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Through my Taekwondo training I've learned how to defend myself, but as a Leadership student, I also received advanced lessons with traditional weapons. I never imagined that using something as simple as a Bo Staff could be so empowering! Although I hope I never have to defend myself against an attacker, I now have the confidence and ability to do so.
–Christina Morales, Brown Belt, 18 years old

From ATA World Volume 20, Number 2 – Summer 2013
By Sarah Asp Olson | Photography by Travis Anderson

Rayna Vallandingham is only 10 years old, but this 2nd Degree Black Belt has already been training at Church’s Martial Arts in San Diego and Encinitas, Calif., for seven years. This lifetime in martial arts got an even bigger boost when Rayna picked up the bo staff two years ago. “I saw my instructor, (Jose Aguilar) doing it, and I really liked it,” Rayna says. “He taught me how to twirl it.”

And much more. Combine that humble spark of interest in the bo with quality instruction and Rayna’s commitment to practicing every day – and you’ve got yourself a World Champion in both Xtreme and Creative Weapons, with 10 “World Champ” titles total.

Such huge accomplishments are not her only motivating force. The gummy bears Senior Master Ken Church gives out after class work well for motivation, as does her own desire to feel good with exercise. “I just love working out,” Rayna says, “and pushing myself to my limits.”

Pick up the bo staff every day. Twirl it. Bring it everywhere you go,” Rayna says. It is part of her “practice, practice, practice” mantra.

Set goals. Says Rayna: “In the beginning of the year, I set my goals. I write my goals on my mirror.” Among her current ones: “I don’t want to be normal. I want to be someone different, and work very hard, and represent.”




1. Start off by facing toward your left, with both hands crossed behind your back, and holding the bo staff with your left hand.

2. Flick the bo staff horizontally across your body to the left, while shifting your stance to the right— catching it with your right hand behind your back. (The bo staff will momentarily be suspended in the air. You’ll have to be quick!)

3. Lean your body slightly back, flicking the bo staff up to your right shoulder.

4. As the bo staff goes up and around your shoulder, quickly turn your body to the left, catching the bo staff with your right hand.

5. Finish with a right-hand front stab of the bo staff, with your left hand ready in knife-hand block.

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