Your Journey Has Begun!

I remember my first day of martial arts. Its very scary and intimidating to start martial arts for the first time. But I found out, as you will, that martial arts has a great deal to offer and can be very fun! And everything is done in such a postive way, with people there only to encourage you, not to criticize you.

So what are the life skills that you learn from martial arts? Confidence and self discipline are two of the biggest ones. From white belt to black belt, martial arts can completely transform a student and change their life for the better. Not to mention the improved focus in everything you do, including school. Do martial artists get better grades in school? You'd better believe it!

You are probably wondering what to expect when you attend your first class, and quite possibly very anxious about it. Just remember that our number one priority is for everyone to have fun in a safe and enthusiastic manner. We all have to wake up and go to school or work the next day, so safety is a priority of course. Just come to class, leave your troubles behind, have an open mind, and be ready to learn and have some fun! To save time, you can print, fill out, and bring our information sheet with you. Click to open the info sheet.

Your new Taekwondo uniform should always be kept clean and pressed for attending class. Also make sure that the proper patches are sewn onto the uniform. The Pearcys Taekwondo patch will go on your left side, just above the heart. To put on the uniform pants, you will want the drawstring to be in front and tied in a bow. The uniform top strings will also be tied in a bow with right side of the uniform first being tied to the inside of the left, and then the left side of the uniform back across and tied to the right side.

Your new white belt will wrap around your waist just once with the ends in front of you. Be sure both ends are even, then cross the two ends of the belt, and now pull the part of the belt that is laying on top all the way around and underneath the belt close to your waist. Do this one more time and your belt is tied. This is called a square knot. When you enter the workout area, you will pull your card from the card rack. You will then line up for your class when called, and at the beginning of the class will present the card to be collected. This is how we keep track of your progress from white belt all the way to black belt.

During your classes, you will be able to learn some basic Korean words that we use. Here are a few of the most common Korean words that you will hear an instructor use during a class.

One hah-nah Attention chah-reot
Two dool Bow kyeong-neh
Three set Ready june-bee
Four net Start she-jahk
Five dah-seot End bah-ro
Six yeo-seot At Ease shi-uh
Seven il-geup Yell ki-hap
Eight yeo-dol
Nine ah-hop
Ten yeol

Pearcys Taekwondo first opened in Shelbyville in 1992 with the help of Mrs. Darlene Pearcy and Mrs. Tina Newberry, who has appeared on the Regis & Kathy Lee show and holds the womens world record in board breaking. Pearcys Taekwondo has also produced great students including the mens world record holder for board breaking, several nationally recognized instructors of the year, and many state champions for tournament competitions. You will be taught by some of the best!

The Pearcys Taekwondo facility in Shelbyville is 1,750 square feet of workout floor, 600 square feet of parent seating & waiting area, a 625 square foot pro shop, and a total facility size of 5,250 square feet. Changing rooms are also available if you wish to change into your uniform once you arrive.

You will also notice a wide variety of teaching tools and equipment used at Pearcys Taekwondo. This includes the use of smaller hand targets, body shields, freestanding kicking bags, and inflatable air trak for aerial kicks and training. This type of equipment will greatly aid you in your training in becoming a black belt.

Any type of weapon, protective gear, kicking target bags, or training equipment can also be obtained at the pro shop at Pearcys Taekwondo. Insurance requires that all protective gear and weapons must be purchased through our academy in order to meet their insurance requirements. We carry a wide variety of weapons you will learn to use and equipment that can help you at home towards becoming a great black belt leader. And if we dont have an item in stock that you are looking for, we can get it! Just let us know.

Although its roots can be somewhat traced back to ancient Korea, it is a historic fact that Taekwondo as an organized art is relatively modern. In fact, the only documented history begins in the mid 1900's. 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 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 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. As an interesting side note, 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, if not literally, it can be thought of as "The Way of the Hand and Foot." In the 1960's Taekwondo began to spread internationally and evolved throughout the late 1900's, along with most martial arts, into primarily a combat sport, although self-defense, fitness, and the philosophy of the practice including self-discipline and self-knowledge are still crucial elements of Taekwondo. Taekwondo ranks among America's and the world's most popular martial arts.

"In victory, be humble. In defeat, be strong. In all things be fair."
--Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee

Martial Art is a broad term encompassing the many styles of physical discipline arts that have been developed over the centuries. To say that the style of 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, martial arts 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 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 form, and there was no side kick until the form after that!

From 1983 to 1990, Eternal Grand Master introduced the eighteen new 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 Taekwondo 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 suddenly find themselves a few years later doing 360-degree jumping kicks with ease. 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 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. Martial Arts and its affiliated organizations help build a strong foundation of 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.

In 1968, Korean General Hong Hi Choi, the man responsible for originally standardizing Taekwondo in 1955, met with Master HU Lee, who at the time was teaching Taekwondo-Japanese mixed martial arts to his organization of followers. General Choi quickly taught Eternal Grand Master Lee the first 16 Cheon-jee forms of Taekwondo in only 4 days and three nights. This system of forms was the first set of forms developed under the new Taekwondo of Korea. From this first meeting the stage was set for the founding of a martial arts organization in 1969 in Omaha, Nebraska by Eternal Grand Master Lee.

Eternal Grand Master 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, opening his first commercial school in Osan, Korea after leaving the military. Eternal Grand Master then opened several branches to his commercial school, including one at a U.S. Air Force base. This is where Master Richard Reed began training with Eternal Grand Master, and the two forged a friendship that would ultimately result in a martial arts organization.

When Reed returned to the United States in 1962, Eternal Grand Master joined him on a visitor visa, and began teaching in Omaha. Although he had to return to Korea in December, 1963 while awaiting a resident status visa, he returned to the U.S. in 1965 and began working toward a national Taekwondo organization that would be based on good martial arts and sound business practices. As it grew from a regional organization to one of national, and ultimately international, the organization began to establish standards that would ensure consistent instruction.

The organization held closed tournaments in which you had to be a member to compete. Instructors had to undergo a rigorous trainee period to become a certified instructor, and the only way to receive certification was to come to Little Rock for a week in August and participate in a Trainee Instructor Camp, complete with physical and written exams. Every student uniform was white with no black, no blue, no stars or stripes, and all lettering, piping and patches on uniforms were to be consistent across the organization. The organization also shared marketing acumen with its instructors, helping to build a stronger organization by presenting a consistent, professional program and message to the public.

From the beginning, Eternal Grand Master Lee was determined to establish the most professional martial arts organization possible. In 1973, he introduced the first instructor manual, which provided information and procedures to standardize the operation of all schools. In 1976, he hosted the first Grand National tournament, which was the predecessor for the Songahm Taekwondo World Championships now held annually. A year later, he re-located the headquarters from Omaha, Nebraska to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he soon had 200 black belts earning instructor certification each year.

In 1980, it became the first martial arts organization to introduce a centralized computer record keeping system. This innovation enabled it to maintain rank histories and other important information about the thousands of members. The same year, they began publishing a tabloid which has evolved into the international magazine The Way of Taekwondo, now published quarterly to keep Taekwondo students informed about upcoming events, appraised of new programs, and knowledgeable about the physical and mental aspects of Taekwondo. The history was set on a new and unique course in 1983 when, at a Certified Instructor Camp in Little Rock, Eternal Grand Master introduced the Songahm system of Taekwondo. The martial arts system represented the culmination of years of study by Eternal Grand Master Lee. They had used the Chang Hun Taekwondo forms since 1969 and the Pinan forms prior to that, but he had noticed something missing in the forms.

With the assistance of senior instructors including Robert Allemier, Bill Clark, In Ho Lee and Jee Ho Lee, Eternal Grand Master developed a unified teaching system in which, for the first time, white belts learned kicks in their Taekwondo forms and one-step sparring was closely integrated with the forms to aid in student development by establishing a more logical system for beginners. But even more than that the entire system of Songahm forms worked together with balance and harmony, reflecting the essence of the art.

In 1984, the Songahm Taekwondo Federation (STF) was founded by Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee and Master Cezar Ozuna to help spread Taekwondo outside of the United States. In the fall of 1990, the World Traditional Taekwondo Union (WTTU) was formed. While it encompasses member schools in the United States and Canada, the STF includes member schools in South America and the WTTU covers the remaining portion of the world.

With the passing of Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee in October 2000, our current leadership has taken up the torch of his inspirational guidance and leadership and ensured the values the ATA were founded upon remain our focus for today and into the future. Grand Master Soon Ho Lee, after many trials and tests for the Grand Master title, was elevated to be our leader in Taekwondo and guides and focuses the Songahm Taekwondo style. Mrs. Sun C. Lee, wife of the late Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee and the ATA's Chairman of the Board, continues the legacy of her husband by helping the youth of Songahm Taekwondo through her philanthropic efforts and devotion. Our leadership ensures that the ATA will continue to be one of the most innovative, effective, and widespread organizations in martial arts worldwide. In many ways, this is still just the beginning. We know the ATA has many wonderful surprises in store for Taekwondo in the United States and across the world. We hope you will journey with us as the ATA, and Songahm Taekwondo, continues to evolve and improve to help our students and masters do the same.

The H.U. Lee Foundation was created to help ATA college bound students with the opportunity to continue their education. The Foundation strives to assist those students that have exemplified skills obtained through the American Taekwondo Association. The scholarships are to help students enhance their possibilities of tomorrow. Past scholarship recipients have attended large colleges and continue to honor the values taught to them through the ATA. They have become successful members of prestigious institutions such as Microsoft, entrepreneurs opening their own ATA schools, and professionals in the medical field. Today, we reach hundreds of young adults who are trying to further their education. The ATA pays all administrative costs, including salaries, for the H.U. Lee Foundation. Funds raised for the Foundation are paid to scholarships. Visit for more info.

“Today Not Possible, Tomorrow Possible.”
- Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee

The concept of belts and rank is probably one that most people associate with Taekwondo and martial arts in general, even if they only have a passing interest in the subject. In Songahm Taekwondo, our belts reflect a member's proven level of competence and just as importantly the progression of colors reflects an inner journey that never truly ends. Each belt achieved is truly an accomplishment worthy of respect. It is also worth noting that achieving a belt isn't just a matter of spending enough time in a previous belt. In order to achieve their next rank, a student must demonstrate their proficiency in their current belt's techniques, to include basic moves, forms, or sparring, and most importantly a good attitude.

Each rank in Songahm Taekwondo has basic moves, also known as techniques, that the practitioner must learn and demonstrate competence in before they may move on to their next rank. These techniques have been carefully developed to help the student maximize their potential at their current level of knowledge, as well as preparing them for the techniques they must learn in their next rank. In Songahm Taekwondo, everything builds on what has come before. Although there are many moves in Songahm Taekwondo, and martial arts in general, they can usually be categorized into these types: hand movements, kicks and stances. There are two basic types of hand motions. The first is striking, an offensive technique. The second is blocking, a defensive technique. To develop the quality of their techniques, one must focus on proper starting position, execution, rotation, direction, and ending position. To improve the power of hand movements, one can add body movements such as twisting the hips.

The term kicks is used to describe the element of foot motion. To develop the quality of technique in kicking, it's important to focus on the stages of foot movements and body posture. The stages of kicking include proper chamber, execution, rotation, direction and re-chamber. To achieve excellent kicking technique, movements of the foot must be combined with proper body posture.

Stances are structured body positions and in Songahm Taekwondo, their primary purpose is a training tool to allow students to execute techniques in conjunction with various body movements. By learning stances and executing techniques from these stances, they learn to add power to their techniques while remaining stable, and also to become more relaxed in executing their techniques over time. The secondary purpose of stances is conditioning, both in muscle development and in stretching.

Sparring is the way that Taekwondo students prepare for self-defense. In Songahm Taekwondo, a student first learns a form of preparatory moves known as one-step sparring. This exchange of techniques is under strict control, and by memorizing these moves the student needs only practice distance and timing without the fear of responding to spontaneous techniques from an opponent. In this way, the basics of sparring can be safely developed before the student's reflexes are challenged. One-steps also help a student acquire the confidence they need for sparring with a real opponent.

Later in their training, a Taekwondo practitioner begins applying the basics they have learned from one-steps into true sparring, which can be thought of as reflexive responses against an unplanned attack. Essentially, they learn to move beyond the predetermined series of movements they have relied upon in favor of spontaneous movements designed for true self-defense.

Although we learn sparring as a form of self-defense, it is also very important in Taekwondo for other reasons. It helps display proficiency in techniques, and for this reason at the camo belt level and beyond sparring is evaluated for purposes of advancing to the next rank. We require that students be able to participate in free sparring in class with all of the required gear for at least 6 weeks before being able to advance to the next rank of green belt. It is also an important part of tournaments, where students can display their abilities in a safe, controlled competitive environment while still showing respect to their opponent.

In Taekwondo, you will learn a new form designed specifically for each rank level you achieve. The form is part of a complete system of teaching the Taekwondo student. The Korean word "poom-sae" means a "form" or "pattern of movements." It is actually a planned series of movements that combines the physical skills such as blocks, strikes, kicks, stances and more with the mental skills such as balance, coordination, discipline, strategy, focus and more. The target of these movements is an imaginary opponent of the practitioner's own size.

The forms have been arranged as a system to gradually increase the student's skill, develop technical balance equally on the left and right side of the body, train muscles, and to develop students from the beginner level through the ranks of black belts. This is why each form does not repeat most techniques more than twice and also why every technique which is done with a right arm/leg is also repeated with the left arm/leg. These forms, designed by Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee, were the first that truly emphasized the tradition of the art of Taekwondo, unlike older forms which were based on Japanese and Okinawan Karate forms. Not only do the forms train you in each rank, but they are also excellent for using as a warm-up prior to a work out. The system that encompasses the 18 Songahm forms is based on traditional philosophy, as well as being designed for easy memorization.

All goals require a poom-sae or pattern. Even in life we have structured patterns. When you're born, you learn communication and basic skills in the home. A few years later, you are enrolled into kindergarten or elementary school. Following this comes high school. During high school, we begin to decide the direction we will take in life. We choose a college and a career goal. This is the pattern of the first part of our life. If you choose a good pattern, you can be a success. If your pattern is poor, you may not be as successful in your life endeavors. Similarly, your chances of success in Taekwondo are much greater by following the solid series of patterned forms.

We train our students to the best of their ability. Some students come to us in shape, while others have come to us 100 pounds overweight. Most come to us with limited flexibility. Adults start at any age, as we have had some adults who started as late as age 65, and have still earned their black belts. As a student, you are looked upon as an individual, never compared to anyone else. Our instructors will be there every step of the way. All that is expected is a willingness to try. Here are some benefits you can expect from training in Taekwondo:

• Fitness - The principles of Taekwondo techniques are based on the design of your body. For power you develop the larger, powerful muscles of the torso. The speed of the techniques comes from the fast, agile muscles of the arms and legs. As you progress in Taekwondo, you will learn to coordinate this speed and power, and develop a concentration to focus all of your body's strength into a small, hard striking surface like the edge of the hand or the heel of a foot.

• Self-Defense - When the speed and power developed through Taekwondo is used in a self-defense situation against the vulnerable parts of an attacker's body the results can be incredible. Taekwondo allows a woman to emphasize many of her natural physical strengths, such as power in the legs, while learning a method of self-defense efficient against a much larger opponent. Knowing you can defend yourself, your confidence will grow. And confidence alone is usually enough to deter potential attackers.

• Self-Confidence - This does not come naturally for many people, but self-confidence can be developed over a period of time. Through Taekwondo, as you accomplish new goals, your confidence level increases. Taekwondo instills a sense of discipline and self-confidence that can carry over to all aspects of your life.

• Better Grades - Being in Taekwondo also means being a better student. All of our students learn skills such as following directions, paying attention in class, and participating in groups for activities. Taekwondo will dramatically improve concentration, which pays off with better grades in school.

• Every Child Is A Winner - In Taekwondo, every child is a winner because we have no bench sitters, unlike other sports. As a student accomplishes a goal, they will feel a sense of pride in their accomplishment. Taekwondo challenges the body and mind, but is ultimately the greatest reward.

When a student enters a Taekwondo classroom, the focus of his or her training is not only on physical strength and growth, but also on important skills that will help lead to personal successes in life. These Life Skills will benefit our students inside the classroom and beyond. After all, a healthy individual is characterized by a strong body and a strong mind so that you can attack any curve ball life throws your way.

Each life skill taught through curriculum is based on the Spirit of Taekwondo oath, a promise each student makes at the beginning and end of each event to prepare them for what lies ahead. By promising to live by these monthly Life Skills, our students are dedicating themselves to a life of success!

We take the concept of leadership very seriously, and our leaders are serious about their responsibilities. The Songahm Taekwondo family is our foremost concern, and we have worked hard over the years to make sure our members' trust is well-placed and that the future of Taekwondo will always be shaped and directed by individuals that truly care.

Interested in joining the worlds largest centralized martial arts organization and learning Taekwondo? While certainly helping to improve fitness and the capacity for self-defense, our Taekwondo is not just a physical activity. Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee called Taekwondo "the martial art that trains people physically and mentally." In addition to physical fitness, our Taekwondo classes promote discipline, honor, self-control, respect, courtesy, perseverance and loyalty. So by joining martial arts, you are not only improving your fitness and learning to defend yourself, you are embarking on a path to improve many important aspects of your life. And the truly wonderful thing is, you get to have fun while doing it!