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ATA Master’s Council Announces Changes During 2021 Worlds Championships


October 13, 2021


Chief Master Al Dilegge, Chief to Staff 

The Masters’ Council recently approved important changes to our testing process and to our requirements for becoming a 9th Degree Black Belt and a Grand Master. We announced these changes during the training for masters and master nominees at Worlds Championships.


Below, you will see several updates to the testing process. The ATA Songahm Policy Handbook (under Black Belt Testing & Midterms) will be updated to reflect these changes. The most significant are these:

  • To simplify the scoring system, form is now scored on a scale of 0-4, and all other elements (including board breaks) are scored on a scale of 0-3. Protech is worth 3 points unless it replaces form (which is only permitted at midterms, not rank testings).
  • The passing score for midterms is now 7. The passing score for rank testings remains 8. This change recognizes that your performance should improve from the time you midterm to the time you rank test.

The new process takes effect with the October 22, 2021, testing at Fall Nationals. As of that date, the following rules will apply for all 4th through 8th Degrees during midterm and rank testing events:

  • Minimum Passing Score for Midterms & Testing 4th – 8th

4th Degree – 8th Degree Midterm


4th Degree – 8th Degree Test


  •  Scores by Element


Min – Max Score

Attributes to Judge

Taekwondo Form

0 - 4

Eye Contact/Focus, Proper Technique, Balance, Speed, Power, Rhythm & Presentation, Timing

Protech Form

0 - 3

0 - 4 if replacing form at a midterm

Eye Contact/Focus, Proper Technique, Balance, Speed, Power, Rhythm & Presentation, Timing

Free Sparring

0 - 3

Reading Opponent, Defense, Offense,

Timing, Setting-up, Endurance

Board Breaks

0 - 3

3 – all boards broken on first attempt,

2 – all boards broken on second attempt

2 – all boards broken on third attempt

0 – none or partial break

  • A total of 3 Elements must be performed during a midterm or rank test at a National or World event
  • During rank testing, you must perform your Taekwondo Form as one of the 3 Elements
  • During midterm testing, you may substitute Protech for Taekwondo Form (in which case, it will be worth a maximum of 4 points)
  • When rank testing, if you do not break all of your stations within the three attempts you will receive a No Change
  •  If you cannot spar or break boards for medical reasons, you may replace one Element with Protech Curriculum. (This must be approved by your instructor and the Presiding Grand Master prior to the midterm or rank testing.)
  • Men and women 60 and older may go down one color for board breaks (women to green, men to blue)
  • Anyone earning a rank in 2022 or later may receive credit for only one successful midterm per year.


With the growing number of seniors in the organization, we are excited to announce a formal process for becoming a 9th Degree and earning the title of Grand Master.

Becoming a 9th Degree

In order to be eligible for the rank of 9th Degree, you must satisfy the following minimum requirements:

  1. Time in grade as 8th Degree: 8 years (as an active member)
  2. Minimum age: 56 years old
  3. At least 3 masters in your lineage

Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee that you will be invited to become a 9th Degree. Each year during Spring Nationals, those who meet these requirements will be reviewed by the Presiding Grand Master and the Grand Master members of the Masters’ Council. They will select and nominate people based on factors such as these:

  • Demonstrated leadership
  • Active involvement in the organization
  • Ethical conduct
  • Contributions to the growth of Songahm Taekwondo.

If you are selected, you will receive your invitation at Worlds, one year prior to your promotion. You will be required to complete and submit a formal application within 30 days.

During Worlds a year after your invitation, you will perform an official Martial Arts Presentation (or Testing Demonstration) and earn your new rank.

Becoming a Grand Master

To earn the title of Grand Master, you must fulfill these requirements:

  1. Time in grade as 9th Degree: 1 year
  2. Membership in the ATA Hall of Fame
  3. At least 9 masters in your lineage

These changes will be reflected in the updated ATA Songahm Policy Handbook, under Black Belt Testing & Midterms.


About ATA Martial Arts

ATA Martial Arts was founded in 1969 by Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee. They have been internationally headquartered in Little Rock since 1977. With active membership approaching 300,000 worldwide, ATA is the world leader in teaching martial arts to the entire family. ATA is a pioneer in the martial arts industry because of its unique Songahm style curriculum. In addition to Taekwondo, many ATA schools offer ATA Legacy and Leadership programs, advanced self-defense, and weapons training. Also, many licenses teach Kidz’n Power child safety and bullying prevention. All ATA schools are individually owned and operated.