Songahm Taekwondo was founded by the now deceased Eternal Grand Master Haeng Ung Lee (1936-2000). Haeng Ung Lee started to train Taekwondo in 1953-54 and earned his black belt in a single year. During the Korean War, he trained military inteligence personnel. After the war, he opened a school for civilians and taught US military personnel at Osan Airforce Base. One of his students at Osan, present day Grand Master Richard Reed, inspired Eternal Grand Master to travel to the USA in order to teach there. In 1969, the American Taekwondo Association was founded in Omaha, Nebraska. In the early days, the ATA trained with ITF forms, which Eternal Grand Master had learned directly from Grand Master Choi, Hong Hi. In 1977, the ATA relocated its headquarters from Nebraska to Little Rock, Arkansas, where they remain today. In 1990, setting an example for the entire martial arts community, Haeng Ung Lee went through a 9 step mastership process and tested in front of thousands of spectators for the rank of 9th degree blackbelt. In his lifetime, he did not aspire to the rank of 10th degree blackbelt since it was his philosophy that 10 represents perfection, which is unattainable. However, 9 days after his death, on October 14, 2000, a meeting was held at which he was posthumously awarded the rank of 10th degree blackbelt and awarded the title of Eternal Grand Master. The list of those present at the meeting includes Grand Master Choi, who had taught Eternal Grand Master the forms originally used by the ATA, Grand Master Jhoon Rhee, Grand Master Jae Chul Shin, with whom he had taught at Osan Airforce Base, Grand Master Un Yong Kim, Grand Master Won Kuk Lee, Grand Master Bong Soo Han, Grand Master Sung Mok Ko, and Grand Master Woo Jin Jung.
Our Forms System
At the core of Songahm Taekwondo are the forms. Feeling that the forms (poome-sae or poomse) used in the early days of the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) did not appropriately show the Korean art of Taekwondo, Eternal Grand Master developed new forms that are increasingly advanced and display the fantastic kicks for which Taekwondo is known starting with the very first form learned. The Songahm forms were introduced in 1983. When it comes to sparring, the ATA rules are similar to those of the WTF except that we do not use full contact, break after every scoring point, compete in fairly small rings, and limit matches to maximum 5 points or 2 minutes (whichever comes first).
The Meaning of Songahm Taekwondo
‘Songahm’ means ‘pine tree and rock’. The pine tree symbolizes many things in Korean culture, but perhaps most importantly, it signifies perseverance. Just as the pine tree stays green even in winter, so must the Taekwondo student remain diligent and never stop growing as a person and as a martial artist. The rock symbolizes stability, a solid foundation, and a home. Every student should be well rooted, appreciating family and developing regular habits to retain and make new good habits in life. For our students, we hope that Songahm Taekwondo practitioners worldwide can constitute an expanded family and the physical and mental training a home of sorts, without geographical limitations.
‘Tae’ means foot or to kick and ‘Kwon’ means fist. ‘Do’ means ‘way’. Loosely translated, Taekwondo is about learning a positive way of life through regular training of kicking and punching.
Our materials for physical training:
- Our uniquely developed Taekwondo forms gradually introduce the practitioner to new techniques and providing a way of training that can be implemented anywhere and improve health, mental acuity, and fighting skills. Today, forms are not necessarily done in the intended order; this is to allow the instructors to work effectively with all the students at once, helping them master the same techniques and learning from each other, with different expectations for different students based on age, gender, rank, and individual mental and physical abilities.
- Self Defense sequences that gradually prepare the practitioner for dealing with a physical no rules situation with an appropriate level of force. Self Defense is by no means limited to physical skills and includes common sense tips to avoid dangerous situations, guidelines in how to solve potentially violent situations without resorting to violence, and the awareness of the advocacy of removing oneself from dangerous situations situations.
- Sparring is practice in ATA Rules competition fighting. Our system is points sparring and does not allow full contact,. Excessive contact, contact with illegal targets, and poor behaviour can lead to loss of points or disqualification. Full, ATA approved protective gear must be worn at al tournaments and should be worn for any practice that may involve contact with kicks and punches. The safety of our students is of paramount importance to us, and our rules on protective gear as well as our points rules are developed to allow for maximum skill training in an atmosphere of courtesy, fun, and safety.
- One Step Sparring sequences are not used in all ATA schools, but are part of our traditional curriculum. They are pre-designed sequences of attack and defense that help students master timing, distance, and targeting to prepare them for application of techniques in free sparring and self defense.
- Board Breaking is an exercise requiring conditioning, proper technique, and focus. It can be visually spectacular and is a great way to really test yourself and develop confidence.
- Weapons Training is a part of the regular LSTK blackbelt curriculum and students have to master three traditional weapons forms at each level of blackbelt up until 5th degree (dan). Colourbelts may train with weapons and develop their own forms but may not learn the traditional forms until they become blackbelts.
Our materials for mental training:
- The physical training we undergo develops attributes such as focus, courtesy, self-respect, goal-setting, and perseverance.
- Paradoxically, the mental training is actually the most important part of our training. The ‘do’ in Taekwondo stands for ‘the way’, and the true goal of our art is to prepare our students to live happy, healthy, and succesful lives through the physical and mental training we provide. By continuously kicking and punching, we train our minds as well as our hearts.
- Our Life Skills program, which is a part of the instructor development courses and implemented during every training in order to ensure optimal decisions for students to develop skills that will help them socially and professionally throughout their lives.
- The Legacy Program, which is slightly different from the original Life Skills Program, is currently used to either replace or complement the original Life Skills Program, depending on the preferences and training of your local instructor.
- Besides the mandatory Life Skills training, we also offer a path of leadership for those with a deeper commitment to our martial art and a burning desire to help others develop themselves. This is our Instructor Development Program. There are three levels to go through before becoming a fully certified black collar instructor of Songahm Taekwondo. Step 1 is marked by a red collar. Red collar also marks all students who have permission to compete nationally and internationally for points in order to qualify for the annual competition for the title of World Champion. Step 2 is marked by a half red and half black collar. Step 3 is marked by a black/red/black collar. Each level has its own educational materials. 100 hours of supervised classroom teaching along with a passed practical exam on the associated theory are required before an instructor trainee is permitted to progress to the next level.
For additional information on Songahm Taekwondo and the ATA, please visit the ATA website.