The woman who trains commandos

‘We have till now trained more than 15,000 personnel from various Indian forces, and no, we have no intention to hang up our boots, as yet’ says Seema Rao

NH Photo
NH Photo

Seema Rao

When my dear friend Swarnendu told me (in the garb of a request) to talk a bit about my ‘achievements,’ for National Herald, I was reluctant. I have always found that it is much harder to talk about myself than to shoot an apple off from a person’s head from 50 yards…of course without giving the person a scratch. Or to scale a mountain, to sky dive or to scuba dive into the deep blue sea for that matter…succinctly, I prefer to let my work do the talking instead.

But to my surprise, I found that it is slightly more difficult for me to dodge Swarnendu’s gentle and affectionate persistence than beating up a gang of goons. So here is my humble effort…

I do not dislike it when people, who also include a good many of my dear friends and admirers, describe me as superwoman or wonder woman. But I have made a conscious effort to neither get burdened and nor get carried away by such lofty sobriquets. I only know that I have to continue in the path that I have chosen; till my life allows me to, without getting unduly influenced by empty praises and loaded impediments. And for that, more than a strong physique, one needs an uncluttered mind.

When me and my husband Hon. Major Dr Deepak Rao began training the Indian Army and other forces of our nation without any compensation, it never crossed my mind that I would be known as India’s first and till now the only woman commando trainer. We were only propelled by my father, Professor Ramakant Sinari’s commitment to serve our great country. She is the senior-most instructor in India in JKD; a Bruce Lee founded martial art form, and is an instructor in Krav Maga, a military self-defence and fighting system developed for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli security forces.

My father was a freedom fighter. The seeds of patriotism began to germinate when I was a child. I often used to hear from my father true stories about his participation in the freedom struggle. My husband, who initiated my journey into the fascinating, challenging and empowering world of martial arts, also mirrored the same sentiment. We both were consumed by the passion to serve the personnel who guard our freedom and/or protect our people, and also by the instinctive need to keep ourselves engaged in combat. Soon, we took the plunge of devoting much of our energy and time to train our forces without any compensation in return, despite the financial hardships we faced, particularly in the initial years of our marriage.

We have trained India’s forces in the capacity of guest trainers. During the 90’s, we got invited to give many demonstrations to various forces and invitations for conducting courses began flowing in. Eventually, in 1996, we approached the then Army and Navy chiefs, and the then Paramilitary DGs and they all approved our training courses for their personnel. That’s how our journey began. And I still don’t realise how more than 20 whirlwind years have flew by since

We have purposely limited the dissemination of our commando training skills and all our innovations in the field of military training to India’s different government-run forces only

Over the last two decades, we have possibly trained every known and unknown government-run force in India. Commandos from the Indian Army, Indian Navy’s MARCOS, Indian Air Force’s Guard, National Security Guard Black Cats, ITBP, BSF, Police QRTs of 16 states have been trained by us. We have till now trained more than 15,000 personnel from various Indian forces, and no, we have no intention to hang up our boots, as yet says Seema Rao India’s only female commando trainer and close quarter battle specialist.

Both me and Deepak feel honoured that based on our years of experience in training India’s forces, we developed the Rao System of Reflex Fire. The conventional methods of shooting generally invest many seconds to aim and shoot with precision. This can be useful in long range combat when the enemy is say 300 yards away, covered by a rock. But when the enemy is very near, say just 20 yards away from you, quick shooting without using too many seconds along with precise aim is needed. To cater to this need in post-modern warfare, we devised Rao System of Reflex Fire. Our forces have found this to be very beneficial and that is our greatest reward. Me and Deepak also have developed the Advanced Commando Combat System, which to put it simply, is a modern method of close quarter battle, which is recognised worldwide as a military martial art.

Here I would like to add that we have purposely limited the dissemination of our commando training skills and all our innovations in the field of military training to India’s different government-run forces only.

Yes, there has to be a heavy price tag for taking up this daunting challenge as our passion, but we were and are more than willing to pay it. Besides inhospitable terrain and taxing weather conditions, which included freezing high altitudes, scorching hot deserts, dense jungles and hostile LOCs, I also had to tackle male chauvinism of some of my trainees many a time, who were averse to getting trained by a woman. Eventually, I not only had to discipline them but more importantly, earned their respect and confidence.

I also couldn’t attend my father’s funeral and suffered severe bodily injuries during our journey. I suffered vertebral fracture and a severe head injury causing loss of memory for months; I got randomly shot by insurgent fire.

Yes, I had to even sacrifice motherhood. We realised that raising a child would be time consuming and would impede me from imparting rigorous training to the forces and hence we consciously decided not to have a biological child. But if you think I have regrets, the answer is a firm and unequivocal ‘No.’ I only have memories from the past, fulfillment for the present, and hope for the future.

(As told to Swarnendu Biswas)

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