Thoughts on ATA TKD?

SPX

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I first got involved in martial arts as a child and it was in an ATA TKD school. That was about 20 years ago and, at the time, I didn't even understand that there were different forms of TKD and had no knowledge even of the WTF or ITF.

I've considered getting back into TKD lately and initially thought I'd best be served by an ITF school, but sadly, there are no good ones in my area. And I've not yet made up my mind if WTF appeals to me.

It made me wonder though about the current state of the ATA. I've done some basic research and I understand that their reputation is not good. But do we have any ATA instructors or students here who might want to share their thoughts on their present-day experience in the organization or how they feel it stacks up against other TKD styles?
 

hungryninja

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Like any other organization, there are both good and bad schools in the ATA (and regardless, ATA is still thriving). It would depend on where you are from and what you are looking for. But I would check out the different schools in your area, especially since ATA has changed a lot from about 20 years ago. If you indicate a general area, maybe some of us can give some more insight into the ATA schools around there.
 

Cyriacus

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From past Research, the one thing Ill go ahead and poke the ATA for is spreading themselves a bit thin over a large number of Techniques, Rank by Rank.
This may be subjective to the Dojang but.
 

StudentCarl

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I think the master matters much more than the organization, unless your goal is something only one of them offers, such as Olympic style sparring. In the day-to-day world, what will determine your enjoyment, progress and satisfaction is the master and the school that results from him/her.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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My opinion of the ATA is that their curriculum is certainly a serviceable curriculum and is neither superior nor inferior to Chang hon TKD (ITF) and Kukkiwon TKD (the WTF is actually the NGB of the sport of taekwondo; the style itself is Kukkiwon taekwondo). Not crazy about the promotion structure, which seems drawn out to enhance income to the school and to the organization, but that is really separate from the quality of the curriculum.

From what I understand, ATA sparring rules are similar to WTF, and participants pad up with the same style of hogu used in WTF competition, but contact is kept light. I also understand that their competition circuit is closed. None of that is good or bad; simply a matter of taste and preference.

The organization seems oriented towards offering family friendly, if somewhat pricey, places to train. Like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it, and as has been stated by others, the instructor is really the important factor, not the style.
 

sfs982000

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I've been studying at an ATA affiliated school now for over 3 years and it's been overall a pleasant experience for me. I would have to piggy back on the other posts that there are some things about the organization that I don't agree with, but I overlook all that because the instructors are great and provide a great training environment for myself.
 

Gemini

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I've done some basic research and I understand that their reputation is not good.
Many have come to the same conclusion at a high level, but you could say that for almost all large organizations and there are many good ATA instructors and practitioners. I've always felt the dedication of the student plays just as big a role as the quality of instruction. I suggest taking some classes there and make up your own mind as to whether it meets your needs or not.
 

Cyriacus

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Many have come to the same conclusion at a high level, but you could say that for almost all large organizations and there are many good ATA instructors and practitioners. I've always felt the dedication of the student plays just as big a role as the quality of instruction. I suggest taking some classes there and make up your own mind as to whether it meets your needs or not.
Yep.
Spectating some Sparring would be good as well, to see what the Dojang focuses on (I dont means kicks and punches and everything else. I mean, how attentive they are to Stances, and Hand Position [Which doesnt necessarily mean up. Just how aware of them], and other things that might lend a bit of insight into their Standards).
 
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SPX

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Thanks for the responses everyone. I was starting to wonder if anyone was going to chime in.

First, hungryninja, to answer your question I'm in Salt Lake City, UT, USA.

I have to say that you guys are much more even-tempered about the organization than a lot of other people seem to be. I found a few threads on Bullshido and almost everyone mercilessly attacked them. Even on other forums there are lots of chants of "STAY AWAY FROM THE ATA!" and practitioners (often former ATA students) calling the organization--and the Songahm style of TKD--a scam or sometimes even a cult.

I'm sure that the quality of instruction varies from school to school. I remember that my instructors way back in the day were good at what they did and cared about providing quality instruction. For that reason, I would not call it a McDojo.

I think my main concern is with the sparring. I believe you have to hit, and get hit, with something other than tip-tap strikes to really be prepared for an actual confrontation. As a Daniel Sullivan said above, the official sparring rules for the ATA are similar to the WTF, but with light contact. I can handle that on the rare occasion of tournaments, but in the dojang I would prefer something that's a little less restrictive. I can handle the pads, but if we're going to get all padded up, let's actually hit each other. And face punches should be allowed. I'm not saying it has to be full-contact, but there's nothing wrong with going home with a few bruises. So I guess I'm wondering if there are perhaps some individual ATA schools/instructors who are a little more "hard core" and run their adult classes like they're actually teaching a martial art instead of something that's martial art-esque and is fun for the whole family.

As an aside, I also intend to go check out a Wado-ryu school, but I know very little about the style. I understand that this is a TKD board and everyone will be biased, but can anyone give me a general comparison of Wado and TKD?
 

hungryninja

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If you like more contact in sparring, I would avoid an ATA school. People wear more gear now for more safety (including face shield), but the contact (light) and sparring rules are still the same. When I was in the ATA, our schools (southern CA) used to train differently (in terms of more contact) compared to traditional ATA schools (in fact, we were often penalized or reprimanded for what some judges thought were excessive contact in tournaments). If you want more contact, I would check out a WTF school. If you are venturing into other martial arts and self defense systems, I would recommend checking out a Krav Maga school (I believe there is one affiliated with Krav Maga Alliance near Salt Lake City).
 
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SPX

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If you want more contact, I would check out a WTF school.

I've thought about this, but I want face punches. Personally, I really like the ITF sparring format, but around here all the ITF schools are actually USTF and, at least around Utah, the USTF is quite weak. Most of the students are children and there's very little sparring. In fact, I attended one school for 4 months and never once was there any sparring amongst students of any rank, whether white belt or red. Furthermore, I attended one testing with judges from all over UT and again there was no sparring at all. Red belts got promoted without having to throw a single strike toward another person. It was ridiculous.

Vids like this one get me pumped up about ITF, but this kind of training/sparring/competition is just non-existent where I am:





If you are venturing into other martial arts and self defense systems, I would recommend checking out a Krav Maga school (I believe there is one affiliated with Krav Maga Alliance near Salt Lake City).

I think Krav Maga is cool, but not something I'm particularly interested in. It is pure self-defense and I'm more looking for something that balances SD, competition, and the philosophical values of the traditional Asian arts. I know that's a tall order.

Personally, if I could find a Daido Juku school in Utah then I would be all over it, but there is barely a Daido Juku presence anywhere in the US, much less Utah.
 
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d1jinx

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a bit late and probably irrelevent by now.... but,

I trained with GM Soon Ho Lee back in the mid-90's in Panama City Florida. I was very impressed. The school was very good. I learned alot from him about Taekwondo and about the business. The absolute definate thing about ATA was it was a business first. The ATA from what I understand started alot of the standard business practices we use today in most martial art schools. This business atmosphere tends to turn most people away and at times I see is Way too much over kill in an ATA school.

As for the actuall TKD, that was a very good school where i learned alot. I was already a black belt when i went there but was offered a 3rd dan there (as soon as I learned their Curriculum at my own pace) but never got it (too expensive!) I was a decent fighter, but seemed to dominate most ATA fighters easily. They were not very experienced with competition although they would have ATA only tournaments. Not sure how it is today, but at the time, it was more of a point sparring style then. I easily knocked their so-called "champion" on his *** 3 times in a row when he tried that point-sparring-1-legged hopping ****. I got D-Q'd for excessive contact... go figure.

There were quite a few ATA schools around and I noticed the skill level was no where near the level it was at GM Lee's school. Obviously the material being taught was standard at all schools, but i think the one who is teaching it is the difference whether it is a good school or not. regardless of which style, a good teacher can influence and motivate an individual to help them achieve thier best potential. This would be the key thing I would look for, if searching for a school. I have done KKW, ATA and ITF during my journey and a good teacher was all that mattered. not the style.

I dont know if GM Soon Ho Lee teaches anymore. He had taken over when his brother Passed away long after i left. But I will never forget those Black Belt classes he used to teach and how much I learned from him. I have alot of respect for Him and his brothers and what they have done... even if others within the ORG do not maintain the same quality of teaching.
 

Cyriacus

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I easily knocked their so-called "champion" on his *** 3 times in a row when he tried that point-sparring-1-legged hopping ****.
You mean that thing where someone will cock their leg up fir a Side Kick or Round Kick, then hop towards you, doing weak jabby kicks as they come in? Because if so, Im more amused by the fact He attempted it a second and third time :p
 

d1jinx

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You mean that thing where someone will cock their leg up fir a Side Kick or Round Kick, then hop towards you, doing weak jabby kicks as they come in? Because if so, Im more amused by the fact He attempted it a second and third time :p


That be the one!!!:wink2: I think i learned how to counter that as a green belt. a nice lil spin hook kick to the head worked everytime... but granted... this was 15-16 years ago.

yeah, it was amusing. i still giggle when i think of it.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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I have to say that you guys are much more even-tempered about the organization than a lot of other people seem to be. I found a few threads on Bullshido and almost everyone mercilessly attacked them. Even on other forums there are lots of chants of "STAY AWAY FROM THE ATA!" and practitioners (often former ATA students) calling the organization--and the Songahm style of TKD--a scam or sometimes even a cult.
There really is no reason to not be even tempered; they do things the way that they do and if you like what they do and can afford the rates, then by all means, do so. It would not be my preference, but that doesn't make it inherently bad. What I see in the ATA is a martial arts themed family activity.

I see articles popping up about 'Samurai Sword' workouts in health clubs. As a kendo instructor, I suppose I could take exception to this, but why should I? Not everyone wants to get cracked on the head with a bamboo stick; maybe they just want a good workout. If the way of the sword can be extended to help people to improve their lives and get into better shape then I am all for it.

I'm sure that the quality of instruction varies from school to school. I remember that my instructors way back in the day were good at what they did and cared about providing quality instruction. For that reason, I would not call it a McDojo.
There are some really crappy KKW/WTF schools, and some fantastic ones, and everything in between. The ATA has no monopoly on inconsistent instruction or on bad instruction. Regarding McDojos, the term actually refers to the business aspect, not to the quality of instruction.

The ATA probably is the most 'McDojo' of them all. From what I understand,they go to great lengths to make sure that school owners are trained to run a school the ATA way and that the way schools are run and set up is fairly standardized. I understand also that they offer a great deal of support to school owners.

Recarding the Mc thing, McDonalds is very successful because of the way that they set up their restaurants. McDonalds are all set up so that they have certain things in common, right down to the placement of the shake machine. The food, while not particularly good, is consistent and recognizable from place to place around the world. People feel comfortable going in and the atmosphere is friendly.

Really, McDonalds could be serving fine French quisine or Chinese food and the formula would work.

As DJinx said, it is a business first and that turns some people off. The fact is that if you charge for instruction, you're running a business, regardless of your organization. I can't really knock the ATA for being good at the business end.

The light contact, proliferation of belts, two tests (recommended and decided) for each belt, and so on are turn offs for me. Would it keep me from training in an ATA school? Not if I really liked the instructor.

Daniel
 

Cyriacus

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That be the one!!!:wink2: I think i learned how to counter that as a green belt. a nice lil spin hook kick to the head worked everytime... but granted... this was 15-16 years ago.

yeah, it was amusing. i still giggle when i think of it.
Yep :)

Ive only needed to deal with that approach once - My Response was to shamelessly lunge in with a Inward Crescent Kick, knowing Hed try and Side Kick Me. Then just stepped straight down after the Crescent Kick inevitably deflected the Side Kick, and did more or less what You did - Spin Hook.
Unlike Your fellow, mine didnt try it a second time, the clever bugger. :D
 

hungryninja

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The sparring rules haven't changed, so it is still a point sparring style. Most still use the front leg kicks.

I believe GM Soon Ho Lee is retired...his younger brother, In Ho Lee, is the current GM, and I believe his son runs his school.

Not sure how it is today, but at the time, it was more of a point sparring style then. I easily knocked their so-called "champion" on his *** 3 times in a row when he tried that point-sparring-1-legged hopping ****. I got D-Q'd for excessive contact... go figure.

I dont know if GM Soon Ho Lee teaches anymore. He had taken over when his brother Passed away long after i left. But I will never forget those Black Belt classes he used to teach and how much I learned from him. I have alot of respect for Him and his brothers and what they have done... even if others within the ORG do not maintain the same quality of teaching.
 

d1jinx

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The sparring rules haven't changed, so it is still a point sparring style. Most still use the front leg kicks.

I believe GM Soon Ho Lee is retired...his younger brother, In Ho Lee, is the current GM, and I believe his son runs his school.

He used to have a summer picnic at the beach at one of the hotels. it was alot of fun. His wife would cook Bulgogi on the grill and everyone got to try some. I can't remember if the picnic was restricted to BB's or open to everyone, but it was fun. A business expense write-off I'm sure, but much fun none-the-less.

He was a good person from what i remember. at least to me anyway. Funny thing was, he knew KKW tkd. he had me do all my Poomse up to 3rd Dan. even corrected me on 1 or 2 when i made a mistake and showed me some minor pointers to make them better. Almost as if he still practiced them at the time. I also heard 1 time that he and his brothers were KKW certified but do not remember what Dan, 7,8, 9 etc i was told.
 
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SPX

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As for the actuall TKD, that was a very good school where i learned alot. I was already a black belt when i went there but was offered a 3rd dan there (as soon as I learned their Curriculum at my own pace) but never got it (too expensive!) I was a decent fighter, but seemed to dominate most ATA fighters easily. They were not very experienced with competition although they would have ATA only tournaments. Not sure how it is today, but at the time, it was more of a point sparring style then. I easily knocked their so-called "champion" on his *** 3 times in a row when he tried that point-sparring-1-legged hopping ****. I got D-Q'd for excessive contact... go figure.

I'm not sure I understand this paragraph.

It was a very good school where you learned a lot, and yet everyone sucked at actually doing TKD and you demolished them easily?
 
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SPX

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Regarding McDojos, the term actually refers to the business aspect, not to the quality of instruction.

I reckon that the term "McDojo" can be evoked for a number of reasons, but at least in my circles, it means a school that just takes your money and gives you little in return. A TKD school that promises self-defense skills but actually gives you middling skills of any kind (much less real self-defense), promotes everyone as long as they've paid their fee, and cranks out 7 year old blackbelts is a McDojo.

If the ATA was dominating the competition circuit and producing competent fighters that frequently made successful transitions in to kickboxing or MMA then I don't think anyone would ever use the term McDojo in reference to the organization, regardless of their business practices.
 
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