Give It to Get It

Respect, as they say, isn’t given.  It is earned.  But to earn it, you have to show it.

Respect is one of the six life skills taught in the ATA Leadership Program and is also the life skill for July and August.  Like the other life skills, respect is developed and shown in different ways and is comprised of different principles.  But the primary thing, as with most important goals in martial arts and elsewhere in life, is that to develop and earn respect you have to work at it the way you work at perfecting your technique on the mat.

“Just like we teach martial arts forms, we teach our students how to properly kick and punch with practical applications,” said Master Nathan Carroll from IXL Martial Arts in Lees Summit, Mo.  “We also teach practical applications for the life skills like respect for our students to demonstrate with their parents, teachers and in all parts of their life.” 

The ATA Leadership manual explains that “Respect is not what you know, it’s what you do.”  It’s nine principles include trust, caring, courtesy, acceptance, kindness, confidence, listening, loyalty, and adequate communication. 

Not surprisingly, those principles overlap with some of the other life skills taught in the ATA Leadership Program.  Complementary principles comprise the building blocks of a good leader’s character.

“The ATA Leadership Program provides instructors and students with excellent guidelines to explain the life skills, because everyone learns a little differently,” said Carroll.  “It’s great because the parents and students can stay engaged.  We, as instructors, explain our message and then the materials from the Training Division magnify what we are teaching.” 

Each day a person experiences numerous opportunities to actively show respect for themselves, for others, for society and for the world. 

Respect for oneself is seen when an individual makes decisions that are good for them, taking care of one’s physical well-being and making good choices.  Keeping in shape through martial arts and learning the mental disciplines of the sport help to enhance that self respect.  A person with self respect takes care in their appearance, expressions and eye contact and will also make choices that reflect the teachings of parents and mentors rather than easily giving in to peer pressure.

“We are the bridge between the parents and the students,” Carroll said.  “We take what we teach and apply it to everyday life.”

Carroll also explained how great it is to see students demonstrate this life skill in every way from obeying laws to helping out in class. 

Respect for institutions is a demonstration of respect for society.  Knowing the rules and obeying them, especially when visiting other places, following cultural traditional and being courteous are all ways to show respect for one’s society and creates a habit that can be carried over when approached with different situations.

This leads to an understanding and respect for our world.  To become a leader is to take the initiative in trying to make the world a better place.  Whether picking up litter, taking part in a food drive or volunteering at a shelter, a good leader learns about the world around them and finds way to be respectful of it. 

“As an ATA student, you are learning how to respect other people and how to get that respect back,” Carroll said.

Sometimes Carroll said students are more willing to learn life lessons from their instructors because “We get to be cool!  We’re the guys who wear ‘pajamas’ and are ninjas who kick and punch.”  But he said, if respect is going to be learned, student have to take their lessons home and demonstrate respect far beyond the ATA classroom walls. 

“To be a great leader, practice your life skills everywhere you go—even at home too,” Carroll said.  He says that just by being a martial artist, you are showing a willingness to improve yourself.  “When teachers and parents are on the same page, respect is going to happen.”

“As instructors, we get to have a little bit of influence.  But when parents repeat what you say, that’s the best environment and will make respect an easy task to accomplish.” 

Author: Todd Traub

Belief “Yes I can”

Building ‘Yes I Can’ Confidence 

As children, we have big dreams about doing and becoming anything our heart desires.  I mean, who hasn’t thought about going to the moon or becoming a Ninja Turtle?!  The older we get, however, the more reality sets in.  It’s not that you can’t do everything you dreamed of.  But it’s certain that there are steps you have to take in order to achieve those goals and often times, the road to get there is paved with some pretty insurmountable obstacles.   

Interestingly enough, the biggest challenge we face when striving to achieve our dreams is ourselves.  Often times, we let society beat us down or we’ve created an unhealthy environment that doesn’t support the “big picture” ambitions we aim to achieve.  

That is why the Leadership Life Skill Belief is such a critical part of your journey as a martial artist, and simply, as a human being trying to navigate life.  John Addison, Leadership editor for Success Magazine, wrote that “To get what you want in life, you have to build belief in yourself!”  Sometimes it’s hard to dig deep and discover that “Yes I can!” attitude, so we talked with some experts to help get you started. 

Just Do It! 

When you have a goal, one of the first steps you must take is to own it!  Want to open your own business?  Maybe you want to start competing toward a World title for the first time ever.  Regardless of what it is that gets your heart pounding, you have to embrace it and then, just go for it!   

Addison explains, “Life is short.  It goes by so quickly.  Most of the things you worry about don’t really matter.”  So, take the leap.  Your goal will require some planning and preparation, but the only way to get started is to, well, get started.  No one ever accomplished anything sitting around thinking about doing it.  They actually did it.  And you should, too. 

Be Aware of Your Surroundings 

What you see, feel and hear are all contributors to your mindset.  As Addison explains, “Who do you spend your time with?  What do you listen to?  People often surround themselves with people who drain their battery, who are negative and don’t build them up.”  Instead, “Surround yourself with people who are positive, build you up and who help you create belief in yourself.” 

Master Monica Smith, 6th Degree Black Belt and member of the ATA Headquarters Tournament staff, says that being around positive energy will have an effect on how you view yourself.  “Negativity is contagious and it can spread quickly.  The people I hold close to me are people that support me.  If you surround yourself with people who truly care and want the best for you, you will begin to see a positive change in yourself.” 

You should also be careful about what you watch on TV and listen to in your earbuds.  These messages can influence how you think and how you feel.  Just like you do with people, expose yourself to positivity and let it radiate around you. 

Break It Down 

Some of us rely on checklists for mundane daily tasks or work projects, but you need to take that same approach when it comes to your goals.  Smith, who is currently training and preparing for her 7th Degree testing at this year’s Worlds explains how she practices this process. “Long-term goals aren’t achieved overnight.  As I prepare for my 7th Degree test, I have little milestones throughout my journey.”  And there’s a few tips she uses to keep her on track.  “One thing that helps me stay motivated is telling people my goal.  That holds me accountable for my progress.  I also write down my goals, my long-term goal and the milestones to get there.  As Emmitt Smith said in his NFL Hall of Fame speech, ‘It’s only a dream until you write it down, and then it becomes a goal,’” Smith says. 

Breaking things down is also a great practice for any time that you start feeling down on yourself, Addison explains.  “Doing something you said you were going to do makes you feel better about yourself.  It doesn’t have to be anything bit.  Be a daily goal setter and a daily goal hitter…Remember, inch by inch it’s a cinch to get things done,” says Addison. 

Pass It On 

Having self-worth and belief in yourself is tremendously important to children.  Smith, mom of 6-year-old Nila (an ATA Tiger Brown Belt) tells us that teaching her daughter that she can do anything she sets her mind to is a priority in the way she parents.   

“Every day, I tell her what she is; she is strong, she is kind, she is smart,” Smith says.  But she’s also very careful about what she says about herself and others, because that can also have a damaging effect on youth.  “I have to be careful about what I say when I talk about myself around her.  I must use positive language.  I grew up with very low self-confidence, which is one reason I started ATA, and I never want Nila to feel that way about herself,” Smith adds. 

Little ears are listening and little eyes are watching.  When you say you are going to do something and a child sees you do that, there is true pride in that moment.  Strive to be a leadership example around others and you’ll find that positive belief with catch on.  

As you can see, having belief in yourself is huge, but don’t let it all go to your head.  Addison has this to share.  “I always tell people they need to be boldly humble.  I realize this is a tricky thing, having a healthy self-esteem but not having an out-of-control ego.  It can feel like a contradiction.  But you have the ability to find a healthy balance between the two.” 

It’s not as hard as it seems.  Approach your goals with confidence but do so with humility and grace.  Then, you can, in fact, make it possible. 

Author: Jenny Wolff   

Good Friends are Good for Your Health

Good Friends Are Good for Your Health

Every single day, Sr. Master Janelle Gleisner talks to good friends she’s made in ATA.  Now that she is a member of the ATA headquarters staff, she has the luxury of talking to even more.  But it’s not just about doing her job.  She says the personal relationships she’s developed in her over 28 years in martial arts have created a global network of colleagues that has led to true camaraderie and friendship that reaches numbers far too great to count.

“I think that’s one of the strongest benefits of ATA,” says Gleisner who is the Vice President of Licensing and Sales for ATA’s international headquarters.  Whether Gleisner knows it or not, that benefit of ATA is also a benefit to her health!  It turns out that friendships are not only good for emotional well-being, but also for physical health.  Studies show that friendship can help keep your brain healthy, reduce anxiety and stress, and boost your immune system.

Looking for the fountain of youth? A study published by Personal Relationships in 2017, surveyed more than 280,000 people across nearly 100 countries about their nearest and dearest, along with their happiness and health, and found that people who placed more importance on friendship and family tended to say they were happier, more satisfied and healthier than those who didn’t.  And when it comes to the buddy system, it’s better to have a few great friends than a ton of mediocre ones.

Spending time with close friends, especially when sharing a passion such as with ATA, can even have physical effects.  The journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported an article in 2015 that showed groups of people who had strong social connections had lower blood pressure and lower body mass index.

What’s more, those close friendships can support you in your Taekwondo training.  “It helps motivate you for the next testing or tournament,” Gleisner says.  “You have a group of people that you only see at ATA events, but it’s great because you come back to the next event and feel like you were just with them yesterday—socializing and having fun.”

For Sr. Master Sean Smith, time with ATA friends goes well beyond competition and the classroom—for him it went all the way to the altar!  Smith’s been a groomsman for ATA friend wedding and even had a Songahm buddy serve as best man in his own wedding.  He even met his wife through Taekwondo, traveling the tournament circuit.

“Regardless of when you start training, whether you’re a kid or an adult, the people you see at tournaments are going to be people who will follow you through your training all of your life.”  Smith says, “I tell my students to make sure they meet someone their rank, especially at Worlds or Nationals, so that you have a friend in this with you.”  Next time there’s a buddy event in your school, think hard about inviting someone to join you on this journey.  Do your health a favor and kick start your friendships!


So, what are some specific ways science has shown that friendships can help your health?  Here are a few:

  • They help you live longer and enjoy your time more.
  • Keep your mind sharp.
  • Gain confidence and learn valuable social skills.
  • Boost your immune system.
  • Challenge you to improve and try new things.
  • Lower stress levels and lessen depression.
  • Get through tough times.
  • Laugh, which has been linked to blood vessel functioning.
  • Adopt healthy behaviors. (A study by Current Opinion of Psychiatry showed that people who have a good network of family and friends tend to have healthier lifestyles, including eating more fruits and veggies, and even quit smoking.)


So how can you be better friend?  Here are some suggestions!

  • Celebrate! Compliment your friends when they do good things or achieve their goals. People want to be around people who make them feel good.
  • Try New Things. Invite your friend to Taekwondo!  It’s great to have a buddy in class.  Inversely, try something your friend has been asking you to do.  It will create mutual respect and a stronger bond.
  • Stay in Touch. Yes, you can send “HBD” when Facebook reminds you of a friend’s birthday.  But don’t lose sight of the power of a phone call or a card.  Keep connections personal.
  • Don’t Keep Score. You’re bound to compete against your buddies in ATA, but focus on the friendship—not the medal count.
  • Live Your Oath. The Songahm Spirit encourages us to use courtesy, loyalty and respect in our friendships.  Show these to your pals and expect the same in return.



Author: Anna Belfort

How to Build Endurance


Expert Tips to Improve Your Training Stamina

Whether you are attending your Monday Taekwondo class or chasing a toddler around your house, we can all use a little more endurance to get us from point A to point B in our daily routines.  Then you add in competing at tournaments and giving your all during the ATA Fit test, and now you’re really needing that extra boost of energy.

No matter your age, it’s important to add endurance training to your workouts.  We sat down with experts to give you the scoop on getting the most out of each ATA class!


What is Endurance?

“Cardiovascular endurance usually refers to aerobic fitness, or how the lungs and heart deliver oxygen to the muscles,” says John M. Martinez. M.D., a board-certified sports medicine physician and a team physician for USA Triathlon.  If your muscles don’t get enough oxygen, they can’t function effectively, and you’ll have a hard time performing any kind of physical activity.

Having the proper martial arts technique is always important, but “endurance, speed and strength are also key components to be successful in a sport,” says Martinez.  It all goes hand in hand.

“Increased endurance can prevent fatigue during sparring matches and, more important, athletes with better endurance tend to maintain proper technique longer, because of lack of muscular fatigue,” he says.

Think about it.  In competition, endurance may be the difference in you scoring that last point on your opponent.  In testing, it could be the difference in a pass or a fail.


Training with Intensity

Combining high and low impact activities to your weekly training regimen can help you build endurance.  Martinez recommends one workout per week focusing on high-intensity intervals, such as heavy bag kicks, with a recovery time about twice as long as the actual activity.  Activities that take less effort, such as walking, should be done for longer periods.

Chief Master Al Dilegge, 8th Degree Black Belt and ATA Headquarters staff member, explains that many athletes get into a comfort zone with their workouts which can lead to hitting a plateau if you aren’t careful.  “If you want to increase your conditioning, you need a higher intensity level,” he explains.  “You can be ‘in shape’ but not have the endurance you need to complete your form smoothly or do the ATA FIT Test.”

For a greater challenge, Dilegge suggests:

  • Timing Your Drills. Increase the intensity level by using a stopwatch and trying to beat your previous time.
  • Changing It Up. Alter your training every six weeks by adding something new or doing something completely different, so that your body doesn’t get into a holding pattern.
  • Finding Your Threshold. Know what your limits are, then challenge yourself to improve during each training session in some way.


Breaking Down a Martial Arts Workout

This may sound obvious, but when you’re trying to build endurance for martial arts, you should utilize your martial arts skills!  Wavemaster drills, using padded targets and even shadow boxing (though hitting an actual target is recommended) can help you practice your technique while also building your stamina.

Mr. Mark Cancino, a 5th Degree Black Belt and ATA World Champion, agrees that building endurance while building martial arts skills can be an effective approach.  “Training in XMA builds quite a bit of endurance through extreme kicking and flipping,” he says.  “For me that really has helped my endurance in all aspects of my martial arts.  When I do my Xtreme form, I’m pushing my body 100 percent every second.”

Cancino also says he likes to break forms into segments and perform those segments repeatedly.  “If you don’t break it down, you won’t get the technique down,” he says.  The repetition of a certain strike or kick combined with an increased physical ability to do it well makes it a win-win situation.

“Take a punch and a block, and practice that several times,” he suggests.  “Practicing segment by segment also builds muscle memory, so that when you go to the actual competition, your body already knows how to do the technique which will also save you energy.”  Once you feel strong with each segment, you challenge yourself more by doing the form as a whole.  You’ll build up to the endurance required for a powerful performance.

Grand Master In Ho Lee agrees that this type of exercise can be pivotal in building endurance.  He believes workouts should be “consistent and with intense effort in each Taekwondo technique.”  He adds, “As you move through the ranks, the forms will have more moves and you will be required to do more things, like the ATA FIT test, to progress.  Start building your endurance early in your training and you will establish a foundation that will become even healthier in your pursuit to the next belt.”


Pushing Your Limits

“In competition, you go all out.  In training you go further than that,” says Cancino.  “You push your limits in practice.”  That’s how you build endurance and become a fierce performer or competitor.  “Be smart about it and know when to stop, but also don’t be scared to reach for a new level.”

With the new ATA FIT test, having this type of understanding of your body in imperative.  The FIT test is “an assessment intended to be relevant and repeatable throughout the ATA community and is divided into five different rounds with one-minute rest in between each round.  Each round has a specific objective and structure to help gauge the overall fitness of ATA athletes.”

As Grand Master explains, “During your FIT test is not the time to finally hit your goals in each round.  You start practicing that long before your testing approaches.”


Thinking Big Picture

Chief Master Dilegge encourages students to continue pushing to build endurance no matter what level they’ve reached.  Cancino believes the same and adds that you should also think long-term.



Author: Jennifer Lawler (edited by Jenny Wolff)

What to Know About the Legend in Training

What to Know About the Legend in Training

For those of you who have had the privilege of meeting ATA’s Presiding Grand Master Nominee, you know that G.K. Lee is humble, smart, strong, funny…and one amazingly talented martial artist!   To watch him test for 9th Degree was a true moment in Songahm history and one that inspired an awestruck generation of future practitioners.

But the story of how Grand Master G.K. Lee got to this place in his martial arts journey is just as admirable and interesting as the Presiding Nominee himself.  On the 9th of each month leading up to his inauguration, we will share information, videos, training tips and inside scoop on what it’s like to prepare to become the presiding leader of one of the largest martial arts organizations in the world.


Here are NINE fun, fast facts about Presiding Grand Master Nominee G.K. Lee!



Grand Master G.K. Lee was born in 1957 in Daegu City, South Korea.




A martial arts enthusiast from a young age, G.K. Lee started martial arts training in 2nd Grade and received his first black belt at 12 years old in Tang Soo Do.




Known for his introduction of Protech to the traditional Songahm curriculum, the first seminar Grand Master G.K. Lee taught in Protech was Joint Locks in Pittsburgh, Penn.




When asked what his favorite weapon is, he confidently said the side kick (Clever!). But, he said he also enjoys training with the double edge sword.




Grand Master G.K. Lee served in the Korean Army from 1978 to 1981 where he taught Taekwondo.




When he’s not doing Taekwondo, Grand Master G.K. Lee enjoys shooting trap, fishing, and spending time outdoors.




His go-to favorite board break is a speed break- the jump spin heel kick!




Grand Master G.K. Lee is a family man with two children, ages 13 and 10. He actually just got back from a family vacation on a Disney Cruise.  (We heard that he was caught chatting with a famous Mouse about our upcoming Fall Nationals tournament!)




So, what advice does the Presiding Grand Master Nominee have for ATA Martial Arts students? “Train twice a week no matter what!  Create a habit of training constantly.  Then, these habits will become a way of life.”


Look for more on Grand Master G.K. Lee each month and follow his journey in our Newsroom and on social media.  Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 2019 ATA Worlds where G.K. Lee will become ATA’s 4th Presiding Grand Master and ATA will celebrate 50 years of martial arts excellence!   You won’t want to miss this “Golden” opportunity!


Author:  Jenny Wolff


Communication – “Is the link between the World and Me”

Communication is the bridge between me and the world,” we’ve been reciting each class this session. This session we’ll be talking about the importance of communication.

What are keys to effective communication? How can we communicate through our body language. How might we demonstrate respect in good communication? These are among the topics Tiny Tigers and Karate Kids (and adults) will be honing this session in class and at home and school.





Discipline: Why is it important? And how can Taekwondo Help?

  1. 1.
    the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
  1. 1.
    train (someone) to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.

We use Discipline to describe several things.  We are going to talk about discipline in Martial Arts.  Discipline is to “Obey What Is Right”.  We practice self discipline in all our training.  We practice discipline while training in forms, weapons, sparring, board breaking, and self defense.  Training ourselves to be self disciplined is an important step to setting short term and long goals.  Goals give us a chance to set forth our path to the things we want in life.  Without them, we have no direction and no sense of importance.  With young students,we talk about self discipline in the sense of focusing on a task like brushing their teeth, cleaning their rooms, and controlling their bodies.  With older students we use it to work on focus in homework, relationships and tasks.  With adult students, we talk about using self discipline to control our bad habits, set new goals and work towards better health.

All of these things are important in growth in all areas of our lives.  Martial arts is a way of life, not just another sport.


We will be offering a Spring Break Rank Camp for all students

March 12th-16th


Cost: $249 per student

Open to all students.  Can test for one rank at end of camp.  Red/Black and Black Belts can midterm, but cannot test for rank.







I am a mother of four children, three girls and one boy.  We started our family on our  martial arts journey almost 17 years ago.  We all started for a variety of reasons.  My son who was 5 at the time, wanted to play every sport available to him.  Upon joining the ATA (American Taekwondo Association) it was clear to me from his first class that this was not just another sport.  This was a way of life!!  My second oldest, who didn’t like sports and who was extremely shy and introverted asked to join shortly after watching her brother in class.  My youngest who had just turned 4 was put in for discipline and self control. She was very active and would be diagnosed later with ADHD.  I was the fourth to join.  I was overweight and hated going to the gym.  I immediately fell in love with the exercise, the empowerment it gave me knowing that I could protect myself, and the social interaction with my fellow students.  My oldest was entering middle school and I wanted her to learn to protect herself as she got older.

Even though all our journeys have ended or continued differently, the one thing we have in common is Martial Arts changed our lives forever, in the most positive way possible.

Below is a list of my top 5 reasons to put your child or yourself in our Martial Arts program.

5.  Stranger Awareness and Personal Safety

Becoming more self aware of our surroundings and the dangers that are out there, has help all of us with self esteem and self confidence.  It allowed my children to stand up to bullies in school.  I have the confidence to know that my children have grown up knowing the dangers.  They have learned how to identify them, acknowledge them with a sense of calm and not anxiety, avoid them, and understand that they have the tools to defend themselves if needed.

4.  Goal Setting

Setting goals is a huge way to improve confidence, self reliance, self discipline, and balance in life.  By setting short term goals of getting their next rank, competing in a tournament, learning a new form or weapon, they receive immediate feedback for their dedication and hard work.   By setting long term goals such as getting a State, District or World title, becoming a member of leadership team or instruction staff, or by achieving their black belt and beyond, they learn patience and perseverence. All of these goals have taught us how to improve our memory, coordination, balance, flexibility, memorization, physical fitness, etc.  The list goes on and on.



3. Physical Fitness

Martial arts provides overall physical activity, that will improve a child’s coordination, balance, posture, fine and gross motor skills and weight issues.  It can increase strength,conditioning and flexibility.  Martial arts uses both sides of the body at the same time, creating a great workout for your child’s mind and body.

2.  Self Esteem and Confidence

Our children are overwhelmed these days with many outside influences that can affect their self esteem and confidence.  From social media, peer pressure, school work, tests, over scheduling, etc.

Martial arts, unlike other conventional sports such as baseball, soccer, and football, is a year round activity.  It allows a child to advance at their own pace, while attending class in a group setting.  It teaches them about setting small goals and working their way up to larger goals.  They learn to be self discipline and focus to achieve their new goals. They learn how to interact with other students, teaching them respect and patience. They learn how to perform under pressure, helping them to understand stress and how to deal with it in a healthy manner.

They learn how to identify bullies.  How to avoid or what to do if they are confronted with bullying, allowing them to have the confidence to do so.

1.  Self Discipline and Respect

By working in a group setting, while setting personal goals, a child will learn to respect authority.  They will learn to respect themselves and others by making good decisions and controlling their behaviors with others. They learn to  self discipline themselves to practice techniques to achieve their short term and long term goals.

These are but a few of the many benefits Martial Arts have helped my children and the many students that have trained with us over the past 12 years.


972-462-7807 or visit us at 110 W. Sandy Lake Rd. Ste. 160.  We are located in between Urban Air and Senor Loco’s in the Sprouts shopping center.

Martial Arts and Back To School. How does it help?

How does Martial Arts classes help your child in school?  Martial arts can teach your child a variety of different things. From Self Defense, Exercise, Confidence, Respect, Belief, Goal Setting, Discipline, and communication skills.  Martial arts improves coordination, hand eye timing and fine motor skills.

  • At Coppell ATA we offer leadership courses for kids, in conjunction with their karate for kids programs, or similar lessons.
  • Martial Arts is ideal for children who do not do well in team sports, giving them the ability to flourish this activity, while combining physical and mental practices.
  • Many do not realize this, but it is a fact that martial arts training are safer than most school sports.
  • Children with special needs, such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), learning difficulties and hyperactivity are often recommended to participate in martial arts for kids because of the clear benefits in its structured training techniques