|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (December 2009) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
|Industry||Martial arts/fitness organization|
|Founded||1969. Omaha, Nebraska|
|Founder||Haeng Ung Lee|
|Headquarters||Little Rock, Arkansas, United States|
Number of locations
|North America, Europe, Saudi Arabia, India, Nepal, South Africa, South Korea, & Guam|
|Grand Master In Ho Lee; Grand Master Emeritus Soon Ho Lee|
|Services||Martial Arts instructional|
The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) was founded in 1969 in Omaha, Nebraska by Haeng Ung Lee of South Korea. It is one of the largest taekwondo organizations in the United States, and in association with the extinted Songahm Taekwondo Federation (STF) and World Traditional Taekwondo Union (WTTU), is one of the largest in the world, claiming a membership of 350,000. The ATA is currently headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas and led by In Ho Lee.
ATA-affiliated schools also host self-defense seminars to teach techniques for emergency escape from an attacker.
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).
According to the ATA, practitioners of Songahm Taekwondo study poome sae (forms, a preset combination of offensive and defensive techniques, designed to simulate self-defense techniques being used upon multiple opponents), gyeo-roo-gi (sparring), one-steps (scripted sparring segments), self-defense, board breaking, weapons, and leadership. The ATA has a leadership program that allows students to work as junior leaders/instructors in junior classes. This helps the trainee instructors become qualified taekwondo instructors and earn the ATA title of Certified Instructor.
The American Taekwondo Association uses a rank system divided into two series: the colored belt series, and the black belt series. The purposes of a rank system include establishing a chain of command, and measurement of student progress. Each series has nine ranks within it due to the significance of the number nine as the highest attainable goal of a measurable endeavor in asian culture.[dubious ]
According to the ATA each belt has a symbolic meaning that compares the student's growth in taekwondo to the growth of a pine tree:
The use of nine levels in the colored belt and black belt systems, is rooted in Korean numerology and has been explained by General Choi (nine is an important number in Korean culture). The increased number of smaller goals provided by nine levels of colored belt rank was designed "for added motivation by giving many short term goals to achieve and eliminating having to remain in a single color for several months at a time" and likely satisfies the need of many American students for immediate gratification.
Each rank from orange belt to second degree black belt may be held either as a Recommended (R) or Decided (D) rank. The "decided" rank is a half step above the "recommended" rank. Some schools denote this rank with a piece of black tape around the end of the belt hanging on the student's right side. At promotional rank testings, students may receive a "Full Pass," "Half Pass," or "No Change."
For recommended black belt ranks, the student is required to successfully pass testing for their next decided rank within 6 months of achieving their current recommended rank. Failure to do so would result in the student being returned to their next lowest decided rank (I.E. a 2nd degree recommended would be returned to 1st degree decided).
The honorary rank of 10th degree black belt, styled "Eternal Grand Master", was bestowed upon Haeng Ung Lee following his death in 2000. The rank was sponsored and awarded by Grand Masters of other major martial arts,  many of whom attended Haeng Ung Lee's funeral. 
Upon attaining the rank of 6th degree black belt, the next step is earning the mantle of "Master Instructor"; this is not automatic. A 5th degree may only test for 6th degree at the Songahm Taekwondo World Championships, held in Little Rock, Arkansas each July. The new 6th degree will have new criteria which must be met in order to apply for Mastership and cannot be awarded until Worlds the following year. Similarly, there is a minimum period of a year between earning a 7th degree and the Senior Master title, as well as 8th degree and the Chief Master title. 2015 is the first year in which there has been more than one Grand Master when Chief Master Richard Reed ascended to Ninth Degree. 2016 saw the promotions of Chief Masters Robert Allemier and William Clark to Grand Master.
The Taekwondo for ATA Tigers program for preschool students (2-6) uses patches with animals on them instead of black stripes on the belt to denote rank level: Turtle (Ara) for white belt, Tiger (Baeoh) for orange belt; Cheetah (Cheeri) for yellow belt; Lion (Raon) for camo belt; Eagle (Suri) for green belt; Phoenix (Choa) for purple belt; Dragon (Mir) for blue belt; Cobra (Narsha) for brown belt; and Panther (Baron) for red belt.
Licensed locations often utilize full-length color stripes in belts to signify the various rank. White, Orange, Yellow, Camo, Green, Purple, Blue, Brown, Red and Black stripes run along the center of the belt from one end to the other. These locations may also utilize black wrapped stripes around one end to signify "time-in-grade" or "Degree of Rank" with advancement to the next belt color after obtaining five (5) stripes or 'degrees'.
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. For example, the 9th grade white belt form contains eighteen moves. The 5th grade green belt form has 34 moves, the 1st degree black belt form has 81 moves, and the 9th degree black belt form has 99 moves. 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. The ATA teaches that forms create a contextual application for new material learned at each belt level.
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.
Students and instructors alike each wear a traditional white dobok with the appropriate belt to all classes, promotional rank testings, and tournaments. Each dobok has on the right breast an ATA shield patch with a school or club-specific patch on the left. On the back of the uniform, instructors and trainee instructors are required to have the word "TAEKWONDO" arching over a red and blue ATA patch. Underneath the patch is the instructor's name, either as "JOHN DOE" or "J. DOE." Non-instructor students may wear a uniform with "TAEKWONDO" and an ATA patch on the back, however, these students do not wear their names on their backs. Instead of a name, the student will have the location of the dojang.
Also, there is a black and red dobok used specifically for the leadership program, with red lettering and no patches.
Masters wear traditional silk uniforms for special events such as the Masters Ceremony at World Championships.
At promotional testings and ATA tournaments, Level 3 Certified Instructors have the option to wear navy blue suits in lieu of their doboks. 5th degree black belts and up wear matching blue pants, while 1st through 4th degree black belts wear grey pants. A special ATA patch is worn on the instructor's left breast.
The Songahm Taekwondo Federation is a branch of ATA established for South America. It was founded in 1984 by H.U. Lee and Cesar Ozuna.
Founded during the fall of 1990, The World Traditional Taekwondo Union (WTTU) is a division of Songahm Taekwondo. While the ATA consists of taekwondo schools in the United States and the STF consists of schools in South America, the WTTU covers the remainder of the world.
Within the Songahm system of taekwondo, there has been traditionally one 9th Degree Black Belt within the organization at a time. This individual holds the title of Grand Master and is considered to be the leader of Songahm Taekwondo. Past and present Grand Masters include:
In June, 2010, GM 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 GM Soon Ho Lee and in June, 2011, tested for 9th degree and became the third Grand Master. GM Soon Ho Lee stepped down and became the organization's first Grand Master Emeritus. On July 8, 2015, Chief Master Richard Reed was advanced to the level of 9th Degree Black Belt, and Grand Master, a title he held until his death in 2016.
Upon being diagnosed with cancer in 2000, H.U. Lee decided the creation of a council for the governorship of his organization was necessary. In September 2000, Lee formally created the Songahm Master's Council (now known as the "Founder's Council") composed of some of his advisers. The first members of the Master's Council included:
The current governing body in the ATA is the "Master's Council". This council is composed of several members of the ATA's Founder's Council and other High Ranking Masters in the ATA. The members of the Master's Council include:
In 1984, the Songahm Taekwondo Federation (STF) was founded by Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee and Master Cezar Ozuna to help spread Songahm Taekwondo outside of the United States. In the fall of 1990, the World Traditional Taekwondo Union (WTTU) was formed. While the ATA encompasses licensed locations in the United States and Canada, the STF includes licensed locations in South America and the WTTU covers the remaining portion of the world.