Neeral Trivedi believes that despite a busy schedule at work, one should find time to follow their passion, and that there isn’t an age or time limit to chase them.
It was the combination of these two along with hard work, relentless practice and steely determination that helped the Director – Business at Lodestar UM clinch victories at the 7th South Asian ITF Taekwon-Do tournament in early August 2023. Trivedi bagged golds in the individual pattern and power breaking events of the veteran category, and was crowned the Best Female Player in the category.
Taekwon‑Do, a hobby which Trivedi picked up as a kid, has become part of her life and passion over the course of life. She had represented India in the first Junior World ITF Taekwon-Do championship 1993 in Moscow – the first female player to represent India in the U-18 Black belt tournament. Now she is all set to become the first female participant in the veteran category (over 40 yrs) to represent India in the Taekwon-Do at the 22nd World ITF Taekwon-Do Championship in Kazakhstan.
“It’s been 34 years since I have been part of the International Taekwon-Do Federation. I started my journey as a 10-year old,” recalls Trivedi, in a telephonic conversation with Medianews4u.com.
She attributes the love for the sport to the kind of movies she watched as a kid.
“It was the VCP era. My father used to get video cassettes of martial art movies, especially Jackie Chan’s. I used to be intrigued after seeing the action sequences, which encouraged me to learn any kind of martial arts that I had access to. Hence, I started Taekwon-Do classes at the age of 10. Since the time I have started I have been national champion in the categories I have competed in. I am an eight-time national champion. The categories are defined by your age and belt level, weight category,” Trivedi explains.
On her experience at the recent South Asian championship, she says, “I have represented India in three world championships as a kid and it was my first time at the South Asian tournament. My first representation in an international tournament was in 1993 and the South Asian Tournament was exactly 30 years after my international debut. It was held in Hyderabad. It was an experience in itself. There is a notion that players from Western countries are superior, but it will all be shattered if you see talents from countries like Nepal, Bangladesh,” Trivedi observes.
Work and Passions
“I feel that whatever is your passion, if you really want to pursue it, then you need to figure out a way for that. I have a full time job, but if I have to train myself for the competitions, the only time I have with me is the mornings. Hence, I start my day early, finish my training and then work is given importance to,” Trivedi says.
She is getting trained under Narender S Rawat, 7th Dan Black Belt and Vice President, Taekwon-do Association of India, who is not based in her city of residence.
“Unfortunately in Mumbai, I don’t have a coach. Like I said I have to figure out a way and hence I am trained online by Rawat. Even though he is training the Indian Taekwon-Do team, he is finding time to train me separately,” she adds.
Trivedi is a Taekwon-Do trainer herself.
“I teach during weekends as those are the days I get free time for training. Right now, I am focusing completely on my training during weekdays, but moving forward I will start taking classes during weekdays, possibly in the evenings, wherever I get the opportunity or find an individual who is passionate about the sport. There is no age bar to get enrolled in a Taekwon- Do class. Currently, I am teaching individually and am in talks with a few academies to start training there,” she notes.
A Taekwon-Do academy of her own is also on the wishlist.
Apart from being a martial artist, Trivedi is a scuba diver as well.
“My scuba diving journey started a year and half back. I always had a likeness towards the sport and it was always on my bucket list. One fine day I happened to meet a friend who gave me an elaborate class on scuba diving and the equipment that encouraged me to join a certification class. I did PADI Open water certification in Puducherry last year and an advanced course was done in Andaman. Recently I did an advanced course from Bali. I am eagerly waiting for my next dive trip,” she says.
Trivedi is undergoing swimming training under Ujwal Poojari.
“Currently I am pursuing swimming as a secondary sport, maybe I will even be competing in that in future. Poojari may not be connected with Taekwon-Do, but his coaching has helped me a lot in driving focus in my Taekwon-Do training as well,” she says.
Taekwon-Do in India and the World Championship
The media agency professional notes that Taekwon-Do has been in India for over 40 years and in the national championship, around 25 states enter their own teams.
“When I started in the late 80s or early 90s, combat sports were not preferred for girls by their parents. I was lucky enough to get the support of my parents. Today, there has been a remarkable shift – when women get into sports and bring laurels for the country, mindset shift happens. That shift is happening in Taekwon-Do. Recently I attended a workshop in Bengaluru and there were more female participants than male. There is a long way to go. The more we promote any sport from a women’s perspective, the more it will be better for the country,” she underlines.
For the first time, India is sending a team of 21 players to the World Championship, according to the champion.
“ I just want to say one thing. Yes, we all wish Team India the best, but at the same time, smaller sports like martial arts do get lost under some big sports events. But smaller sports do matter because we are the ones who bring laurels back to India every time, be it weightlifting, archery, boxing etc.” observes Trivedi.
Ever since her first world championship in Moscow, the one dream Trivedi had was to hold the tricolour in her hand. That’s what she will be aiming for as she steps into the ring at the World Championship on Sunday.