Posts Tagged ‘ATA’

The ATA Claims Taekwondo Is Non-Aggressive And Ethical

        I was randomly searching Taekwondo terms on google today and the first site that shows is a page from the ATA website that says,

“Like any martial art properly taught and properly practiced, Taekwondo is a non-agressive (sic) and ethical system of self-defense.”

I just thought this was kind of funny in the light of how the Kukkiwon’s president was arrested for corruption and the fact that it is the ATA!!!! claiming to be ethical. HAHA! Yes, like ANY martial art. You here that? ANY martial art…especially when it is properly practiced…you know the RIGHT way to practice ANY martial art in the entire world….Taekwondo is ethical and non-violent. That means the back kicks to the solar plexus, knife hands to the carotid artery, and side kicks to the knee are not violent. Make sure your instructor properly teaches you Taekwondo the right way which is to make sure you are not being violent…

Anyway, the brings me to another issue I have about people who claim to promote Taekwondo. The idiots who say that Taekwondo is non-aggressive or non-violent. I am sorry but I want my Taekwondo to be both violent and aggressive!!! What’s the point in learning a fighting style if it is non-aggressive or non-violent?

In the book A Killing Art by Alex Gillis we get a different picture of the founding of Taekwondo in all of its corruption and violence!!! I may not like some of the founders of Taekwondo as people, or some of the current leaders in Taekwondo who are corrupt, but I dang sure as heck want my Taekwondo to be a violent art! I didn’t sign up for yoga or Tai Chi as a kid.

We have got to stop the silly PC pandering of Taekwondo and simply teach a real fighting art. Obviously, with this fighting art we SHOULD teach ethics, morality, and that you are not supposed to use Taekwondo for evil. We should be protectors of the weak and people who fight for our nations when called to with our martial arts abilities. But how can you do it effectively if you are being weak? Fighting is violence!!!!

Taekwondo is violent. The sport is violent (not as much anymore with idiotic scorpion twisty tap kicks) but that’s why people love it! The poomsae may be artistic but the actual movements are totally violent! The groin ripping and knee busting in Koryo, the face smashing elbow strikes in Tae Geuk O Jang and more! Taekwondo is a martial art.

Martial Arts are combat traditions and inherently violent. Violence is not somehow immoral in itself. It is WHY you are violent and who you are violent to that matters. Self defense is violent. You cannot effectively save yourself or loved ones from evil people who wish violence on you unless you are violent to them more effectively than they are to you. Maybe we don’t fight fire with fire, but we do fight violence people with violence.

That is enough comedy for today from the mcdojang ATA, and the end of my rant today. See ya later!

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Why Kukkiwon Rank Matters As The Ultimate And True Taekwondo Rank

        True rank in the Korean martial art of Taekwondo has always been given by individuals and institutions with set standards that are recognized by other prestigious organizations and people. Currently, for Taekwondo rank to be recognized, it must be given by the Kukkiwon which is the World Taekwondo Academy (the headquarters of Taekwondo worldwide in Seoul, Korea) which is the historic conclusion of the original Korean Taekwondo Association’s unanimous decision to unify Taekwondo as one art with set standards for acknowledgement and affirmation of martial art skill progression in Korea. It is based in tradition, and linked to this body of sanctioning members dating back to the formation of the KTA, whom are perceived as beyond reproach. Since 1955, the set standards that earned an individual a rank in Taekwondo must have been given by a recognizable entity, originally the KTA, but now the Kukkiwon (which was formed by the KTA through unanimous vote of approval in 1772). Kukkiwon Taekwondo rank must conform to existing norms in the Korean martial arts order that are sanctioned by the Korean government. Any group or individual can create their own association, organization or federation and also print up fancy looking certificates on nice paper and issue them out; but they are devoid of any governmental or legal guidelines; these are without true value (even if one has money and can afford to pay for such things to various groups and people, and even if they team up with other individuals who will affirm such bogus ranks). True Taekwondo rank has the recognition and acceptance by existing groups and institutions that give it legitimacy such as the Kukkiwon, sanctioned by the Korean government and the Administration of Sports, supported by the World Taekwondo Federation (for sport), and affirmed by the International Olympic Committee, and is the historic linage of the unified kwans organized by the KTA dating back to 1955. Even so, one must always make sure that it is the skill and knowledge that gains the rank, not the other way around. Having a personal quest for rank certification, affirmation, status, and acceptance by others on its own misses the entire point which only energizes a false sense of mastery in the art of Taekwondo for the insecure-ego driven person who lacks patience.

Kukkiwon is the head of Taekwondo across the entire world. Kukkiwon is true Korean Taekwondo and the true historic linage of Taekwondo. TKD was unified by the KTA and eventually the KTA voted upon the Kukkiwon, and all kwans unanimously agreed to fully support the Kukkiwon and unify Taekwondo as one Korean martial art, the national martial art and sport of Korea. All other groups branched off and went their own ways and started their own organizations which are not the cultural Taekwondo of Korea. Kukkiwon IS Taekwondo. Other groups are simply offshoots and false creations. This is especially true of later groups starting their own “Taekwondo style” which has nothing to do with the Taekwondo of Korea.

Kukkiwon rank is the most prestigious rank you can achieve in Taekwondo and is accepted across the world. No one is going to deny your rank when you travel. Kukkiwon rank is like a passport between Taekwondo dojang. People who would reject your rank and say you are not accepted as real black belt until they pay for ranks in a local school or faulty organization are ignorant and have an agenda (most likely to scam you out of money). So if you go to an ATA gym and they say you cannot be a black belt there, they are actually saying “You are not a real TKD black belt.” Which is ridiculous because it is saying the historic and Korean martial art you are ranked in is not actually true. They just want you to pay money and do their false mcdojang system.

Kukkiwon sets standards for skill and knowledge that are the same for everyone. No one can pass with less knowledge and no one can claim you have to know more things. Kukkiwon sets the standards which are universal, and you can easily know what you need to know. Kukkiwon provides quality control and to make sure you are doing the techniques correctly.

When you get certified by the Kukkiwon you have real accreditation by the board of members. Not just one master who assesses you. Not only the board of members, but the Korean government and administration of sports in Korea accredits you. It is not just one school or corporation saying you are a black belt but the government of Korea as well. You are also affirmed by the International Olympic Committee. It is a worldwide rank that should be recognized by anyone. Your rank is transcendent beyond 1 private group.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art. It is not American or Canadian or anything else. Kukkiwon rank is the ONLY rank accepted in Korea. If you do not have certification through Kukkiwon you are not considered a black belt or practicing real Taekwondo if you are from another group who teaches other forms. It is much like how other martial arts such as Muay Thai only affirm instructor ranks given by Thailand and blessed by their king. Any other rank not given in Thailand is not considered true. Likewise, Taekwondo rank must be given by Korea through the Kukkiwon.

Kukkiwon is the only rank accepted by the IOC and the only black belt that is considered allowed for Olympic sparring competition, the highest achievement in sports for a Taekwondoin. Which means the WTF and Kukkiwon is where true, elite, Olympic level athletes come from in Taekwondo. And both the WTF and Kukkiwon are respected for that reason.

There are other organizations such as the Amateur Athletic Union, that are ecumenical and recognize rank from a wide variety of associations or organizations simply to allow competitors for their sport competitions. This is fine simply for that sport competition such as AAU sparring and forms competitions. But a rank in the AAU is simply only a rank for their sport and not Taekwondo as a whole. AAU rank is not good enough or proof of proper Taekwondo knowledge or understanding. It is not affiliated with Korea or the Kukkiwon. It may recognize Kukkiwon rank, but it also accepts ITF, ATA, and other groups which are faulty Taekwondo and not true. The standards are not good enough. Paying a group like the AAU to simply to obtain a high dan rank, to jump up a few notches and claim mastery is fallacious. It is fine for solely AAU sport competitions, but not as a true martial art rank in Taekwondo. Also, sport competitions are limited to the AAU and not acknowledged by the WTF or IOC. One must transfer to Kukkiwon rank to be allowed for Olympic competition.

With all of this, it is also wonderful to know that the Kukkiwon allows for dojang independence. There is no rigid curriculum or order of programs a gym has to conform to. The Kukkiwon does not dictate to an instructor what he has to teach every month. The Kukkiwon only sets the qualifications for specific technique, applications, grades, and skill. An instructor is free to teach any combination of techniques, self defense, and other martial arts at his gym he sees fit. Groups like the ATA or Tiger Rock and other groups dictate exactly what has to be taught. Even the ITF, depending on which ITF an instructor is a member if is dictated to what exactly he has to focus on. The Kukkiwon only gives standards for individual techniques and motions and what forms and sparring ability one must have to rank as a black belt. Individual instructors can add specific self defense, concepts and other knowledge he sees fit. Kukkiwon provides freedom while legitimizing Taekwondo rank and giving accreditation.

Depending on an instructor and who he associates with there are often times local and regional federations and associations run by master instructors who are affiliated and ranked within the Kukkiwon. These groups also issue personal ranks, school ranks, and regional organization ranks. This is fine, but these ranks on their own are no substitute for Kukkiwon certification. The Kukkiwon provides liberty for instructors to affiliate with and run other organizations while still maintaining Kukkiwon rank. This means one could affiliate with groups such as AAU, and various regional and local affiliations. Personal ranks, school ranks, and other association ranks can be a good indicator of training history and who you are personally trained by and affirmed. It builds a good resume, but you still should seek out Kukkiwon rank certification. Taekwondo as a unified world martial art system will keep Taekwondo as one and the martial art pure. The reason it is important your instructor would follow Kukkiwon standards is to make sure nonsense and garbage is kept out by unqualified people who claim to know a “better way” and are self proclaimed masters who make stuff up and lower the quality of Taekwondo.

There are of course Taekwondo practitioners who belong to a local gym that practices the same forms as approved by the WTF an Kukkiwon and in theory practices the same Taekwondo, but they simply are not accredited by the Kukkiwon yet. Such people should make every effort to eventually get certified by the Kukkiwon and with some effort will find a way to do it. This is ideal, but still there is some merit of course to their training since it conforms to the same standards and it does not mean that your gym or instructor is bad quality in theory. It is not everyone’s fault if they are not Kukkiwon ranked. Also, Kukkiwon rank is very affordable, it is simply individual instructors who price gouge and make testing fees very expensive. This is unfortunate. Hopefully one can find an instructor who is not greedy. Even so, I have found that even with increased prices for promotion testing for Kukkiwon rank are by far cheaper than the average mcdojang systems ranks by the time you paid all of their fees for every little thing. So it would still be worth it.

Kukkiwon rank matters. Without it you are simply not true Taekwondo. If you are a member of an offshoot organization that does not teach the same Taekwondo as Korea, you are not doing the cultural martial art of Korea. Ranking up high in another organization has no true value for Taekwondo. Taking such short cuts to obtain quick paced master rank does not legitimize you and only exposes you as an “embellisher” of credentials for personal gain. If your fighting skill is not up to par or your technique, eventually you will get exposed.

Tiger Rock’s Claim Of Accredited Instructors Is Meaningless

        A popular tactic of mcdojangs is to claim they have “accredited” instructors. Or that their instructors must study and take a test every year to make sure they have all the latest teaching methods and techniques in order to make sure their instructors stay skillful and up to date. This is just fluff and hype. It is utterly meaningless to claim your instructors are accredited if they are simply evaluated by their own group without outside critique. The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) and Tiger Rock Martial Arts (ITA) and various other mcdojang organizations do this. The ATA started it and everyone else copies it. Notice the Tiger Rock Martial Arts advertisement I received in the mail the other day:

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Wow! Accredited instructors! That must mean they have the best martial arts instructors in the entire world!!!!

In the words of Dwight Schrute:      “False!”

No, they do not. Accredited does not mean anything in this context since the only people who evaluated the instructors is Tiger Rock itself. It would be as if I affirm people, send them off to represent everything I teach and my company. Then those 5 stand with me and affirm another 6th person and 7th and 8th and so on and then claim we now have accredited instructors. It means nothing. It is an incestuous accreditation.

If one looks up accreditation on Wikipedia it explains that,

Accreditation is a process in which certification of competency, authority, or credibility is presented.

Organizations that issue credentials or certify third parties against official standards are themselves formally accredited by accreditation bodies (such as UKAS); hence they are sometimes known as “accredited certification bodies”. The accreditation process ensures that their certification practices are acceptable, typically meaning that they are competent to test and certify third parties, behave ethically and employ suitable quality assurance.

        Typically in the USA accreditation speaks of one body giving affirmation and certification to a third party individual or organization which means they follow certain standards and procedures and have the right resources, knowledge, and skills, that are proper and agreed upon. Within martial arts this could mean anything. For Taekwondo the world governing body for Taekwondo as a martial art is the Kukkiwon. The Kukkiwon is certified and accredited by the Korean government, and is also recognized by the World Taekwondo Federation, which is also recognized by the International Olympic Committee and also affirmed by the original Korean Taekwondo Association. So, various government and corporate bodies recognize the Kukkiwon as the proper ranking body for Taekwondo. In turn, Kukkiwon black belt certification and instructorship accredits individuals to teach Taekwondo. Also, the Kukkiwon itself consists of a board of members who vote on things and not any one leader who dictates what will be and what will not be. Members are voted in and out of positions. It does not exist specifically for profit either as a corporate entity. The Kukkiwon is affirmed by outside sources who are not a part of its structure which gives it realistic accreditation. The Kukkiwon is an official Korean government organization promoting culture and tourism through Taekwondo as well.

        Groups like Tiger Rock Martial Arts International on the other hand are a corporate entity that exists for profit to make as much money as possible, and is its own singular company run by its own founders. Tiger Rock used to be known as “Karate Taekwondo Plus Academies.” The International Taekwondo Alliance is their claim of affiliation. Later, the name Tiger Rock was implemented instead of TKD-plus (but apparently some gyms still use the TKD-plus sign on their buildings and are part of the ITA. According to http://www.tkd-plus.com,

ITA’s Grand Masters are Craig Kollars, Bert Kollars, and Art Monroe. Senior Masters are: James Bailey, Rick Hall, Joe Calhoun, Ron Allman, Don Anderson, Terry Newton, and Marv Conway. ITA’s Masters are: Mark Smith, Dan Cerminaro, Joel Neely, Kirke Woodall, Tim Leirer, Phearthur Moore, Richard Johnson, George LeBlanc, Chris Jackson, Carol Hall, Frank Michael, Brent Scoggins, Tom Mathews, Wayne Mathews, Dwayne Parker, Terence Parker, Victor Jordan, Charles Newton, Michael Cerminaro, Sandy Jordan, Roger Killen, Rick Pope, Elliott Slaughter, Danny Williams, Earl Scoggins and Brian Mitchelmore.

Notice that none of these people are Korean as there are absolutely no roots from Korean Taekwondo within this company, even though they claim so. Tiger Rock claims that their linage goes back to the “honorable Won Kuk lee and Chung Do Kwan” (one of the original 10 martial arts schools in Korea that predates Taekwondo). None of the Korean masters such as Lee Won Kuk or General Choi had anything to do with founding or caring about forming the ITA, Tiger Rock Martial Arts International, or TKD Plus Academies.  The truth is ITA/Tiger Rock was founded by ex American Taekwondo Association instructors who were disgruntled for whatever reasons and started their own offshoot from the ATA calling it the ITA. According to an article in the January 2010 edition of TaeKwonDo Times Magazine,

“…the three founders of the ITA, Craig Kollars, Bert Kollars, and Art Monroe, were junior instructors of the ATA. They created the International Taekwondo Alliance (ITA) which is just their own group specifically made for their brand’s franchise schools. None of these schools are independently run, but follow strict corporate standards created by Tiger Rock itself….by the end of 1980, those three people became independent from the ATA and formed a small independent association.” (p. 61)

        So, basically this organization was created by junior level instructors, not even master level instructors of ATA style Taekwondo. Accrediting their own instructors through their own party is simply just saying their instructors have paid a lot of money into the Tiger Rock system and are allowed a license to teach under their name. Such accreditation is really only worth the junior instructorship that ITA was founded on. It is not proper for someone who does not even have proper accreditation themselves to create their own style of martial arts and become masters of it.

        Each Tiger Rock franchise location pays an annual fee, including the “special” instructor qualification tests each year. It is simply multi-level marketing in the sense that people bring others up into the Tiger Rock system, tell them to start new school locations, each year their students pay to train and the school itself pays a percentage fee of their revenue. Instructors also have to test every year which is simply an excuse for the company of Tiger Rock Martial Arts International to make money off of its own people ever year and get as rich as possible. There really is no reason to keep taking instructor tests each year except to charge their own franchisees extra money for each of their “accredited instructors” to stay accredited each year. A school could have 5 to 10 or so instructors all paying into this system.

        This accreditation is worthless outside of Tiger Rock. Unlike Tiger Rock, true Taekwondo certification of a black belt instructor is for life. A one time test of skill given by a panel of certified 4th degree or higher black belts evaluate students for black belt degree ranks. Each degree of black belt would be its own test. There is no mandatory instructor training with the Kukkiwon, there is that option as an extra novelty certification if you get to travel to Korea, but it is not mandatory. Any dan rank 4th degree or higher can test people for black belts and any lesser dan rank can go to a 4th dan or higher for their students to be tested. The instructor who ranks his student then submits an application to the Kukkiwon, and certification is signed by the Kukkiwon’s current president directly from Korea. The Kukkiwon is true Korean Taekwondo and the direction of where the true historic linage ended up today since Taekwondo’s founding in 1955.

        True Taekwondo allows for an independent structure. Each school is independently run by its own people. There is no corporation owning all Kukkiwon schools. Of course if someone with a capitalistic mindset (which I approve of) wanted to make a Taekwondo business with a franchise of gyms with Kukkiwon certified instructors that is fine. At least their company will be truly accredited by an outside source, and the proper one at that. Accreditation is only worth the body it was given by. If a governing body accredits its own people, and their skill is lacking, and not part of the true linage of Taekwondo and is itself an offshoot, the accreditation is only worth anything to their in group, and if their instructors lack in true martial arts skills and self defense knowledge than their accreditation is very weak. It is incestuous and silly.

        Mcdojangs, most notably Tiger Rock Martial Arts International, will claim they have direct linage to an original kwan (or school) of Taekwondo such as their claim they are from the Chung Do Kwan founded by Lee Wan Kuk in the early days before 1955. This is easy to do for anyone who wants to pretend they are part of true Taekwondo history. Anyone who had an instructor, who had an instructor, who had an instructor somewhere at sometime, who learned or became a master under whoever, can link back to whatever historical linage they want to claim. The problem is off shoot branches fall off the direct root of the tree. It is like following a train track where truth is the train track. Some people walk off the track and build another new track in another direction off of the main line. While the main train track had went one direction toward a goal, and accepted standard, or style and the newly built tracks go off in another direction away from this “track of truth.” This is such with groups like ATA and Tiger Rock. Tiger Rock founders may at some point have studied under a guy who trained with an early kwan, or trained under a guy who had an instructor from and early kwan at some point in time, but that does not mean anything. Also, the truth is that Tiger Rock can only link back to the Chung Do Kwan through the linage claims of the American Taekwondo Association’s founder H.U. Lee (who definitely went off the track of truth and made his own offshoot) since they originally trained under the ATA as junior instructors before making up their own Taekwondo group.

        On Tiger Rock’s website explaining their history it mentions that a delegation of Tiger Rock masters were honored to attend Won Kuk Lee’s last formal seminar in 2002, but this does not prove support by Won Kuk Lee or that he somehow was part of their formation. They simply attended a seminar. Anyone can do that from any organization from anywhere! Just pay the seminar fee!

        Other organizations or martial arts styles that can actually link historically to the Chung Do Kwan are groups like the International Taekwon-do Federation founded by General Choi Hong Hi (Choi was a direct second generation student of Won Kuk Lee and temporary Chung Do Kwan school master), and Tang Soo Do which is the actual name of the martial art the original Chung Do Kwan school taught created by Won Kuk Lee. However, the ITF became the very first Taekwondo offshoot organization that went in another direction away from the direction of where the Korean Taekwondo/Taesoodo Association was headed. The ITF is itself another style of martial arts with the name of “Taekwon-do,” which is spelled with a hyphen to differentiate it from Kukki-Taekwondo. The ITF was the organization that the founder of the American Taekwondo Association, HU Lee was a part of before creating his own style in the ATA. Tiger Rock comes from this.

        Before Taekwondo, Koreans simply were most often training in Japanese Karate, but they called it Tang Soo Do. The Chung Do Kwan was called “Tang Soo Do Chung Do Kwan.” Later, Won Kuk Lee, which Tiger Rock reveres, had a 4th successor named Uhm Woon Kyu, who was given the position as leader of the Chung Do Kwan. Uhm Woon Kyu helped develop Taekwondo as an Olympic Sport, and played a huge role in forming the World Taekwondo Federation, Korean Taekwondo Association, and the Kukkiwon. Uhm was even president of the Kukkiwon after Dr. Un Yung Kim, but has since resigned in 2010. Chung Do Kwan thus is part of the true linage that points to the Kukkiwon which is the accepted organization for Taekwondo recognized by the Korean government. It does not point to a connection or support towards any other organizations for Taekwondo such as ATA or ITA. Tiger Rock is not historically aligned with the direction Chung Do Kwan headed along with all of the other kwans. All kwans now fully support the Kukkiwon and the WTF. If one was linked to a certain kwan and held it with reverence and honor it would seem they also too would align themselves with Kukkiwon standards and practices. But these groups do not.

        According to Uhm Woon Kyu, and vice president of the Chung Do Kwan Hae Man Park (retired), “Kukkiwon Taekwondo is Chung Do Kwan Taekwondo.” It, a long with the 8 other kwans, developed the system of Taekwondo together. Chung Do Kwan is simply now a social friendship club (as all kwans are now) that 100% endorses the Kukkiwon so that the Kukkiwon can retain power and and development over Taekwondo.  This is nowhere in line with groups like Tiger Rock.

        I could personally create my own martial art style with its own ideas and forms. I could then call it Taekwondo and create my own master instructor certifications for people to pay for. I could run my own exclusive tournaments and make money. I could go attend seminars held by old Korean masters from an early Kwan and act like they were my personal teachers and masters. I could then link my linage back to an early kwan easily by the same method groups like ATA and ITA/Tiger Rock used. But this would be dishonest and embellished. I actually would not be a part of the direction Taekwondo history headed with the proper Korean Taekwondo organization of the Kukkiwon. I would be teaching a totally different style of my own making. It really is that simple.

        The point is every original kwan formed together as one style of martial art called Taekwondo with one goal and every historic kwan (all 10 of them) agrees with, fully supports, and is 100% incorporated into the Kukkiwon and accepts the World Taekwondo Federation. Off shoots like Tiger Rock have nothing to do with the Kukkiwon except for the fact some of their instructors visited Korea, or attend a seminar taught by some Kukkiwon grandmasters. If these original ITA (Tiger Rock) founders received Kukkiwon rank somehow it still does not matter since they do not supply rank to their students or even teach the Kukki-Taekwondo system. They also do not participate in WTF tournaments. Also, the Kukkiwon supports independence and does not exclude people from other organizations from testing for their black belt certification. This is exactly the opposite of groups like Tiger Rock who in no way will recognize or care you have a Kukkiwon black belt. If you do join Tiger Rock you have to start all over again as a white belt and pay into their testing fees and certification fees and classes and pay for membership and more fees. No one is even allowed to participate in any ITA tournaments unless they are a Tiger Rock student and paid into whatever rank they wanted to compete at. They are a closed off and exclusive organization. This is most likely so they can claim “World Champions” etc. by not allowing threatening outsiders into tournaments who might beat their people in a match. The American Taekwondo Association is notorious for this as well.

        It has to be mentioned that not every offshoot organization of Taekwondo is necessarily wrong. There are various groups who still teach the Kukkiwon system, but are still their own affiliation with other instructors and schools. Mostly Kukkiwon rank is also given, but sometimes it is not given and only their affiliation rank for their offshoot organization is given. The difference is they are still teaching Taekwondo just without Kukkiwon certifications or affiliation. I personally believe it is not the best idea to be in an offshoot and ignore the Kukkiwon, but they are still true to the art in form. And some groups do have legitimate martial arts skills and teach valid self defense and do not use annoying marketing tactics to create a giant empire. They simply just exist to associate various schools together to teach and learn martial arts. I still personally think they should maintain ties to the Kukkiwon at least for ranking purposes anyway though.

        Unlike Tiger Rock or the ATA, the forms from the Kukkiwon/WTF are free for anyone to practice, perform, and teach. Tiger Rock and the ATA patents their forms to make it illegal for anyone to teach them without being “accredited” by their own group. So if one person earns a black belt in Tiger Rock or ATA and then one day moves or quits training there, they cannot teach the forms to anyone else if they decide to start a gym or affiliate with another group. This shows they want total control and not freedom in their martial arts style. This is another reason why the Kukkiwon is the truth for Taekwondo and allows independence and freedom for Taekwondo martial artists.

        Parents wanting their kids, themselves or anyone else who wants to sign up for Taekwondo lessons please be advised, and do not be fooled by the marketing gimmick of “accreditation.” It is meaningless, and if a corporation’s martial arts skills are lacking, their accreditation is lacking. You cannot truly claim accreditation if one body accredits itself! Affirming itself is a joke. True accreditation is going to be outside judges and panels who affirm something. A third party affirmation. Choose a Kukkiwon related gym for real Taekwondo that does not dictate commands to gym owners and allows them to be independent and truly certified and affirmed by peers. Even the International Taekwon-do Federation is independently run like the Kukkiwon for the most part.

        Mcdojangs simply use marketing gimmicks and silly tactics and embellished histories to get you to pay them a lot of money so they can stay rich.

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program.

*Since the original submission of this article he has no earned his 4th dan black belt and master certification in Korea from the Kukkiwon and has so far trained for over 21 years.  

McDojangs Create An Entitlement Culture

        Jimmy, 6 years old, is going to test for his black belt and you better dang well expect him to pass…or else (angry parents)! He has never failed one promotion test ever, even that one time he completely forgot his form, and that one time he never broke a board and the instructor had to pretend he broke it by snapping it for him…he is after all PAYING money and DESERVES to test for his black belt! After all we are all about encouraging kids and giving them tons of self esteem and want to reassure them that they are CHAMPIONS even if they still cannot do a proper back stance or kick past their waist.

I’m testing for black belt and I already got my cool black belt style dobok in advance! My mom paid tons of money!

        Much like the current government welfare state, mcdojang’s worldwide have created an entitlement culture within martial arts. A gimme, gimme culture of belt ranks and affirmations for people who believe they absolutely deserve to be the next belt rank up, even to black belt, or just assume they deserve to be a black belt. After all they paid money for it and the instructors want that money so they encourage everyone to test, even those who are clearly not ready to test. And everyone passes! No one fails. The greed of so many instructors and martial arts organizations, especially those masquerading as Taekwondo but actually are a completely made up system marketed solely for profit and not a martial art, has been disguised as “self esteem building” or “confidence” instilling programs. This is nothing more than spoiling the already spoiled brats who sign up at your average mcdojang because of their rich parents who have no problem paying an extreme amount of money to get their kid a black belt (within 1 year of course! Not that extremely long 3 years crap you hear at that other gym where they waste your time training hard).

        This current Taekwondo climate has made it very difficult for true instructors of the Taekwondo martial art to keep students. Both because people assume Taekwondo sucks and your gym is a belt factory and daycare center, and also the students who actually still want to take Taekwondo refuse to stick with you because they are not automatically given belt ranks unless they have the skill to match.

        Being a Taekwondo instructor in this day and age and wanting to be legitimate and given the proper respect any other serious combat gym is given is very tough. This entitlement culture has many school aged kids as well as young adults competing with each other about who and who is not a black belt. Kids go to school and talk to other kids who go to other various dojangs or dojos and kids who go to the mcdojangs will say “I am a black belt!” and boast about it to other kids who might only be a green belt at a legitimate martial arts gym which passes students based on skill. Kids often are belittled by the spoiled mcdojang brats or influenced to quit a legitimate school to go to another school where their friends are for a fast pass to black belt. Other times kids who previously went to those mcdojangs realize it is too expensive then come to your gym to try it out. They are very turned off once they realize they cannot wear their brown belt in your gym and are going to have to start over since your style is completely different with different forms, self defense techniques, and overall standards especially in the technique and skill department. Of course some of these kids have enough experience to learn your curriculum fast and promote faster than a student who is completely new to martial arts training, but they become impatient even at that thought, and quit your program and go back to their mcdojang or find another one who will let them keep their rank, or even test into a higher rank right away.

        There is some hope though, some parents do see the marketing gimmick and money making schemes mcdojangs use to trap parents into coughing up cash every month. If you market your martial arts teaching to the enlightened parents, even though there seem to be few, you have a high probability of keeping your students. If you also look for a particular quality of student and parents where you know they want their kid to learn a real martial arts style and learn skills, you will do better than just allowing anyone to enter your gym and train. Once you do keep students make sure you emphasize fighting ability over belt colors. If right away you encourage kids about learning to fight over belt colors, you have instilled in them martial arts values that will last a long time, and none of the mcdojang madness outside of your gym that tries to entice them will influence them.

        Steps to take:

1. Advertise realistic fighting, be able to prove it and have full confidence that your abilities are decent and worthy. You better make sure your students get good too.

2. Look for the enlightened parents who want their kids to actually be good at something and know self defense.

3. Only allow high quality students to join your gym with good parents. Make them audition to join your gym by interviews and testing their behavior in a couple of free classes.

4. Instill in students their first day of class that learning to fight is the purpose and valuable self defense techniques are why they are joining. Not to wear pretty colored belts until they get a cool black one.

*One way to do this is take off your black belt, tie it onto one of the students and talk about how awesome the kid is as a black belt to the other students. Ask them if they think he can kick your butt in a fight. When they say, “NO WAY!” Then say, “But dude he is a black belt!  And try to make them question their logic. Then say, “Ok let’s see! Fight me! beat me up hit me!” But do it playfully in a fun way. Not a serious or scary way. The kid should laugh and attack you with whatever he can make up, then you should grab him and do a sweep or some fun silly move or throw fake strikes that show you would obviously destroy him. The other kids will get the point. Then talk about how a belt color has absolutely nothing to do with skill. Anyone can buy one, tie one on, or go to another gym and be given one. It does not mean they can fight. A piece of cloth is not magical power. Then go on to talk about how belt ranks are given only to those deserving and are not paid for with cash. They are also not a status symbol to show off, but simply given by an instructor to know who is more advanced then other students. If the kids enjoy it, tie the belt on a couple more kids and fake fight them. This drill will show that belts do not matter but skill matters. From that point on instead of belt chasing they will be skill chasing and will practice hard to learn how to fight and master the martial arts. 

        It is sad that Taekwondo and many martial arts are full of an entitlement culture, and the vast majority of people only want to show off and have things over another person and status than actually sweating hard, getting in shape and obtaining fighting skill. But don’t give in! And have encouragement. Market yourself for skills, not superficial things backed by a silly pyramid scheme “taekwondo” organization. Get legitimate certification in the true martial art and base it on your skill and proper qualifications.

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Constructive Criticism For Crappy Anti-Bullying Advice From The ATA

        Here is some crappy anti-bullying suggestions by an ATA 4th dan black belt. Yes, often times bullies attack me with knives and after I kick them trying to stab me I will put my hands out like “stop!” And a groin kick means “he will pretty much drop the knife” because groin kicks are ALWAYS a fight ender.

NO They are not! And putting your hands up like that in a fight is stupid.

        The wrist grab goes backwards defeating the purpose of twisting the wrist, and their butterfly kick is ineffective against assailants!

        No one attacks with a super high haymaker like how the kid throws it in this video. It is not a realistic angle for a bullies punch. The high block is useless against a typical punch, but there are purposes for a high block, just not in this instance. Putting your hands up to say “stop!” is bad advice as a bully will not care. If he decided to punch you he is not going to just stop and giving him a chance to hesitate and think only allows him to come up with another attack. As soon as anyone punches a person they should immediately understand it is a fight and you have to defend yourself and win or else get knocked out, or beat up. Bullies in school also do not attack with water bottles, but possibly they were trying to imagine it was a blunt object. But they did not make that clear. A bully usually will not pick up a blunt object that would cause serious damage unless he was enraged, and he definitely would not pick up a knife if he was just a bully. Most often schools will clear kids of any knives, but there is a possibility of someone bringing a knife to school as well as a gun as we have seen in the news recently. The point is when someone has intent to kill or serious damage he is no longer a bully, but a sociopath and is trying to harm you way beyond being a bully and saying “STOP!” when someone is wielding a knife is just plain idiotic. At that point it is kill or be killed, or at least injure him before he injures you. Most times a knife is not attacked with such a high angle, but it is known to happen. Relying on their form “Song Ahm 1” for knife defense is going to get you killed.

        The wrist grab escape was a very crappy demonstration and there is just a lot wrong with it. He was trying to do a valid technique of opening a gap in the grip to pull out which I personally teach to my students, but he is doing it wrong and ineffective. He has no understanding of movement or physics. He twists up, then yanks backwards right back into the grip and thinks he could pull out. Of course the kid just loosens his grip and does not even try to grab him hard. He also does not even move back and just stays in a very awful stance. The best way is to step backwards into a back stance then twist out and pull in th direction of the opened grip. The backfist was a stupid attempt at a strike which not only was awful technique and pathetic, but a backfist at his distance wouldn’t even hit a person. He should step back and slide somewhat forward and a knife hand strike would work better since his hand was open.

        The butterfly kick was just dumb and is a pointless technique to claim will defeat an assailant and knock anyone out. The way the kid even threw it was so slow a person would just step out of the way. The butterfly kick in itself is not a bad technique and you could pull it off in a fight but it is a high risk move and rare an opening would occur for it at least at the distance and situation they presented. Teaching this to kids or teenager or even adults is going to get them killed.

        It is sad people who are 4th dans in their system are lacking common, combat sense and also display bad technique unworthy of a black belt. This is the typical mcdojang and they are responsible for teaching dangerous self defense techniques that will only get you seriously hurt in any self defense situation, yet they don’t care and keep teaching them because they are making money baby sitting kids. PARENTS PLEASE AVOID YOUR AVERAGE MCDOJANG! Years of terrible training will develop bad habits. This video is only one example.

What’s On The Menu: An Analysis Of Your Typical McDojang Part 3

*Authored by White Dragon and Grey Wolf

Part 3: Final Part.

McDojang tactics 

Most mcdojangs always have crazy uniforms for various things within their schools they sell their students. Demo team uniforms, tournament uniforms, class uniforms, t-shirts, black belt club uniforms etc. It is all just to make money of their student base so they have to keep buying various uniforms. Another thing is mcdojang organizational leaders realize their style is lacking in realism so they have to adopt other martial arts styles within their curriculum to fill the gap. The ATA is known for starting its Krav Maga (Israeli self defense art) program, and even at one time had an MMA program. They saw the trend of MMA and tried to make money quick. What mcdojangs will do is buy out a martial arts group or pay that group to liscence them to advertise such as using the Gracie’s name for Gracie Jiu Jitsu for the ATA, or Wolfpac Jiu Jitsu for the ITA. They then have paid for the right to have a grappling program and claim their instructors are now certified to teach it. What they do is have very loq standards for how an instructor gets certified, so then someone who would only be a high white belt, and at most, a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is claiming to be a grappling expert and teaching their ignorance to their Taekwondo students. Mcdojangs do not stop there, they come up with all kinds of martial arts certifications to boost the credentials of their school owners such as Korean weapons certification, jong bong staff certification, Kumdo sword certification, grappling certification, Krava Maga certification, self defense certification, and more and more on top of their already 9th degree black belts in their Taekwondo style. So their ranks come within their own group, certified by their own group, for their own group. It is not as if a independent martial artist who is a Taekwondo ranked instructor who also has Jiu Jitsu rank from a separate Jiu Jitsu organization. They do not have cultured people within martial arts but are inbred stylists creating bastardized versions of such martial arts styles sprinkled on top of already bastardized Taekwondo.

Another tactic mcdojang organizations do, the ones who have money, is set up annual trips to Korea. They try to make their students think they are going back to their roots, but all they did was pay for a trip to Korea and become tourists, and then pretend the Kukkiwon represents them because they got a tour of it. They also usually pay to rent a temple or a place where you can behave stoically because of nice Korean landscape scenery and then have some training. In reality South Korea has nothing to do with their style nor does Korea even recognize what they are doing as legitimate Taekwondo. The black belt ranks do not transfer to the Taekwondo gyms in Korea.

One of the most annoying tactics to me personally is the average mcdojang chain’s claim to have the most top qualified instructors in the world who go through a “rigorous training process” and are re-certified annually and tested to make sure their instructors have the “most up to date training methods and techniques” available. This is very impressive to parents but all it really means is an in group’s leaders oversaw their instructors and taught them the latest marketing tactics and gimmick in their organization and introduced to them new materials or changes of old material in their own group. It is not as if an official independently run and legitimate Taekwondo organization tested their instructors and licensed them like how a personal training certification works or an athletic commission. It is basically as if McDonald’s said they train their managers in the latest burger making, fry cooking, cashier running methods. It would be like McDonald’s testing their own workers to be better at McDonald’s. It is not like the Health Inspector’s or Top Chef came in to test the workers and teach them high quality culinary techniques. So their claim to teach the highest quality methods and claim to annually test and re-certify instructors is complete BS and only serves as a money making scheme not only to get parent’s fooled into signing their kids up in long term contracts, but to make money off of their franchise owners and instructors themselves. It costs money to be re-certified and take tests, and go to seminars etc. in order to keep your rank and remain an instructor.

One last thing worth mentioning is that just because someone is a part of a mcdojang does not mean they automatically suck. People are individuals and it is possible someone who has good fighting skills attends a mcdojang or is part of one. They could be good if they do self study outside the typical curriculum they learn and  if they are athletically gifted. Maybe they spar their friends outside their gym and cross train. Another reason someone might be good is because of the fact that often, groups like the ATA will and have hired WTF tournament champions who are Kukkiwon black belts or ITF black belts, and also expert competitors who originally trained in another style. Some people can be bought with enough money and are paid and given business opportunities to switch to their organizations. But even so the quality of the average student is seriously lacking and it is extremely expensive.

Kukkiwon certified instructors are legitimate

The Kukkiwon is independent from most dojangs around the world and serve only as an organizational backing that regulates the art and provides LIFE-TIME certification for people who earn their ranks and also a world culture for Taekwondo. There is no re-certification fees or mandatory seminars and this is a good thing. A martial arts gym can be Kukkiwon certified yet be given a lot of leeway to teach various things for self-defense. Gyms are independently run but still belong to the Kukkiwon linage, and their rank certifications are quite cheap, even compared to the average fitness trainer’s personal training certification. Some people may think that mcdojang’s advertisements sound impressive because they have standardization, but do not be confused, the Kukkiwon has standards and better standards not based on marketing schemes and whatever a corporate entity wants to implement to make money. Kukkiwon gyms have the Kukkiwon standard for what Taekwondo is, yet they can teach anything they want to teach for Taekwondo and self-defense. A true Taekwondo instructor who also wants to be certified in grappling will actually just go to a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym and train. That would bring a wide variety of separate martial arts into their gym, not a bogus inter-organizational certification.

Conclusion

There are various mcdojangs all around and can be identified by their sales tactics and low quality fighting skills in their students as well as no link to the Kukkiwon. They have all kinds of gimmicks. All of this is why if you want to train in Taekwondo you need to start off looking for a Kukkiwon certified instructor. This is the first step in avoiding the mcdojang trap. Now getting a good quality self defense and fight oriented Kukkiwon instructor is another issue for another article.

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Grey Wolf is a Martial Artist of 14 years and instructor with a 3rd degree Taekwondo Black Belt.

What’s On The Menu: An Analysis Of Your Typical McDojang Part 2

*Authored by White Dragon and Grey Wolf

Part 2.

Mcdojang Sparring “World Champions”

Below is a comparison of 2 of the largest McDojang chains at their “world tournaments.” Notice how big the audience is, possibly the ATA has a lot of people watching, but is it as if the ENTIRE world is competing and not only regional white guys? The ITA world tournament looks incredibly small:

ATA World Championship Sparring

ITA (Tiger Rock) World Championship Sparring

One does have to say ATA is slightly better, and has a slightly larger venue. but they are both nowhere looking like a giant world competition such as the WTF World Championships, and also pretty lacking in skill. These tournaments are in the point-break style of light touch contact. If you so much as touch the person with your foot they stop the match to call out some points. This leaves absolutely no room for realistic countering or even defense against being countered as all one has to worry about is if their foot or hand touches the other person’s body or head gear. And God forbid if you so much as move their head or body you could be deducted a point, and at worst disqualified for “excessive” contact. Now we don’t want to get hurt because we all know fighting is not about hurting people…right?

Now compare both of those fights to the World Taekwondo Federation style of fighting where you hit full contact and it is continuous. There is no point break, or light touching for points. You have to hit hard to score. And unlike the mcdojang organizations, legitimate Taekwondo tournaments actually are WORLD events with many countries competing. The venues for the tournaments aren’t simply held in the USA and are extremely large.

Match in Korea at the Kukkiwon 

Knockout at WTF World Championships

Small tournament, precisely timed, tornado kick knockout

See real Taekwondo sport actually can hurt you. Knockouts are perfectly legal! You are encouraged to hurt your opponent as long as you use proper attacks to the correct scoring areas. Notice the difference in skill from the ATA and ITA compared with typical World Championship quality WTF sparring. The techniques are precisely times and not flailing around by chance or random flying kicks for no reason. There is speed and high power and such sparring can honestly get quite scary if you are fighting at a tournament.

There have been more recent additions to mcdojang, light contact sparring. They have implicated a “continuous” rules format where they do not stop the match to call points, but the rules for scoring are exactly the same! Light contact touch only, and how do they call points? Using a clicker, and it is completely subjective. Whoever tags each other lightly 100’s of times more than the other person wins. So if you watch a tournament you will see machine gunning hand touching and foot touching and if you hurt the other person you get disqualified.

Comparison of Forms from ATA, ITA, and the WTF standard (analysis by Grey Wolf)

ATA 1st dan Black Belt Form

ATA Shim Jun (1st dan)

First of all, this poomsae is pretty long. There really isn’t a need for it to be so long other than the fact ATA increases their forms by 2 or more movements every belt rank — and the fact it has to fit one of the patterns on the Songahm star. A lot of the hand techniques don’t make sense. At least two points in this video there are uselessly difficult kicking combinations; considering there are three kicks in the combo, the two last kicks would have little to no power. The difficulty and frequency of these kicking techniques makes the form seem loose and sloppy aesthetically. The angles are weird and would never be used in a combat situation (except for point tag foot touch sparring against another uselessly kicking opponent). Most of the spatial progression is made during kicking combinations. Besides that, everything is constrained to one area: no shifts from stance to stance, or much traveling distance like proper poomsae teaches.

ITA (Tiger Rock) 1st dan Black Belt Form

ITA 1st dan Poomsae

The first problems in this form are the awkward front leg round kicks from the back stance. Nobody is every going to use or try that. The next is the use of flashy spin kicks. Other than a turning side kick, poomsae should not overuse spin kicks or use overly-flashy jump kicks. Toward the end of this form is a kicking sequence where you front kick forward and then side kick to the side 90 degrees without dropping your foot. This is absolutely illogical. For one thing, you should not keep your foot up in sparring. For another, you’re never going to front kick and then side kick 90 degrees in another directions on the same leg, much less without dropping your foot. Using double kicking on the same leg has a purpose in fighting, but not at those angles or in such a stance. This sort of nonsense makes Taekwondoin look ridiculous, like they could never fight in a real kickboxing or MMA fight. Poomsae is about teaching how to string together basics. While good poomsae sometimes do have jumping kicks or more advanced hand techniques, generally they are sandwiched between lots of basic techniques and also train people in covering stance with stepping with each technique. Good quality poomsae are sensitive to the teaching of movement principles rather than just stringing together progressively harder, flashier movements. This is what mcdojangers misunderstand about the nature of forms: forms do not have to get more difficult for each belt rank, and merely throwing in a bunch of difficult techniques is not the proper way to go about making a form more advanced. It’s just a way to artificially engage a student so they don’t worry about perfecting their fighting skills instead since most of their students lack a combative interest or mindset. This form is devoid of useful basic techniques such as straight punches, and instead has a lot of hand techniques whose relationship to one other is not readily discernible.

And finally the World Taekwondo Federation Standard For Black Belt Poomsae As Recognized by the Kukkiwon

KKW/WTF Koryo (1st dan)

Koryo is one of the more difficult forms from the Kukkiwon Taekwondo curriculum to perform correctly. That said, the flashiest movement in the whole form is just a double side kick. If you lower the height of both your sidekicks, this technique is actually easily applicable to real fighting situations, whether as a low fake to side kick, or double striking kicks from the knee to the body or head, or 2 slower kicks with power in both movements. This technique is actually used in full contact Olympic sparring a lot, and works. The form is tight and filled with plenty of immediately applicable basic hand techniques, most notably the throat strikes. Most of Koryo’s stance transitions are made from kicks, but the rest of the Kukkiwon forms have several stance to stance transitions, which teach proper weight transfer and are much more practical than predominantly kick transfers from each stance. It also looks sophisticated which is something mcdojang forms lack.

Comparing video evidence it is self evident that Kukki-Taekwondo is superior in all areas.

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Grey Wolf is a Martial Artist of 14 years and instructor with a 3rd degree Taekwondo Black Belt. 

What’s On The Menu: An Analysis Of Your Typical McDojang Part 1

*Authored by White Dragon and Grey Wolf

This article is split up into 3 parts for easier reading. This is part 1.

Introduction

In the Martial Arts world a “mcdojo” or a “mcdojang” is a derogatory term used to describe a Martial Arts gym that only exists to make as much money as possible at the expense of realistic, and high quality Martial Arts training. The term comes from the idea that just like with fast food the McDonald’s Corporation is not high quality food and is a cheap version of American delicacies. Likewise, certain Martial Arts gyms are the equivalent to that in the Martial Arts World. Thus the terms “mcdojo” and “mcdojang.” “Dojo” is the Japanese term for gym while “dojang” is the Korean term. So depending on if you train in Japanese Martial Arts or Korean Martial Arts at such kind of a gym the proper term applies. Also this concept for Chinese Martial Arts would be “mckwoon” as “kwoon” is the term for gym in Chinese.

Now with all of this it is apparent that throughout the modern history of Martial Arts the Korean art of Taekwondo has been the victim of this syndrome more than any Martial Art style in the world. There are many mcdojo’s for Karate and other Japanese arts, plenty of them. But Taekwondo mcdojang’s pretty much started this whole trend and are the worst offenders!

American McDojang

Taekwondo in America is full of many “mcdojang” chains all claiming to teach Taekwondo. There are multiple large organizations and even more smaller ones that some people might not know about. These groups each claim they teach the Korean art of Taekwondo and train Taekwondo black belts. But how can this be so when each organization has completely separate techniques and forms and their own style? The way they claim you should move as well as completely different forms vary from chain to chain. Their sparring style and rules format for each of their sports are also their own entity devoid of anything Korea taught for sport sparring. This is because in the 70’s and 80’s when most of these organizations were founded they got caught up in the ridiculous “Sport Karate” tournament circuits instead of Taekwondo fighting.

All of these chains started inside the USA and are not linked back to Korea within their distinct styles, except sometimes through a Korean American who decided regular KTA and Kukkiwon teaching was not good enough (other times it is a White guy or American citizen who starts his own chain). These Koreans usually had a superior master who studied genuine Taekwondo and started their organization. When the master stepped down to pursue other career goals these lesser masters threw out the regular forms and made their own up. Usually, the forms exist simply to show flash and they lack any hint of logical progression in movement and do not have real combative application, at least much that is effective. This is because most of these mcdojang “grandmasters” never have been in a fight and really don’t understand combat or care. They also only train their students to spar in their light contact touch format with ridiculously over-protected gear. They exist to impress and make money and pretend  in a very convincing manner to the average non-martial artist seeking to become a student.

Consequently, within this world of mcdojangs come political struggles. If greed and popularity or power is the goal of certain founders one can see how this trickles down into the subordinates and in-fighting occurs. Splits within organizations happen.

The following is an analysis of the ATA as well as comments about the ITA written by Grey Wolf, a Martial Artist of over 14 years and a former ATA student and ranked 3rd dan black belt within that organization who had come to his senses and converted to Kukki-Taekwondo:

Analysis of the American Taekwondo Association (ATA)

The American Taekwondo Association was co-founded by original Chung Do Kwan graduate Kang Suh Chong and his student Haeng Ung (H.U.) Lee. Before moving to the USA, Kang founded his own school of Taekwondo, the Kuk Mu Kwan, and served as head instructor of the Korean Intelligence Agency as well as commanding instructor of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army. As an 8th dan in Taekwondo upon arriving in the US in 1969, he started a school in Brooklyn, New York, and co-founded the ATA. At this time Kang and Lee practiced and taught the Chang Hon system of forms, which are the family of forms created by General Choi Hong Hi and practiced by the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). In 1973, he was the first Chung Do Kwan graduate to receive the honor of 10th dan from its founder, Lee Won Kuk. Kang served as president of the ATA until 1978.

After Kang left the ATA to serve as vice president of the ITF, H.U. Lee, formerly vice president of the ATA and now an 8th dan, made a complete political takeover, effectively wiping Kang’s contribution to the ATA from its official history. The current history now says that H.U. Lee solely founded the ATA with a unique vision of the martial arts. The ATA continued to use the Chang Hon forms until 1983, when together with his top masters, Lee created the Songahm system of forms. ATA Taekwondo to this day is known as Songahm Taekwondo. (Songahm means “pine tree and rock” or “pine tree temple” and was H.U. Lee’s nickname.)

Sometime during the 1980s and 90s, the general quality of the ATA went downhill. Today, the ATA is the premier McDojang. Being the largest martial arts organization in the USA, and one of the largest in the world through its sister orgs WTTU and STF, it is the model of McDojang success that all other McDojangs aspire to be. As a former member, below are several points of criticism I have for the modern ATA:

1. Promotion. It is well known in the martial arts community that ATA is a belt factory. While some schools do not hand out belts, it seems that most do. You pay for a promotion and you get your belt no matter what. Furthermore, most schools have a one year black belt program. It doesn’t matter how talented you are: you cannot legitimately get a black belt in one year realistically in a true Martial Art style.

2. Child Dans. The ATA does not have a poom or jr. black belt system like the Kukkiwon does. When you become a first degree black belt you are a full-fledged Chodan in ATA, regardless. Kids younger than 8 years old have been able to achieve black belts. Three points: (a) someone under 15 will not have developed enough limbs to correctly perform techniques in a real life situation; (b) does not have the requisite maturity to  handle the responsibility and authority attached to a black belt; and (c) does not have the abstract thinking capability or technical knowledge to teach other students, which a black belt will be expected to do. Additionally, this is a trend generally looked down upon by the martial arts community at large.

3. Absurd Intermediate and Advanced Poomsae. The first 5-7 forms of the Songahm poomsae system are actually pretty good. They make logical use of basic techniques with an obvious Chang Hon flavor to them. Beyond that, however, the forms become ridiculous. They are bogged down by strained, impractical kicking segments, and hand techniques never practiced in self-defense, dragging on and on longer each and every form. The difficulty of some of the useless movements makes it to where almost no one can execute them correctly, giving them a very sloppy and loose feel. By time you’re a 3rd or 4th degree black belt, your form could be up to 100 movements and take several minutes just to perform. Taekwondo is not Tai Chi. The point of poomsae training is to work on proper body mechanics in order to develop muscle memorization for self defense techniques. Simple is better. Overly complicated is useless.

4. Inane Sparring. The light contact, point-break format promotes the abysmal habit of foot fencing and fails to teach real-world applicable combat skills. Instead of launching full kicks, students make repeat machine gun kicks in the air that are not fully extended and which have little to no power — all for the sake of tapping the opponent to gain a point. Allowing points for mere taps creates terrible fighting habits. I’ve seen it in other students and I’ve seen it in myself; I was terrible at sparring coming out of the ATA and did not learn how to hold my own until put in a harder, freer sparring style.


*Even during promotion testing when you are showing your skills as a test to show you deserve to advance in rank they are busy doing twirling air kicks without even touching each other. What purpose does this serve for self defense proficiency as a black belt? Notice the incisive clapping and cheering by the students. It is as if they are brainwashed, yet the parents are unresponsive and do not react. These ATA kids are typical child-black belts considered to legitimately be chodan. 

5. Diluted Tournament system. ATA generally forbids its students to compete in any tournaments outside of the ATA. The majority of tournaments are held by chain owners or between franchises. Above this are state hosted tournaments. Lastly there are the National and World championships. It seems everyone is a national, state, or world champion in something. Everyone. It’s not very often you meet a national champion from USAT or a world champion from the WTF. But it is commonplace with the ATA. In low level tournaments, everyone gets a trophy; places are not usually announced. In high level tournaments, there are so many ways and opportunities to win, that winning hardly means anything. If you’re a world champion, it’s just a world champion in ATA. ATAs best sparrers are not impressive. Unlike with the USAT, AAU, and WTF, where not only do they have the most elite Taekwondo athletes in the country and the world, but they also compete in many open tournaments to qualify for high level USAT, AAU, and WTF tournaments. That means they test their skills against all styles of Taekwondo, Karate, and sometimes even kung fu. Claiming world champions is simply a marketing tactic to make people think they have the most elite Taekwondo instructors and students in the world so parents will want to sign their kids up. What is worse is some of these “world champions” are only that in weapons twirling or forms, or some other ridiculous demo show off event as the ATA has all kinds of divisions for random things. Once they win they get to buy a new uniform that says either “World,” “National,” or “State Champion on the back with their name. This is pretentious and also makes students a little too prideful.

6. Cultic, Egotistic Culture. It has been the observation of me and many other outsiders that ATA students generally walk around with a chip on their shoulder. I did when I was in it. ATA students have a lot of pride in a training system which ill prepares them for either self-defense or open competition, yet they walk around as “world champions” and feel special. Furthermore, many schools have a sort of cult mentality about the primacy of the ATA and their political founder. Psychological manipulation occurs on a daily basis with actions such as forcing the audience to clap excessively when they do a demo, using cheesy techno music when sparring in class, and making students memorize pointless creeds, as well as participate in ridiculous ceremonies and rituals nowhere found inside historic Taekwondo or Korean culture itself (candles, giant staffs, reciting words, special silk uniforms etc.) Said founder, H.U. Lee, is referred to posthumously now as Eternal Grand Master. Need I say more?

*ATA looks more like a Masonic cult than a Martial Arts style. It comes off as very religious. It is a cult of personality about their founder who they speak in awe about calling him “Eternal Grandmaster.” 

Analysis of the International Taekwondo Alliance (ITA)

The International Taekwondo Alliance, known to southerners in the US as Tiger Rock martial Arts, is a style of Taekwondo known as Ho-Ahm. The ITA was formed after some high-ranking ATA black belts decided to defect from the ATA and start their own organization teaching their own curriculum. Aesthetically, Tiger Rock uses the same looking uniforms, branding tactics, instructor/master hierarchy, and name schemes for techniques as the does the ATA. Recently, though, Tiger Rock has changed their uniforms to look more futuristic and modern, yet originally their uniforms were nearly identical and you can still see many wearing them still today.

Much of what is said about the ATA applies to Tiger Rock, some of it more so. Their level of skill is far below that of ATA’s. ATA students are infamous for a low level of skill, yet at least there is a fairly regular group of students in each Dojang that has good kicking technique, etc. And also the instructors are almost always capable technically. But Tiger Rock is not so. Anything the ATA does badly, the Tiger Rock does worse (a comment on a Tiger Rock video once said, “Anything the ATA sucks at, the ITA sucks worse). Sometimes not even the instructors are capable technically of performing their art.

Tiger Rock’s place as a McDojang is unique. Whereas most McDojang organizations were founded by legitimately skilled big name Taekwondo sabums from Korea, Tiger Rock was founded by some guys in the ATA who weren’t even the most important masters. ATA is diluted Chung Do Kwan/Oh Do Kwan/Kuk Mu Kwan Taekwondo. Whereas, Tiger Rock is a diluted Songahm Taekwondo which is already diluted from its parent systems!

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White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

Grey Wolf is a Martial Artist of 14 years and instructor with a 3rd degree Taekwondo Black Belt.