Martial Art" is a broad term encompassing the many styles of physical discipline (fighting) arts that have been developed over the centuries. To say that the style of Songahm Taekwondo is just another "martial art" would be an oversimplified explanation of the world's largest centrally administered martial art. This system of teaching and training is unequaled in the martial arts community.
During its early years, the ATA used the Chahng-hun style of forms (also used by the International Taekwondo Federation). But although this style was widely accepted in the Taekwondo community, Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee felt that its forms did not accurately reflect Taekwondo -- particularly the strength and beauty of Taekwondo kicking techniques. As a result, he believed the forms contributed little to the Taekwondo curriculum. For example, white belts were expected to know front kicks and side kicks, but no front kick appeared until the third (yellow belt) form, and there was no side kick until the form after that!
From 1983 to 1990, Eternal Grand Master introduced the eighteen Songahm forms. These forms are part of a fully-integrated curriculum, in which everything a student learns reinforces everything else. The forms contain all or nearly all of the techniques that students are expected to know at each rank, the one-step sparring segments complement the forms, and all of these patterns lead logically to the movements required for each succeeding rank.
The Songahm curriculum facilitates a smooth progression from one rank to the next, so that students who begin Taekwondo feeling they'll never be able to do a simple block (for example) suddenly find themselves a few years later doing 360-degree jumping kicks with ease.
Songahm Taekwondo also focuses on personal development of the mind and body. To say it is just self-defense would be to lose most of the valuable ideas and philosophy behind this ancient art.
The heightened capacity for self-defense resulting from our Taekwondo is really a fringe benefit that is gained by dedicating one's self to the values, philosophy and training of Songahm Taekwondo. When learning, a student is in a true, traditional Taekwondo class, focusing not just on the physical but also on discipline, honor, self-control, respect, courtesy, perseverance and loyalty.
A beginner does not focus on being a skilled martial artist within a month or two, as a strong foundation in Taekwondo must be built first. Trying to advance beyond your level without proper guidance is like building a house on concrete that has not dried. Though the house may still stand, the foundation would not be as strong and the appearance of the house may not be as presentable.
The ATA and its affiliated organizations help build a strong foundation of Songahm Taekwondo in each of its members, a foundation from which advancement in both the martial art (mind and body) and in self defense can be built and added on to in perpetuity.