WINNING STRATEGY: Rayna Vallandingham Knows How to Say No on Her Terms

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 shortly. “[Growing up,] you at all times had these ‘courageous’ boys who would tease and say you kick like a woman,” 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. But it surely’s unhappy that folks really feel the necessity to do this.”

Vallandingham spends about two hours per day working towards 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, combat choreographer, and content material creator with greater than one million fans on TikTok. (When 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 best way 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 Long.

“I’m doing one thing that’s not likely been accomplished 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 wish to be. Hopefully that may encourage lots of people to be genuine to themselves as properly and never care about what different individuals say.”

Nonetheless, there’s a fantastic 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 received the chance to work with the household representing the worldwide icon after they received 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 every part I’ve dreamt of, as a result of I at all times 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 do 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 Profitable Technique to realize 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.”



My recommendation to somebody who’s offered with a chance that they don’t actually know learn how to navigate is to sit down 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 every part is supposed for you and can by no means move you by. That may at all times resonate with you.

So if you happen to’re offered a chance, and you’ve got a foul feeling in your intestine otherwise you really feel one thing unfavorable brewing inside you, I’d attempt to avoid that, even when it guarantees you fame, cash, something like that. Ultimately, it’s simply not price it—consider 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 need.

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 may very well 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 wish to signify. So despite the fact that it had the potential to be enormous, I needed to flip it down.

I additionally received 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 wish 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 essential to me and what I wish 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 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 deal with college and work out what I needed.

After I went again [to taekwondo], I wasn’t on the prime anymore. It was actually tough being in that atmosphere 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 some of the defining moments in my life, as a result of I may’ve stated, what, time handed, it’s simply not for me anymore and left it there.

But it surely grew to become 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 realizing that I deserved that when politics nonetheless comes into play, errors do occur, I didn’t prepare exhausting 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 received up. I used to be at all times advised, and I at all times did lose with grace. It was by no means like a query for me is like, you recognize what, that’s, that’s completely fantastic. Simply motivation to work more durable. However I received up, you recognize, I used to be like, okay, that occurred. Let’s simply make it possible for doesn’t occur once more. So simply getting again within the dojo working even more durable.

I wouldn’t be who I’m at present 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 change 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 exhausting. 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 deal with their craft a lot that they oftentimes neglect to develop themselves exterior of martial arts. I’ve at all times been blessed with unimaginable mentors who’ve advised me that I must be good in entrance of and behind the cameras.

You’ll want to 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 points and proceed to take action. I like choreographing, instructing, performing, doing stunts, and each single a type of falls beneath 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 develop 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 occurring 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 who I’ve seemed as much as my whole life working with individuals I’ve seemed as much as my whole life doing issues which are fulfilling for me having the ability to make my very own schedule, calling individuals having individuals 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 learn how to clarify it, when you’ve a ardour for one thing and different individuals 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 changing into nice at it. But it surely’s additionally the belief of you don’t must be nice at every part. You possibly can have one factor that’s your function and keenness and motive for all times. However you may produce other issues which are simply your hobbies that you’ve got enjoyable with. You need to be in contact along with your interior little one 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 really an incredible talent 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 stress of getting to be good. I believe that if you happen to’re an athlete, or no matter it’s possible you’ll do if you happen to’re nice at one thing, you recognize what that appears like of getting to be good on a regular basis. So I’d say that it’s extra essential 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’d find yourself changing 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. But it surely’s so enjoyable—it’s actually essential in life to to have the ability to snort 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 every part {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 at all times straightforward to go to a fitness center for the primary time and have all these guys lifting heavy weights and going by way of their bro discuss. Generally everybody wanting and observing you, particularly if you happen to’re the one girl there. It may be actually exhausting.

When you want a spot to start out, I’d 100% advocate simply beginning out in your individual house.

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 various avenues on the market. You possibly can 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 essential to capitalize on on your health. And be artistic too.

You possibly can 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 fitness center and preventing can change into so monotonous at instances. There are such a lot of completely different alternatives so that you can develop your self. You’re worthy of investing in your self and actually discovering that as a result of it’s price it.

Top 10 Martial Arts Badasses

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