As the clock strikes three in the afternoon, 50-odd young boys and girls gather around Rachna Chaurasia Rajendran forming a semi-circle of sorts. As soon as the buzzer goes off, they line themselves in to three neat rows and the class begins. This is the first-level Taekwon-do session in full-swing.
These young learners are not the only ones. Rachna who is Asia’s first woman to be awarded the Taekwondo 6th Dan Black Belt, today works and teaches more than one lakh students across the country. “I work with 162 schools in Delhi/NCR alone and a lot many in 25 states,” says the grandmaster and secretary general, Taekwon-do Association of India.
Starting her career in martial arts in 1984, the 48-year-old Rachna’s work and expertise today spans across 22 years. “In 1984, I went to see a Taekwon-do display by Grand Master Leong Wai Meng, the 9th Dan Black Belt. As soon as he started demonstrating his four different kicks, I was hooked,” says Rachna. After kick-starting her career in Mumbai, Rachna soon moved to Delhi with a mission to make a mark for herself. She started working as a PT instructor at `1,200 a month. “I faced many challenges here and was made to feel like an outsider,” she says. Rachna channelised all the pent-up energy and aggression into her sport. “I asserted myself in the ring and often beat up male students and even roadside romeos,” she says.
A disciplinarian in real life, Rachna participated in four nationals and three state level championships and won seven gold medals in the years 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985. She later joined Indian Taekwon-do Federation (ITF) in 1986 and won Black Belt 1st Dan conducted by All India Taekwon-do Association on January 4, 1989. There was no looking back for her. She bagged several awards later started with the 2nd Degree Black Belt in 1992, 3rd Degree Black Belt in 1996, 4th Degree Black Belt in 2000, 5th Degree Black Belt in 2006 and the 6th Degree Black Belt in 2011. “I am working to achieve the 7th Dan Black Belt, which will take me about six more years. However, my primary goal is to involve more youngsters in the sport” says the Taekwon-do expert.
An avid supporter of self-defence skills for women, Rachna feels that it is unfortunate that there are a few female takers of this martial art-form. “It is very surprising but I have never come across many young girls interested in the martial art form. The only way to solve this problem is to involve them from the very beginning, when they are two or three-years-old,” she says. Rachna adds this martial art form is important for women to learn, not just for safety but also for agility.
Having faced several challenges herself, Rachna has earned herself the title of ‘Robinhood Grandmaster’ among her peers, given her constant involvement with the underprivileged. An avid learner, Rachna says, “Choi, Hong Hi, who is called the Founder of Taekwon-Do, once said that ‘Pain is the best instructor, but no one wants to go to his class.’ He was very right. The only way to continue spreading the legacy of this sport is to involve our young generation. I am quite hopeful of its future.”