<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Picture this: You’re walking down the beach with your partner. Some rowdies pass a lewd comment. You turn to your partner for support. He refuses. A terrible start to a story, right? Not for Dr Seema Rao, India’s first and only woman commando-trainer. Seema specialises in Close Quarter Battle training (CQB)—the art of commando warfare.You could say she was been born into a legacy of warrior-hood. Seema’s father, Professor Ramakant Sinari, fought against the Portuguese regime in Goa as an underground rebel. Inspired by her father’s stories, her personal hazards extended much beyond frequent fracturing of bones or one injury-induced temporary amnesia. Her husband, Major Deepak Rao, then shared his knowledge of the martial arts and they progressed as a team.As a government-approved training resource for the Indian forces, Seema is locked in constant combat with social conventions, gender tropes, and sometimes, even herself. “I gave up motherhood as I could not afford to take a break from the physical rigors of my training career,” says the 47-year-old, before listing the incredible roles which she did adopt instead.Library of armsCBQ is the most immediate amongst Seema’s vast repertoire of combat skills. It involves unarmed combat, armed combat, reflex shooting, team-on-team tactics and CQB simulation commando exercises. “With the Kargil war, where soldiers came in close proximity with their enemies, and incidents of urban terror, CQB assumed importance, and I became, in essence, a commando trainer,” she says.Then, there’s martial arts. Seema is trained in military and Mixed Martial Arts and Israeli Krav maga, besides being the world’s senior-most woman instructor in Bruce Lee’s art of Jeet Kune Do. “In martial arts, I learned to relish the adrenaline of getting hit if you don’t hit first!” she confesses.Seema, who “loves discothequing with friends and watching movies in between assignments (when she serves as a guest trainer for the Indian Army),” admits to being a crack shot. She can shoot an apple off a person’s head at 75 yards. Skilled with a knife, in small team tactics and in the art of team fire (where an entire team shoots together without collateral damage), Seema has, along with her husband, trained 15,000 elite force soldiers for the past 20 years without monetary compensation.Live the exampleBacktrack the years of sweat and rigour, and you have a young couple from Mumbai moving to the quainter landscape of Pune. There, they gave a demonstration at the Army School of Physical Training. Following that, they completed a stint for the National Security Guard. Soon they approached the then-Chief of Army staff General Roy Shankar Chaudhary, who, impressed with the pair’s dedication, planned a six-week Army cadre at the Parachute Regiment Training Center, Bangalore.Now there was no looking back. “In my courses, I would shoot five rounds into the bulls eye of a small target held atop my husband’s head at 75 yards. This got so popular that commando units all over started inviting us to train their personnel. Some days, I would duck a live bullet fired from a 9mm pistol aimed at my head and shoot five targets within 2 seconds,” recalls Seema, highlighting the importance of being a woman in a “man’s job” winning male respect. For a woman civilian claiming to have knowledge unknown to male army personnel, the feat was doubly difficult.“In our society, there’s an initial underestimation of what women can do, but when a woman achieves her goal, men learn to respect her,” she says. “I won the men over by leading by example.” All of her 5 feet 7 inches frame and “60 kgs of raw muscle” focused on her game, Seema would first demonstrate shooting, combat art and physical prowess to earn her place as a trainer. “Physical injuries were unavoidable, but at the end of the training, commandos would shake hands, salute me and bid goodbye with teary eyes,” she says.Seema’s journey sounds almost too incredible to be real. Yet the most incredible of her achievements is one without a medal of honour: To make room for the different realities she enjoys – build an army, build a partnership and carry a decent melody (because who doesn’t like singing?).
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