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WINNING STRATEGY: Rayna Vallandingham Is aware of Find out how to Say No on Her Phrases

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 gained 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 at all times 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 at all times taught that you simply’re solely supposed to make use of your martial arts and self-defense. So I’d simply stand there. Nevertheless it’s unhappy that folks really feel the necessity to do this.”

Vallandingham spends about two hours per day practising martial arts; as well as, she logs a number of energy 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. (For those who 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, notably 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 not likely been finished 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 effectively and never care about what different folks say.”

Nonetheless, there’s a superb 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 obtained the chance to work with the household representing the worldwide icon after they obtained a glimpse of a few of her viral martial arts social media exhibitions. Now representing her childhood idol, she is aware of the duty of being of the feminine artists to be honored with this partnership.

“It was such an enormous blessing, and only a cultivation of every part I’ve dreamt of, as a result of I at all times noticed that for myself— to make an identical 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 return and, and he impressed me and so I’d love to do this for all these little ladies on the market who’re instructed 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 Profitable 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 the way to navigate is to take a seat down and write precisely what you imagine your functions and targets are. Take this chance that you simply’ve been given and assume, “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 every part is supposed for you and can by no means move you by. That may at all times resonate with you.

So in the event you’re offered a chance, and you’ve got a foul feeling in your intestine otherwise you really feel one thing destructive brewing inside you, I’d try to avoid that, even when it guarantees you fame, cash, something like that. Ultimately, it’s simply not value it—imagine me, every part 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 want.

As soon as I used to be as soon as supplied 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 might be into rewriting the story of what it takes to be a feminine martial artist, however the authentic is just not aligned with who I’m and who I need to symbolize. So although it had the potential to be large, I needed to flip it down.

I additionally obtained supplied 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 perhaps write my very own story there. So there’s been so many instances the place I’ve needed to reevaluate what’s vital to me and what I need to symbolize on this business earlier than transferring 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 extremely very long time, as a result of as a 7-year-old black belt, no one was actually on my stage. However as I grew up, and I took a while from martial arts to concentrate on faculty and work out what I needed.

After I went again [to taekwondo], I wasn’t on the high anymore. It was actually troublesome being in that surroundings as a result of it was new to me and one thing I had by no means skilled. You don’t keep 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 might’ve stated, what, time handed, it’s simply not for me anymore and left it there.

Nevertheless it turned motivation for me to work even tougher 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 every part.

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

I wouldn’t be who I’m at the moment with out dropping as a result of by saved profitable, it could 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 on condition 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 effectively.


Some martial artists concentrate on their craft a lot that they oftentimes overlook to increase themselves exterior of martial arts. I’ve at all times been blessed with unbelievable mentors who’ve instructed me that I must be good in entrance of and behind the cameras.

You could be a worth in each single room you stroll in. Even ranging from a younger age, I used to be at all times investing in these completely different facets and proceed to take action. I like choreographing, instructing, appearing, doing stunts, and each single a kind of falls below the umbrella of my ardour—martial arts. It’s enjoyable to have the ability to have all these completely 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 might simply stroll right into a conference heart the place a match 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 those that I’ve appeared as much as my whole life working with folks I’ve appeared as much as my whole life doing issues which might be fulfilling for me having 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 unbelievable, it’s, it’s, I don’t know the way to clarify it, when you’ve got a ardour for one thing and different folks will start to acknowledge that inside you. It’s actually particular and it’s actually transferring. 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 changing into nice at it. Nevertheless it’s additionally the conclusion of you don’t need to be nice at every part. You’ll be able to have one factor that’s your objective and keenness and purpose for all times. However you’ll be able to produce other issues which might be simply your hobbies that you’ve enjoyable with. You should be in contact together with your internal youngster 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 ideal talent to have to only be a newbie at one thing and study from there. Whether or not you’re 30, 40 , 50, it doesn’t matter.

Take pleasure in not having the strain of getting to be excellent. I believe that in the event you’re an athlete, or no matter you might do in the event you’re nice at one thing, you understand what that seems like of getting to be excellent on a regular basis. So I’d say that it’s extra vital than you assume simply to have the ability to get on the market and take a look at one thing new. And simply be OK with no matter occurs. It’d find yourself changing into one thing you’re nice at, or it’d simply find yourself being one thing such as you falling off a skateboard each 10 minutes. Nevertheless it’s so enjoyable—it’s actually vital in life to to have the ability to chortle at your self as effectively.

Rayna Vallandingham modeling in the desert
Courtesy of Alex Miller


There’s nothing extra womanly than simply being badass—that encapsulates every part {that a} lady is.

However I utterly perceive that it might be troublesome to really feel whether or not health is for you in what actually nonetheless is a male dominated business. It’s not at all times straightforward to go to a fitness center for the primary time and have all these guys lifting heavy weights and going via their bro discuss. Typically everybody wanting and looking at you, particularly in the event you’re the one lady there. It may be actually laborious.

For those who want a spot to begin, I’d 100% suggest simply beginning out in your individual house.

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

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

You’ll be able to even purchase some nunchucks and swing them round. I used to be working with an MMA athlete, and he began enjoying with nunchucks, and was like, Oh, my God, that is gonna be my new exercise. Simply getting within the fitness center and combating can develop into so monotonous at instances. There are such a lot of completely 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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