Step inside the H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden in Little Rock
The H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden is tucked away on the corner of the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock at 7 Statehouse Plaza. The landmark pays homeage to Arkansas’s connection to martial arts.
The ATA, formerly known as the American Taekwondo Association, is the largest martial arts organization in the nation.
Eternal Grand Master Haeng Ung Lee founded the organization in 1969. Lee was born in Manchuria, China and began teaching Taekwondo in the mid 1950s. He opened a training school in Korea a few years later. He came to the U.S. in the early 1960s and started teaching in Omaha, Nebraska. After founding the ATA, he relocated the headquarters to Little Rock in 1977. Arkansas was chosen because of how similar to Korea the geography was so Lee felt at home here.
The ATA opened the H. U. Lee International Gate and Garden during the 2007 ATA World Championships. The South Korean structure honors the ATA founder, salutes martial arts and serves as a symbol of friendship between South Korea and the U.S. Lee, who was friends with former Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey, was instrumental in the city sister concept between Little Rock and Hanam City, Korea. The Douglas fir gate that greets visitors to the H. U. Lee International Gate and Garden was made by hand by South Korea artists. The walls of it are made of Arkansas river rock and the roof is clay tile from South Korea.
Outside the gate are two haitai or ‘fire eater’ statues, which are from Korean mythology and are symbolic for protecting against disruptive change.
As you enter the gardens, two statues of uniformed Taekwondo students welcome you with a traditional bow.
One important item to see here is known as the Staff of the Flying Dragon, which is a work of art that has a history of Songahm Taekwondo etched into it. The gardens also have a Songahm star shaped reflection pool to sit by and a variety of trees and shrubs and flowers.
One sight not to miss in the gardens are the Harubang statues that can be seen there. These statues, which are made of lava rocks, can be seen everywhere on Cheju Island, which is also known as Jeju Island and is the largest island in South Korea. They are seen as guardians of the island and are not allowed off of it. However the ones here are an exception and were donated by a Governor of the island.
The Wall of Vision pays tribute to the instructors of Songahm Taekwondo. This piece of art, which weighs over eleven tons, was made of black granite in South Korea.
The training taught at ATA is known as Songahm Taekwondo. Songahm is a Korean word whose literal translation is pine tree rock, which is symbolic of the style of Taekwondo practiced here. A pine tree is ever-growing, which represents the student. A rock is the strength and foundation. The organization is the foundation for the student. The organization grows by its students and the students have the strength of the foundation of the organization.
With the passing of Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee in 2000, his wife Mrs. Sun C. Lee continues the legacy of her husband.
The ATA World Headquarters are also located in Little Rock at 1800 Riverfront Drive. The headquarters are open to visit and here you can find training facilities and a museum of ATA history.