ATA Martial Arts, formerly known as the American Taekwondo Association (ATA), was founded in 1969 in Omaha, Nebraska by Haeng Ung Lee of South Korea. ATA Martial Arts is one of the largest taekwondo organizations in the world. With over 300,000 active members in over 21 countries —800 schools and 120,000 members in the United States alone.
The ATA offers many curriculum programs for all ages and a variety of purposes ranging from basic martial arts, to self-defense, life skill building, bullying prevention and lots more.
Songahm Taekwondo is the style of martial arts practiced at ATA affiliated schools. Songahm means “Pine Tree and Rock.” According to the organization, the term Songahm itself represents “Evergreen strength the year round, long life and a symbol of unchanging human loyalty” as represented by the pine tree and the rock. Soon Ho Lee gave the name, Songahm, and its meaning to his brother, Haeng Ung Lee years before H.U. Lee founded the ATA. In the ATA, the student is compared to a growing pine tree, from a seed (white belt) to a massive tree (black belt).
The American Taekwondo Association was formed in 1969, and its permanent headquarters established in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1977.
Founder Haeng Ung Lee received his first degree black belt in 1954, and began teaching taekwondo to Korean army members. He then opened a school near a U.S. Air Force base near Seoul and began teaching American servicemen, including an officer named Richard Reed. The two met in 1961 and Reed would inspire Lee to move to Omaha, Nebraska and open his first taekwondo school a year later.
The first World Championships tournament was begun in 1990, where H.U. Lee was the first to receive the title of Grand Master.
A form (poome sae) is a series of kicks, blocks and other techniques put together in a set pattern. The pattern becomes more complex as students progress through the ranks. If all of the forms (eighteen in all) are done in sequence, they form the pattern of a nine pointed star (eight outer points plus a center point) referred to as the Songahm Star. According to the ATA, when the outer points of the Songahm star are connected, they form a circle which exemplifies complete balance.
ATA Colored belts with Forms
White Belt (9th Grade): Songahm 1 – 18 moves
Orange Belt (8th Grade): Songahm 2 – 23 moves
Yellow Belt (7th Grade): Songahm 3 – 28 moves
Camouflage Belt (6th Grade): Songahm 4 – 31 moves
Green Belt (5th Grade): Songahm 5 – 34 moves
Purple Belt (4th Grade): In Wha 1 – 44 moves
Blue Belt (3rd Grade): In Wha 2 – 42 moves
Brown Belt (2nd Grade): Choong Jung 1 – 44 moves
Red Belt (1st Grade): Choong Jung 2 – 46 moves
ATA Black belts with Forms
1st Degree Black Belt: Shim Jun – 81 moves
2nd Degree Black Belt: Jung Yul – 82 moves
3rd Degree Black Belt: Chung San – 83 moves
4th Degree Black Belt: Sok Bong – 84 moves
5th Degree Black Belt: Chung Hae – 95 moves
6th Degree Black Belt: Jhang Soo – 96 moves
7th Degree Black Belt: Chul Joon – 97 moves
8th Degree Black Belt: Jeong Seung – 98 moves
9th Degree Black Belt: Dong Seung – 99 moves
ATA One Step Sparring
ATA One steps are a short combination of blocks, strikes and kicks that serve as a precursor to free sparring. The ATA aims to teach students to put moves into combinations, focus their techniques at a specific target, learn distancing and gain self-control. There are three specific one steps for each belt level starting at white belt and ending with green. As with the forms, the one steps become more complex as a student progresses in rank.