ATA International Continues to See Soaring Numbers in 2023

ATA Martial Arts
The Covid-19 pandemic wrought huge changes in the fitness and sport industry. Virtual classes and home fitness equipment sales surged in 2020 and 2021. But these trends are reversing now that the world is returning to its “normal” state, with tremendous growth in community-based and in-person activities. We recently sat down with Neil Morton, ATA International CEO, to discuss the success of ATA Martial Arts in a post-Covid world.

Students who train at ATA-licensed schools have many opportunities to compete at a variety of levels. ATA International sanctions five classifications of tournaments, from its World Championship event (Class AAA) to its Spring and Fall Nationals (Class AA) to regional tournaments (Class A or B depending on the size) to in-school competitions (Class C).

The three largest events—World Championships, Spring Nationals and Fall Nationals—are hosted by the Grand Master of Songahm Taekwondo, Presiding Grand Master M.K. Lee. These tournaments are the most popular and well-attended events of the year and draw competitors and spectators from around the globe. World Championships is traditionally the biggest event of the year. But the October 2022 Fall Nationals event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania set a new post-pandemic standard, with record-breaking pre-registration numbers that led to it being the largest National event in ATA’s history.

2023 has started off strong for ATA Martial Arts with regional tournaments, camps, and training seminars across the country. Having made the decision to move Spring Nationals from its traditional Las Vegas location to Dallas, Texas, Morton told us he was unsure if the tournament could top the historic numbers who turned out for Fall Nationals in Pittsburgh. With the March 1-4, 2023, event drawing over 2,171 competitors—making this event even bigger than the 2022 World Championships—Morton says that “we can officially confirm that everything truly is bigger in Texas!”

“Sure, we thought we would definitely have an exciting Spring Nationals event, but nothing could have prepared us for the excitement of the record-breaking numbers seen in the Lonestar State,” he tells us. The event’s move to Texas proved to be a success as the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center housed over 60 rings for competitors, plus plenty of space for family and friends to spectate. Competitors came from throughout the US, as well as from Canada, Chile, Paraguay, India and the United Kingdom.

ATA Martial Arts kicked off the Spring Nationals event with training seminars on Wednesday and Thursday. Rooms were filled to the brim as students and instructors participated in hands on lessons to improve their martial arts mind and skills. Even during a tornado shelter-in-place, ATA Martial Arts students and instructors managed to have fun and battle it out with their favorite martial arts moves. By Friday morning the skies had cleared, and they began the day with over 180 black belts participating in the International Rank and Midterm Testing. After that it was finally time for competition, where over the course of the next 24 hours they continued to see record numbers in competition events.

ATA Martial Arts’ Creative and Xtreme competition had the largest number of competitors in event history. Morton says this reflects the success of the organization’s new ATA MAX program, which makes creative, xtreme, and tricking martial arts training more accessible to ATA Martial Arts students and instructors. “Shoutout to the collaborative efforts of Chief Master Scott Skiles, Master Evan Turner, and Master Ciel Solwazi who have worked diligently over the years to launch this innovative and interactive program,” says Morton. The program’s impact could also be seen in the Team Demo and Team Sync competitions, where over 15 teams impressed the audience with their exciting performances.

The Team Sparring and Combat Sparring divisions also were full as 168 teams competed. Over the course of the 2021 to 2023 seasons, ATA Martial Arts has seen over 1,400 combat and sparring teams participate in its events throughout the US.

These numbers are especially impressive considering that ATA tournaments are restricted to ATA members. But Morton says the massive growth in tournament participation is a direct benefit of having a unified organization. “ATA Martial Arts instills purpose and values from each classroom all the way to the competition arena that promotes community for students, instructors, and licensees” says Morton. “It is a true reflection of how strong this organization is and how it continues to grow.”

One of the many ways ATA Martial Arts instills this purpose and value is through their innovative programs for kids.Since developing the Karate for Kids program in 1986, the ATA has been an industry leader in using martial arts to teach life skills to children. This year, the ATA has launched a new program called Martial Arts Kids (MAK), which features characters (or “avatars”) who represent the values and life skills taught in ATA academies. Each avatar has a storyline designed to connect with students from different backgrounds, abilities, ages, and ranks.


“We want our Martial Arts Kids to look at these avatars and see themselves,” Morton says. “We want them to be inspired, to feel represented, and to know they are not alone.”

This benefit has already been felt at Intensity Martial Arts – Collierville ATA, located in Collierville, Tennessee. Instructor Hannah Morrow reports that one of her students, 9-year-old Kristen Cornett, was moved to tears the first time she saw a MAK avatar named Naya, who is depicted in a wheelchair. Kristen, who also uses a wheelchair, had never before seen someone her age represented in this way. Since then, Naya has become Kristen's favorite avatar, reinforcing her determination to perform and compete with dedication and enthusiasm.

What’s next for ATA International? Hopefully, more record-breaking events as they head to Phoenix, Arizona, July 11-17 for 2023 World Championships and then back to Pittsburgh, October 18-21 for 2023 Fall Nationals. Hotels are already filling quickly for both events.

Interested in learning more about ATA Martial Arts programs near you? You can use their online school locator to find an ATA school near you and find out which program is best for you.

Interested in expanding your business? They’re ready to talk! Partnering with ATA Martial Arts gives you the freedom of owning and operating your own business with the support of the world’s leader in martial arts curriculum. You can learn more here.

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