Vandana Rao's martial arts classes are designed to heal the world

On a section of CMH Road that still remains comparatively quiet, The Healing Arts Centre sees a small number of people, across age groups, trickle in. They bow to their instructor and proceed either to change into their gear or to compose themselves before their evening lesson begins.

Vandana B. Rao founded The Healing Arts Centre five years ago. She had just returned from California where she had learned the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do. Why martial arts? “I enjoyed going to the gym, but my feeling was ‘if you're going to invest a lot of time and effort into something, you might as well learn something meaningful in the process',” she says.

Vandana also teaches yoga and Chi Kung, which focus on breathing techniques and energy training.

While her martial arts classes mainly see students under the age of forty, yoga and Chi Kung attract people of all ages. Homemakers, those with corporate jobs and students form the bulk of her clientele. Some come to learn self-defence, a few to induct discipline into their lifestyles, while others come to tackle health problems. A few attend along with their parents or children, making the activity a bonding exercise for the family.

At this session, a mother brings her shy little son, Vandana's newest student. While he waits for an induction, the others organise themselves into neat rows in the bright and airy hall where classes are conducted. Silent, determined, and focussed, the students stretch and warm up as they prepare for the carefully choreographed movements that Vandana teaches. To watch her, makes Tang Soo Do look much easier than it is, with every move as graceful as dance.

Despite the diverse origins of Tang Soo Do, yoga and Chi Kung, Vandana says there are “no discrepancies in their objectives; no clash in the system”. Of Chinese origin, Chi Kung forms the base study for Tai Chi and Kung Fu.

“They are all headed in the same direction,” she says. At its core, Tang Soo Do is a very peaceful activity, she says, not to mention a tremendous stress-buster. “Kids these days have such high levels of stress, and the exam tension just keeps hitting them earlier and earlier.

Practising martial arts helps you release a great deal of that tension, and helps you strike a balance between work and life."

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CultureJanuary 13, 2011

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