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Martial Arts Classes for Kids

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Classes & Lessons > Martial Arts Classes for Kids


Looking for a Martial Arts Class Related Pages

2011 - 2013 Recommendations


Review for El Cerrito Martial Arts camp?

Jan 2014

I am looking for a current review for el cerrito martial arts camp for my 6 year old for this summer. Thanks bpn ! Happy camper


My daughter, then 8 and a complete beginner to martial arts, took the El Cerrito Martial Arts camp one summer and liked it so much we ended up signing her up for 2 weeks. Head coach Cody is a very relaxed, friendly sensei and his staff of young jujitsu camp counselors are equally nice, easygoing people. This is not a macho dojo, and there was an even mix of girls and boys (maybe slightly more boys than girls) during the sessions my daughter attended. In addition to mixed martial arts, the kids take breaks by going swimming, playing tennis in the park, doing art, or just having quiet time reading. My daughter improved her fitness levels quite a bit and got more confident in her body and aware of her strength. I think that they recently moved the dojo to a spot opposite El Cerrito Natural Foods, so I don't know if the camp facility is the same, but I would have no reservations recommending the staff and the program. Martial arts are good for you

Karate studio with workouts for kids and adults

Oct 2012

I live in Rockridge and I'm looking for a place where my 6 year old son can take karate (or similar) classes, but where I can get a workout in at the same time. I do not want to take classes with him. Are there places that have classes for kids and adults at the same time? Dani


This might not be exactly what you are looking for, but I highly recommend the Berkeley Kuk Sool Won school, at Dwight and Sacramento: http://berkeleymartialarts.com/. Classes include kids and adults, and there are also adult only classes (but they are later in evening). My whole family (my husband, our son and I) has been taking classes at KSW for the last 6 years, and it's been such a great thing for all three of us. We are all black belts now, our son learned a lot about martial arts and treating people with respect, my husband and I stopped having back problems, and I'm in my best physical shape ever. We take same classes together, but our son is in the front of the class with other kids, and my husband and I are with the adults in the back. Kids are paired up with other kids for various excercises, and we work out with other adults (or with each other, so that works as almost a date for us!). So, if you want to work out while your child is taking a class, you would be taking the same class, but you wouldn't be working out with him. We all get sweaty and tired by end of each class. It's a great workout, and then you can practice what you learned at home, with your kid or significant other. It's a lot of fun! Try it, you may like it!
Check out www.studionaga.com - there are videos of our whole community training together, kids and adults. Last Saturday we had kids aged 6 and adults in their 50s! It was super fun. Try a free class anytime! Louise
East Bay Seido Karate in Berkeley [1940 Bonita Ave - off University] has classes for kids, teens and adults, they even have a family class where parents can train with their children. Their classes are in the afternoon and evenings Mon-Fri as well as Sunday morning and their tuition fees are very reasonable. I have been training and teaching there for 8 years and can't wait for my daughter to reach 5yrs so she can start classes also. There is information and class schedules and fees etc on the website http://www.eastbayseido.com Todd

Martial Arts for 8 year old

Oct 2012

Can anyone recommend a martial arts class for my 8 year old? He is an absolute beginner who is open to trying something other than soccer. He likes the group aspect of that sport, and the practices, but has a hard time focusing at games. It is also hard for him because at this point a lot of the boys are advancing far more quickly than he is. My hope is that the environment would emphasize both discipline and a sense of accomplishment plus being supportive and less focused on earning belts or combat. However, I would love for the class to instill body confidence as he has experienced some taunting, etc. at school (which has been taken care of). We are in El Cerrito right between Richmond and Albany. Closer is better. anon


I can highly recommend the Aikido dojo that my 7-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl attend, Aikido Shusekai (www.aikiarts.com). We drive all the way from Alameda for this one. Classes are 2525 8th St. in Berkeley, meeting Tues/Thurs/Fri from 4:30-5:30; we usually go to two a week. Adult classes are at other times. The teachers are outstanding; the art is taken very seriously, but they let kids be kids too. We attend because I have long studied Iaido (Japanese sword) with the sensei that operates the studio, and I met the Aikido teachers there. They do have belt tests, and the kids generally get excited about that, but these tests do not cost money, and there is no pressure--kids progress at their own rate. Again, an outstanding dojo. In case you are unfamiliar with aikido, it is very much a defensive art, teaching how to redirect an adversary's energy, and teaches a great deal about how to use your own energy and your body effectively. Chris
I highly recommend Kuk Sool Won for your son. Nearly all the classes are mixed ages...beginner to advanced, and age 5 to adult. There are kids of all shapes and sizes, and everyone is respected. Master Brewer emphasizes respect, manners, self awareness, discipline, and confidence while teaching in a strong but gentle manner. He's great with kids, and has 2 sons of his own. My nearly-8 year old has gained much self confidence in the nearly 2 years he's been there. It's in South Berkeley, near the corner of Sacramento and Dwight. It takes me 15-ish minutes to drive from El Cerrito, depending on traffic. heidilee
For a lot of the same reasons you noted in your post, our seven year old son attends El Cerrito Martial Arts, located on San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito. The Sensei, Cody, is very knowledgable in both martial art skills and teaching kids of all ages. He stresses respect and cooperation between the students and runs a well organized program. Our son has been attending for approximately one year and he really enjoys it. Don't be put off by the appearance of the outside of the building as the tenant space next to the school is empty, but rather come in, talk to Cody and observe the staff and students in action. I wish you good luck on your search. Margaret
My 8-yr old son has been going to Cal-West Karate in Richmond/El Cerrito border for close to two years. He has a private 30-min class once a week with one instructor. There are many group classes available during the week and you can go to any of them. Cal-West focuses on self-defense. He is now a purple belt, from a white then orange. There is no sparing until you get to the purple belt, and it is optional. The best thing he has learned to me are the weak points on the body. I am guessing if needed, he will use it to defend himself. My son is an introvert, does not like group sports, and has never done any organized team sports. He does karate and in the winter, he skis. All individual sports. He has been physically bullied and made fun of in class, yet he has never used his karate to defend himself. I believe that the karate helps him build confidence within himself. Hope that helps. vmn
We love the Sport Fencing Center in Richmond right next to El Cerrito (http://www.sportfencingcenter.com) Kids start and proceed at a variety of levels. Many come just for the exercise and comradeship, though there is also a competitive program. The couple (Karen and Darwin Martos) who run it are very supportive of different abilities. Fencing has no ''belts,'' so there isn't such differentiation of kids by skill level. It is combatitive, in that it consists of bouts between two opponents, but these bouts call for undivided attention, which I think is a plus, and they don't really keep track of who wins each bout (unless you enter some of the competitions.) There are also drills, stretching, and fun games (dodge ball, capture the flag), so it isn't all combat. I feel it has helped my kids with body confidence, while not being quite as strictly disciplined as some martial arts. (My kids prefer a looser style.) Check it out! Fencer's mom

Berkeley Martial Arts Class for 4 year old

July 2012

Our 4 year old keeps asking about martial arts classes... OK, it's probably because of Kung Fu Panda, but I like that she's interested in doing something that will be fun, will teach her self-defense and help keep her active. Does anybody have any recommendations? Is 4 years old too little? Thanks! Kung Fu Panda Momma


Hanabi Judo. They are on San Pablo in Albany. My 6 year old has been going there for a year now and it has been absolutely wonderful. I don't know what their age limit is, but I'm sure I've seen kids there as young as 4. The guy who runs it is greatCbhis name is Dan. cindy
Hanabi judo in albany, they have a pre judo class that would be perfect for your 4th year old. Kristin
I would highly recommend Golden Lion Martial Arts Academy for your four year old. My nine year old started in the Cubs class there at age four and has loved it. He has grown physically stronger, developed self confidence, built great friendships and all while having a lot of fun. The teachers for the kids program are amazingly patient, nurturing and just wonderful. The school is located in Albany, right near the Berkeley border. Their website is : http://www.goldnlion.com/ Feel free to contact me if you have specific questions. Best of luck. Kelly
Kuk Sool Won in Berkeley takes 4 year olds, and is an excellent martial arts school. The teacher is very patient with the little ones. It's near the corner of Dwight and Sacramento. heidilee
Kuk Sool Won near Homemade Cafe in Berkeley has a class for 4 & 5 year olds and it's great. About 30 minutes long: http://www.berkeleymartialarts.com/children- information-for-berkeley-martial-arts.html You can try a class for free. My son loved it. Anon
Studio Naga, in Emeryville, has terrific classes for young kids (ages 3 to 6). The martial art practiced there is called ''Poekoelan'' and is an Indonesian form. The class for young kids is called ''Jungle Gym'': it draws on the animals associated with different forms/movements to teach the kids martial arts. Its fun,taught by great teachers, and the studio itself is very warm and kid friendly. I also found it especially good for my daughter, as there are lots of women and girls at the studio so it does seem as male-dominated as some martial arts studios (this was a concern for my daughter when she started there at age 5, because she viewed any activity with many boys present as something ''for boys''). Check it out! Stephanie

Alameda Martial Arts class

June 2012

Would like to know about a good martial arts class in Alameda, where good self-defense skills are taught in a positive environment. Thanks. mirsun


Hi, this is not Alameda, but Downtown Oakland, but my kids LOVE to go to SOJA Martial Arts. They teach silat white Kung Fu, and have a bunch of awesome instructors (men and women). Greetings, Tina http://www.sojamartialarts.com/ you can find them on FB too Tina
My family has been involved with West Wind Bok Fu for more than 20 years and I think they are top notch. The instructors, men and women, are very professional & highly trained. The emphasis is on discipline, confidence and personal achievement. I think it is a really positive approach to giving your kid some skills and a very positive peer group to balance out his or her life. Barbara

Pre-Capoeira Lessons for 4-Year Old?

April 2012

Our 4-year old son loves to play fight and do ninja and samurai moves. We'd love to hear about any recommendations for classes for budding ninjas and samurais close to El Cerrito. We are also considering the pre-Capoeira class at Capoeira Arts in Berkeley. We would love to hear about your experiences. Curious


My grandson loved the pre-capoeira arts classes he took at Capoeira Arts in Berkeley. The instructors were amazing, the classes were fun but also a great learning experience. He not only learned Capoeira movement but also music, drumming and Brazilizn songs and language. I would highly reccomend the class. jomedeiro
Hi I am currently training with Omulu Capoeira in downtown Oakland at Malonga Casquelord Center. There are classes for adults as well as youth classes. The youth classes actually start for 4 year olds so your son is the perfect age. The teacher has kids himself, around that age actually, so he's great with kids and building their confidence. If your little guy has a little energy to expend and is interested in kicks and flips, this class is for him. The class is also safe with warm up and stretching, but with plenty of time to learn lots of moves. I'm a single mom so I have to bring my 7month old to class and sit him in the corner with his toys. The teacher is understanding and even helps me out when my son gets fussy, he'll go and pick him up while still directing class. Hopefully you'll be able to make the trip to Oakland. It's in downtown Oakland but parking is not an issue at all. Capoeira is really great to expose your son to something new. There is the martial arts aspect, the music, and the Portugese language. It's difficult to have to bring my son sometimes but I definitely love the fact that he is exposed to the drumming and music and movement at such a young age. Your son will love it and you may want to join as well! http://www.oaklandcapoeira.com/index.php/classinfo/youthclasses Capoeira is for 4 years old all the way to postpartum mamas!

Capoeira Class for 6 year old

Dec 2011

I am wondering about signing up my 6 year old son for a Capoeira class and am looking for recommendations. He hasn't done martial arts before and isn't particularly coordinated. Thanks!


I highly recommend sending your 6yo to capoeira. It's a beautiful blend of martial arts (no contact), dance, and culture. I send my 4yo to Mandingo on Piedmont Ave. The community, kids and teachers, there are fantastic! They are happy to let you observe or have a free class for your son to try it out. Happy Capoeira Mama

Karate class for 4 year old

Sept 2011

Recommendations please for karate and swimming classes for a 4 year old in Berkeley? Natasha


I highly recommend Rohai Dojo: http://www.rohaidojo.com/. I trained there for many years and was also a student teacher. The ''Tiger Team'' is for 4 and 5 year olds. Quoting from the Rohai website, ''Our youngest students learn about traditional martial arts values - like non-violence, respect, cooperation, and helping others - while practicing fun, safe, age-appropriate skills.'' Parents can sign up for classes too -- I first started taking classes in support of my young nephew, and years later when he had moved on to gymnastics, I found myself with a black belt! The atmosphere is friendly and the student (and instructor) mix includes folks of all ages and types. Holly

Martial arts for four year old

June 2011

Hello- We just moved Kensington and I'm searching for a fun martial arts class for my four year old son that's nearby. Thanks! Wendy


Hanabi Judo on San Pablo by Solano has amazing teachers--both adults and teens. We have been very impressed with such a loving place. Lots of 4 year olds we know are taking classes there, and my 10 year old loves it. Mama to a Judo Boy
Hi Wendy, Check out Hanabi Judo, nearby on San Pablo Avenune and Solano (Albany)!! It's FAMILY friendly, not competitive (although if you want to and are ready to compete, they are Olympians who will train you for competition). Dan Augustine is like a child whisperer, who is gentle, firm and inspiring to the kids. Many of the pre-judo classes are taught by younger students (teens) - one of them, Flora, is 16 and is the judo team captain of Berkeley High as well as a blackbelt and national champion - I'd love to have her babysit one of these days. They are also offering summer camps (half and full days). Are you on Facebook? Their page is: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Albany-Judo/145864038761976 Hanabi Judo Dojo: Dan Augustine 841 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706 510-530-8312 maria
I cannot recommend Hanabi Albany Judo club more highly! Dan Sensei and his energetic and talented blackbelts lead fantastic classes for kids. My 5 year old is gaining great confidence & taking great pride in his mastery of each new skill. The classes are athletic, rigorous and fun: blending running & jumping exercise with practice in basic judo moves (the younger kids class does them solo on the cushy tatami mats, the older kid's classes offer opportunities to practice moves on a partner). Each class includes games that get their hearts pumping and the laughter echoing off the walls of the new, light-filled studio, located close to the intersection of San Pablo & Solano (lots of free on-street parking). The kids are also learning some Japanese beyond ''Judo Japanese'', last month was body parts, this week was basic introductions in Japanese. Dan Sensei often films the kids and ''screens'' the film during the same session, so the kids have a chance to see themselves on screen immediately, which they LOVE! You can tell that Dan has a background as an elementary school educator--with 2 kids, I've had ample opportunity to observe instructors and he is really in a class of his own. I drive here from Kensington and would easily drive twice as far! There are also family classes, should you want to join in (I've taken a class myself and had a blast!). Hanabi Judo Dojo Dan Augustine, Sensei 841 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706, 510-530-8312 FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Albany-Judo/145864038761976 Happy Mom to a Judoka

Aikido for 8 y.o. boy

March 2011

My 8yo is interested specifically in Aikido. We live in North Berkeley. I found classes for kids at Berkeley Aikikai, Aikido of Berkeley, the Albany community center, and Aikido Shusekai. Any advice?


We train an Indonesian Martial Art at Studio Naga in Oakland. It's not Aikido, but they do an excellent job with kids in teaching discipline, self-defense and community. I recommend coming in for a free trial class. My 9 year old has been training for years and loves it! Karate Mom
Our son (now 12.5 years) has participated regularly in the Albany Community Center's Ki-Aikido program for several years. We love it! Sensei is a great teacher and role model, he's also the parent of a 4th grader at an Albany School and really understands kids. I would highly recommend the program. K
I recommend Aikido of San Leandro with Sensai Pat. She is very well experienced and is very good with children, especially the older kids, as she too is a mommy! Her kid classes run every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 5-6pm. My son loves his class...he's even learning how to count in Japanese.:) Happy Aikido Mom!

Martial Arts Classes - Hoa Sen Dojo in Emeryville

March 2011

I am looking for reviews of the Hoa Sen Dojo on San Pablo in Emeryville for my six-year-old boy. In particular, I am interested if anyone has joined their summer program and has any feedback on how the instructors and program would be for a shy kid who needs some time and extra encouragement to warm up to new environments. I am also interested in hearing about their regular children's classes as well. Thank you. kung fu mom


My daughter started at Hoa Sen at about that same age and now, at age 12, is a brown belt who helps teach the little ones! Hoa Sen is a great community of teen and adult instructors. My daughter has been nurtured, encouraged, and challenged by all her ''elders'' including the many terrific teens. She says Hoa Sen is like a family and that everyone is always willing to give extra help and encouragement to those that need it. I highly recommend it! --Happy at Hoa Sen
My two daughters (8 and 13) have been training there since August and my son briefly too before soccer became too consuming. I love the Dojo. Great women sensei's, clean. Terri is great at instilling a sense of responsibility and great values in my (too 'entitled') children, and, they have learned so much in the martial arts! Self defense, strength, confidence, flexibility have improved immensely. So glad she's there! happy mom
My son and his 3rd grade buddies attend the cuong nhu classes twice a week. I don't know the differences in the various flavors of martial arts. But as taught by two wonderful women Terri and Pam assisted by older girls, I love the focus on self-control and discipline. My son initially wasn't that into it. And he's a kid who doesn't like anything that is structured. I'm glad I didn't let him quit. (I said he had to commit to one year) For us, it's been wonderful to see our son gain mastery and confidence in this martial art form. Now, after 8 - 9 months, he's ''getting'' it and is proud of having made it to the second purple stripe on his belt. I whole-heartedly recommend this dojo to any child/family. The only downside is sometimes feeling like the incidental fees for testing add up. My son loved the summer camp last year. They go swimming at the Emeryville Pool. cuong nhu mom happy martial arts mom
My kids have gone to summer camp and taken regular classes at Hoa Sen Dojo for years. It is a woman-owned dojo and we have always felt like family there. I liked it from the very beginning because (1) the sensei/teachers never talk down to the students, even the youngest ones; and (2) the culture of the dojo is to have kids who are further along teach and lead those students who are at lower levels. This really encourages the kids to be responsible, and true to the practice. The summer camp is great since they spend intense time on the martial arts, which gets the movements more ''ingrained'', and then they also swim often (there's a public pool across the street), and do really fun stuff like go to A's games. I've always felt like the owners and teachers really cared about and took care of my kids there. Ruth

2009 - 2010 Recommendations


Aikido Institute, Oakland, California

Nov 2010

Hi - my children (12 year old daughter and 8 year old son) are interested in taking Aikido lessons. They are both beginners. We live close to the Aikido Institute in Oakland. It looks good, but I was surprised to find no recommendations or posts related to this school - particularly given the fact that it has been around for a long time. If anyone has experience with the Aikido Institute, especially with children lessons (but also adults), please let me know what you think. Thanks a lot! Andrea


Andrea, I trained at Aikido Institute many years ago, and now train at East Bay Aikido. Though it is farther away (Leimert, near Park Blvd.) it is worth the trip. Sensei Gambell is very good with youngsters and there are three incredible senior students who help him. People bring their kids from great distances for them to train there. Before you make a decision, check it out by bringing your kids to watch a class. www.eastbayaikido.com - 1446 Leimert Blvd, Oakland. Andus

Martial arts class for quirky 1st grade boy

Oct 2010

I'm interested in finding a martial arts class for my 6-going-on-7-year-old son. I think he would really enjoy it and I'm sold on the benefits I've heard about from other parents: from developing strength and balance to fostering self-confidence and respect for others. Since my son has Asperger's, I'm looking for a class that's sensitive to the needs of quirky kids and not terribly rigid in its teaching approach. My son has participated in classes and camps in the past - gymnastics, drama, etc. - and the ones that have worked the best have been tolerant of his need to, for example, take occasional short breaks from group activity or express himself in an unconventional way. I think he'll really get into the discipline and ritual of martial arts, but I'm looking for an instructor who also mixes in a sense of play, humor and lots of patience. (Oakland and Berkeley preferably.) Any recommendations? Christa


I really like the Karate classes through AYOP at Ruby Bridges in Alameda. The teacher is exceptional with the kids, and there are several non-typical kids he works well with. He's gentle and fun, but instills a sense of purpose in them. My son LOVES his Karate class - he's in 1st grade. And they are CHEAP! http://www.ayop.org/SF_alameda.htm mom of a yellow belt third degree
My kids fence at the Sport Fencing Center (http://www.sportfencingcenter.com/) in Richmond (but only a six minute drive from my kids school in Berkeley.) Though there are age-divided classes, they have been very flexible about what my kids take. They are also focused on teaching at the level of each individual kid. The classes themselves have a variety of activities (not just fencing), which your child might respond to. Fencing might not be the first martial art to come to mind, but it's been great for us. Fencing parent
I would try Studio Naga in Oakland. We did a trial class a few weeks ago and loved it. The instructors seem very sensitive to 'quirky' kids (and there were a few in the class) and seem to have a great community-style approach. anon
Hello, I again highly recommend Studio Naga. The kids program is great ~ focusing on the whole person ~ and also have an existing program for children challenged in group settings. Also sending an e-mail directly to your address with additional information. Studio Naga 510.652.6242 www.StudioNaga.com Cinthia
We love Bay Mountain Martial Arts on Grand Ave in Oakland. Sensei Adrian is a wonderful teacher who truly has 'kid charisma.' I think that if you gave him a call to talk to him about what you are hoping for that he would be honest about whether or not this is something he would be able to work with in the context of the whole group of kids in each class. Good luck!! Nikki

Karate classes for kindergartner

Oct 2010

I was wondering if anyone had any suggestion for karate classes for an almost 6 year old little girl-anywhere between Oakland and El Cerrito? She has not had any experience We would prefer classes after school hours say 2:45 on? Or earlier hours on the weekend Thanks


I highly recommend Kook Sul Won in Berkeley on Sacramento. location and phone number 2438 Sacramento St Berkeley, CA 94702-2130 (510) 540-8070 It is very kid oriented, a nice mix of ages, and probably an equal number of boys and girls. Tom is a wonderful sensei. My coordinated 9 year old started at the new year and he has so much more discipline and respect from the practice. My older son, who is not as coordinated, really resisted even trying it. After trying one class in August, he decided to join too. He loves it and feels more confident about his athletic ability. Mom
I've heard really good things about Albany Karate for Kids. You can find all the info in the Albany Activities Guide. Good luck! anon
I highly recommend Studio Naga in Oakland! The kids program for 3-6 year olds is amazing. Kids learn animal movements of the snake, tiger, monkey & crane to build focus, coordination & confidence along with standard martial arts strikes (punches, kicks, etc.). As children gain confidence, they are gently introduced to the older kids program to add to the child's feeling of success. The studio is very community oriented and it is easy for a parent as well as each student, to have any questions answered. Studio Naga 5850 San Pablo Avenue Oakland 94608 510.652.6242 www.StudioNaga.com
A great place for kids martial arts programs is SAMA Accadamy of Martial Arts in Pinole. My grandson who is in kindergarten, attends and loves it. The instructors are great with kids and they have introductory lessons and great package deals. Classes are every afternoon at either 4 pm or 6 pm or Saturday mornings and you can go to any class that fits your childs schedule and mix and match the dates and times. http://www.samamartialarts.com/classes.htm jomedei

Introduction to martial arts

May 2010

Hi, I'm looking into a form of martial art to put my son in. I'm looking for a more combat style vs 'wrestling.' Maybe kickboxing even or capoeira (any childrens capoeira groups in the area?). What's a good age to introduce these extracurricular activities to children? TK23


Sensei Kayla Feder began practicing Aikido in Oakland when she was 12 or 13, and now teaches children (and adults) in her Dojo called Aikido of Berkeley. There are children as young as five or six in her classes. Aikido is very athletic, but concentrates on blending with the attack, rather than aggressive. It is sometimes called a defensive martial art. Her dojo is very beautiful and peaceful, and she is a wonderful warm teacher. Lynn
My children (3 and 8) both train at Studio Naga in Oakland (near the Emeryville Border). My 3 year old participates in the Jungle Gym class for 3-5 year olds. At this age they are learning discipline, basic movements and focus. My eight year old is in the standard kids class. At this age she is learning self-defense, some fighting, with a continued emphasis on discipline and focus. As a mom, I have been extremely satisfied with what my kids have learned. The instructors work really well with the kids (and there are a lot of kids there!) and the classes are structured yet still fun. Martial Arts Mom
I highly recommend the school our whole family goes. It's Kuk Sool Won of Berkeley, at 2438 Sacramento Street in Berkeley (510-540-5425). My son, husband and I have been training there for 3 years, since our son was 6 yrs old. If you are one of those parents who doesn't have time for sports, this is your chance to share something with your child and get your excercise.

It all depends on a child, but I wouldn't start a child's phys ed with martial arts before age 5. There are kiddy martial arts classes and they are very cute, with uniforms and all, but basically they are not much different than any kiddy gym class. Martial arts requires discipline (rare trait for a 4 year old or even a 5 yr old) and tends to give less one-on-one attention than gymnastics which has the adequate equipment geared towards very young kids,

That said, there are kids who are extremely focused at a very young age and are fascinated with martial arts. In our martial arts school, there are adult only classes, and two 10-year olds are attending those - and they are more focused than many of the adults! Those two are rather unusual though, they also have several other extra- curricular activities in which they also excel. Good luck, and hope you can practice it with your child, too! practicing martial arts as a family


My son started martial arts about six months ago, just before he turned 5. He goes to DJs, in the Laurel district. I know nothing about martial arts, but my son really enjoys going. The style they do is called Wun Hop Kuen Do, a mix of karate, kung fu, and street fighting. But I wonder what the kids really think they are learning.

DJ has a bit of a family atmosphere there. I know some of the kids' parents learned with DJ. They keep it fun, incorporate some exercise into class (running, jumping jacks, etc) which the kids love doing at this age. They also enforce discipline, in the sense of standing quietly, following directions, and respecting each other and the learning environment. Some of the kids that are 3 or 4 are a bit young to stand still, and the instructors do a good job of managing that. Bryan in Oakland


Kung Fu classes for kids in Berkeley or Albany

April 2010

I am looking for a good kung fu school which has classes for kids - preferably with a focus on discipline, balance, and body awareness rather than violence. Any suggestions would be welcome, particularly in the Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito areas but also other nearby places would be fine. Mom in Berkeley


I highly recommend Golden Lion Martial Arts in Albany. The website is: www.goldnlion.com. My now 7 year old has been going to Golden Lion since he was 4. The teachers are all very compassionate, extremely caring, tough but understanding. The program has instilled a great amount of discipline and respect in my son and he looks forward to not only going to class, representing his school at tournaments but also practicing at home. Choy Li Fut Kung Fu, the style taught at Golden Lion, is beautiful to watch and not violent in any way. My son just started sparring recently and even then the kids are told to work on technique and to take it easy on each other. We have had a wonderful experience with this program and feel like we are part of a larger family. My son is determined to study until he is a black belt and is already talking about being an assistant teacher when he gets older because he loves the assistants who teach him now so much. Good luck with your search. I am happy to answer any specific questions or concerns you might have. Kelly
My daughters (3 and 8), as I all train at Studio Naga (www.studionaga.com) which is on San Pablo at Stanford in Oakland. The form of martial art is called Poekoelan and it is a compassionate martial art, meaning that the emphasis is not at all on violence and definitely more about discipline, body awareness, compassion and community. The phone number for the studio is 510.652.6242, and the head instructor is Louise Rafkin. Your child can try a class for free, but it's helpful if you call first to tell them when you're coming. I cannot say enough good things about the school. It has positively impacted all 3 of our lives. Martial Arts Mom

Dojo in SF for 8 year old girl

April 2010

Hi All, I'm looking for recommendations for a martial arts dojo for an 8-year-old girl. The specific martial art is not as important to me as the opportunity for a positive experience with self-awareness, self-discipline, strength, and growth. We're in Potrero Hill in the City. Thanks! -Susan


I highly reccomend Ralph Gracie Jiujitsu on Howard St. Between 7th & 8th Streets. FYI because Ralph is a Brazilian name, the R sounds like an H and the a like in car not cat. I trained there for about 4 years. Here a couple good reasons to send your daughter here:

1. Brazilian Jiujitsu is widely regarded as one of, if not THE most effective of the martial arts.

2. Ralph's grandfather is the founder of Brazilian Jiujitsu, you don't get much more direct lineage than that.

3. Kurt Osiander, the head instructor, who teaches the kids class, is an amazing teacher, and all around great guy. I still consider him to be the best teacher I ever had.

4. Every girl should be required to learn Brazilian Jiujitsu because many attacks are launched while you are lying on your back with your legs spread and your attacker between your legs. Any girl with a blue belt (it goes white, blue, purple, brown, black) from Ralph, is essentially un-rapable, even by a larger, stronger, opponent.

5. Jiujitsu is like wrestling, not punching or kicking. So your daughter is much less likely to get in trouble at school (or on the street) in the event she uses her skills in some ill advised manner. Most likely her victims will feel intense pain from what they percieve to be their own actions, or else they will take a short nap while she has plenty of time to get away. While it is entirely possible to break bones or kill someone, the training process is such that it is highly unlikely that you could accidentally cause grievious injuries. You learn very quickly how not to kill or break your training partners. BJJ is much more controlled than throwing punches or kicks where adrenaline or emotions could cause you to lose control and inflict more damage than intended.

But most of all Kurt is awesome, I encourage you to go talk to him and see for yourself. I love BJJ because it is like a physical chess match. It is fun and challenging and keeps your interest because it is as much a mental challenge as a physical one. If you start your daughter now, by the time the boys come sniffing around she will totally be able to take care of herself.

I have only one bad thing to say, and that is; ANY Gracie academy is frighteningly expensive. You get what you pay for, and personally I think it is totally worth it. The 'sticker shock' factor can be quite daunting, although I don't think it is so bad for the kids classes. I asked Kurt about it a while back, for my own kids, and it didn't seem too bad. My kids don't train there because we live in Richmond and the commute is just too much, since the kids class sort of cooincides with rush hour. This should not be much problem for you on Potrero Hill.


Judo for 4 year old

March 2010

My four year old is interested in Judo, and we're looking for recommendations, positive or negative, for places in Berkeley or nearby that have judo classes for that age group. Chelsea


East Bay Judo Institute is the best! In their literature they say they take kids at 4.5 years old. We have a son who just turned 5 and has lots of energy. It's a great place to channel some of that energy. The instructors are all volunteers, some are former Olympians, others are nationally recognized. Just last weekend the former World Judo Champion came and worked out with the kids class. No hitting or kicking allowed in Judo. There is a wonderful mix of people involved in the club. Kids come from all over. The monthly fee is $60, which mainly goes towards overhead and other club expenses. It's not a business. Its a club. They let you try out a class to see how you like it. Right now they are having a membership drive. Hope to see you there...we are very pleased with it. Judy

Martial arts class for 5 year old?

March 2010

Hi, I'm looking for a spring martial arts class for my five- year old son, located convenient to the north Berkeley area. We'd like a once-a-week class, preferably on a Saturday. Has anyone found a good class for a martial arts novice? Thanks. martial arts newbie


I would recommend Capoeira Mandinga at 4096 Piedmont Ave in Oakland. They offer one day kids classes on Saturday (ages 3-5 from 12:00 - 12:45 PM and ages 6-12 from 12:00 - 1:30 PM). For first time students only, you can get a discount (1 class / $13 or 3 / $26). My son age 6 (who just recently started) attends both classes. He really likes it a lot and practices at home with his friends. Check out their website: http://www.mandinga.org/welcome.html. I hope to see you there. Sass
Hi, My son started at Berkeley Kuk Sool Won on Sacramento when he was five and stayed with it through his black belt and beyond. It was a great experience both for him and for us. jamie
Kuk Sool Won is very similar to Tae Kwon Do. I'd recommend KSW of Berkeley (on 2438 Sacramento at Dwight), run by Thomas Brewer. He's particularly good with the younger boys: kind, ethical, and extremely experienced. I've seen a number of ADHD kids there and he's been able to teach them a great deal about Kuk Sool and perhaps more importantly, about what it takes to learn a sport of this kind. You and your son can take a free trial class and see whether it's a good fit or not. Just call Mr. Brewer at 540-8070. Michele
My son started in the cubs class at Golden Lion Martial Arts school when he was 4 years old. They teach kung fu. The cubs meet twice a week - Thursdays at 5:30pm and Saturdays at 12:00pm. The teachers are amazing enthusiastic, patient and caring. My son was shy and hesitant to participate in group activities when he started. 3.5 years later, he has risen in the ranks, progressed to the intermediate level class with kids older than him, performed by himself at the Solano Stroll and other events as well as generally built self confidence and discipline. He absolutely loves going to class, learning new forms and feeling proud of all of his accomplishments. He continues to love and respect his teachers and I can see that martial arts will be a part of his life forever. Good luck finding the right program for your child. We checked out many and this one felt right from the start. Their website is: www.goldnlion.com. And of course feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions. Kelly

Aikido for ADHD & Tourette's Boy?

Nov 2009

Our 6 year old son has been diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome & ADHD and has had a lot of problems socializing with other kids because of his tics and poor impulse control. Add on learning disabilities and he has had a very hard time at school and summer camp, always in trouble and now very depressed. He loves to be active, has done yoga in the past, and is good at sports. Some people have recommended he do aikido or another martial art to encourage focus and self control. Could this be a positive experience for him or would it be setting him up for failure & frustration? Are any particular activities or instructors especially good for kids with these kinds of issues? Berkeley Mom


I would talk to the chief instructor/owner of East Bay Aikido and ask him what he thinks. They have some wonderful instructors there for the kids' classes, starting from age 5 or 6. Aikiko would be a good activity for your son, in my opinion. It's an non-aggressive form of martial art, and I think especially excellent for children, as it teaches them how to resolve conflict without resorting to violence. My husband trains there and my son goes occasionally. The dojo is located just off of Park, on Leimert Blvd. The Sensei's name is Tom Gambell. Here is the info: 510 531 0303. sensei@eastbayaikido.com aikido fan
I would check out West Wind karate school on University just above Sacramento. They have been wonderful with my son who has challenges with learning, focus and impulse control. The phone number is 841-1426. laura
Hi Berkeley Mom, I want to recommend Studio Naga to you and your son. They are on San Pablo Ave in Oakland near the Emeryville border. They practice an Indonesian form of martial arts called Poekoelan, but I recommend them not because of the particular kind of martial arts (although this one seems very accessible to even quite young kids) but because of the nature of the studio itself. It is a very supportive and nurturing place (although the folks their are also very serious about their practice and set high expectations for the kids who work out there). There are a lot of kids involved, all different ages, temperments, talents, and backgrounds. My 7 year old ADHD daughter studies there and it has been great for her. She gets what I had hoped she would get from martial arts study (discipline, self-control, respect, perserverence) but additionally everyone there is especially attentive to respect, inclusiveness, and a sense of responsibility for each other. I really appreciate the diversity of people there, the fact that the studio is operated by a woman, and the fact that kids and teenagers are represented in all ranks of practice. This last factor means that age has little to do with rank: you often see a 15 year old black belt instructing a 35 year old white belt. I see kids really thrive on the fact that their hard work can earn them real, significant respect -- respect that translates into adults taking them seriously. The young people then rise to the occasion and use their position (their rank) to seriously respect, teach and care for their juniors (younger kids, but also anyone junior in rank). As a result, you see lots of kids who I suspect are awkward or don't quite fit in other environments (my daughter has a lot of social troubles) really developing a sense of self, pride, and maturity. I am extremely impressed by the young people there and know they would include and respect your son. They also have regular events for kids (a ''kid's night out'' once a month, a summer camp) which allow the kids to continue to build community among each other. Feel free to contact me if you have more questions. Stephanie
Hi. We have a 10 yr. old w/both adhd and ts. He's been doing martial arts (kung fu) since about age 7 with great success. His tics diminish when he's moving and concentrating and he seems more organized after classes (2x week for 1 hour each). www.goldnlion.com (no ''e'') in Albany. I'd think Aikido would be great as well; I like that both forms work on the being one's best self as opposed to pure fighting or self-defense (eg. non-aggressive). Good luck. Martial Arts Family
Aikido of Berkeley, run by Sensei Kayla Feder, is the most welcoming and nurturing place imaginable. Sensei manages to provide an atmosphere in which all are encouraged and none of the kids are unkind to each other, seemingly without ever having to raise her voice or speak sharply. While my son was attending aikido classes there, his confidence increased visibly, as did his physical coordination. I saw kids who might be ''loners'' or ''outcast'' in other settings, who were accepted by the group and whose strengths were celebrated instead of having their weaknesses highlighted. I can't speak highly enough of Sensei Feder or the program she has created. You can see a bit more about the program at www.aikidoofberkeley.com, but I'd personally recommend that you go watch a kids' class to see what you think. Kathleen

Aikido for children

Oct 2009

I am looking for a good place that offers Aikido for children ages 5 and 7 years old in the Berkeley, El Cerrito, Albany area. Thank you Anon


My kids took lessons from Sensei Kaela at Aikido of Berkeley. She is *wonderful* with kids. She pays attention to each child, gets small groups working efficiently with each other, teaches respect and persistance - I can't say enough good things about her. The dojo is temporarily in north Richmond, but easy to get to. Call her at (510) 412-9999. Her website is www.aikidoofberkeley.com Pat
You can check out the Berkeley YMCA. They have a Saturday 2 to 3:15 pm youth Aikido class. Reasonable cost. Anon

Non violent martial arts for 10 year old

August 2009

Hello, I am looking for a non-violent martial arts classes for my 10 year old boy. He tried a few when he was younger but they were ''way too strict'', according to him. I heard about aikido, but my son wants to ''spin in the air'' like in tae kwan do or kung fu. He does not want to scream at all, though . I think he wants to be an under cover super hero type, able to do flips and such. Can you recommend anything in Oakland or Berkeley, or even Lamorinda? Rec center classes would be fine, too. Thanks! mom of young Batman


Yes! Our kids school has classes in Capoeira which is a Brazilian martial art that combines gymnastics, dance and martial arts. It's stunning to watch and very moving.

Another very non-violent martial arts ''mash up'' is called Kajukembo (I hope I spelled that right). It's a mixture of Karate, Jiu Jitsu and some other martial arts and is really approachable for kids. I remember seeing a class at destiny Arts Center. Anon


My almost 11 year old has gone to Kuk Sool Won for several years. He will have his black belt within a year. Tom Brewer, the instructor, demands respect from his students but from my perspective he is not strict (my son may tell you differently, of course!). Mr. Brewer's expectation is that the kids try their hardest, do their best, and work hard. Kuk Sool Won has a big focus on defensive moves (throwing) as well as offensive, but I've never felt that it is ''violent.'' Being involved in Kuk Sool Won has helped my son's confidence, stamina, and character. I really cannot recommend Mr. Brewer and Kuk Sool Won enough. 2438 Sacramento St Berkeley, CA 94702-2130 (510) 540-8070 laurel
Hi How about Capoeira. It's more a of a dance than a true martial art but kids love it and it's great for building self comfidence and movement. When your child gets older he or she might move to another form. There are many good teachers out there teaching many different forms you may need to go to a few classes until you find the right one. old teacher
If your son wants to fly through the air, he might enjoy Aikido. The Uke (attacking person) sometimes flies through the air. The Nage (person being attacked) does the non-violent response. You can see an Aikidoist training with a Kickboxer on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn59zha-uAQ Come to East Bay Aikido (www.eastbayaikido.com) to check out some classes. If you take your son to a kid's class he will probably not see many people taking to the air. He might if you take him to an adult class. Andus
You might want to look into Tai Chi Chuan - it is a martial arts and therefore has martial arts applications but its focus is more on connecting mind and body and cultivating stillness and relaxation. There are classes at Tai Chi Chuan Berkeley in West Berkeley. To find out more please see: http://www.taichichuanberkeley.com. Hope this helps...
Check out USA Kung Fu Studio in Alameda. It has many Chinese instructors teaching traditional kung fu. They are excellent with the kids, their style is beautiful and may have that fluid ''superhero'' quality your son is looking for (as opposed to rough, tough, and rigid power of other styles). They have a great website, so you can show your son the style shown on video clips - he won't be flying in the air until the upper belts, though. anon
Hi~ I think if your litte bat man still wants to participate in Martial Arts then Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the most non violent martial art. It is a martial art that uses grappling techniques which enables practitioners to subdue opponents without the use of kicks and punches. The name ''Jiu-Jitsu'' translates to gentle art. There is an excellent kids program in Alameda, www.teamsilvabjj.com My friends son is in the program there and loves it. rebecca

Berkeley Weekday Karate for 8 year old?

August 2009

Hi. I have seen some older posts, but any new info on weekday Karate classes for an 8 year old boy, preferably in Berkeley? Thanks.


Of course, it depends upon what you are looking for from martial arts but I don't think you can do any better than West Wind Kung Fu on University, just east of Sacramento. They offer a tremendous peer group of male and female martial artists, all ages. The kids learn discipline and respect along with tremendous physical skills. Our son has been in the system for more than ten years and his skills are amazing. Barbara
Hi Berkeley Kuk Sool Won on Sacramento is a great place for kids to start. My son went for many years. Jamie

Class for a 4-year-old

April 2009

Re: Gymnastics for 4-year-old
I have a four and a half year old son who also is not the most coordinated or the strongest guy (would much prefer to look at a book). Anyway, we have been looking at and trying classes for a couple of years now.

So, recently (about 3 months ago) we tried martial arts at Bay Mountain Martial Arts on Grand Ave (near Safeway) and we LOVE it. The Sensei (teacher) is very focused on the kids. He knows all of their names from day one. It is AMAZING how much our son has changed is such a short time. They are working on ''life skills'' not just martial arts. Each week has a different focus (coordination was this week, then there are things like memory, self control, discipline, focus, etc.). They have a whole thought through system that really motivates the kids. The preschool teachers also cannot believe the changes he is making esp in terms of his confidence and his abilities on the playground.

Best of luck! James' mom


Karate classes for kids & parents

March 2009

Hi, I'm looking for a place around Berkeley/El Cerrito that holds joint Karate classes for kids and their parents, preferably during the weekend. Any recommendations? My daughter is 6 years old and we are both beginners. thanks, Sharon


Check out West Wind Karate School on University just above Sacramento. They let adults and children study together and they have done a wonderful job with my son. The phone number is 841-1426 Laura2562
My daughters and I began attending the Kuk Sool Won of Berkeley on Sacramento Street in 1999, when my girls were 7 and 9 years old. This was the best decision I made for an activity we could do together. It's now some ten years later, and one of my daughters still attends classes when she's home from college. My other daughter moved on to soccer and other sports, but will always be benefited from her years studying Kuk Sool Won. The school owner, Thomas Brewer, is highly competent and caring, and this form of martial arts is one of the most comprehensive. Another unique and wonderful thing about Kuk Sool Won is that it's grandmaster, In Hyuk Suh, is still alive and actively touring to spend time with students at the Berkeley school and all around the world. I love the fact that many girls and women students attend this school, and that students are very supportive of one another. You can get a free trial lesson and meet with the school owner at 2438 Sacramento Street in Berk! eley by Dwight, or call 510-540-5425 The web site provides more information at: http://www.berkeleymartialarts.com/ Cynthia

Karate or Kung Fu for preschooler with language delay

March 2009

I would like to get some advice on Karate or Kung Fu for my 4.5 year old son. He is a social and very sweet boy with a mild language delay. We were told that doing Karate or Kung Fu would help him focus and in turn, could help him focus better when speaking. Does anyone have good suggestions for Karate or Kung Fu in the Richmond, El Cerrito or Albany areas? Thanks connie


Golden Lion Martial Arts on San Pablo (Albany) has been fantastic for my language/speech disabled son. www.goldnlion.com (no ''e'') The Cubs class is fun, structured, and a great start. I'd observe a class and talk w/Sifu David to see if it'd be a good fit. Tracy

2007 - 2008 Recommendations


Which martial arts class for high energy 10 year old?

August 2008

Hi, my 10 yo son wants to try martial arts but I have no idea what the differences are among them! Could someone please explain the differences, including instructional styles (if that varies by type rather than by instructor) and also recommend some places in Oakland/Berkeley? I guess I'd consider other East Bay if it were the perfect class. We live near Lake Merritt. If it helps narrow the field, my son also enjoys fencing & gymnastics and is, shall we say, high energy and not terribly self-disciplined. OK, not at all self-disciplined! Don't Know Dojo


You have a wonderful neighborhood dojo, Pitts' Martial Arts Academy on Lakeshore. My son studies Tae Kwon Do, which emphasizes kicking, forms and sparring. Capoiera also is taught at PMAA. It's more dance-like. Anon
I suggest doing some research online for different styles and types of martial arts. I know that BPN has some prior recommendations, and Yelp has a number of results that will come up if you search ''Martial Arts'' and ''East Bay''.

I have recently begun taking classes at Kuk Sool Won in Berkeley under instructor Tom Brewer (http://www.berkeleymartialarts.com). Each class (for beginners, anyway)is largely composed of children. Mr. Brewer is very patient but firm, and does a great job of interacting with kids with short attention spans and difficulty focusing. It's been inspirational to see how proud the children are when they succeed at something he's taught them. Kuk Sool is a Korean martial art that combines three different styles of traditional martial arts and emphasizes physical fitness, self-defense, and discipline. I highly recommend the dojo, but I know there are a lot of places out there to evaluate. My recommendation is to try a class or two at each dojo to evaluate fit, tone, level of exertion, etc. And be sure to ask about costs for ''graduation'' (to a new level), accelerated programs, etc. Good luck! Tom


Martial arts for ''difficult'' child

Aug 2008

Can anyone recommend any kind of martial arts teacher who is really good with ''difficult'' kids? My 9 yr old son gets easily frustrated and anxious when things don't go how he expects. He can be easily distracted and very disruptive in a class situation. In addition to his therapy, I'm hoping something more physical could help him with his focus, breathing, pent up aggression, bouts of depression. But I need to find a teacher who can deal with his issues either in private or small classes. Thank you. Ellen


My son is head instructor at West Wind karate on University - a top-notch school. I credit his martial arts training from a young age with giving him extraordinary discipline and amazing physical skills. I know he has a loyal band of parents who would do almost anything for him because he has turned their children around and kept them on track. They go way beyond the physical. Check out http://westwindschools.org/ My son goes by the name ''Mr. Shah'' at the school and you can tour the school, talk to him and see how you feel about it. I also love that there are many strong, wonderful women in the school and much respect all around. Barbara
Ken Pitts, a former probation officer, is good with children with challenges. He teaches Tae Kwon Do and Capoiera for children and teens at Pitts' Martial Arts Academy on Lakeshore in Oakland. He does private lessons, which might be a good place to start before joining a class. If it's a good fit, it's a great dojo. Anon
I think any well-taught martial art in a reputable center would be very good to build esteem and instill discipline. But you might consider Judo. No chops or kicks. It's about using your opponent's body weight to his/her disadvantage. East Bay Judo Center, San Pablo, El Cerrito, just sent someone to the 2008 Summer Olympics.
i highly recommend berkeley kuk sool won, which is located on san pablo and dwight in berkeley. tom brewer, who owns the school, is a master teacher and works well with all kinds of kids and adults. my 11 year old son has been going there for more than 5 years, he is now a black belt and the experience has been wonderful for him in every way. kids and adults are in the same class, so parents can go to if they want to. check it out. heidi

Family martial arts classes

May 2008

My Husband wants to take Judo or Karate classes with both our kids. Anyone know a class set up like this in the ElCerrito, Albany, Richmond area? lj


Berkeley Kuk Sool Won has classes that parents can attend with their children, which is a wonderful way for parents and kids to get fit together, while improving strength, flexibility, and mental clarity. Kuk Sool Won of Berkeley is a traditional Korean martial arts program which combines tribal, Buddhist temple, and royal court martial arts techniques in the most comprehensive martial arts program I've seen -- itbClass in Lamorinda for 7-year-olds truly unsurpassed. I've been going to classes with my daughter for the past eight years, and it's helped keep me in shape well into my 40's, while my daughter benefited in all sorts of ways. I give Berkeley Kuk Sool Won my highest recommendation -- and you and your children can try it for free by contacting Thomas Brewer at 2438 Sacramento Street (at Dwight), Berkeley, (510) 540-5425. Cynthia

Class in Lamorinda for 7-year-old

March 2008

My seven-year-old son is interested in learning martial arts. I checked the archives and information is outdated (last posting 2005). I would love to hear from others about experiences (positive and negative) you and your children have had with dojos and/or martial arts classes in the Lamorinda area. Thank you. Andrea


A good friend of mine told me she and her kids are totally happy w/ their discovery of Karate USA. The instructor she said is very grounded, a father of a child who goes to our local school, and she said her kids LOVE the workouts. It turns out Tom, the owner of Karate USA, is also health conscious and facilitated a nutrition talk by a local ''expert.'' In addition, he recently joined Parents for a Safer Environment at our annual meeting/party and will be working to improve environmental health issues in our local community and county. I'm sold on him, too. My friend said he charges one rate, something like $100 for the entire family, and as often as you want to work out, so it's a good deal if you have a couple of kids! Susan

Class for 8-year-old's focus & coordination

Nov 2007

My son is not particularly coordinated or athletic, but he loves sports and is just reaching the age where his lack of natural ability is beginning to show in comparison to his peers. His dad and I were thinking that a martial art might help his focus, coordination, and confidence, but I'm not sure which martial art he should try. And reading over the archives, I'm wondering if my ideas about the wonders of martial arts might be off the mark (I have a dance/yoga background and was assuming the benefits would be similar). So here are my questions: would a martial art be helpful? If so, which one? And where is a good, mellow place in the Oakland area to take classes? sarah


I recommend Destiny Arts. My 7 yo daughter is doing martial arts (they combine a variety of styles) there and really likes it. She's in a class with kids of all ages and abilities and it has lots of adults working with the kids as well. They really work with the kids on discipline and focus. Destiny Arts has a great philosophy and are really positive and supportive of the kids doing their best. They're strong around community and respect. They're in Oakland in the same building as North Oakland Community Charter school. Their website: http://destinyarts.org/ arl

Class for 4-year-old in San Pablo/El Sobrante

Nov 2007

Hi, I am looking for references for a good martial arts studio in Richmond, San Pablo, El Sobrante area. I am thinking of enrolling my 4-year son. I checked the archived and most recommendations were only for Oakland, Berkeley, Albany etc. Thanks. Karate or not


I can highly recommend a karate dojo in El Sobrante on Appian way. It is a small dojo, with a very good instructor. Here is their web page: http://uechidojos.com/dojo.html Camilla

Karate for 5 year old

Oct 2007

My 5 year old is expressing a lot of interest in karate. Are there recommendations for karate studios in Oakland. Also what types of karate do you suggest for a 5 year old. Thanks!


Hi. I practice karate at a dojo in Richmond (on the El Cerrito border) called Shotokan Karate Institute (SKI) www.shotokan.com. The style of karate is very traditional. I would recommend this dojo, as the sensei really seems to help kids channel their energy and learn discipline, but without being harsh. I have seen kids practice at other dojos and learn to be violent, but here the focus is on self defense and self discipline. If you are interested, please check out the website and stop by during one of the kids classes. I'm not sure what age they recommend for kids to begin classes, but you can ask them when you visit. -Fellow Karateka

Class for family - kids 6&9 and me?

June 2007

I'm not too familiar with the martial arts thing, so I'm not sure if what I'm asking for even exists or is feasible. I'd like my two boys (ages 6 and 9) and myself (a 40-ish y.o. woman) to learn a form of martial arts, mainly for self-defense. We'd all be beginners. I'd like to do this in an ongoing way, rather than in a workshop format, so we can continuously develop and improve skills we have learned. The challenge for me is to do this without having martial arts classes for all our age groups take up all of our weekly schedule--if each of us are in separate classes and attend twice a week, that's six martial classes per week among the three of us! My boys are already involved in another after-school activity, so we're reluctant to add on anything else that takes a ton of time commitment. They still need to do their school work and we all want to be able to sit down and eat dinner together every night at a decent hour. I know learning a martial art form takes a certain amount of commitment as one progresses, but how does one do this in a manageable way, without sacrificing all other activities? We're already a very physically active family so the risk of being sedentary if we don't do martial arts is not very high for us.

So, what I'm wondering is: 1--Is there a place that offers beginning ''family'' martial arts classes once a week, preferably on a Saturday morning or afternoon? 2--Are the martial arts classes for kids and adults offered at the Downtown Berkeley Y worthwhile in terms of learning useful self-defense skills (not just about having fun and exercise)? 3--How do people pursue martial arts if they cannot commit more than one class per week, but are willing to continue consistently over a long period of time? 4--Recommendations for a martial arts studio in Berkeley that fits what we're asking for (self-defense, understanding of limited time commitment, family friendly) 5--How do prospective students gather information about schedule, price, commitment before walking in, as to avoid a ''hard sell'' once in the door, especially if a studio doesn't have a website? Looking for family martial arts


I highly recommend the aikido program at the Albany Recreation Center with Maida Sensei. He has over 30 years teaching experience with adults and children. Aikido isn't just about self-defense, it's about maintaining balance, stabiiity and focus. He will teach kids as young as six and he does encourage parents to be on the mat with their kids. I started 8 years ago when my daughter, than 8 years old, watched a class and wanted to join. I've been training ever since. I've seen other families join and stay with it for a long time, and really gain a lot from the experience. He also has a dojo just 10 minutes from the rec center. You could probably attend a class there as well on a Saturday if you were with your kids. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. You can also visit the web site at www.kiaikido.org. Come by and visit the class at the rec center every afternoon (except Thursday) from 4-5. drobespi
Hello, Berkeley Kuk Sool Won has classes for families; kids in afternoon and parents in the evening. My son went there from age 4 until 16. jamie
I run a studio in Emeryville on San Pablo Avenue that successfully incorporates children into some of the adult classes in the evening and on Saturdays. I have many families that work out with their children and everyone seems to get what they need. I also have seperate classes for adults and children.

The main issues in mixing ages is the attention level, ability to ramp up the workout and size considerations when pairing up to do exercises. This can be managed in a mixed group by pairing like sizes and agreeing as a parent to be responsible for partnering with your child if no similar sized person is available in class. It is understood that to join an adult class you must be able to sustain yourself for the period of time the class runs and maintain appropriate focus.

My school is a a family martial arts center. I have been teaching for over 25 years. Most of the kids working out with the adults are more advanced in rank because of the time they have spent training. Frequently the younger and lower ranked children attend at least one children's class to be with their peers and enjoy the easier pace of a children's class. It also builds camraderie and community. Once a week these kids attend class with their parent(s) in order to share the workout experience and make efficient use of everyone's time.

If you would like more information about my school, you can visit my website www.skillsforsafeliving.com or call 428-1979.

I hope you find a great place to train! My family trains with me and it has been a fabulous experience. Sensei and mom of 2 great kids terri


What are the different options?

May 2007

I am interested in starting my kids in a martial arts class of some kind, but I don't know anything about martial arts. I would love info and advice about different options (tae kwon do versus karate versus ...?). I would also love any recommendations of studios in Berkeley or Oakland -- we live near Rockridge/Elmwood. Thanks. Laura


Aikido is a nonviolent martial art that teaches no attacks, only defenses. At East Bay Aikido, it is taught by gentle, funny, understanding teachers, and the kids love it. They teach taking care of your adversary so that no one gets hurt. It's a really fun way for kids to learn self-defense. No competition or sparring. I take it as an adult, and my son loved it as a child. Tues and Thurs classes for all kids, and Mondays for girls only. I'd be happy to talk to you about it. East Bay Aikido is on Liemert, near Hwy 13 and Park Blvd in Oakland. Easy parking, easy access.
When looking for a martial art it's important to choose a school that's a right fit for your child. There are many reasons to put your child (or yourself!) in martial arts. Some of the main reasons are: to build your child's character and self-esteem, teach them explicitly how to set goals and reach them, provide realistic self-defense, and finally it should be FUN!

My recommendation is to try out several schools and find one that is a good fit for you and your child's needs. Since you don't have a background in martial arts, it's best to do what I did, which was ''shop'' around.

Martial Arts should be regimented but it should also be fun. Your child should look forward to class and be able to articulate what they learned in their class that day. There should be evidence of a curriculum and a progression of levels so that the kids learn to set a goals. Also there should be a strong sense of community amongst the students, teachers, and parents so that you both feel comfortable.

As far as your question about styles, every style has their own advantages and disadvantages. I've taken many martial arts in the past, Tae Kwon Do, Jeet Kune Do, Japanese Ju-Jitsu, Aikido, Arnis/Escrima (Filipino Stick fighting), and Kickboxing. I can tell you personally that as I was ''shopping'' around for a style that fit me, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stood out over all the other styles.

I found that I wanted to focus on a style that could be NON- VIOLENT (it's impossible use kickboxing or karate without risking seriously injuring someone), but was still very effective (I found in my two years of Aikido that it doesn't really work well against a resisting opponent). Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu answered every “what-if” question I had.

I am a former Oakland elementary and middle school teacher, I can tell you that many children instinctively want to PUNCH or KICK when they get angry. Why try to reinforce that behavior by showing children how to punch or kick properly? I prefer Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because it is more about controlling your opponent than bludgeoning them with your fists.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaches how to fall, how to perform throws and takedowns, self defense techniques, and groundwork. We learn how to wrestle and avoid getting punched. We play Jiu- Jitsu related games and learn to tumble, cartwheel, and handstand.

I teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Gym-Jitsu (a combination between gymnastics and jiu-jitsu for the younger kids) over at Rocha Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Oakland. If you have an interest in my program, we are located at 3600 Grand Avenue in Oakland near the Grand Lake Theater and Piedmont. Our website is: oaklandbjj.com Stephan


After over three years, my kids (now 8 and 11) still look forward to every one of the 5 (yes, five) classes they go to over three days each week at Hoa Sen dojo for Coung Nhu. Now that they are in high enough ranks to be in classes with adults, I started, too. I have done few things in my life better. Try out a class for free! http://skillsforsafeliving.com/ Ruth
I cannot educate you about different types of martial arts, but I can highly recommend MODERN COMBATIVES on University Avenue. My son is in the 3 1/2 year-old class (mostly games and learning about safety around strangers). Our instructor, Lily, is great and my son has learned a lot of basic body movements. Plus, I have watched the 4 1/2 and 5 year old class and the instructor, Alan, is fantastic. He is engaging and kind. It is a great environment! king
I want through this search a year ago. I asked many friends who's children were enrolled in various forms of martial arts at various locations. I decided upon Kuk Sool Won on Sacramento & Dwight Way in Berkeley. Mr. Brewer is the owner and instructor. The kids love him and learn a lot - martial arts and discipline. He is strict, kind, and funny. My 6 year old daughter has been going there since August. She loves it! She is learning so much: martial arts skills, being a good person, discipline. Again, I can't say enough good things about Mr. Brewer and Kuk Sool Won. The school can be reached at 510-540- 5425. Keley
Check out Easy Bay Aikido (eastbayaikido.com). We studied there for a while before our lives took a different turn. Aikido is a martial art that focuses on protecting both the attacker and the defender (more disabling moves and not so much kicking and striking to injure/kill). It's gorgeous to watch the fluid partnership of advanced practitioners. I'm pretty lazy and I found falling a lot amazingly fun. Tom Gambell brings just the right energy - encourages learning at your own level/pace, not perfection oriented but will coach on the nuances, nice community feel to the adult classes at least (haven't been to the kids classes). Some older kids train with the adults, nice age range. Diana
My kids have been taking Aikido since kindergarten (one is 13 and one 9) and Berkeley Aikikai on San Pablo is the only USAF certified in the area. We love this place. Firstly, Aikido teaches wonderful principals that are not necessarily based on confrontation. You are taught to ''move out of the way'' and that failing, then how to use and redirect another's energy with low impact on your own body. you also learn to fall without injury. Adult black belts warm up with the kids which is GREAT. The adults and instructor are all warm and kind. Class is on Saturday 9am for 1 hour and is very very reasonably priced. Good Luck. michelle

Class for non-athletic 11-year-old

April 2007

I am looking for a martial arts school that would be appropriate for my eleven-year-old son. He has learning differences, and is not as coordinated and athletic as a lot of boys his age. So, a school that is not competitive would be best. I am especially looking for a teacher who is understanding and would be encouraging to someone like my son, who might require more time to remember and integrate different patterns of movement. A school that emphasizes the philosophy of the martial art, and which has more of a gentle approach would be best. I've heard that Aikido might fit this description. I am not familiar with the different martial arts at all, and would greatly appreciate help finding a good teacher/student fit for my son. We live in Albany, so a school in the Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito area is ideal. Thank You


you might want to try kuk sool won in berkeley on sacramento ave/dwight. it might be a little bit of a drive for you, but if you head down sacramento from your side of town its not so bad. tom brewer, the owner, if very patient with the kids. its a non-combative style and i have seen kids with down syndrom in there. not that your son has that, but it shows that he is open to all kids and treats them equally, yet with patience and understaning when necessary. unfortunately my kids have opted out of going and i got tired of forcing them, but i wish they would continue. i think its a great program. good luck! tami

Class for 5-year-old in Oakland/Berkeley

Feb 2007

I'm looking for a good martial arts class for my 5 year old boy in the Oakland/Berkeley area. Thanks phylis


There's a wonderful martial arts program for kids in Berkeley that is comprehensive enough that they can enjoy it all their lives; it's called ''Kuk Sool Won,'' and it's wonderful for five year olds. Having studied martial arts for many years, and having met many martial artists over the years, I chose carefully before enrolling my children in a martial arts program. Kuk Sool Won of Berkeley is a traditional Korean martial arts program which combines tribal, Buddhist temple, and royal court martial arts techniques in the most comprehensive martial arts program I've seen -- it’s truly unsurpassed. Kuk Sool Won has some things in common with other Korean martial arts, such as Tae Kwon Do, Tang Soo Do, and Hap Ki Do, and is characterized by a combination of hard and soft styles, joint locks, fluid movements, and low stances. My daughter started Kuk Sool Won training at age 9 and continues to take classes now that she's a first degree black belt. Parents and their children can train together at Kuk Sool Won, which I've enjoyed doing for the past seven years with my daughter. In addition to teaching children physical self defense, owner and head instructor and fifth degree black belt Thomas Brewer provides instruction on how to maintain mental clarity, integrity, self discipline, loyalty, and respect, and is a very positive role model for all students. Annual tournaments include black belt demonstrations, competitions between local Kuk Sool Won schools, and an opportunity to see the most highly skilled practioners of this extraordinarily comprehensive martial arts system. I give Berkeley Kuk Sool Won my highest recommendation -- and you and your child can try it for free by contacting Thomas Brewer at 2438 Sacramento Street (at Dwight), Berkeley, (510) 540-5425 Cynthia
East Bay Aikido is absolutely the best martial arts training place for kids. It's a nonagressive form of martial arts led by the most caring, funny, gentle teacher, Tom Gambell, and others. There's a girls only class on Monday afternoons, and the regular kids classes are Tues and Thurs afternoons. I train there as an adult, and my chid went for several years. It's on Leimert, just off Park Blvd. in Oakland, really easy freeway access and parking. The phone no. is 510 531 0303. Call and have a chat with Tom about the program. Linda
A wonderful place to learn a martial art is at Rocha Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Oakland. The main instructor, Stephan Goyne, is also a second grade teacher (at Whittier elementary) and a genius with kids. He's expert at tailoring the instruction to the child's needs and abilities. He's given my skinny, timid son strength and self-assuredness that I never thought he'd possess, and boosted my shy daughter's confidence, and helped her see herself as strong, graceful, and in control of her body. My roly-poly kindergartener has developed much more body awareness and coordination. All of them really look forward to the classes, and beg me to sign them up whenever Stephan organizes a ''kid's night out.'' Stephan's other strength is building children's self-control, responsibility, and social skills. I'm impressed with his ability to keep track of every child in his very diverse class, and address that child's needs. Unlike some martial arts classes my children have taken, there's neither bored waiting around nor frenetic activity and chaos. Stephan has a gift for getting all the kids to play by the rules. They get a really good workout, a consistent and healthy philosophy, and systematically build their skills.

The schedule of classes has flexibility built in, with students allowed to vary their attendance among several weekly class meetings. If you decide not to sit and watch the entire lesson, the Grand Avenue/Lakeshore neighborhood has lots of attractions, including the Saturday farmer's market.

Some descriptions of the classes, a schedule, and Stephan's contact information are here: http://www.oaklandbjj.com/classes_youth.html So glad we found this place!


I highly recommend Stephan Goyne, who teaches jiu-jitsu to my two boys (5 and 12) and one of my daughters (9). He handles children well (with respect, calm, humor, and consistency), and is quick to establish a personal relationship with each child. Plus, he is an effective teacher: as my 12-year-old son put it this morning, Stephan is a good teacher because he always gives a clear description of the purpose of the move and its mechanics, he demonstrates it multiple times, and doesn't move on until all the children have started to get the hang of it. And, my son adds, he doesn't let one or two children misbehave and spoil the class for everyone else. Stephan teaches two classes on Saturday for kids: 10:30-11 for the youngest children, and 11-12 for bigger children. He also teaches a 5-6 pm class on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the older children. As a customer, you commit to a month's worth of lessons, but you are not locked into only Saturdays, or only Tuesdays or Thursdays -- you can go to any of the classes. eirik

2005 - 2006 Recommendations


Class for 5 year old boy in Lamorinda

June 2006

Hi! We just moved to Orinda and I am looking to sign my 5 old year son up for martial arts classes. Any recommendation would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Amy


My children have taken Tae Kwon Do for two years at the Academy for Martial Arts in Walnut Creek (right off the Mt. Diablo exit, across from Pier 1). They run an excellent program, and really take an interest in the child's whole development. Their web site is www.tafma.com. I am sure you could take a couple of classes on a trial basis to see if it is a good fit for you Claire
I would like to recomend The Academy For Martial Arts for your son. They are actually in Walnut Creek, but right off of 24 on Mt. Diablo Blvd. so extremely convienent-in fact many of the students there are from Lamorinda. The teachers are wonderful- they strike just the right balance between discipline and fun. They also just won ''Best Martial Arts classes in the East Bay'' from Diablo magazine I highly suggest you try them out.

Karate studio not disclosing pricing

May 2006

I wanted to get some feedback/advice on my experience with West Wind Karate in Alameda Recently, we walked into West Wind because my 4 year old son was very interested in Karate. I went in to get a price sheet was told they need to make sure the child is ready, that its the right fit, etc. so a few sessions were complimentary. We scheduled 4 lessons and my son did great, we were so proud of him. lesson 3, they had him practice the ''white belt'' ceremony and told him that if he passed his ''test'' that he would get his white belt and to bring friends/family/video cam. To say the least, there was A LOT of build up. I asked again about prices and was brushed off. My son did the test then they brought us into this formal back room and talked about how he did and how they wanted to make sure that we were there for the right reasons, etc (flattering us and our son). They said the program was 17 weeks (2 sessions per week of 30 to 45 min) and there were two levels of instruction- Sensei and instructor level. Then they said (as if it were completely reasonable), ''So, for the Sensei level the cost is $1,700 and for the instructor level it is $1,200. Which one of those will work for you?'' I walked out of there completely disappointed and felt like I'd just taken part in a time-share pitch. Is it reasonable to think that they might give you an idea of the price before you start this whole trial thing. Do you think it was their intention to get your kids hopes up and then bank on you not wanting to disappoint them. I had to deal with my son convinced that he didn't pass their so-called test because he didn't get his white belt (since we couldn't afford to sign him up). Also, I got the feeling that there was a lot of negotiating room and that they high-balled it, which seems unfair. I see a lot of parents and their kids go in there and I can't imagine that they all pay that much. Anyway, what I'm wondering is if I'm out of line to feel like it was a scheme to lure me in. Also, I feel pretty upset with the whole process and I'm not sure if I should mention anything to them about it. Thoughts? Anyone else attend West Wind? Going Elsewhere


You are right that the karate studio is out of line. That is extremely expensive. Also, to build up your son's hopes like that and make you look like the bad guy for not shelling out a lot of money isn't right. The idea of moving your child up a rank before they've done any real training is ludicrous. My husband and children have trained in karate for about 7 years now. It's been a long time since my kids had their first lesson, but I think the first two lessons were for a set price to see how it goes, then you can sign up for either private or group lessons, or a combination. They train at Oakland Karate on Broadway near Piedmont. I know people that take their kids to other dojos and I've never heard a racket like you describe No Go on that Dojo
I had to re-read your post to make sure I got that figure right. 17 weeks for $1,200 or $1,700? Are they kidding? This sounds completely fishy, scammy even. I would investigate them, see if they have whatever appropriate licenses they require from the city, check on them and/or report them to the Better Business Bureau and ask other karate schools how their prices compare. And as you say, it also sounds like a completely manipulative, passive-aggressive sales technique to make you feel bad for disappointing your son. Might be the occassion to teach your son about rip-off merchants and learning to stand up for yourself. If you didn't sign anything you owe them nothing. (And you may owe them nothing even if you did sign something.) Very annoyed on your behalf!
Hi, That doesn't sound reasonable or professional to me. My son went to Berkeley Kuk Sool Won from before he was five until he was 15. They always told us upfront the price for a year (which was less than the price you said West Wind quoted for 17 weeks).Plus students could take multiple classes in a week. All kids start out as white belts and progress through the belt system. The kids work hard, earn their belts, and really learn Kuk Sool. Tom Brewer, owner and master teacher at the school is really great with the kids jamie keller
Your story is familiar. Your child wants to start a karate program and you give West Wind a try. After a few free lessons they hit you with a huge fee. I know this story well as my son and I attended West Wind for a few years although we paid much less than the prices you listed (our child price was around $900 for approx 35 private lessons and unlimited group classes). The training is actually pretty good but they always pressure you to pay more. There are other really good martial arts dojo's in the area that are much less expensive. You should read this (http://www.bullshido.net/forums/archive/index.php/t-12882.html) This is a very long thread about West Wind from other knowledgeable martial arts students and you can get a good feel for the type of training and the troubles and successes some people have at this school Anonymous
You are exactly right - the karate school's sales pitch is engineered to make guilty parents sign up right away. I used to be a karate instructor, then a district manager for a local chain of karate studios and it's a slimy business, with sales pitches lifted directly out of old boiler-room sales manuals. Many large chain karate studios use these gimmicks. Also watch out for test fees - you'll pay an additional fee for every belt level your son advances to ($35-$50) and for uniforms and other gear.

You can definately negotiate - they operate like lame car dealerships. Go at the end of the month and offer cash. Ask about a monthly rate. Ask them to 'throw in a testing fee'. Ask if you get a discount for paying in advance. Offer 1/2 of what they are asking. Ask about a cash discount. If it's all too slimy for your taste, keep looking - there are studios out there that have simple monthly fee schedules (about $60/month for 3x a week - even that's negotiable sometimes). The complimentary lessons are great if you're not sure your child is ready to pay attention in class, or if he really wants to do it. Seems like you are already past that point so don't take any more 'complimentary lessons' until you know the fee schedule.

But, the good news is that no matter what you might feel for the administration/sales end, your child will still have a great time and learn a lot. Sign your baby up - he'll love it and thrive! There are many, many, many schools to choose from so have fun! anon


It's a scam. You should be proud of yourself for walking out of there. Reputable programs tell you what they cost up front. carol
I was a West Wind student for six years. They were once an excellent school that has lost their way. It is all about the money now. You can e-mail me if you want further information/feedback. It is sad that a school that once did so much for the young people of Berkeley has become what it has bonnie
I am really sorry you had this experience. You are correct in feeling like this was a total sales pitch, because it was. Unfortunately, this is a common practice among martial arts schools, many of the studios operate this way-they get you hooked so it's really hard to say no-especially to a 4 year old- in fact, I'm surprised they weren't trying to get you to commit to a 1 year contract.

Fortunately, not all schools work like this-I own a studio in Walnut Creek, and we certainly don't.

My best advice to you going forward-go by yourself and watch a class for your child's age group. If you like it, set up an appointment to talk to the instructor/director about prices BEFORE bringing your son. Once you are happy with the school, bring in your son.

Additionally, $1,200 - $1,700 for a 30-45 minute class twice a week for seventeen weeks is ABSURD. You should be looking at paying that amount PER YEAR-even in this area, and most places should allow you to pay monthly-even if they want a year commitment. Feel free to email me if you have any further questions kristalina


Your experience at this martial arts ''McDojo'' was NOT acceptable in the eyes of someone with 26+ years of martial arts experience.

I could rant for quite a while on the unacceptable practices you have described, but all of your alarms are correct, it should not have been handled that way. Anyone with a sense of propriety would have never handled it that way. If they have nothing to hide, they would tell you how much lessons are up front…why not? They would also let you sit in on several classes and watch to determine if the class would be good for your child, and if the instructor is the correct type for your child.

As a side note, In my opinion, a four year old is way too young for martial arts. I personally will not teach children under 5-6, unless the child is very mature.

If you are still interested, look into a kendo school in your area, they are still run as nonprofit, the instructors do not get paid, and their association does not let people below 4th Dan teach. (Side Note)4th Dan is a rank that some people call 4th degree blackbelt. Contrary to popular belief, “Blackbelt “ is not a rank. Just as a sergeant has several chevrons on his shoulder, he is not called a “three chevron”. Seargent is the rank, the insignia of the rank is the chevron.

For kendo you can go to http://www.nckf.org Another martial arts school with people who are very good with children is at the following url. http://www.skillsforsafeliving.com/ Rich


My daughter and I visited several dojos before we selected one. Some of the Karate dojos are more money oriented while others are not. I recommend Kojoso Karate in UC Village, Albany. The head instructor, Ken Koba, is a nice, soft, and real martial artist who is dedicate to teach karate, and it is not money oriented program. It is affordable. After summer, they have a camp, and their grand master comes to teach everybody, although it is rare that grand master teach beginners. Also I was amazed by the beauty of their Kata, such as crane, tiger, and snakes. Your son might be too young, but you can ask when your son can start Mother of pre-martial artist

Class for 4 year old in Alameda

May 2006

Archives were a little old on this...Looking for a martial arts class for a 4 year old in Alameda (or real close) that would be good for motor skills, balance and discipline. I need something that a working mommy can do- so either a friday or saturday class or soemthing in the early pm. Thanks. Juliette


Hello, try Pokoelaan in Oakland. It's not far from Alameda; I believe they're located on (or around)San Pablo Ave, downtown by the whole Home Depot area. It's an Indonesian martial arts program based on animals, so the kids' classes are extrordinarily captivating; they mimick the animals' walk, etc. My son tokk their courses and they earn belts, etc. The instructors are POSITIVE and engaging. They put on events in the studio, focus on postivity and respect and are like a family. It is AWESOME! Lisa
My recommendation is to forget about martial arts for a year or two. Instead find out if she'd like a dance or tumbling class. Those will give her strength, balance, and coordination. Then, in just a year or two, she can decide if she'd like the martial arts.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against the martial arts. I have been studying and teaching martial arts for over 40 years. One of my daughters started martial arts when she was 5; the other when she was 8. Both daughters had to use their martial arts on their trips to and from Berkeley's public schools.

But I think that 4 years old is a bit early. Unless your daughter begs you to let her join a martial arts class, I'd recommend some other activity. Old Martial Arts Person


Class for kids 4 and 7, plus parents

April 2006

Hello, Are there local martial arts studios that provide classes for the entire family? Our family includes a 4.5 and 7 year old plus two relatively limber parents. We live in Oakland. Thank you. martial arts wannabe


The most important thing about a martial arts class is that it fits ones personality. It's a tall order to ask for a class that fits all the personalities and degrees of maturity of a whole family.

My recommendation is to shop very carefully for a class that fits your CHILDREN. In my opinion, a children's martial class should be lots of fun, and it should include a bit of quiet time and attitude shaping. Nothing else matters much. Least of all the martial art itself. Any martial arts class will give your children more than enough martial arts.

Once you've found a class for your children, ask them to teach you what they've learned. Set up your own mini-practice sessions at home, and do the forms and techniques with them. These don't have to be very elaborate. Five minute sessions are quite enough. You'll find that you've learned something, and by your actions and attention, you'll show your children that you value their class. Good luck! been there; done that!


Baker's Martial Arts Cultural Center on Park Blvd in Oakland's Glenview is a great place for kids and adults to learn Tae Kwon Do. My 7 y.o. loves it. And the adults (from beginners to blackbelts) seem really happy with it. They offer separate kid and adult Tae Kwon Do classes and adult cardio kick boxing. Much emphasis is placed on positive encouragement, mutual respect, and discipline; which makes punishment virtually unnecessary. We're very impressed with the teachers.

http://www.bakersmartialarts.com/ Shirley


Karate class for 7 year old boy

October 2005

I am looking for a karate class for my shy 7 year old to learn self defense and develop confidence. Would like supportive atmosphere, not boot-camp! He is not interested in Akido, or other forms other than classic karate. Thanks! anon


Kuk Sool Won of Berkeley has a great program. My son started martial arts at age 7 and is now a black belt at age 14 (he actually earned it at 13) and continues to attend the black belt sessions. Sir Thomas Brewer and his wife Eunice own and operate the school and I couldn't recommend them more highly. Sir stresses values, discipline and respect (among other things) and has been a great instructor. Denise
I work for the Berkeley YMCA. We have a martial arts for fun class that is starting next week on Wednesday afternoons. The instructor, Terri Giamartino, is very good with beginning students. She also has her own dojo that some students graduate to later on. For more information, feel free to give me a call at 665-3238 or check out our website www.baymca.org. Eden
I would love to recommend Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate, 1819 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 94702 (between Hearst & Delaware).John Burns is the head instructor and offers classes for kids as young as 4-5, 6 & up are in the kids class, there are teen & adult classes. My son has been there going on 4 years now as a teen and has gotten a lot out of it-confidence, movement skills, ideas of respect and many opportunities to move forward in karate skills. Kids & parents are appreciated there. The studio is clean and nice, the instruction is step-by-step, no pressure and I don't see frustration there. The kids warm up with a game and excercises before learning/practicing skills. Your son can try a class with no obligation. Let them know when you want to try it out by calling 510-526-4880. Linda

Martial Arts for a 3 Year Old

July 2005

I would like to find some martial arts classes for my 3YO daughter that focus on strength, discipline and physical awareness and not fighting. My daughter can be challenge to keep still and quiet so I also need a teacher with a magical manner or who understands children with extra personality. Thanks. lynn


Studio Naga in North Oakland offers martial arts classes for kids of all ages. They have a 3-5 group, and a 5 and up group. Parents can train in a class that goes on at the same time as the kids class. The classes are fun and active. Amanda

Taekwando for 10 year old girl

May 2005

Looking for current recommendations for a Taekwando class for my 10 year old daughter. Also, if anyone has any feedback for Kenneth Pitts Martial Arts Acadamy and Alameda Taekwando. We are in Richmond, would prefer to stay in the east bay. thanks kristina


My 11 year old daughter started taekwondo when she was 9. She watched the classes for several months before she started (my son, 7 at the time, was going twice a week) and it has been positive for both kids. They are physically and mentally stronger for it. They attend Pitts Martial Arts Academy on Lakeshore Ave. Mr Pitts is a phenomenal teacher and can inspire all kinds of kids at all ages and at all levels. He manages to combine high expectations, kindness and humor. He cares how well the kids are doing in school, what they've eaten for breakfast and that they understand what it means to be a ''good'' person in society. We like that it matches up with our own family values but I see that it is also helpful for kids in transition. Robin
Re: Martial Arts Summer Camp (March 2006)
Pitts Martial Arts Academy is excellent with kids. My son attended the summer camp when he was 12 and really enjoyed it. Ken Pitts is great at working with all ages at all levels. My son has taken martial arts there for 4 years and is a member of the Black Belt Club. Whether you're interested in something fun for your child for the summer or are checking out the program for more, PMAA is a good choice. Janice

Martial arts for 2.5yr. old?

Mar 2005

My son loves to wrestle and play ''fight'' in good spirit. Is there a class out there for him at this young age? I find that other kids aren't as keen to roll around with him, and if he could channel this type of energy elsewhere, I think he would really enjoy it! He's in a gymnastivs class, but it's not quite the same. I saw a studio on University ave. near ANdronico's, called Modern Combatives, and they have a class for little ones, ''modcom Dinomites''. Does anyone have experience with them? Thanks in advance. Mom to a jackie chan wannabe


Hello, Our 3 year old son has been attending Modern Combatives for about 4 months now. We actually found them on Craigs List. Their ''Baby Dinos'' class meets on Saturday mornings and Monday evenings. Their philosophy is ''Fun not Fear'' which is nice. They basically play for a half hour while learning basics like balance, wrestling safely, kicking, punching, and they even meditate at the end (sit, close their eyes and count to ten slowly, then bow and say Thank You). Our son absolutely loves it there. We actually live in Walnut Creek but make the drive because we like it so much. Right now, there are about 5 boys and girls in the class. Lily and Alan (husband and wife) are the instructors and I cannot say enough good things about them. They are 100% on the kids level and have unlimited patience. I would strongly recommend checking out their website www.moderncombatives.com for more information. ModCom Mom

Karate class for 4 year old boy

Mar 2005

My 4 year old son has verbalized interest in karate classes. Does anyone have a recommendation for a karate school in Lamorinda, Oakland or Berkeley? My son prefers to be in a smaller class, where he gets ample positive and constructive feedback from his teachers. And if you are recommending a school, at what age did your child begin karate? In my mind, I would have thought martial arts would be more appropriate at age 7 or so at the earliest... Thanks in advance for your responses. Seeking a good fit for my son


My six y.o son has been taking karate classes for the last two years and we are very happy with his instructor. Dara Connolly of Albany Karate for Kids is great with the kids. She's patient, supportive, but with the seriousness and discipline of a blackbelt. The classes are small (in a cosy room at the Albany Rec Center), non-aggressive, with minimal body contact. Each class is started with a few minutes of meditation. The kids are encouraged to help/support each other and have memorized sayings like ''the goal of success will lead to success.'' My son is clearly not a natural at karate, but loves learning and has made much progress. http://www.albanykarateforkids.com Shirley, proud mama of an orange belt
I HIGHLY recommend DragonFly Karate in Berkeley. My son started when he was 5 1/2 and he loves it. The instructor is awesome and classes are both one on one and small group. This is serious martial arts (they progress through the colored belts) balanced with philosophy, discipline and good behavior skills. My son has gone twice a week for a year now and shows no signs of slowing down. I suggest email Mr. Boone at ''boonechai AT hotmail.com'' or calling at 776-0040
Kuk Sool Won of Berkeley has Mighty Mouse classes for younger children. I'm not certain what the age requirements are but you could contact Sir Thomas Brewer at 510-540-5425 and the address is 2438 Sacramento, Berkeley. My son started martial arts at age 7 and is now a black belt at age 13. I couldn't recommend this school highly enough. Sir stresses values, discipline and respect (among other things) and has been a great instructor over the past 6+ years. The school is owned and operated by Sir and his wife Eunice. If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to call me at 510-559-6056 (w) or email me with any questions you may have. Denise
Modern Combatives in Berkeley is wonderful. They are located on University Ave. next to Andronico's. They teach preschool martial arts through play. The instructor, Lily, is amazing with the children. Aside from being a black belt, she is also a lisenced family counselor. Our son has been attending for about 5 months now and we love it. They have a website www.moderncombtives.com. Jennifer
My son was almost 4 when he took up Tae Kwon Do at Yu's Martial Arts in Lafayette. Master Yu is fantastic with the children. He also offers private classes. He is willing to start them as young as 4, but willing to make exception on a kid by kid basis.
(925) 962-1000
3371 Mt. Diablo Blvd
Lafayette, CA  94549

Martial Arts for Aggressive 5-year-old

Mar 2005

My 5- yo son is very aggressive, both physically and verbally. He's prone to frequent meltdowns, rage attacks, verbal lashing-out, etc. We are working with various mental health professionals to diagnose and treat him. Additionally, though, I think the right martial arts program may be beneficial for him. I'm looking for something that will help him direct and channel his aggression/physical energy/anger in a positive way and, hopefully ultimately teach him self-discipline and to respect himself and others. My worry is that the wrong program may make him more aggressive, so I'm mostly concerned with the philosophy and approach of the teacher rather than the actual style of martial art. Ideally I'd like to find a teacher (who has to be a man -- my son is very gender-conscious these days) who has worked with difficult boys and tries to inculcate positive values in his students. It would be great if the teacher could be a positive role model and mentor to my son. (My husband and I are trying our best, but we need all the help we can get!) Any suggestions would be most appreciated. Desperate


You should try DragonFly Karate in Berkeley. The instructor is awesome and if you tell him your needs, I would bet he's the man for the job. My son has been taking karate there for a year now and he loves the instructor and is in awe of him. My son can be a very intense child and he gets tremendous pleasure and sense of self out the lessons. They are a balance of serious martial arts, philosophy, self-discipline and repsect for others. There are both one on one and small group. Mr. Boone, the instructor, is a VERY commanding presence while being funny and gentle and super encouraging with his students at the same time. Call him at 510-776-0040. Good Luck!
Hi - I sent my kids to Martial Arts of America when they were quite small (I think the twins were in kindergarten and my son was in third grade). It was a great program - really about character, discipline, respect for parents and teachers. Here's the web site http://www.maakarate.com/ , hope this helps - Deb
Please look into judo. It has all the martial art discipline and structure, but the emphasis is on self-defense, not kicking and/or punching. Sorry I don't know of one in particular. Shirley

2003 - 2004 Recommendations


Toddler martial arts program

Nov 2004

Hi, My son, who is 3.5, has lots of energy and is really interested in karate, etc. He is very physically able and not frail at all. Is there a place where I could take him to learn any kind of martial arts? Or, is there a place that does ''Mommy and Me'' martial arts classes? Thanks in advance. We live in Alameda, but open to all locations. annalise


Check out North American Martial Arts Academy in Alameda - they are on Webster I think. I am not sure how young they take kids as a matter of course, but I do know that they are open to trying to work with youngsters. Being able to follow directions I think is the biggest concern. Ask to speak to Sifu Sam, the owner. Tell him Marielle suggested you give his school a try. Marielle
try destiny arts center in oakland. their martial arts start from 3 y/o. janet

Karate in Oakland for 5-year-old

Jan 2004

I have a 5 year-old and I'm interested in getting him into karate. Does anyone have experience with good places in Oakland. Thanks Royah


Karate lessons in Emeryville, I don't kow where in Oakland you live, but I am located on San Pablo Avenue between 47th and 48th Streets. I teach a style called Cuong Nhu which is a blend of karate, judo and aikido. You are welcome to join us for a free trial class to see if it is a fit. My complete schedule can be found on my web site www.skillsforsafeliving.com Good luck. Terri
Inexpensive, Quality Karate classes can be had at the Redwood Heights Recreation Center. It's $35 a month for two lessons a week.

2002 & Earlier


karate/martial arts class for my 4 yr old

October 2002

Hi. I am looking for a karate/martial arts class for my 4 yr old son in Oakland. I checked the archives and found mostly recs in Berkeley. I would like to find a fun, relaxed environment where the teachers are experienced with working with pre-schoolers. Thank you. Nancy Recommendations received:

  • Destiny Arts Center
  • Cuong Nhu Hoa Sen Dojo (2)
    December 2002

    I am looking for a Karate class for my 5 and 7 year old girls in Oakland. I thought I had read several recommendations for West-Wind on this posting. I can't describe how turned off I was by these people. Clearly they cared more about sucking me in and extracting my money than they did about teaching my kids Karate. Talking to small children about kidnappings, refusing to discuss the price of classes with me, and asking me for my social security number AND driver's license number for no good reason... amounted to nothing but used car sales techniques. Any other recommendations for a Karate studio in Oakland? Doesn't have to be fancy, just good.

    Recommendations received:

  • Aikido of Berkeley W. Berkeley
  • Cuong Nhu Hoa Sen Dojo Emeryville
  • Cuong Nhu Karate Redwood Dojo Oakland
  • Kuk Sool Won Berkeley
  • Redwood Heights Recreation Center
  • West Wind Karate Schools
    August 2002

    My 8-year-old took karate classes - Tang Soo Do was the style - in LA for three years. She would like to continue with Tang Soo Do, but in the recommendations on the web site I don't find that style listed. Does anyone know of a place in Berkeley/Rockridge where Tang Soo Do is offered? For kids?

    Alternatively, is anyone familiar enough with the various styles to help me convince her that another style is similar? In reading the recommendations, I didn't find a particular place in Rockridge that sounded really high quality, yet fun, for kids.

    I hate to let her quit karate after she's worked so hard.... Thanks, Sarah

    Recommendation received:

  • Kuk Sool Won
    October 2001

    Can anyone recommend a good and supportive martial arts studio or class in Alameda? Both of my sons are interested in learning karate or other form of martial arts. They are 14 (almost) and 9 years old. Thanks, Patti

    Recommendation received:

  • Alameda Martial Arts
    October 2002

    My son is interested in ''karate'' and I'm trying to compare the different kinds of martial arts available. I don't know anything about this and I'm lost among all the choices! I have checked the website archives. I have called the places recommended on the archives, but their times and locations don't work well for us. Does anyone have experience with the Korean martial art, Kuk Sool Won? (we will go try a class at 2438 Sacramento, Berkeley). I would very much appreciate hearing if you have experience there, or advice about this form of martial art, or any guidance about how to learn about the different martial arts. Thank you! peggy

    Recommendations received:

  • Cuong Nhu Karate Berkeley
  • Cuong Nhu Hoa Sen Dojo (2)
  • Kuk Sool Won (3)
    November 1999

    I am looking for a good martial arts class for my five-year-old daughter to help her with her balance and motor planning issues. Does anyone have suggestions? The classes would have to be on the weekends or in the evenings.

    Recommendations received:

  • Cuong Nhu Karate Berkeley (2)
  • Golden Lion Martial Arts School
  • United Studios of Self Defense
  • West Wind Karate Schools (2)
    Aikido of Berkeley phone (updated Jan 2006) 866.236.0346

    Re: Karate Studio in Oakland for 5 & 7 year-olds (Dec 2002)
    It's great to see so much interest in martial arts among people engaging the needs of children. Kayla Feder (Chief Instructor - Aikido of Berkeley) and myself (Brandon WilliamsCraig - Director - Beamish Process Arts) provide a childrens' program at Aikido of Berkeley in Studio 12 at the 8th St. Studios in Berkeley (Dwight and 8th St.) The dojo website is www.aikidoofberkeley.com

    We are both upper level Aikido yudansha (blackbelts) with years of teaching kids and adults. Kayla Sensei has been studying Aikido since she was 9 years old, and I include an age appropriate Conflict Resolution component that extends martial art into the non-physical and internal realm. As one of the first children diagnosed with Hyperactivity/ADD I have a unique perspective and gifts to offer children with difficulty focussing.

    Aikido is the only martial art of my acquaintance designed from the ground up to transform the cycle of violence rather than perpetuating it. Unlike most combative and percussive styles it doesn't train anyone to attack in response to being attacked. I'd be more than happy to talk about the applied developmental needs of children in this context by email or phone. I will make sure all calls not answered by office staff forward to my cell phone for a week or two after posting this.

    I hope your season is full of good gifts. Brandon


    Albany YMCA

    Re: Judo School in Berkeley - I know of no Judo school in Berkeley, but there is a respected Judo program that meets at the Albany YMCA. It meets on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Contact the Y for more information. Lynn


    To the parent seeking worthwhile martial arts for a 15 year old: My son is 12 and just started studying judo this year at the Albany Y. This is a very highly regarded program, thoughtful and well taught, and they have excellent senseis for the beginners (and the advanced students, too). All ages practice together, from 9 to 90-something (when "Old Sensei" shows up). I highly recommend it. They meet on Monday and Wednesday evenings, from 7-9. It's excellent discipline, and rigorous physical and mental exercise, for both males and females, and people of all ages.
    Melissa (12/99)


    Alameda Martial Arts

    Re: Martial Arts studio in Alameda (Oct 2001)
    I strongly recommend Alameda Martial Arts on Encinal. The art is called Kuk Sool Won and the head of the school is Erik Lee. He is great with kids and is a 4th degree black belt. Good luck and have fun Trish


    From: patricia (Dec 1997)

    For those folks in Oakland and Alameda, Alameda Martial Arts is also a Kuk Sool Won School run by Kyo Si Nym - Erik Lee, 3rd degree (could be 4th now?) black belt. My husband goes to this school and Erik has a fantastic group of kids (at least 30+ in different stages of belt advancement). The techniques and discipline are better explained and the kids seem to respond to the methodology quite well. Every 8-12 weeks all the belts "test" and if all goes well they are promoted to the next level. It is very inspiring to watch 5 and 6 year olds do some of the same techniques my own husband had to do for his belt and the level of skill achieved is impressive.


    Berkeley Martial Arts School

    From: patricia (Dec 1997)

    I understand that the national martial art of Korea, Kuk Sool Won, is a wonderful method. The Berkeley Martial Arts School on Sacramento at Dwight, run by Tom Brewer, has a special kids' class that is appropriately called "Mighty Mites". Stop by and check it out, it is really fun to watch.


    Brincadeira Viva Academy

    June 1999

    I highly recommend "Brincadeira Viva" run by Carlos Hill. He is a wonderful teacher and gives the kids much more than just classes. There's a community spirit that draws the kids together, with older kids helping younger kids and such. You can call 528-2133 or 5277-0214. Veronica


    Brincadeira Viva Academy has a martial arts daycamp running into late August featuring capoeira as well as Far East martial arts. Staff speaks Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish and English. Call 528-2133 or check their website
    (May/June 1999 Berkeley High School PTSA Newsletter)


    Capoeira Arts Cafe

    In response to the person requesting kid capoeira classes I can recommend the Capoeira Arts Cafe, 2026 Addison in Berkeley, 666-1349. A friend of ours trains there and her daughter has taken classes there for years. Our family frequently eats at the Cafe. Everyone that we have met have been very friendly and kind.
    Linda (6/99)


    The Capoeira Cafe in downtown Berkeley has classes for children (though I'm not sure of the starting age). If you are in Oakland, Alice Arts Center downtown also has some classes. The Capoeira Cafe, though, is an exceptionally nice space. I believe Albany Village also offers classes to children...
    June 1999


    Cuong Nhu Karate Berkeley

    Re: 5-year-old son wants to take "karate" (10/02)
    I recommend Berkeley Kuong Nhu Karate on San Pablo near University for any age kid. My 10-year-old daughter has been there for 4 years and I expect her to continue at least into her teens because she is happy there and proud of what she is learning. Sensei John Burns is a great teacher who stresses discipline and integrity as much as strength and flexibility and still manages to make it fun. The other teachers are his advanced students and they have all integrated his methods to some degree. Barbara


    Re: Class for 5-year-old daughter to help with balance (Nov 1999)

    My five year old daughter and 8 year old son go to the Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate school on 1819 San Pablo Ave. They have a special class for the 4-5 year olds at 5:00 p.m. on Tues/Thurs and Sat. a.m. around 9:15 a.m. The woman instructor is very good with kids, and teaches safety (they've been learning their phone numbers lately) as well as more traditional martial arts stuff. They can then "graduate" to the older kids class when they are 6. Their number is 526-4880 and I believe you can try a class for free.
    Re: Class for 5-year-old daughter to help with balance (Nov 1999)
    Our daughter spent several years in Tai Kwon Do back in the midwest, and we asked her teacher there what to look for in a new school when we moved out here. He said the style was not important - the key was to find a school where she would continue to have fun, get good exercise, and respect/like her teachers. In our experience, the key is that the school have a routine that is engaging, because it takes years for kids to really develop their skills, and they have to really want to stick with it.

    We ended up talking to about 15 schools on the phone, visiting 7, and she took trial classes in three. We found several that were way too oriented towards self-defense/fighting. A couple that had very boring instructors. Two that had terrible facilities (smelly, cramped, dark). One that seemed more like a marine boot-camp for little zombies. We ended up walking into Berkeley Cuong Nhu (on San Pablo) and instantly feeling like it was the right place.Great facilities. Good mix of fun and discipline; no contact practice, lots of variety to the styles, and willing to recognize how hard it is to start over as a white belt! We continue to be happy after a couple of months.


    Our son attended martial arts classes for several years at a wonderful dojo on San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley, Cuong Nhu Karate, 526.4880. It offers classes specifically for teens but the adult classes may also be appropriate. The number of teens varies in any given class, there are usually a core of regulars that work through the levels together. Great conditioning, and though sparring is taught, the focus is definitely on form and control not "fighting". Very thoughtful, interesting teachers.
    Marc (12/99)


    Cuong Nhu Hoa Sen Dojo

    Re: Karate Studio in Oakland for 5 & 7 year-olds (Dec 2002)
    Hi, I am sorry you had such a disappointing experience with West Wind. After reading your post I thought you might want to check out my martial arts school. It is very low key. I teach kids a few times a week and only charge a monthly fee - no contracts, no long-term obligations. If you are not happy, you leave! I am located in Emeryville, with very easy access from 40th St., the highway and from central Berkeley. I have about 40 kids all different ranks, some of whom have been with me since kindergarten and now as teens help teach some of the kids. The classes are fun, energetic and create social bonds with everyone involved.

    I also teach adults in the evening and there is opportunity for children to work out with their parents. If you would like more information, you can visit my website or call me at 510-845-1416. Good luck. terri Giamartino terri at skillsforsafeliving.com


    Re: 5-year-old son wants to take "karate" (10/02)
    Hi, You inquired about martial arts for 5 year olds. I am a parent who teaches in Emeryville and have classes specially designed for 4-5 year olds. We focus on coordination, safety, and very basic blocking, punching and kicking along with using our voices effectively. We play lots of games to teach these skills and keep the class size small (usually 6-9 kids). I teach a style called Cuong Nhu which is an eclectic blend of arts, primarily judo, karate and aikido. I have many years of experience teaching in afterschool programs all over Berkeley as well as in my own dojo. If you'd like more information, please call at 510-845-1416 or visit my website at www.skillsforsafeliving.com Good luck! Terri
    Re: 5-year-old son wants to take "karate" (10/02)
    I highly recommend Cuong Nhu Hoa Sen Dojo located in Emeryville. The school is woman-owned, which is pretty unique, the class sizes are small, so the kids get lots of personal attention, and the owner and main instructor is fabulous. I have two kids who attend classes there and it's hard to get them to leave after class. They have learned things that I thought they would never be able to do, and have gained a real sense of accomplishment in the process. The classes are a good mix of fun, hard work, relevant philosophy and goal setting. My children are ages 7 and 8, so they attend a different class from the 4 and 5 year olds. The younger kids are taught more age appropriate material with the emphasis on fun and learning coordination and team building social skills. There is almost always at least one assistant instructor from either the adult class or advanced kid's class. The sensei is Terri Giamartino and she has taught kids in the Berkeley and Kensington school districts for many years. She currently also teaches at the YMCA in Berkeley. The dojo web site is http://www.skillsforsafeliving.com or you can call 845-1416. Good luck. Maybe we'll see you there! lgbtfamilies
    Re: Fun martial arts class for a 4-year-old (Oct 2002)
    My son really liked taking karate lessons from Terri Giamartino. She is a mom with two youngsters at Washington School. She has taught afterschool programs there and has her own dojo in Emeryville right across from the FED EX. Same place the Emeryville Taiko practices. Reasonable price. Easy parking. She makes the lessons fun and informative. Always some running around at the end for the younger kids. kl
    Re: Fun martial arts class for a 4-year-old (Oct 2002)
    Hi, I teach martial arts classes in Emeryville with a special class for 4-5 year olds on Tuesdays at 4 pm. My school is Cuong Nhu Hoa Sen Dojo. If you would like more information, please feel free to call me at 510-845-1416 or visit my web site for more information www.skillsforsafeliving.com. You can always come by and try a class for free. Good luck! terri at skillsforsafeliving.com


    Cuong Nhu Karate Redwood Dojo
    Re: Karate Studio in Oakland for 5 & 7 year-olds (Dec 2002)
    Please check out Cuong Nhu Karate Redwood Dojo, 524-1328. I don't know their address but they are in Oakland. Deedee, the head sensei, is the wife of the head sensei at my son's dojo in Berkeley. Given that, I would expect her to be open about how she teaches and listen to your past experience. The Berkeley Cuong Nhu dojo lets you take a couple of free lessons to see how you like it; you could ask if the Redwood dojo has a similar policy.
    Golden Lion Martial Arts School

    Re: Class for 5-year-old daughter to help with balance (Nov 1999)
    One of the most disturbing things I found when looking for a martial arts class for my two kids, then 9 and 11, was the mixture of styles form many "martial arts" studios have. I find it disturbing because each style, whether it be karate, gung-fu, tai kwon do, etc, has it's own history, philosophy and culture from which it began. I find that mixing the various forms and techniques tends to water down the integrity of the style. The one gung-fu studio I found that does not do this, and is one of the few traditional style studios around Berkeley (located in Albany across the street from the University Village) and has classes for kids ages 5-teen is Golden Lion, where they teach traditional Choy-Li-Fut style gung-fu. This style does not rely on physical force for effectiveness. It incorporates elements of tai chi-internal energy, balance and mind-body coordination, self-awareness as well as self-defense. My kids love the teacher, Sifu David Dong. He's great with kids and makes learning fun and they get a good workout each session. I highly recommend Golden Lion. They have a young children's class from 5:30-6:00, I'm not sure which days of the week. Golden Lion 1031 San Pablo Ave (at Marin) (510) 527-1606


    If you are looking for a martial arts studio that stresses form check out Golden Lion in Albany.

    One of the most disturbing things I found when looking for a martial arts class for my two kids, then 9 and 11, was the mixture of styles and form many "martial arts" studios have. I find it disturbing because each style, whether it be karate, gung-fu, tai kwon do, etc, has it's own history, philosophy and culture from where it began. I find that mixing the various forms and techniques tends to water down the integrity of the style. The one gung-fu studio I found that does not do this, and is one of the few traditional style studios around Berkeley (located in Albany across the street from the University Village) and has classes for kids ages 5 through teens (also offers adult classes) is Golden Lion, where they teach traditional Choy-Li-Fut style gung-fu. This style does not rely on physical force for effectiveness. It incorporates elements of tai chi-internal energy, balance and mind-body coordination, self-awareness as well as self-defense.

    My kids are in their second year of classes at Golden Lion, and love the teacher, Sifu David Dong. He's great with kids (including teenagers), makes learning fun and they get a good workout each session. I highly recommend Golden Lion.

    Golden Lion
    1031 San Pablo Ave (at Marin)
    (510) 527-1606
    
    Miyoko (12/99)
    For an excellent martial arts experience, definitely consider The Golden Lion Martial Arts School at 1031 San Pablo Avenue in Albany. There are classes for every age and ability level, and the master is exceptionally talented, both in his own skill, and in his respect and challenge to the students. The emphasis is definitely on form and focus. Call Sifu David Dong at 527-1606.

    My daughter, now 17, went in search of just the right place for martial arts training when she was 11, and found it here. Kung fu has been the primary motivation in her life since she began with it. . . discipline, form, strength, focus, challenge, confidence, accomplishment, responsibility, loyalty, fun, friendship . . . It has all been there for her. She is now an instructor, as well as being a student there, working out as many days and hours as she can possibly squeeze into her week. Go for it!
    Michael (12/99)


    King Afterschool Judo Program
    From: Melissa (Nov 1998)

    A very good program at King that almost no one knows about...

    KING AFTERSCHOOL JUDO PROGRAM OPEN FOR BEGINNERS (Thusdays, 3:00 sharp until 4:30; meet at the office in the "vollyball" gymnasium.)

    Alan Pagle, the head teacher (sensei) of the King afterschool judo program, hopes to add beginners to his small band of slightly more experienced King judo students. Pagle Sensei, a young Berkeley police officer, assisted by other volunteer black belts, including his wife Lilly, has devised a careful and exciting program fit to beginning students. All uniforms, except for long T-shirts required for women players, are provided at no expense. Alan Pagle's voice mail: 510-644-8770, ext 200061 + # key.

    This judo program is for all sizes and shapes of students wishing to begin instruction in this traditional Japanese martial art and self-defense method. Judo provides much more than sports skills. Judo begins with teaching balance and how to fall, skills useful throughout life. Additionally, judo provides a fun way to achieve overall body fitness, respects all sorts of body types, leads to ease in physical matters and emphasizes a sort of respect and discipline that its not commonly found in middle school students. Check it out.


    Laurel Juijitsu
    From: Beth (4/00)

    A wonderful woman-owned place for teen girls is Laurel Juijitsu in the Laurel district of Oakland, on MacArthur Boulevard between 35th Avenue (Redwood Road) and High Street. The owner and primary teacher, Joann, regularly offers free introductory classes in self-defense, including some for moms and daughters. For a schedule, call 530-5043


    Kuk Sool Won
    [Editor Note: Kuk Sool Won of Berkeley was briefly also known as Martial Arts of America. It no longer goes by that name.]


    Re: Karate Studio in Oakland for 5 & 7 year-olds (Dec 2002)
    I highly recommend Kuk Sool Won either in Berkeley or Alameda. Both instructors are great with kids. My son is 13 and has been going to the Berkeley school since he was 5. jamie
    Re: 5-year-old son wants to take "karate" (10/02)
    My daughter is six and has been attending Martial Arts of America (Kuk Sool Won) Dwight and Sacramento with Sir Tom Brewer for two years. She started with the Mighty Mites when she was four and will be testing for her brown belt this month. At first I thought she wouldn't do well as she was not very coordinated but with Sir's help and her desire to do better she has blossomed and is very enthusiastic about Kuk Sool Won. I like that Sir not only teaches the physical movements but also teaches the values that the martial arts stand for: responsibilty, balance, leadership, integrity, etc. We hope to start our son when he turns four. Julianna
    Re: 5-year-old son wants to take "karate" (10/02)
    My son attended Martial Arts America (Sacramento & Dwight Way) since he was 5 years old. He is now 14 and a black belt. He started way back when it was still called Kuk Sool Won. My son never felt that Sir (Thomas Brewer) was ever intimidating. It has helped my son a lot, he is VERY independant and focused. Sometimes TOO focused, but that can be a good thing! Anyway, I recommend it highly. Currently we are taking a break from Kuk Sool because of school demands, but hope to be returning in the future. If your son would like to talk to my son about it, please feel free to e-mail me. Janet
    Re: 5-year-old son wants to take "karate" (10/02)
    I am the mother of two boys, one of whom (now almost 8) has been attending Kok Sool martial arts classes at the Sacramento St. Martial Arts of America school for two years. It has been a wonderful experience for him. ''Sir'' (Thomas Brewer) is very effective at getting the students to focus, try their best, and listen. He can be a bit intimidating to the kids, which has been a good balance for my son whose school enviroment is informal -- this way he has a least one class that is very structured, fairly formal and demanding, but not so much so that it seems harsh and unfriendly (as I've seen at other martial arts schools). We go the minimum expected, which is 2 days a week. It has improved my son's ability to focus and his confidence in himself. While there have been hard times, when he has wanted to give up, Sir and his wife have worked with me to gently encourage him. I strongly recommend it. It is a nice, diverse, friendly community to get involved in. I do not know how it compares cost-wise with other schools. It is not inexpensive by any means. I see it as an investment and it has paid off already. Louise
    Re: Seeking Tang Soo Do class for 8-year-old (Aug 2002)
    Please call the Kuk Sool Won on Sacramento (540-5425). Kuk Sool sounds like a similar or transferable form of Korean Martial Arts, with many of the additional lifestyle elements described in the Tang Soo Do website.

    The people who run the school are great. The school has good programs designed specifically for children of all ages. It is a great way for your 8 year old to get to know kids with similar interests, in a safe and respectful environment. The school is located at Sacramento and Dwight in Berkeley. Heather


    Look at Kuk Sool Won on Sacramento St (at Dwight), a small school owned by Thomas and Eunice Brewer. The teachers are good, and are good people. They like and understand kids. Kuk Sool is a Korean discipline that will look like karate to you, but also emphasizes health and lifestyle discipline. Excellent for kids and teens. I think the number is 540-KICK but if not, its in the book.
    Heather (12/99)
    Redwood Heights Recreation Center

    Re: Karate Studio in Oakland for 5 & 7 year-olds (Dec 2002)
    Didi Goodman at Redwood Heights Rec Ctr in Oakland offers classes for each level of age and experience from 4.5 yo to adults. Classes are either once or twice a week. Once a year you get to participate in karate tournament in Berkeley where you get to either follow a std program or use your own imagination in designing your presentation. There is also a Sat morning program open to all students in all of her classes, so you get to work with students at levels different from your own to get a further inspiration. This works great for our 6-yo daughter! Maria


    Studio Naga
    March 2007

    Re: Self-defense class for 18-year-old going off to college
    I highly recommend Studio Naga in Oakland. They are a martial arts studio that also teaches self defense. Female instructors teach awareness and give non-verbal and verbal tools in addition to the obvious physical tools. What I like is that there are males involved in the self- defense trainings to simulate situations to practice all skills. It feels ''real'' and when it does tap into something personal, the support is respectful and compassionate.

    Studio Naga 5850 San Pablo Avenue Oakland 94608 510.652.6242 www.studionaga.com
    anonymous


    I second the recommendation for Studio Naga as a fantastic place for self defense classes for teens! (and younger kids as well!) I have seen 1st hand the grumpy teenage girls, hanging back and giving attitude at the beginning and by the end, they are transformed! Yelling and empowered with their body language shifted to say, ''don't mess with me!'' Great stuff! K
    April 2006

    I highly recommend Studio Naga and their martial arts camps. My kids have gone for two years and are excitedly awaiting to go for their third year. Every morning starts out with some fun games to warm up and followed by martial arts class. Every afternoon there is an exciting event or outing planned ~ Asian Art Museum, swimming, zoo, indonesian cooking, bowling ~ and that was just one week! The staff is amazing with a low student/teacher ratio. The learning is not just about martial arts...there's compassion, respect and community. For more information, call Studio Naga (510.652.6242). cv


    Re: Karate class for 4 year old boy (3/05)
    Just yesterday we attended classes at Studio Naga (on San Pablo, in Emerville) in Poekoelan, an Indonesian martial art. My 4 year-old attended the ''Jungle Gym'' class, which sounded like a fun play class but was actually quite a bit of martial arts! It was totally fun, my son LOVED it (especially the kicking and punching while shouting ''Do!'') and begged to return. I've never seen him so quiet and focused on anything like this (besides the TV)! The children actually get ''tested'' on skills, to earn a belt and various patches - one thing that particularly impressed me was how, in both his class and the one my older son was taking, all the children had learned to assume a stance, holding both hands up, palms out, and say, forcefully, ''STOP! Leave me alone - I don't know you!'' The older age group was just as impressive - all the children (of various ages, 6 - 16, I'd say) were totally engaged and focused, not one did I see goofing off. Since it was my older son's first time, he shared a mat with two younger teenagers, who were like his personal coaches, and they seemed incredibly mature, considerate and gentle. The whole atmosphere was amazing - all were serious about what they were doing, but very friendly and welcoming. A great part was the end of the classes - all (4 year olds as well!) had to shake hands with each of the other students, look them in the eye, and say (in Indonesian), ''Share and share alike''. Huge emphasis on respect, listening, following instructions - it was a great place. Check it out! Andrea
    United Studios of Self Defense

    Re: Class for 5-year-old daughter to help with balance (Nov 1999)
    We recently enrolled our 4 year old son at United Studios of Self Defense on College Ave in Rockridge. He loves it! The emphasis so far has been very much on learing how to control his body and mind. He's learning such basics as jumping jacks, forward rolls, and cartwheels, as well as simple karate blocks and punches. Most importantly he is learning concepts like "effort" "respect" and "listening." Check it out.


    UC Berkeley Martial Arts University of California Martial Arts Program

    My two boys took Tae Kwon Do for 2 years at the RSF (Recreational Sports Facility on Bancroft near Telegraph) on campus - Cal has a big martial arts program though Tae Kwon Do was the only all-kids class. They went 3 times a week and it was about $60 per semester per kid. The instructors were very good and they always had Cal student helpers. Big disadvantage was driving down Bancroft/Telegraph at 4pm and again at 5:30pm. Ginger


    West Wind Karate Schools

    See also: Karate studio not disclosing pricing


    Re: Karate Studio in Oakland for 5 & 7 year-olds (12/02)
    In the 12/20 Parents Digest Recommendations Wanted Section, a parent wrote about some concerns about West Wind Schools initial application procedures. My eight year old boy has been attending since he was five. I wish the parent who wrote in about the pre-enrollment discussion had gone a little further and actually tried out an initial 33-week program (there may be other plans as well) to see how the 5 and 7 year old girls liked the training and to see how the parents themselves valued the self-defense physical learning and cultivated mental awareness gained.

    It is true that to talk to children about the possibility of a kidnapping is scary in itself, but it is common for puppeteers who teach about inappropriate touching and how to say no to come to schools and present to children those ages (my mother is one of the actresses). I had to face how much 'destruction of innoncence' and replacement of same with awareness that could save my son's life and, let's face it, save me infinite pain, by letting him know there can be bad guys as well as bullies in this world and that bad guys can even come near his school or our block (and we live in what is deemed the safest neighborhood).

    What West Wind teaches is the confidence and good judgment to say NO to unapproved (and even supposedly known and trusted) authority figures, ie, stranger adults, when parents are not around. Although child abductions are rare, 98% of those that happen start with a 'nice' stranger asking for directions, the time of day, offering candy, or seeking help looking for a lost puppy. The predator (and they do exist, unfortunately) will not choose a confident, aware kid as a target but will seek a depressed loner or someone who looks weak..

    West Wind training has helped my son, an only child and product of divorce, to develop a a great deal of self-esteem, discipline through etiquette, good judgment and bonding with his private instructor as a role model, which is the point of differentiation and excellence that West Wind offers. And he is still a fun-loving,happy kid.

    Wendy, parent of a West Wind purple belt child


    Re: Karate Studio in Oakland for 5 & 7 year-olds (12/02)
    Regarding asking for SS and drivers license numbers: this may be pretty common. You can always refuse to give them and, at least in this case, it would probably be accepted. Fran
    Re: Class for 5-year-old daughter to help with balance (Nov 1999)
    Martial Arts Schools - If you just want recreation, try the YMCA or the after school programs but, if you want serious martial arts and have a budget for it, you can't do better than West Wind Karate. They are in Berkeley, Alameda, Daly City, Fairfield and Vallejo. Your child will learn all the physical elements as well as respect, anatomy, endurance, patience, etc. There are lots of young children there so the kid's groups are all either evening or Saturday and private lessons are scheduled at your convenience.
    Re: Class for 5-year-old daughter to help with balance (Nov 1999)
    I also would like to recommend West Wind Karate school on San Pablo. My 6 years old daughter started karate classes there in June, and by far is very happy. The additional feature which I really like is that they have group classes three times a week, and you can attend any (or all) of them at your convenience.
    1998

    My son has been at West Wind Bok Fu school since he was six years old and he is now 14. This has been a tremendous experience for him. I was surprised about the message which remarked about "competition" for belts. The only competition is you against yourself and obtaining the next level of belt is a great achievement for the individual, not a competition. The kids learn and memorize many "movements," much like dances and they are given as much time as they need to perfect those movements. There are yearly tournaments where they have an opportunity to compete with others in their same belt and age classes but there is no high pressure that I have ever seen, except perhaps within the families (just like Little League) and as in any athletic competition where they are encouraged to do their best and maybe obtain points for "their" school. Even the sparring, which my son won his first gold medal in last year, is NOT a contact sport. It is set up so the winner is the person who can do all the right strikes but pull back just short of hitting the opponent. I have never seen anyone hurt during sparring. As the kids have gotten older, the teachers have gradually increased the pressure to achieve, as I believe they should. I black belt should be hard to obtain. My son has been taught self-respect, respect for others, discipline, teamwork, how to work hard to obtain a goal, how good it feels to obtain that goal, how important it is NOT to fight and that he should never brag about his martial arts training or even mention it at school except to "trusted" friends. He knows he is responsible for his own level of achievement and also that his actions represent his school and his teachers. I am really pleased with the experience we have had with this sport. Barbara


    1997

    Re: Karate Kids
    My son (now 13) started karate (Bok Fu) at West Wind Karate Schools when he was 6. They are fairly expensive but very high quality instruction. The reason we could afford it is that they allow partners to go as a team so that each pays half. Our team is now Blue Belt level and the training has given them great lessons in control, respect, and confidence. The young people who are the teachers, mostly men but a few women, have been wonderful role models and there is hardly a hint of macho-ism in the place. They are very supportive of girls in the sport and the head of the Berkeley school actually said that once the girls get past the beginning level, they are usually more serious about the sport than the boys. They have very exciting tournaments each spring which are just among the different West Wind schools - Berkeley, Alameda, Daly City, Richmond, Vallejo, Fairfield, Napa - maybe more. I appreciate their philosophy that the kids are not ever to mention at school that they take karate and the over-riding idea that having the power means you don't have to use it. My son has become a great diplomat and very capable of settling disputes without a fight. Even the six-year-olds at the school call each other Mr. Smith or Ms. Jones and they always bow to higher ranking belts and to teachers. I feel good about the training and my son is dedicated.


    What age should kids begin Martial Arts?

    1997

    I would like to share my personal experience with kids doing martial arts. I am a martial arts teacher (doing Tae Kwon Do for 15 years) and very into kids. I had once started a group with kids around 6 years old and had stopped it after one year because I felt, that it was not the right thing for the kids. The main reasons were:

    I felt too much pressure on the kids (peer pressure and parent's pressure) to go on to the next grade. This was (to my opinion) bad for the majority of kids (because they learn to learn by pressure).

    The whole graduation system in martial arts seems to support unsocial behaviour with some kids (which can also be observed with immature adults, by the way). Maybe, because it makes the kids even more aware of the other's superiour skills or lack of skills.

    The kids were always delighted, when I played games with them instead of doing Tae Kwon Do (interesting enough, the parents were not.). Some kids, that were only average or even below in Tae Kwon Do showed surprising skills during the games. And *all* the kids kept asking for more games...

    Now, I am sorry that this mail probably sounds too negative. There are actually a lot of reasons, that I could have included, why martial arts is good for kids. Only my personal bottom line is, that -overall- martial arts is not suitable for kids (under 12 or so).

    Joerg


    I agree with many of the sentiments posted recently by Joerg--that is, that martial arts aren't usually suitable for younger kids. I practiced Tae Kwon Do steadily for about 10 years (I practice Tai Chi Chuan now), earning a black belt, and once I was advanced enough I spent much time instructing others. I was often given the kids' group (ages ranging from 6 to early teens),and I love kids.

    I think most children under about age 11-12 really aren't ready, mentally and physically, to begin practicing a combative martial art. Most of their motivation for taking the class usually came from TV--the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers--and that gives an unrealistic view of what they'll be learning and how quickly they'll attain skill. Also, the kids (and often their parents, too) tended to over-focus on the belt rankings and tournaments. We ended up setting a age minimum of at least ten. There were a few younger children (8-10 year olds) who handled the class well (as it happens, these were all girls), but I really think it's better to wait until kids are older.

    I think martial arts can be wonderful for older kids and teens (and adults!). I started when I was 12, and loved it right away. I found it lots of fun, good discipline and good exercise, and very empowering and confidence-building, which I think is especially important for girls.

    Karin


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