When our daughter was 5 yrs old, we wanted her to be involved in some kind of physical activity. We had not found anything that highly excited her so we suggested martial arts. When she said that it was a sport only for boys, we were completely stunned. After my raised hair fell back into place and my eyeballs popped back in their sockets we enrolled in her Taekwondo for a month so she could try it and see for herself that this was not a gender limited activity. She had the option to leave it at the end of the month but was hooked by the end of the first week.
After years of much perseverance, fun and dedication she earned her Black Belt. We promised to grant her a special wish for her success (thinking she would ask for a TV in her room, a phone, or a pony) we were surprised, and frankly to my disappointment, she asked that I join her in Taekwondo. The fact that I was not athletic nor coordinated, and being overweight, I felt I could not possibly be in Taekwondo. Yet a promise had been made so I reluctantly enrolled. We soon were training not only in Helena, but were traveling to Texas for more advanced material. When the Helena school closed down we were fortunate enough to continue our education in Houston, TX under Master Battenberg and Mr. Battenberg who have trained many world champions. We soon were setting our goals not only to become a Black Belt family, but to open our own ATA school as well.
Here at Frederick's ATA Black Belt Academy, we endeavor to provide the finest Taekwondo education available in a compassionate and nurturing environment; to produce outstanding citizens through our Life Skills curriculum; and to inspire and empower our students to achieve personal excellence in every aspect of their lives. The Life Skills Curriculum is central to the function of an American Taekwondo Association (ATA) school. In many ways, we use Taekwondo as a method (or an excuse) to teach Life Skills. Historically, martial artists have always held themselves to a high standard of behavior because of their potentially dangerous skills. The ATA continues and advances this tradition by formalizing the values learned. For colored belts (those who haven't yet attained their black belts), the Life Skills include:
Each of these virtues is used as a monthly theme for classes, around which the lesson plan is built with the intent of teaching and reinforcing the value of the monthly theme.
In advanced programs like the Black Belt Club and Masters Club, Life Skills expand to include values such as;
The formalized Life Skills curriculum is what sets the ATA apart from every other martial arts organization. Only the ATA provides instructors with applicable, progressive lesson plans on these virtues, prepared for various age levels. And in the ATA, every student and instructor is held accountable for conducting themselves according to these virtues by every other member of the organization.
"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 oversimplified explanation of the world's largest centrally administered martial art. This system of teaching and training is unequaled in the martial arts community.
During its early years, the ATA used the Chahng-hun style of forms (also used by the International Taekwondo Federation). But although this style was widely accepted in the Taekwondo community, Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee felt that its forms did not accurately reflect Taekwondo -- particularly the strength and beauty of Taekwondo kicking techniques. As a result, he believed the forms contributed little to the Taekwondo curriculum. For example, white belts were expected to know front kicks and side kicks, but no front kick appeared until the third (yellow belt) form, and there was no side kick until the form after that!
From 1983 to 1990, Eternal Grand Master introduced the eighteen Songahm forms. These forms are part of a fully-integrated curriculum, in which everything a student learns reinforces everything else. The forms contain all or nearly all of the techniques that students are expected to know at each rank, the one-step sparring segments complement the forms, and all of these patterns lead logically to the movements required for each succeeding rank.
The Songahm curriculum facilitates a smooth progression from one rank to the next, so that students who begin Taekwondo feeling they'll never be able to do a simple block (for example) suddenly find themselves a few years later doing 360-degree jumping kicks with ease. Songahm Taekwondo also focuses on personal development of the mind and body. To say it is just self-defense would be to lose most of the valuable ideas and philosophy behind this ancient art. The heightened capacity for self-defense resulting from our Taekwondo is really a fringe benefit that is gained by dedicating one's self to the values, philosophy and training of Songahm Taekwondo When learning, a student is in a true, traditional Taekwondo class, focusing not just on the physical but also on discipline, honor, self-control, respect, courtesy, perseverance and loyalty.
A beginner does not focus on being a skilled martial artist within a month or two, as a strong foundation in Taekwondo must be built first. Trying to advance beyond your level without proper guidance is like building a house on concrete that has not dried. Though the house may still stand, the foundation would not be as strong and the appearance of the house may not be as presentable. The ATA and its affiliated organizations help build a strong foundation of Songahm Taekwondo in each of its members, a foundation from which advancement in both the martial art (mind and body) and in self defense can be built and added on to in perpetuity.