts and yoga have helped to bring discipline in children and beat stress in adults. While some have been able to cut down on nicotine, others have been able to find a balance between work and home. “Apart from physical fitness and mental relaxation it helps people accept their body and develop a positive outlook to life. I am trying to create awareness about a way of life and enhance character development through martial arts”, says Vandana.
Vandana is diving deeper into the art even as she tries to demystify its complexity and beauty to her students. The last time Master Bell was in Bangalore, he left her with plenty of homework. Vandana is expanding her knowledge through books, DVDs and interaction with her Master through Skype. The stick, the knife, the sai and the sword are the four weapons she is currently working with. She is learning various Chi Kung patterns even as she is creatively improvising on Yoga postures.
She dared to dream and life presented her opportunities to pursue her passion. Twelve years into martial arts Vandana is as fit as a fiddle. She effortlessly juggles her role as a daughter, a mother, a wife, a teacher and a student. Following in her footsteps is her daughter waiting to turn twelve this year, so that she can appear for the exam to secure her black belt.
For more information log on to http://www.bangaloretangsoodo.com/
This article was published in The Hindu, Bangalore edition on the 14th of July 2010. Below is the link to the online version of the article.