Kiran Uniyal recently achieved a no mean feat – she set the Guinness World Record for the most number of full contact elbow strikes in martial art and even surpassed the Guinness team’s benchmark of 250 strikes in 3 minutes with 466 strikes. A 45-year-old trained Taekwondo practitioner with two decades of experience, Kiran says her dream is to make self-defense accessible to all women.
Based in Secunderabad, Kiran is a native of Uttarakhand. And this Guinness record is not her first - she has 11 world records, including six Guinness records she has bagged in the last few years.
Kiran’s journey into martial arts began when she was in college. “I was actively involved in sports, NCC activities and was an ardent fan of Bruce Lee. So martial arts began as a passion and until marriage I was a Taekwondo practitioner. After marriage, there was a long gap as I became a mother and had to take care of my two kids. But after a point, my passion got the better of me again and thus began my second innings at the art,” she shares.
Kiran says that her family was unlike many others who still think martial arts are for men. “My parents had all daughters and I was considered the tomboy in the family. My father belonged to the armed forces and he was more than happy to send his daughter for martial art classes,” Kiran shares. However, she understands not all women have this support.
“I have a team who helps me with the training sessions. We hold classes for both men and women and even train kids as young as five years,” Kiran says, adding, “What began as a passion, later became an effort in sensitising women on how well women can use martial arts to their advantage, especially in a society where every second day we wake up to the news of sexual violence.”
But even while Kiran is trying to create awareness on the importance of self-defence among women, she admits men who outnumber women in her classes.
“It is difficult to make families understand girls and women too can learn the art form. Parents are more worried about their daughters turning manly or injuring themselves. It’s all a part of the sport and the larger picture one needs to understand here is how martial arts help women in self-defence when they are in trouble. The awareness should begin from schools where martial arts should become a compulsory subject,” Kiran opines.
Kiran also makes occasional visits to orphanages to teach martial art to kids. In the near future, she also plans to visit villages in Telangana along with her team and create awareness from the grassroots on self-defence.
Not only is Kiran a martial art trainer, but one of her joint Guinness Records is for coordinating the largest cancer awareness programme with the Telangana government’s MNJ Cancer Hospital, which got the government its first Guinness World record title last year.
“We initially began the session as an awareness camp for women but later made it inclusive as men are also equally affected by the deadly disease. The session that set the record was on prostate cancer and saw participation of students in large numbers,” Kiran recalls.
Kiran and her husband, Sunil Uniyal, who is also an army official, have co-authored a book titled ‘Empowering Divyangjan: A compendium of benefits and facilities for the differently abled children of the armed forces’. The couple is parents to a 100% differently abled daughter, who, they say, is their inspiration to do good in life. Their son meanwhile, is also a Taekwondo practitioner and holds two Guinness World records.
Kiran has also been working for the families of martyred armed forces personnel, disabled soldiers and wives of the deceased.
“We help the next of kin of deceased including non-pensioners, especially the women, by providing financial assistance and support by connecting the beneficiaries and the donors directly. Diplomatic pressure is necessary but solidarity in its truest sense comes only when you acknowledge a soldier’s sacrifices and be sensitive to the grief of an entire family,” says Kiran.