Local martial artists make an impact at taekwondo championships

Aarav Chandra, Grace Dabir and Advay Chandra at the ATA Worlds in Phoenix.
(Darshan Dabir

A trio of teenage martial artists from Carmel Valley recently won multiple medals at the ATA World Taekwondo Championships in Phoenix.

Twins Aarav and Advay Chandra, and Grace Dabir were part of the 31-member Church’s ATA Martial Arts demonstration team that won gold at the competition. Team Legend, as they are called, spent time this past year practicing on Zoom and in the park due to the pandemic and beat out tough competition from across the country.

In the team performance, Advay did flips, Aarav showed off his skills with the staff weapon and Grace took centerstage holding her leg up high in a side-kick position.

In their first competition since March 2020 Aarav, a nine-time world champion, also took gold in creative weapons in the boys 15-17 division while Advay, a 14-time world champion, won bronze in traditional forms. Grace, a five-time world champion, took home a silver in creative forms in the girls 12-14 age division in addition to the demo team gold.

The twins are rising seniors at The Bishop’s School and Grace is a rising sophomore at Bishop’s.

The twins started taking taekwondo when they were four years old. Advay and Aarav said that taekwondo is important for their mental and physical fitness and has given them positive character traits such as discipline and self-confidence.

“I love taekwondo not just for the sport itself, but because it has taught me to be a diligent hard worker, competitor and has given me so many opportunities,” said Grace, who has been doing taekwondo for 11 years.

All three want to grow as competitors but they also want to take on more of a teacher role, as Aarav says, “to spread our skills to the younger generation of martial artists.”

“While world titles are very rewarding, I also want to become a better instructor and make an impact in the community by teaching others about the sport,” Grace said.

They were all watching when 18-year-old Anastasija Zolotic made history by winning the United States its first Olympic gold medal in women’s taekwondo—it made them excited and optimistic about the future and they feel they are in good hands with their current instructors at Church’s in Carmel Valley.

“We are extremely thankful to have Chief Master Church, Mrs. Master Trish Church and Alexa Rodrigues for the instruction they have given us over the last 12 or so years,” said Advay. “Without their help both my brother and I would not have been able to come this far. Alexa has been instrumental behind my success in winning gold six consecutive years.”

In addition to taekwondo, Aarav is a golfer and is interested in research in the field of neurosciences. Advay does speech and debate at Bishop’s and along with Aarav co-founded Learning Spaces, a tutoring program that aimed to supplement school during the pandemic. With three other Bishop’s students, they have been teaching students from California and other countries since April 2020.

“Education inequality is a real problem and we believe that we need to join hands as a community to bridge that gap,” Advay said.