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Information About Us and Our Art

Mission Statement

Our goal is to inspire each and every member to achieve Black Belt Excellence by providing:
A state-of-the-art training facility
A comprehensive martial arts curriculum
Highly skilled and motivated Instructors

What is Taekwondo?

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art which translated means "art of the hand and foot." It is a discipline that trains people mentally and physically.

What is Songahm Taekwondo?

"Martial Art" is a broad term encompassing the many styles of physical discipline (fighting) arts that have been developed over the centuries. To say that the style of Songahm Taekwondo is just another "martial art" would be an uneducated evaluation of the "world's largest" centrally administered martial art. This system of teaching and training, developed by Grand Master Haeng Ung Lee and his staff of Master Instructors, is unequaled in the martial arts community.

Songahm Taekwondo focuses on personal development of the mind and body. To say it was just self-defense would be to lose most of the valuable ideas and philosophy behind this ancient art. Self-defense is really the fringe benefit that is gained by dedication one's self to the values, philosophy and training of Songahm Taekwondo. Remember that you are in a true, traditional Taekwondo class. This is not a movie in which a person can be hit 100 times without falling to the ground. In the reality of Taekwondo, a person that has been hit by a powerful force or hand technique will fall with one to three techniques.

At the beginner level, do not focus on being a skilled martial artist within a month or two. You are building your foundation in Taekwondo. Trying to advance beyond your level without proper guidance would be like building a house on a foundation of concrete that had not dried. Through the house may still stand, the foundation would not be as strong and the appearance of the house may not be as presentable.

Each class begins and ends with a bow. The white belt of the beginner indicates he is without knowledge of Taekwondo and as one progresses in knowledge, the color of the belt gets progressively darker: orange, yellow, camo, green, purple, blue, brown, red, red/black, and finally black.

What is the ATA?

The ATA is the American Taekwondo Association. It is the largest national association in the world. Outside of America, ATA's Songahm style forms are taught through the Songahm Taekwondo Federation (STF). An ATA member in good standing may train at any ATA or STF school in the world. For more information about the ATA, please visit their website at www.ataonline.com.

The History of Taekwondo

(Material listed here for the History of Taekwondo has been obtained from the following sources:
Songahm Taekwondo: Experience the Difference(1997)
The Way of Traditional Taekwondo Volume A(1997)
The New Student Handbook(1991))
www.ataonline.com to learn more about our history.

Taekwondo, known for its powerful kicks, developed in the majestic mountains, forests, cities, and shores of Korea. Although evidence exists for ancient Korean martial arts (possibly as early as 37 BC) the actual name and style of Taekwondo did not exist until close to World War II. At that time, the Korean people were healing 50 years of damage to their nation and heritage, including the prohibition of traditional Korean martial arts. At the war's end, Korean people were finally free to practice martial arts, but the technique had been much altered by the strong wartime influence of Japanese Karate.

In 1955, a committee was asked to select one name to call the dynamic striking and kicking art: the name "Tae Kwon Do" (the way of hand and foot) fit perfectly and was officially adopted. Although other Korean martial art styles evolved, Taekwondo remains the national sport of Korea and is the most widely practiced martial art in the world.

Grand Master Lee (1936-2000) and the history of ATA

It is a lucky student that gets to hear the "Grand Master Lee" stories from his original ATA students. Reminiscing about the early days, high ranks such as Chief Master Allemier and Senior Master M.K. fondly describe Lee as a visionary; tough, disciplined, and determined to manifest his original vision of having a school in every American city. Yet Grand Master Lee was also a family man, and was known for his kindness towards children. I will only outline Grand Master's history here, because the stories are best heard from those who where close to him.

During the arduous times of war, the young boy named Haeng Ung Lee and his family struggled to survive and stay together. But perhaps those difficult experiences helped form the mental strength, discipline, and perseverance that Lee was known for. He began his Taekwondo training as a highschooler in 1953 and earned his black belt in less than a year. Eventually he would become the first Grand Master, founder, and president of our organization, but that didn't happen overnight.

Grand Master Haeng Ung Lee was born on July 20, 1936 in Manchuria, China. He was one of the original pioneers that brought martial arts to America.

Grandmaster H.U. Lee founded the American Taekwondo Association, the World Traditional Taekwondo Union, and Songahm Taekwondo Federation, which presides over 250,000 members worldwide including schools in South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and the United States. The students of Grand Master Lee include over 14,000 black belts and over 3,000 certified instructors in more than 900 schools and clubs in the U.S. alone. He strived to make the world a better place by teaching the values of life through martial arts.  
Grand Master Lee passed away on October 5, 2000 after a hard fought battle with cancer. He left his legacy to the hundreds of thousands of students across the world.  Eternal Grand Master
H.U. Lee
10th Degree Black Belt
July 20, 1936 - October 5, 2000

A Brief Timeline

• 1956 Grand Master Lee entered the Korean Army as a Taekwondo trainer.
• 1959 He retired from the army and opened his first school at Osan Air Force Base, where he met and trained American serviceman, Richard Reed. The rest is ATA history.
• 1962 Reed invited Lee to join him when he returned to the United States. He accepted, and he opened up a school in Omaha, NE with (now)Senior Master Reed.
• 1969 The American Taekwondo Association was formed.
• 1983 The Songahm forms are introduced after long years of planning and development by Grand Master Lee, William Clark, and Robert Allemier. Meanwhile, M.K. Lee developed self-defense and instruction skills for the growing organization.

The Circle Story

One evening in Korea, after class, Mr. Lee drew a circle in the dirt on the training floor, and drew a large number of little dots. He explained to his young student that the circle symbolized the United States, and that each dot represented a school he would someday open. The young student fought back his laughter, and tried to explain how difficult it would be to make his vision a reality. Mr. Lee looked the young student in the face, and shared with him five simple words that would come to symbolize Mr. Lee's life, "Today Not Possible...Tomorrow Possible."
As the ATA grew in popularity all over the US, Lee's vision of the ATA's future began to change. In the 1980s, he realized that peoples' interest in the martial arts had evolved in new directions. The ATA adopted regulations for safety gear, and improved the safety of tournaments so that they have become the safest in the world. Lee moved ATA headquarters to Little Rock, Arkansas, and set up a centralized computer and record system. From there, the innovations grew to include acclaimed programs for children, Protech weapons and self-defense training, Top Ten competition, The Way books and videos, and much more. Grand Master Lee's final contribution to martial arts, a martial arts museum and Hall of Fame, opened in Little Rock in February 2000 at the new headquarters building.

In June, 2010, Grand Master Soon Ho Lee announced that he would retire at World Championships in June, 2011. Chief Master In Ho Lee was chosen as the new Grand Master Nominee. He spent the next year training with Grand Master Soon Ho Lee and other Masters and in June, 2011, tested for 9th degree and became the third Grand Master. Grand Master Soon Ho Lee stepped down and became the organization's first Grand Master Emeritus.