In the American Taekwondo Association (ATA), the highest rank you can achieve is a 9th Degree Black Belt. Originally, the rank of 9th Degree Black Belt could only be earned by the founding Grand Masters. Some notable examples including

  • Haeng Ung Lee (H. U. Lee) – Founder of the ATA and a pioneer of modern Taekwondo in the United States. He passed away in 2000, but his legacy lives on through the ATA and his many students (later posthumously awarded the only 10th Degree Black Belt in the ATA).
  • Soon Ho Lee – Grand Master Emeritus and one of the founders of the ATA
  • In Ho Lee – Grand Master Emeritus and one of the founders of the ATA
  • M. K. Lee – Presiding Grand Master and senior ATA instructor. He is also a member of the ATA’s Board of Master Council.

As the ATA grew and developed the Grand Masters decided that there are many other senior members of the ATA who deserve the rank of 9th Degree Black Belt. In 2021, the ATA announced the formal process of becoming a 9th Degree Black Belt and a Grand Master of the ATA. This elite honor is by invitation only to a select group of ATA Masters that have shown their time, dedication, and hard work in the ATA.

To be eligible for 9th Degree Black Belt one must have the following qualities:

  • Have 8 years as an active member with the rank of 8th Degree Black and Chief Master
  • Demonstrated leadership in the organization
  • Active involvement in the organization
  • Ethical conduct
  • Contributions to the growth of Songahm Taekwondo.

At the upcoming 2023 World Championships on July 13th, 8 Chief Masters will test for the rank of 9th Degree Black Belt.

Chief Master Tammy Stauber from Little Rock, AR

Chief Master Dan Thor from Taos, New Mexico

Chief Master Cheryl Brice from Evansville, IN

Chief Master Sandoval from Tecumseh, MI

Chief Master Scott Stauffer from Goose Creek, SC

Chief Master Tony Isaacs from Miami, Florida

Chief Master William Wacholz from San Diego, CA

Chief Master Fernando Jaime from Rocklin, CA

Congratulations to all those testing for 9th Degree Black Belt. Thank you for your time, commitment, and hard work in making the ATA what it is today and for the example you provide for all of our students!