An estimated 20,000 people, including visitors from most U.S. states as well as South Africa, South America, Europe and South Korea, will attend a week of Taekwondo competition and training when the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) hosts its 22nd annual World Championship conference June 18-24 in Greater Little Rock.
The week of World Championships will be filled with martial arts seminars, special training sessions, exciting tournament competition, and the elaborate World Ceremony. This year’s World Ceremony will be held Saturday, June 23 at Verizon Arena. Performances by demonstration teams and national team finalists will provide spectators with an entertaining blend of classic martial arts and modern flips and tricks.
The theme for this year’s Ceremony is “ATA Strong: Find the Superhero Within” and will highlight some of ATA’s biggest superheroes including ATA’s Noah Ringer, star of “The Last Air Bender” and Dr. Harlan Van Over, a ninety-year-old ATA black belt and World War II Veteran. Those unable to attend the World Ceremony will be able to watch videos live at www.facebook.com/ATASongahmTaekwondo.
For competitors, these championship events mark the culmination of a year of hard work at regional and national ATA tournaments to earn a coveted spot among the Top 10 students in their respective divisions. Students will compete in divisions based on age and belt rank. They will demonstrate their skills in traditional forms, weapons, sparring, creative and ATA-Xtreme open-hand forms and weapons, and combat weapons sparring. These competitions will be held at the Statehouse Convention Center and will be open to the public. Those participating in the Top 10 will compete Thursday, June 21 and Friday, June 22.
In addition to the competition, visitors to Little Rock can enjoy the beauty and serenity of the H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden, located alongside the Statehouse Convention Center. This $1.4 million landmark is named for the organization’s founder and was carefully designed to share the ATA story and elements of Korean culture.
As a philanthropic organization, this year’s World Championships marks the 20th anniversary of the H.U. Lee Scholarship Foundation. The Foundation was created by ATA’s founder to reward scholarships to ATA students who display the life skills of perseverance, respect and integrity and demonstrate the leadership qualities taught in ATA classrooms.
Also during this year’s World Championships, ATA has partnered with the American Red Cross to host a blood drive in the Statehouse Ballroom Saturday, June 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
While the best of the best competitors vie for the prestigious title of ATA World Champion, the Central Arkansas economy will benefit as well. The ATA World Championships represent the largest annual convention in Little Rock, generating an estimated $5.8 million in local economic impact.