American Taekwondo Association | Martial Arts, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Tae-Kwon-Do
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ATA Leadership NOW



Through my Taekwondo training I've learned how to defend myself, but as a Leadership student, I also received advanced lessons with traditional weapons. I never imagined that using something as simple as a Bo Staff could be so empowering! Although I hope I never have to defend myself against an attacker, I now have the confidence and ability to do so.
–Christina Morales, Brown Belt, 18 years old

From ATA World Volume 20, Number 3 Fall 2013
Photo by Jason Masters

Chief Master M.K. Lee is an 8th Degree Black Belt and Chairman of Instruction for ATAís international headquarters. When he competed at a young age, Chief Master Lee was known for his quickness and high-flying techniques. Balance was a huge part of his success in the tournament circuit. Now he spends his time teaching Songahm students the importance of balance inside and outside of the ring.

What is your favorite part about being involved with ATAís instruction and curriculum?

I love seeking better ways to help students find innovative and effective curriculum to help them grow. Seeing the growth and development after a student learns a new concept is truly what being an educator is all about.

What do you find students often have the most trouble with in terms of keeping balance? How do they overcome that challenge?

I believe the biggest obstacle is losing mental balance, which affects the physical side. Many martial artists think about kicking high when they should be focused on doing the technique properly and maintaining eye contact with their target. First things first! Practice executing correct technique and the rest will fall into place.

What was the hardest part about achieving physical balance in your own training?

My focus was on developing muscle strength, cardiovascular conditioning, endurance and flexibility. I find that all of these go hand-in-hand with balance. Though I must say, it takes a lot of discipline and perseverance!

Songahm is much more than just physical balance. How does a martial artist cultivate balance in their overall life?

You cannot separate mental and physical balance as a martial artist. The stronger you get physically, the stronger you will get mentally ó and the stronger you get mentally, you will perform even better. Itís a positive cycle. Physical training is important to living a happier life.

Do the challenges of balance change as one gets older? How so?

I believe itís about what you put into it. Continuous training is the key to maintaining balance throughout the years. Practicing everything from eye contact, body position, control of distance and height and solid sole on a regular basis will keep you at the top of your game. Remember: itís not about kicking straight up and down. Itís about being the most effective martial artist you can be.