Last week, I had the opportunity to attend some excellent training for Martial Arts Instructors at the Disney ESPN Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. It was part of a five day event that included training for instructors all day Wednesday and Thursday, Black Belt testing Friday morning, and the Fall National Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
The events were hosted by the American Taekwondo Association (ATA), which is the largest centrally administered martial arts organization in the World. Over 2,000 schools and clubs have a couple hundred thousand kids and adults training in the art of SongAhm Taekwondo, a form of Karate that originated in Korea. SongAhm means pine-tree and Rock, and Taekwondo literally means kicking-punching way.
The ATA was formed in 1969, when U.S. Airman Richard Reed sponsored a South Korean named H.U. Lee to come to America, after training with him while he was stationed at an Air Force base in Korea. That Korean instructor ultimately became the first Grand Master of the ATA in 1990, and Master Reed was just elevated to the rank of Grand Master and 9th Degree Black Belt, last August at our ATA World Championships.
I’ve been part of the ATA since 1983, and became a 6th Degree Black Belt in 2005, and a Master myself at ATA World’s in 2006. What’s interesting to me is how the organization has continued to evolve over the years.
After our founder passed away some years ago, many thought the ATA wouldn’t survive. But GM Lee had set up a Master’s Council to guide and direct the ATA. They produced a successor, Grand Master Soon Ho Lee, 9th Degree, who served nine years. Currently, the association is led by Grand Master In Ho Lee, 9th Degree, and of course, the Master’s council.
The exciting thing for me personally, is the opportunity for American born martial artists to continue to learn and progress themselves. This is evidenced by the large number of senior high ranks who have become 7th Degree Senior Masters, and 8th Degree Chief Masters. It’s quite amazing. I can remember when it was rare seeing a 4th Degree Black Belt. Now it’s routine.
It’s also awesome seeing the association continue to evolve with different programs for the students and instructors. These programs are offered three times a year at our Spring Nationals in Las Vegas, Summer World Championships in Little Rock, AR, and Fall Nationals in Orlando, FL.
Last week in Orlando, I had the opportunity to participate in training that taught me how to teach a new instructor program called the Legacy Program. This takes making both children and adult leaders to such a new level, that I’m super excited to bring it back home to our community.
I also had my third midterm testing last Friday morning (I need four), and learned a lot from the experience. But perhaps the coolest thing was judging a great group of junior black belt boys on Saturday morning. The amount of courtesy, respect, and self discipline that these kids demonstrated would make any parent proud. They had great focus and technique too.
It’s my hope and goal that kids here in our community will learn how to perform at such a high level. I’m certainly going to apply everything I learned in Orlando to help them get there!