Songahm Tradition

“ATA is changing the world one Black Belt at a time.”
~ Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee


The actual beginnings of Taekwondo are obscured by time, yet many historians believe it originated from a Korean martial arts form known as t'aekyon practiced over 1,300 years ago. In the early 1900's the art evolved with the introduction of Chinese and Japanese hand techniques, a practice which concerned some because these influences did not demonstrate the incredible kicking power of the art nor its traditional values or philosophy.


The word Taekwondo itself is made up of three Chinese/Korean words: Tae, meaning to kick or jump; Kwon, meaning fist or hand; and Do, which means "the way.” Loosely, it can be thought of as "The Way of the Hand and Foot." The actual name and art of Taekwondo wasn't official until 1955. At that time Korean General Hong Hi Choi organized a movement to unify Korea's various martial arts styles (called kwans) and presented the name "Taekwondo" to a committee specially formed to select a name for the new art. On April 11, 1955, Taekwondo was recognized as the name for the newly unified, officially recognized Korean martial art.


Black Belt Academy H. U. Lee opens a martial arts school at a U. S. Air Force Base Haeng Ung Lee began his martial arts training in 1954 as a teenager. He taught martial arts to Republic of Korea military intelligence personnel from 1956 to 1959, and opened his first commercial school in Osan, Korea after leaving the military. As interest grew, he opened other “branches,” one at a U.S. Air Force Base. There he met Richard Reed, and the two forged a powerful friendship that would impact both of their lives far greater than either could have imagined.

A vision to change lives throughout the world Reed and Lee both shared a passion for Taekwondo. Lee had a vision to change the world. Reed had faith in Lee’s vision and business sense to back it up. They began working to build a Taekwondo organization that would be based on good martial arts and sound business practices. One day when they were training, Lee drew a circle in the dirt floor of the Taekwondo School and he filled the circle with dots. The circle represented the world. The dots represented the lives he wanted to see changed by the art of Taekwondo. Today, the number of “dots” he has impacted approaches one million. The world of martial arts would be changed forever.

In 1968, Korean General Choi met with Haeng Ung Lee (now Eternal Grand Master Lee) who, at the time, was teaching Taekwondo-Japanese mixed martial arts. Gen. Choi quickly taught Eternal Grand Master Lee the first 16 forms of Cheon-jee Taekwondo in only four days. From this first meeting, a half century ago, the stage was set for the founding of the American Taekwondo Association (ATA). In 1969, at the first school in Omaha, Nebraska, the American Taekwondo Association was born.