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Bishop’s School martial artists bring home medals from worldwide competition

Bishop's School students Advay Chandra, Grace Dabir and Aarav Chandra are tae kwon do medalists.
Bishop’s School students Advay Chandra, Grace Dabir and Aarav Chandra were tae kwon do medalists in the ATA Martial Arts World Competition.
(Courtesy of Malini Vittal)

Both as individuals and as part of a team, three students from The Bishop’s School in La Jolla brought home medals from the ATA Martial Arts World Competition in Phoenix in late July. The week-long tournament takes the top 10 qualifying participants in each category worldwide to compete and participate in seminars and demonstrations.

The Bishop’s participants competed in the tae kwon do forms and weapons categories, which have subcategories of traditional and creative.

For the record:

4:30 p.m. Aug. 10, 2021This article was updated to correct the number of world championships for Aarav, Advay and Grace.

La Jolla resident Aarav Chandra, 16, won a gold medal in creative weapons; twin brother Advay won a bronze medal in traditional forms. Rancho Santa Fe resident Grace Dabir, 15, brought home a silver medal in creative forms.

Together, they are part of the “demo team” that performs choreographed routines that show what the team can do, and won a gold medal for the third year in a row.

Aarav is a nine-time world champion, with four titles in creative weapons. Advay is a 14-time world champion, with six consecutive titles in creative forms. Grace is a five-time world champion in traditional forms and weapons.

Though they have independently branched out, both Chandra brothers used to compete in the forms and weapons categories — often against each another. But as their 12 years in training went on, each found his niche.

“Forms involves using your hands … and executing a certain set of moves,” Advay said. “In traditional forms … you are assigned a technique and have to perform it. Creative and extreme forms involves making up your own ... moves. You just have to follow a certain set of rules.”

Aarav gravitated toward weapons, especially the creative weapons category. “My favorite is using a bo staff,” a long, wooden baton, he said. “You can do a lot of cool tricks with it. You have to come up with cool performances with strikes and tricks while the staff is touching your body or your hands. Being able to come up with and perform different tricks is fun to me.”

Grace’s weapon of choice is a nunchaku (or “nunchucks,” two short sticks connected by a chain or rope), specifically a “double chuck” of two.

“I branched into creative forms this year, but I’m more of a traditional girl,” she said.

On the demo team, “you can flip, do tricks, whatever you want,” Grace said. “It’s a team event, so … you have to focus on choreography, staying in sync, being together as a team. It shows what the team is capable of.”

Because the Carmel Valley-based studio where they practice emphasizes discipline, confidence, learning from mistakes and persistence, it turns out the team is capable of more than gold medals.

“You may come to learn self-defense, but you leave with so much more,” Aarav said. “You learn you don’t need to use your hands or legs when you are in tough situations; you can use your voice. You learn to stay safe without resorting to violence. … The biggest thing I’ve learned is you have to put a lot of time and practice into something to get good at it and perfect it. It doesn’t come easily. I’ve taken that and applied it to academics, research and other sports, such as golf.”

Advay said he has applied the confidence he’s developed through tae kwon do to speech and debate and teaching younger students. He also has embraced learning from his mistakes.

“Sometimes a judge will give you a lower score and you have to learn and adapt from that … and incorporate changes,” he said. “You’re not going to win every time, so you have to learn from those failures and use them as opportunities.”

For Grace, tae kwon do has taught her persistence. “Just because you didn’t get something right the first time doesn’t mean you are never going to get it,” she said. "[Also] with school, it’s important to apply persistence. You might not get the concept of something the first time, but if you keep going and put in the work, you’ll get it.” ◆