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A model with a black belt
Nirmolika Sangha | Monday, 16 November 2015 AT 08:54 PM IST
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Sandhya Shetty has comfortably straddled the world of both fashion and sports. In the city to launch a bike, she talks about her initiative to encourage girls to take up martial arts

A sporty girl, modelling wasn’t really her calling. Sandhya Shetty’s career choices were to join the Armed Forces or the Police force. For some reason or the other, Shetty couldn’t pursue her choices. When a friend pushed her, Shetty applied for Femina Miss India, in which she became a finalist. That gave a fillip to her modelling career.

A chance shoot with a designer friend, who was into martial arts, propelled Shetty to train in it. In September she  won a gold medal at the 8th edition of Commonwealth Karate Championship 2015. Now, she wants more women to train in the martial form and be less dependent on others for their safety. Here she talks about her ‘No Fear’ campaign for girls:

Tell us about ‘No Fear’ campaign.
It’s called Sandhya Shetty Karate (SSK) initiative. We are trying to revolve it around ‘No Fear’ catch-line. Normally in India, karate is considered as a hobby. Kids learn karate for a few years and then discontinue. it. With my Commonwealth achievement, I hope to persuade people to take it more seriously. I want to tell girls that knowing martial art can change things around them.

When will the campaign start?
In one month’s time. We are looking at brand tie-ups, organising demonstrations etc. I am trying to spread awareness through social media platform too.

What inspired you to initiate it?
I wanted to send across a very strong message that we need to start self-defence classes for girls at grassroot level, i.e schools. Earlier, only Delhi was considered very unsafe but now I have heard stories that cities like Pune and Mumbai are not safe either. Instead of blaming girls for such incidents, I think they need to be self- reliant. If girls attend martial arts classes once or twice a week, they can protect themselves.

From Maharashtra State Championship to the Commonwealth Karate Championship, you have come a long way. What prompted you to take up karate?
I’ve always been a sports person right from childhood. I’ve played basketball and volleyball. Martial arts was the only sport which I hadn’t played. Thirteen years ago I shot with a designer friend who was into martial arts. He asked me to join him for the demonstration. After that I decided to train in it and a year later, my instructor suggested that I learn fight technique called Kumite.

A model would require a certain kind of physique, whereas karate would demand different physical requirements. How do you maintain a balance?
It helped me actually. When I was learning karate, the physical workout automatically helped me stay fit and fabulous for the modelling world. I promote healthy, muscular, fit bodies. And karate helps me in staying fit.

How do you manage modeling, anchoring with karate?
I’m a hardcore Gemini. I am this energy ball who likes to do everything. Earlier, I used to crack this joke with my friends that I am ‘Jack of all trades and master of none.’ But without even realising, I have mastered all the trades. I would credit my success to dedication, hard work and luck.

Being a model, did you encounter any resistance when you started learning karate?
Absolutely. When I joined classes, the students wondered ‘why is this girl here? She’s a model.’ Most of the students there only learnt karate. Probably, I was the only one who was modeling, acting and also doing karate. And somewhere that pushed me to also prove that I belong there. When I started winning accolades and proving that I am as good as them, that the acceptance came.

Nirmolika Sangha

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