Arkansas’ Tie to Martial Arts

Zoie Clift
Several well-known people
have roots in Arkansas. The list runs the gamut from Johnny Cash to Jermain
Taylor. Check here every Monday as we highlight a new Famous Arkansan each
week. Today,

Meet: H.U. Lee

Many might be surprised to
find that Arkansas has a strong martial arts connection. The International
Headquarters of the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) have been based in
Little Rock since 1977. The Songahm style of Taekwondo was introduced to the
world in 1983 atop Songahm Mountain and the world championships of the sport
are held annually in the city each summer.

If you have strolled downtown, you’ve walked passed the H.U.
Lee International Gate and Garden
, which honors Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee,
the founder of the ATA, the World Traditional Taekwondo Union, and Songahm
Taekwondo Federation.  Lee was a
main influence in bringing martial arts to the U.S. and by deciding to make ATA’s
international headquarters in the state, he sealed Arkansas’ role in
martial arts history.

Lee was born in Manchuria,
China in 1936. Beginning his martial arts training in 1953, he received his
first degree black belt the following year. In 1969, he founded the ATA with
Taekwondo schools opening across the nation. Lee is the first and only Master
in history to acquire the rank and honor of 9th degree Grand Master. 

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