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— Jasmeen Dugal

Sandhya Shetty makes flashbulbs pop like no other. Her expressive eyes, lofty cheekbones and fit bod makes her a coveted model and actor! A gold medalist Karate champion since years, she is working on a parallel career to empower women with the art of self defence. In conversation with the multifaceted lady!


As Miss India contestant- model- actor and sportswoman, what do you perceive Indian models need to imbibe instead of unhealthy diets?


Modelling is a serious profession that requires physical and mental discipline. A healthy lifestyle which promotes fitness and a right diet is important. Beware of diet fads which cause health hazards; substance abuse too is a must- avoid. There is no substitute for hard work, and of course, respect for time and people. Competition should be healthy and one must encourage each other to deal with pressures that are a part and parcel of modelling and avoid negative engagements or slander. Smile more, work more and be focussed on career goals. Integrity and gratitude — it will definitely take you a long way!!


Sandhya what made you diversify into national- level karate at the peak of your modelling and acting career?


Modelling happened by chance; I submitted a Miss India entry form during college and it got real! Before I knew it, I found myself in the fashion Industry. I was competitive and a fashionista, loved experimenting with clothes and looks; from hideous I have grown into a title of Diva. Childhood games of fashion shows and dance-drama found its place in the real world.  As a kid I loved sports and I was a track athlete with 100- 200 metres running and long jump. From there I played kho- kho and kabbadi till state level… and volleyball too. In college I was in the basket ball team. My life was parallel to sporting activities and finally while I was modelling and acting I started training in martial arts. After, I trained vigorously for fourteen years, fighting and winning multiple state and National championships, finally got a International bout where I earned a commonwealth gold medal in 2015 for India. A proud moment which probably was a substitute of my dream to be in Army when I was in college. I always was told I was beautiful and intelligent and being strong was something I craved… and today I am a very strong woman.


Karate is an aggressive sport while modelling is elegant and requires perfection. Both have demanding hours. How do you change your mindset and juggle between the two dramatically different professions?


Fitness is a lifestyle. I believe this and promote it. Karate, for me, became the discipline and epitome of fitness, focussed and grounded me and taught me how to cope with life in general. Karate made me believe that I could be strong not only physically but mentally and spiritually.The strength I gained physically made me confident in my professional arena too. As a model, a great body is a prerequisite and karate helped me stay fit and ahead of the game. The focus of the fight before, while in it and post the fight is a true game changer and, yes, I fight to win. This is my biggest lesson from karate. Time management and discipline helped me juggle both my careers and the urge to excel and keep doing things differently kept me innovating my ways of living a dual life with elegance and perfection.


Four gold, one silver and four bronze — do take us through your experience when competing at the nationals and International level. What is your regime and what keeps you going?


After three- four years of modelling, in 2005 I joined karate classes. 2007 was my first official state championship where I won double gold medal for Maharashtra. It has been a journey of almost nineteen years of karate and a proud one winning gold medals for India in Commonwealth Karate Championship 2015 and South Asian Karate Federation Championship 2017.  Karate helps me stay fit and energises me for daily life. Luckily I have never encountered a bad situation to use my karate skills for self defence but I hold seminars to teach woman the art of self defence and awareness. It is titled NoFear.


How did it feel to hold the national flag on your shoulders at the commonwealth games?


The most memorable of my life was when I won a gold medal for India at Commonwealth Karate Championship.The flag rising high because of my little achievement made me more humble and strong and I felt so proud and happy with my own self and being an Indian. A part of my patriot self felt so satisfied to have fulfilled a dream of doing something for the country. Every single time I lose, perform badly or have a grave injury is the time when I pick myself up and prepare for the next one to rise higher. I believe and I practice fitness as a lifestyle.


Tell us about your campaign NoFear which aspires to inspire women to learn the basics of Karate as a form of self defence and empowerment. Did a personal incident inspire this campaign? What do you hope to achieve?


Young India needs to be fit and a revolution in sports and fitness will bring a long-term change. Women have to take a foreground because they are the pillars of the family and play a key role in child bearing and upbringing. A mother should inculcate fitness as a lifestyle and also right eating habits. My campaign "NoFear" will make them fearless and teach them to be aware of things around them and to be self reliant . Self defence will make them feel confident, strong and alert. If one takes responsibility for self and others there can be a positive, massive change towards a better society.


In the face of increasing crimes, please share some simple self- defence tips for single women. How much is it alertness and presence of mind and how much is it knowledge of martial arts to for physical self defence?


Women in the 21st century have become multifaceted. They are not only taking care of household chores but also earning a living and have a social life. To cope up with these multiple roles one has to be physically fit and mentally strong. Fitness helps us to stay fit and cope with the stress. Today women are self reliant and travel alone so they need to be strong to protect themselves. Being fit and practicing self defence is the need of the hour.


What are your plans and goals for the future?


My future is definitely looking towards Bollywood and I have a good roadmap for it. Apart from that I am promoting womens empowerment through self- defence and awareness programme NoFear as a motivational speaker. When one receives in abundance the only way is to spread knowledge and awareness and in that process gain more knowledge and experience. Karate is my passion and I will continue training and fighting in competitions and aspire to bag some more medals for the country. The future is focussed and happy.


Lastly, I would like to share three simple self defence moves with your readers.

1: The palm slap on the nose with high impact to disorient the attacker and defend self by either running away or further attacking with the next move.

2: The groin kick on close contact with the attacker is very effective; the attacker gets immobile with pain for 10- 15 seconds giving you enough time to run away.

3: The elbow jaw attack or the side head knock when somebody grabs you from behind followed by a back kick to completely throw the attacker off guard.

"Karate made me strong physically, mentally and spiritually"
"Modelling is a serious profession that requires physical and mental discipline"
"I always was told I was beautiful and intelligent; being strong was something I craved"
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