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Dr Seema Rao, India's first woman commando trainer

March 08, 2021 12:54 IST
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Dr Seema Rao has trained over 20,000 Indian soldiers.
And has never been paid for it.
Here's her super-inspirational story.
Text and Videos: Rajesh Karkera/

Dr Seema Rao

IMAGE: At a training session. Photograph: Kind courtesy Dr Seema Rao

Dr Seema Rao, 50, has spent the last 20 years of her life training India's armed forces.

Without any compensation.

Our country should be indebted to her.

But it is unlikely that you have heard about this incredible woman.

Dr Rao is India's first and the only woman commando trainer -- she has trained over 20,000 soldiers of India's armed forces, paramilitary, and the police services -- in close quarter battle referred to mostly by its short-form CQB.

Dr Seema Rao

IMAGE: A young Dr Seema instructs paracommandos of the Army Special Forces Instructors at the elite Para Regimental Training centre for a six-week modernisation in unarmed combat course in 1997. Photograph: Kind courtesy Dr Seema Rao

"I've trained the army, navy, navy commandos, air force commandos, Garuds, special forces, para military and the ATS QRTs (Quick Response Team) of different states," says Dr Rao.

Her desire to serve the country in this manner may have come to her because her father Ramakant Sinari was a freedom fighter, who narrated freedom struggle stories ever since she was a little girl. Or because her husband Deepak Rao -- who she met in medical college when she was 16 -- was interested in martial arts.

According to Dr Rao martial arts taught her be strong and helped her face unpleasant situations and conquer them.

How did she gain experience and training and become so proficient in this field? Watch:

Video: Rajesh Karkera/ and Afsar Dayatar/


Over the past two decades, so they could continue serving the nation selflessly, the Raos have put everything they have had at stake.

How did they survive? Dr Rao says: "I had to sell off our gold and FDs (fixed deposits), etc, to survive."

Now income comes in from their Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee-style martial arts) and self-defence classes that they conduct for civilians and corporates in Mumbai.

Receiving the citation by the Chief of the Army staff General V.K. Singh

IMAGE: Dr Seema Rao and Honorary Major Deepak Rao receiving a citation from them Chief of the Army Staff General Vijay Kumar Singh. Photograph: Kind courtesy Dr Seema Rao.

"There was one time when we were totally bankrupt. But, you know, we didn't give into wanting to charge the forces because -- our soldiers and our forces -- they do so much, you know, take care of us, they safeguard the country. So I think in a small way, if I am contributing, then all this is nothing, it's no big deal."

In the video below, Dr Rao talks about the multiple times she risked her life to train troops without any safety gear. Even, in spite of a near-death experience, once.

Video: Rajesh Karkera/ and Afsar Dayatar/

Dr Rao feels her journey would have been incomplete without her husband's support and love.

She believes that men and women perfectly complement each other, like the yin and yang, and create a perfect balance.

"If you've seen the yin yang circle, there's black and white. The white is the yang part of it and black is yin. The black part is femininity, darkness, night. And the white part (signifies) masculinity, the aggression, drive. So when both come together it's magical."

Dr Seema Rao training the commandoes with her husband Dr Deepak Rao

IMAGE: Dr Seema Rao and Deepak Rao impart training at one of India's battle schools. Photograph: Kind courtesy Dr Seema Rao.

"I always say that a woman has yin, but she should develop some amount of yang, because yin means submissiveness, adaptability, understanding which is also important. The man or the yang will be aggression etc. So for a woman a little bit of yang is required; for a man a little yin.

"I also feel that the woman and man can work together wonderfully, because the attributes that are present in a man, may not be there in a woman and vice versa. So when they come together, they can work use their attributes together to succeed, to live well, to progress. Deepak and I usually say 1 + 1 should not be equal to 2 ; it should be 11."

Message to youngsters

"You live only once, okay. Life comes once. In this one life you must live to your maximum potential. You should do everything that you want to do.

"Obviously you must think well before doing whatever it is that you want to do. And once you've decided to do it, then you should go ahead with all the passion and fire in your heart.

"There will always be obstacles -- from outside; from inside."

Dr Seema Rao

IMAGE: Dr Seema Rao (who is reluctant to pose for pictures) at her residence in Goregaon, north west Mumbai. Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/

"External obstacles could be, you know, of any kind, maybe somebody not allowing you to do what you want to do.

"Internal obstacles would be (how) your own mind challenges you, subdues you and tells you you can't do this. So just stop here.

"Both these obstacles have to be over-ridden -- the ones within us and the ones outside.

"Believe me, we all have these obstacles. But there are some people who understand this, and who learn to go around or over the obstacle. There are others who allow the obstacle to subdue them.

"Once you identify that obstacle, you have to go through it, above it or around it. But you have to reach your goal."

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