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Rayna Vallandingham started her journey in martial arts on the age of two. At 6, she earned her first black belt. And two years later, she received her first world championship — her first of 13 world taekwondo titles.

Now 20, the Indian American taekwondo grasp has continued to mature each out and in of the dojo. Sadly, oftentimes the remainder of the world has but to evolve as rapidly. “[Growing up,] you all the time had these ‘courageous’ boys who would tease and say you kick like a lady,” she says. “And now that I’m 20, nothing’s actually modified. As a black belt, you’re all the time taught that you simply’re solely supposed to make use of your martial arts and self-defense. So I’d simply stand there. However it’s unhappy that individuals really feel the necessity to try this.”

Vallandingham spends about two hours per day practising martial arts; as well as, she logs a number of power coaching periods. She’s additionally parlayed her success into a number of jobs: a martial arts teacher, struggle choreographer, and content material creator with greater than a million followers on TikTok. (In the event you haven’t seen her whip a pair of nunchucks or backflip in a swimsuit or night robe, you’re lacking out.)

Like anybody who ventures onto the web, with followers come trolls and anger, significantly from old-school martial arts traditionalists who disapprove of her Gen. Z method.

Unsurprisingly, she’s unapologetic about the way in which she expresses her artwork and makes use of her podcast, The A THREAT League, to vent frustrations and discuss store with co-host and choreographer Samantha Lengthy.

“I’m doing one thing that’s probably not been achieved earlier than, within the sense of taking martial arts and adapting into content material creation,” Vallandingham says. “That’s the place some the hate comes from. And I’ve simply determined to decide to that and feed into it and be true to myself and who I need to be. Hopefully that may encourage lots of people to be genuine to themselves as properly and never care about what different folks say.”

Nevertheless, there’s a effective line to Vallangham’s finesse with the spoken phrase, particularly as an envoy to the immortal icon of martial arts: Bruce Lee himself. She says she acquired the chance to work with the household representing the worldwide icon after they acquired a glimpse of a few of her viral martial arts social media exhibitions. Now representing her childhood idol, she is aware of the accountability of being of the feminine artists to be honored with this partnership.

“It was such an enormous blessing, and only a cultivation of all the pieces I’ve dreamt of, as a result of I all the time noticed that for myself— to make the same affect that he’s had on the world ever since his profession flourished, even it was for a brief period of time,” she says. “His affect goes to encourage generations and generations to come back and, and he impressed me and so I’d love to try this for all these little ladies on the market who’re advised that they’re not sturdy sufficient to dominate a sport like martial arts.”

Her mission assertion, she says, is to be the feminine Bruce Lee. Her Successful Technique to attain that features staying true to that mission—even when means saying no to alternative, whereas persevering with to unfold out her skillset, studying losses, and nonetheless having enjoyable as a “newbie.”

Rayna Vallandingham training with boxing gloves and a heavy bag


My recommendation to somebody who’s offered with a chance that they don’t actually know find out how to navigate is to take a seat down and write precisely what you consider your functions and objectives are. Take this chance that you simply’ve been given and suppose, “Does this align with this and this and can it get me to the place I’m going?” If it doesn’t , then I’m an enormous believer that all the pieces is supposed for you and can by no means cross you by. That may all the time resonate with you.

So should you’re offered a chance, and you’ve got a foul feeling in your intestine otherwise you really feel one thing unfavourable brewing within you, I’d attempt to avoid that, even when it guarantees you fame, cash, something like that. In the long run, it’s simply not value it—consider me, all the pieces will work out for the higher. And shortly, you’ll see that you simply’ll begin attracting issues that actually align with who you’re and what you need.

As soon as I used to be as soon as provided to do a voiceover for a personality on a present, that it didn’t align with my values. To me it appeared like sort of a racist tackle a martial arts spin off. I used to be like, I may very well be into rewriting the story of what it takes to be a feminine martial artist, however the authentic shouldn’t be aligned with who I’m and who I need to signify. So regardless that it had the potential to be big, I needed to flip it down.

I additionally acquired provided a contract to be with WWE, and though it’s to not say that I’d by no means do it, it simply didn’t align with who I used to be on the time. I’m going to construct my profession.

First, I need to be an motion movies. I’m going to proceed doing what I’m doing with content material creation and paving that path after which return and possibly write my very own story there. So there’s been so many instances the place I’ve needed to reevaluate what’s necessary to me and what I need to signify on this business earlier than shifting ahead with these alternatives that clearly would catapult me.

Rayna Vallandingham performing a taekwondo stance in the desert
Courtesy of Alex Miller


I used to be conditioned to profitable for a very very long time, as a result of as a 7-year-old black belt, no one was actually on my degree. However as I grew up, and I took a while from martial arts to concentrate on college and determine what I wished.

After I went again [to taekwondo], I wasn’t on the prime anymore. It was actually tough being in that setting as a result of it was new to me and one thing I had by no means skilled. You don’t bear in mind having to work up from the underside. In order that was one of the defining moments in my life, as a result of I may’ve stated, You realize what, time handed, it’s simply not for me anymore and left it there.

However it turned motivation for me to work even more durable to get again to the place the place I used to be profitable once more. However even then, I imply, after a few years of tirelessly working and understanding that I deserved that when politics nonetheless comes into play, errors do occur, I didn’t practice laborious sufficient.

And I went to World Championships. And the shape was nice. I used to be nailing all the pieces.

After which I went to do the final flip, I slipped and fell. Issues like that occur. I acquired up. I used to be all the time advised, and I all the time did lose with grace. It was by no means like a query for me is like, you understand what, that’s, that’s completely effective. Simply motivation to work more durable. However I acquired up, you understand, I used to be like, okay, that occurred. Let’s simply ensure that doesn’t occur once more. So simply getting again within the dojo working even more durable.

I wouldn’t be who I’m in the present day with out dropping as a result of by stored profitable, it might have been too straightforward for me. By now I’d have slacked off and develop into lazy. So I’m grateful for these moments, as a result of it’s provided that starvation and actually reignited that spark inside me to maintain working laborious. And it’s not as a result of I’m competing with anyone else. It’s as a result of I’m competing with myself. And I do know the usual I’ve for myself as properly.


Some martial artists concentrate on their craft a lot that they oftentimes neglect to increase themselves exterior of martial arts. I’ve all the time been blessed with unimaginable mentors who’ve advised me that I have to be good in entrance of and behind the cameras.

You have to be a price in each single room you stroll in. Even ranging from a younger age, I used to be all the time investing in these totally different facets and proceed to take action. I like choreographing, instructing, appearing, doing stunts, and each single a kind of falls beneath the umbrella of my ardour—martial arts. It’s enjoyable to have the ability to have all these totally different retailers to go to. It’s additionally important now to increase your arsenal, particularly in such aggressive industries. And on the identical time, simply to really feel fulfilled for your self.

Earlier than I may simply stroll right into a conference middle the place a event is going on and really feel very assured. Now I really feel as if that I can stroll right into a room with producers and administrators and really feel simply as assured.

Assembly folks that I’ve seemed as much as my whole life working with folks I’ve seemed as much as my whole life doing issues which might be fulfilling for me with the ability to make my very own schedule, calling folks having folks come to me and little ladies come to me and ask me Rayna, how did you do that, or Reina you impressed me a lot, is it’s unimaginable, it’s, it’s, I don’t know find out how to clarify it, when you may have a ardour for one thing and different folks will start to acknowledge that inside you. It’s actually particular and it’s actually shifting. And I’m persevering with to have these little glimpses every day.


I thrive off of the adrenaline of making an attempt one thing new and turning into nice at it. However it’s additionally the conclusion of you don’t must be nice at all the pieces. You may have one factor that’s your goal and keenness and cause for all times. However you may produce other issues which might be simply your hobbies that you’ve enjoyable with. You should be in contact along with your interior baby to have the ability to have enjoyable with various things.

And I’m actually studying that myself. I took dance up this yr to have that outlet of simply having enjoyable and to even be a newbie once more at one thing. To me it’s truly an awesome ability to have to simply be a newbie at one thing and study from there. Whether or not you’re 30, 40 , 50, it doesn’t matter.

Get pleasure from not having the strain of getting to be excellent. I believe that should you’re an athlete, or no matter you might do should you’re nice at one thing, you understand what that looks like of getting to be excellent on a regular basis. So I’d say that it’s extra necessary than you suppose simply to have the ability to get on the market and check out one thing new. And simply be OK with no matter occurs. It would find yourself turning into one thing you’re nice at, or it would simply find yourself being one thing such as you falling off a skateboard each 10 minutes. However it’s so enjoyable—it’s actually necessary in life to to have the ability to snicker at your self as properly.

Rayna Vallandingham modeling in the desert
Courtesy of Alex Miller


There’s nothing extra womanly than simply being badass—that encapsulates all the pieces {that a} girl is.

However I utterly perceive that it may very well be tough to really feel whether or not health is for you in what actually nonetheless is a male dominated business. It’s not all the time straightforward to go to a gymnasium for the primary time and have all these guys lifting heavy weights and going via their bro discuss. Typically everybody wanting and gazing you, particularly should you’re the one girl there. It may be actually laborious.

In the event you want a spot to begin, I’d 100% advocate simply beginning out in your individual dwelling.

Placed on some music and dance, attempt a Zumba class. Something that you simply like and genuinely get pleasure from, give it a attempt.

It doesn’t must be weightlifting. There’s so many alternative avenues on the market. You may take self protection, jiujitsu, martial arts—I like to recommend these! Dance, run, stroll, even go to Disney and stroll to twenty totally different rides, that’s going to be a exercise. Something you actually get pleasure from, it’s necessary to capitalize on in your health. And be inventive too.

You may even purchase some nunchucks and swing them round. I used to be working with an MMA athlete, and he began taking part in with nunchucks, and was like, Oh, my God, that is gonna be my new exercise. Simply getting within the gymnasium and preventing can develop into so monotonous at instances. There are such a lot of totally different alternatives so that you can increase your self. You’re worthy of investing in your self and actually discovering that as a result of it’s value it.

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