LITTLE ROCK – ATA Martial Arts, the world’s largest organization dedicated to teaching martial arts to all ages, is gearing up for its annual Worlds event July 8-14 in downtown Little Rock.

ATA estimates nearly 20,000 – including visitors from most of the U.S. as well as South America, Africa, Australia, Europe and South Korea – will visit Arkansas’ capital. They will take part in specialized training and advanced competition when the organization celebrates 50 years of Taekwondo excellence during the global event, according to a news release from Arkansas Tourism.

“While the best of the best martial artists will vie for the respected title of ATA World Champion, the central Arkansas economy will be a big winner as well. The ATA Worlds week-long event represents the largest annual convention in Little Rock, generating nearly $4 million in local economic impact,” according to the release.

Since 1990, ATA has hosted its international tournament at Little Rock, the place the organization has called home for more than over 42 years.

This year, the theme is “Make It Possible” after the ATA founder, Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee’s, life-long motto “Today Not Possible; Tomorrow Possible.”

Though founded in the United States in 1969, ATA has grown into an international phenomenon with presence in 25 different countries. An additional day was added for championship competition and training.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. will help ATA kick off the event with a press conference Monday, July 8, at 10 a.m. at the atrium of the Statehouse Convention Center, according to the release.

Returning to the H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden in downtown, this year’s traditional Masters’ Ceremony will be held Wednesday, July 10, at 8 p.m. The participants in this ceremony have each trained in martial arts for a minimum of 20 years. The event is open to the public.

Following several days of seminars on business, fitness and martial arts, Wednesday will also kick off the highly anticipated Tournament of Champions, which will run through Friday, July 12. During the Tournament of Champions, the Top Ten competitors in each respective division will compete for the title of ATA World Champion. Divisions are based on age and black belt rank. Competitors will battle it out in traditional, creative, Xtreme and team events.

On Friday at 7 p.m., ATA will host a 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Robinson Center where Little Rock’s own Grand Master G.K. Lee will be inaugurated as only the fourth Presiding Grand Master in ATA history. Tickets may be purchased through Ticketmaster while available.

Once the World Champion medals have been handed out, it’s time for ATA to begin its new tournament season for 2019 to 2020. Saturday and Sunday competition runs all day for all ages and belt ranks. All five days of competition are held at the Statehouse Convention Center and are open to the public. Each individual day is $15 or visitors may purchase a $25 pass for all five days of competition. Attendees age 5 and under are free, according to the release.

Visitors to Little Rock are invited to check out the newly built headquarters at 1800 Riverfront Drive downtown at scheduled tour times. They can view the H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden, located alongside the Statehouse Convention Center. This $1.6 million landmark is named for the organization’s founder and was designed to share the ATA story and elements of Korean culture.

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