From ATA World Volume 19, Number 2 Summer 2012
Taekwondo took Chief Master Nominee Kathy Lee from being a meek, bullied teen to a nine-time ATA World Champion and Chief Master Nominee—only the second woman to hold that rank. She’s co-owns six Arkansas ATA schools, where she enjoys teaching students the self-confidence to fend off bullies. Lee, of Little Rock, believes people of all ages can benefit from the strength learned through Taekwondo.
What led you to Taekwondo?
When I was 13, a girl named Sandra picked on me regularly. My mom told me she had a plan for my summer vacation—Taekwondo classes. It was amazing. When school started again,
Sandra found me and said, “After school, I’m going to get you.” And I said to her, “I want to let you know that I’m a Yellow Belt with three stripes.” I said that with enough passion and pride that she never threatened me again. It was like magic.
What do you teach your students today about bullying?
I tell them what I went through. I get a few chuckles and a few “I can’t believe it happened to her.” I tell them they don’t want to be like that and they don’t want to be the person who bullies someone else. I tell them about how martial arts helped me and how bad Sandra feels today for what she did to me.
Having been to all of the Worlds, what are a few of your favorite memories?
We have a really nice opening ceremony; it’s entertaining and it showcases a variety of talent. I’ve been fortunate enough to see the three different Grand Masters go through their inauguration and see different high-ranking instructors go through their testing. It’s the “Super Bowl of Taekwondo” and it’s a big family reunion.
What has it been like to become an 8th Degree Black Belt?
It’s intense. It’s exciting. It’s a sentimental time because it’s the highest rank I can achieve. It’s the pinnacle point of my training because there is no more after this. Instead of being happy about it, it actually chokes me up. I’ve been doing this for 33 years, since I was a kid. The years have added up quickly.
Was it challenging to prepare for your high-rank testing?
It got harder as I grew in rank. And I actually had kids much later in life. I’ve enjoyed watching women do well and succeed in having children and then be able to bounce back; it’s so impressive and amazing. It’s much more difficult than I ever thought it would be, so I’m proud to say, “Go ladies! You’re amazing!”
Why is Taekwondo good for girls?
One of my parents said it best: “My daughter will go to college, but she’s not leaving until she’s a Black Belt. It should be a requirement for all kids.” Girls need to be able to stand up for themselves, and it takes confidence to do that. When you kick and punch and feel strong, you have this great sense of pride and selfconfidence.
What makes someone a good leader?
Someone who can lead by example, someone who encourages and motivates others to help them accomplish their goals. I enjoy coaching students and parents and seeing them
achieve goals they never thought would be possible. ATA