Martial Arts for School-Aged Kids

Parent Q&A

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  • Martial Arts for 5 year old

    Oct 8, 2023

    I am interested in having my 5 year old son start a martial arts class and I am looking for any recommendations near Albany, CA. Also interested to hear if people have recommendations between Tae Kwon do vs Karate vs Judo, etc. Is there one that is best for young children to start?  Thank you!

    Our 6-year-old has been going to Golden Lion in Albany for kung fu since he was 4.5 and he still really enjoys it and just finished his second tournament. I just started taking their adult class as well and I'm really enjoying it. In general we've had a good experience with Golden Lion and we currently have no plans to stop going. 

    We had a wonderful experience with Berkeley Cuong Nhu on San Pablo. They have a really approachable curriculum for young children and a warm and welcoming environment.

    My son has been taking lessons at the West Wind school for over four years now and they moved to the top of Solano at the beginning of the year. You can read my heartfelt rave review on Yelp. I can’t recommend enough. 

  • I have a 9 year old who really wants to take a martial art's class. He is a beginner so I think zoom is non-starter.  I would love to find an outdoor class (if those exist) and a studio that is great with kids.

    Thanks for any suggestions!

    Hello! I have 3 kids ages 13, 10and 5.  They all take classes from Studio Naga.  We meet and do socially distanced lessons in Doyle Hollis Park in Emeryville.  I've been impressed by the level of safety (no contact, 6 ft. distance) that they maintain, as well as the high level of physical activity. It's a lovely community of people in the best of times and now, with covid, the studio has really pulled together to make it work.  If it rains we can make use of an open-walled, covered garage.

    Studio Naga has outdoor Poekoelan classes for all levels including children (over 5, I believe) with additional Zoom sessions each week. They are practicing at Holly Park in Emeryville with a covered, outdoor location secured for rain and as it gets darker/colder. Our daughter attends and loves it. There are some great videos on their Facebook page. 

    Not sure if the classes are still allowed, given the reversion to the purple tier, but  El Cerrito Martial Arts has a really good program with I believe outdoor instructional opportunities.

    I train at Studio Naga in North Oakland. We have in person and Zoom classes for kids and adults. Our in person classes are happening in a park and it's been fun to see all the things we can do while maintaining social distancing and masks. We also have a covered outdoor space we use if it's raining or too dark outside. I've been training at Studio Naga for 7 years and love our community. I started training at a sister school in Portland 27 years ago and when I moved to Oakland was super happy to have a community of martial artists. I'm an elementary teacher by day and martial artist new mom finding ways to keep moving.

  • Martial arts for shy kids

    Aug 11, 2019

    I'm looking for a martial arts school that is gentle and fun for boy and girl ages 5 and 7. They are shy at first but warm up quickly with calm, mellow and funny people. Looking for El Cerrito/Albany/North Berkeley areas. Prefer self defensive martial arts with meditation (aikido?). Thank you!

    Aikido of Berkeley on University Avenue near Sacramento is a wonderful place for kids. Sensei Kayla Feder teaches the kids with help from her Ushi Deshi. Sensei's seven year old son is  a student there also. I was in the adult classes for many years, until my knees prevented me from getting up quickly, so i have observed the children't classes, the teachers, and the atmosphere. My granddaughters would be enrolled there if they lived locally. 

    I highly recommend Estrella Jiu Jitsu School in Albany on San Pablo near the El Cerrito Plaza.  My five year old daughter recently started taking classes there and she loves it! I have already observed her more confident and focused.  There is an anti-bullying curriculum that really empowers the kids. Igor Estrella is a second degree black belt from Brazil and his classes are fun, relaxed, and technical. The class for 5 to 7 year olds is 4:15- 5 pm, Monday - Friday and there is also a Saturday morning class at 10 am. Kids new to the academy get 2 free classes so you can always check it out and see if your kids like it.  


    My child does Aikido at Aikido Shusekai ( ) and loves it.  My child can be shy and felt at home right away. I feel it has helped her to be more confident and out going. I believe they do a free month in September but for 7 and up.  

    I can't say enough about Studio Naga Indo-American Arts at 59th and San Pablo for Poekoelan martial arts (pronounced Pu-kah-lahn). It's been such a blessing to our family! The reason is because it's more than just classes, it's truly a loving community that does activities together and supports the kids all throughout their years. They really teach the kids about focus, meditation, caring for the studio, and community. The classes often have adults with kids and everyone at different ages does some teaching. They learn about responsibility and it's a great place to be a part of. My 10 year old son is the most unathletic kid there is, but is honestly motivated to go, progress, and show people what he has learned. We've been there for over a year and he really sees himself doing this for many, many years. They don't have a lot of money or a fancy studio (or studio location), but the love and support there is much more than I was expecting. They have pictures on their walls of students that have been their as kids all the way through college. They sincerely cherish each kid and help them grow in more ways than one. I've seen plenty of shy kids go there and grow. Check it out! 

  • Any recommendations for a good martial arts class in Berkeley (or possibly Oakland) for a five-year-old boy?

    My son went to Berkeley Kuk Sool Won on Sacramento and Dwight from age 5 to 12 and really loved it. He was with the same group of kids from White belt to Black Belt, and he made some good friends while learning forms and eventually weapons and sparring.

    Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for Kids and Adults in a friendly family atmosphere! 
    Located next to Costco and Point Isabel in Richmond / El Cerrito at Ice Chamber Athletic Performance Training Center. 

    My 3 children have been learning BJJ from professor Igor Estrella, an amazing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu master and positive mentor to my children for the past 2 years. The owner Steven is awesome, super friendly and works with your needs. The Ice Chamber facility is always clean, huge, parking is easy, and has every workout need available. 

    Come learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, one of the most efficient and practical self-defense systems available, this summer at Ice Chamber with Professor Igor Estrella. Igor Estrella received his BJJ black belt from Gracie Humaita under Master Andre "Negao" Lemos in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. He is a multiple time IBJJF champion at the state, national, and international levels. In addition to being a fierce competitor, Igor is a respected coach who is known for improving the lives of young children using BJJ as the foundation. 

    Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art and combat sport based on the fundamentals of leveraging technique to overcome brute strength. The roots of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be traced back to the Gracie family, who were responsible for its technical development and worldwide popularity. BJJ is practiced by children and adults alike because of its practicality and effectiveness in real combat situations!

    Classes on Tues and Thurs at 4pm, 5pm, and 6pm / Sat at 10am, 11am. Call or email us to reserve your FREE first class. 

    We love Igor and BJJ at Ice Chamber!

  • My kindergarten daughter is interested in doing martial arts but is intimidated by rambunctious older boys and wants to train with girls her age. Any recs for a martial arts studio that is girl-heavy and/or has an instructor who is really good at helping girls become more assertive? Ideally looking for a class in the Alameda/Oakland area  

    Destiny Arts Center! 

    Bay Area Jiu Jitsu at 2529 Telegraph avenue, Berkeley (almost Oakland) is a great place for very young shy kids to initiate their training in martial arts. They introduce the techniques in a fun way without pressure of traditional formalities. They accord the respect the sport deserves and set expectations but do it with gentle compassion and in a friendly manner. The institute students are among top winners in competitions. My son was a shy 4 year child and cried while trying out at another jiu jitsu place but he was totally at ease here and has kept up for 1.5 years now. In my observation, they encourage and engage every child. I think they also have discounted trial period. Good luck!

  • My 10-year-old daughter got really into tae kwon do while we were overseas and I am looking for a place where she can continue taking it in Berkeley/Oakland. Thanks in advance for any ideas!

    My kids took Taekwondo at UC Berkeley's Rec Sports for a couple of years and had a good experience. They have youth classes at the RSF on Tu/Th afternoons, and I think they also offer martial arts summer camps. Here's the website:

    It's not in Berkeley/Oakland, but I highly recommend TG Taekwondo in Albany (on San Pablo near Solano). The owner and staff are super friendly, and they have classes for all levels and all ages. My son has really progressed there. They really care about each student and challenge them at the right level, without being too strict. 

  • Hi there,

    My smart but very shy 6-year-old would like to take taekwondo lessons but is too shy to attend formal classes (we've tried 2 separate schools).  He loves to master technique such as his forms, and we feel very strongly about taekwondo lessons in particular for cultural reasons.  I am seeking an upper-belt-level taekwondo student to come to our home in Lafayette (East Bay) once or twice a week to teach him privately.  We will need also to arrange a one-time meeting to see if our son "clicks" with the new teacher and feels comfortable (our experience is that if this doesn't happen at the first meeting, it's unlikely he will warm up over time).  Teacher must be friendly, patient, and confident, and ideally have experience working with kids.  We will offer compensation depending on skill level and lesson frequency.  Appreciate any offers or leads!

    Hi, Sayuri sounds like a perfect fit for this. She is currently competes international in Taekwondo ( she is ranked 85th!!) and has experience teaching all levels and ages of students, she also has childcare experience in the past and is super sweet. My infant son loves her! She says she is certified through Kukkiwon as 4th Dan ( degree) Black belt. Her contact info is sayu.taka315 [at], PM me if you'd like her phone number as well.


  • I'm looking for a martial arts studio recommendation for my soon to be 9 year old son.  I'd like it to include:

    -one on one grappling (he loves getting physical and some places allow only very specific technique learning contact)

    -techniques he can eventually put to use for real life self defense 

    -inclusion for the kids in the studio's overall community (learning to take care of the space, big brother sensibility etc.)


    Thank you!

    Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate — Rohai Dojo on San Pablo  Sensei John is fabulous.  Both my son and I enjoyed the classes and the dojo includes all the aspects you named.  Also classes at Cuong Nhu Redwood Dojo with Sensei Didi.

    Try to find a Brazilian Jiu jitsu place- lots of grappling and also very usable for self defense.  We love our school in Alameda (Team Sliva Jiu Jitsu- Sergio Silva), but that may be too far for you.  They emphasize respect without submissiveness and focus on the individual.

    We love West Wind Schools in Berkeley.  They teach a mixed style combining elements or karate and kung fu.  The teachers are very enthusiastic and know how to get kids excited.  Both my sons have spent time there and loved it.

    I really like Oakland Kickboxing. The teachers are great, there is a nice community, they have great recommendations, and they do seem to get physical too.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


''Nice'' martial arts instructor for 9yo?

May 2014

Can anyone recommend a kind martial arts instructor in berkeley/ north berkeley / Albany / El Cerrito for a 9 yr girl who is not particularly sporty but has taken an interest in self-defense (''in case I'm kidnapped or something like that'' she says!).

Master Brewer at Kuk Sool Won Korean Martial Arts in S. Berkeley. Very nice. Firm, but very nice. Great with both girls and boys. Sk8ma

I highly recommend aikido of Berkeley on university. My 10-year-old daughter is also not much into sports, but has been loving aikido for a year and a half now. The sensei at Berkeley of aikido is an amazing woman who teaches the kids in such a lovely, gentle manner. It is beautiful to watch and the kids have a sweet community (and learn so much and have a lot of fun). Check it out! Keri Troutman

If you don't mind looking a little further south, I would definitely recommend Destiny Arts on the Berkeley/North Oakland border. It's an incredibly positive place. Their website is My daughter is not particularly ''athletic,'' but she loves learning Kajukenbo (a hybrid form of martial arts) there. The teacher is a woman who's a veteran kids' educator. She takes seriously kids' needs to learn self- defense but also stresses self-care. The organization has a real community feel and is a fun and supportive place. Happy Destiny Parent

Oakland Kajukenbo is open to all ages. It's on San Pablo at Alcatraz, and the woman who runs it, Sifu Kate Hobbs, is fantastic. Their classes fill up quickly, so you can also try Destiny Arts, which has martial arts classes two days a week. They're located on Grace St at Los Angeles in Oakland. Renee

John Burns,at Berkeley Cuong Nhu Karate, also known as Rohai Dojo, is fabulous. My shy son took to him immediately. Soft spoken, warm but not coddling, fun and engaging. HIGHLY recommend him and the dojo. Grateful Mom

I take Jiu Jitsu at El Cerrito Martial Arts (corner of Stockton and San Pablo). The owner is incredibly nice and a very kind, easy-going instructor. They have a kids program in the afternoons. He has another instructor who helps him with the kids and she is also very sweet. My son takes an Aikido class on Weds afternoons with West County Aikido at the Hillside church in El Cerrito. His Sensei is great, really good with the little kids (my son is only 4). The older kids class which runs right after my son's is definitely a little more rowdy and the Sensei does tend to be a lot stricter with them, but he's clearly compassionate and seems to understand children at different stages very well. My sense is that if your daughter wants something for self defense, the Jiu Jitsu would probably be more meaningful, whereas Aikido is more about discipline and ritual (also valuable for kids, IMHO). Anon

All of the martial arts instructors at West Wind Kung Fu are personable and fun and they work with lots and lots of kids, especially since they also have a K-12 Academy School all year round. They are firm but kind and they teach amazing self-defense skills. There are three schools, Berkeley, Piedmont, and Alameda. There are lots of fabulous women instructors also - great as mentors and eventual peers. Check out their webpage at If the Oakland school on Piedmont Ave works for you, ask for Mr. Shah. Barbara S

My son has been going to Studio Naga in Oakland (near Berkeley though) for a little while now and he really enjoys it. I found them on BPN and I'm sure you can search for what other people have written. All I can say is that, by and large, the positive recommendations were right on the money.

A little background... My son has some delayed motor issues and is also not a super sporty type. The folks at Studio Naga not only have been very accommodating but really have made it a non-issue. Everyone there trains at their own rate and personal expressions/adaptations of forms, etc. are an integral part of the art. A couple of other posters noted, and I definitely agree, there is a strong sense of community over there. It's always a happy occasion when a student is back from college and drops by for a visit. Students have black belt mentors that make sure they don't get ''lost'' and so that they also have a person they can ask questions, etc. And one of there most popular classes is the Saturday all ages, all ranks class where everyone trains together regardless of where they are belt-wise. I should also add the head instructor as well as many of the senior instructors are female so there is none of the macho vibe that can be found at some other places.

It was probably for the Saturday class that made me pick this place. My son is very anxious and wanted me to take the class with him. So *I* actually get to take the classes and ''walk-the-walk''. There are several other families that train there as well. It also makes for an interesting dynamic because when we are in class I am Mas Dave instead of Dad. (''Mas'' roughly the equivalent of how some Hawaiian folks call there close friends/family ''Cousin''... gender neutral and a bit more personal than Mr/Ms.)

So there you go. It's a fun class, relatively laid-back but focused, and a great workout. I think it's definitely worth checking out. Dave L

I recommend Studio Naga. They teach an Indonesian version of martial arts called Poekoelan. Although the studio is in North Oakland, I nevertheless think that it fits very well with your general description of the girl and her interests and wishes, including some very specific training they offer in self defense (see This place is not about sports per se. It is about getting to know yourself and your own body better, learning to defend yourself, and forging good relationships. Studio Naga parent

Studio Naga on San Pablo Ave is excellent with kids. They teach martial arts/self-defense in an empowering community atmosphere that's fun and effective. Many ''nice'' instructors who meet people where they are. Highly recommend. 510-652-6242 | info [at] ww

Studio Naga has a generous-hearted group of teachers. Our daughter started out at somewhere else in Oakland and it was too harsh for her; she was scared of the head male teacher. When we visited Studio Naga on the advice of BPN posters and friends, the difference in support was impressive. Children are encouraged to be respectful, disciplined, and kind all at the same time. She's had male and female teachers at Studio Naga. The Saturday class ends in everyone shaking hands in a line saying in Bahasa Indonesia ''I learn from you, you learn from me,'' a wonderful sentiment that is embodied in their teaching. - happy at Studio Naga

May 2014

RE: Summer sports camps for 7 year old

My children have enjoyed the summer camp at Hoa Sen Dojo, several years in a row. Not all the children are current Martial Arts students; many of them were only attending the summer camp. They learn Cuong Nhu, but Sense Terri also takes them on field trips and engages them in fun and team building activities. They also love going to the pool and playing with other new kids. They get home tired, happy, with an increased sense of confidence and a positive attitude. I think it is a great experience for any kid. Veronique A.

Martial Arts Classes for 5 year old

April 2014

Does anyone have a recommendation for a great Martial Arts class? We are looking for something for our 5-year old son. We live in San Pablo, on the Richmond boarder, so somewhere in the North-East Bay would be great. (North Berkeley to El Sobrante....) We would like a studio and teacher with tradition and integrity and a spiritual element, and could probably do once or twice a week. Thank you!

I highly recommend Dragon's Martial Arts on San Pablo Damn Rd in El Sobrante. My son was involved there for many years and gained so much confidence, skills, strength and self-esteem. Sifu Noel is a fantastic teacher and guide to his students. He is strict and has high expectations, but also really cares. No belts are given out without the student really earning them. Dragon's students always stand out at tournaments with their knowledge and skills. They are always well prepared to compete and come back after each competition with many trophies. Once your child joins, your family is part of their family. It's a great dojo to belong to. There's a lot of ''heart'' at this school. You can go and observe a class so that you can get a feel for the program. Marika

Hi highly recommend Hanabi Judo in Albany on San Pablo. The classes have been great for my 7-year-old son who started when he was 6. It is run by a wonderful and very gifted Sensei named Dan Augustine. He is very sensitive to the developmental needs of young kids and finds creative ways to engage all kinds of kids so the classes are fun and challenging. I'm amazed by how much my son has learned! Most importantly, Dan has created a culture of nurturing and respect. There are always kind and enthusiastic helpers--older kids who are more advanced--who assist with the classes. Their manner with the younger kids is patient and encouraging. I'm really impressed by the maturity of these young people and my son really looks up to all of them. I have to also mention that, besides learning skills, Japanese language and respect, the classes also provide excellent physical exercise! If your son is 5, he'd be the perfect age for the pre-Judo class. I encourage you to call Dan and stop by to observe or try a class. Anne

Martial Arts for kids near Walnut Creek

Jan 2014

Are there any recommendations for a martial arts class in or near Walnut Creek? I want to sign up my 7yo son and surprisingly there are few recommendations on the BPN website. Like many, I'm looking to improve his self-confidence, discipline, and offer solutions to deal with anger/frustration/hurt feelings. I'm looking for teachers that are firm but KIND! For kids, TaeKwonDo seems to be the most commonly available, but if you have recommendations on type of martial art training for young children, that would be appreciated too. Thank you.

We LOVE Tao Sports TKD in Danville. Worth the trip...they are amazing! Love master Kemsley!

Martial Arts for 7 y o near Montclair

March 2013

Hi all - I am having a hard time finding a great martial arts studio that I can afford (for ex, Han is just too expensive) for my 7 y/o son. It needs to be within around 10 mins drive of Upper Rockridge/Montclair area, due to my schedule. I cannot commit to more than 1-2x a week (2 is really pushing it). And I really want one that he can stick with for years, progress to different levels and so on. I'm also struggling with all the different types of martial arts out there - if you have one you love, please tell me why it's great! Thanks so much. Sarah

I don't think you will find a better martial arts school than West Wind Karate on Piedmont Ave. Check My son has been with them for 23 years and it has been consistently top notch. Great peer group of men & women. Barbara S

Give Oakland Karate and Kickboxing a shot. They are on Broadway, across from Oakland Tech. My son trained there (at previous locations, though) for 10 years. My husband still trains there. We were always happy with the children's classes. My son hasn't been there as much since getting his black belt a few years back, so I'm not totally up on how the classes are at present. They have some summer day camps for students, too.

Han Martial Arts in Montclair (in the shopping center near wells fargo and pet food express) is GREAT! They teach tae kwon do - are fun, kind, nice environment... my son has been there for six months and is really enjoying it! Maggie

I would highly recommend Capoeira Mandinga (4137 Piedmont Ave)! Capoeira is a Brazilian martial arts with dance and music aspects incorporated. I have been involved with this organization (training and helping with non-profit programs) for the past 8 years and have seen both the adults and kids program grow tremendously. The kids program is divided into 3 main groups - Kindergym for crawlers to 2.5yo, Bentivis for 3-5yo, Sabia for 6-12yo. We are also currently in the process of forming a separate pre-teen/teen group.

Capoeira is not only great for learning body awareness and strength/flexibility training, it is just plain fun! Everyone learns to play different musical instruments, sing songs in Portuguese (language development) as well as community building. Many parents have joined the adult classes themselves after observing the connection that could be cultivated within their family and with the greater an aside there is a free introductory class for adults on May 4th at 2pm.There is a 3-class introductory special for $27! Anyone interested is more than welcome to come observe the classes or check out the website for class schedule and history of the organization at or call 510.655.8207 CapoMom

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 ( 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 ( 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

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 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

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!

Hoa Sen Dojo in Emeryville for 6 year old?

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

Aikido Institute in Oakland for 8 and 12 YO beginners?

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. - 1446 Leimert Blvd, Oakland. Andus

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

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. 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: 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 ( 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.

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: 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: And of course feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions. Kelly

Aikido for children 5 and 7

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 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 Come to East Bay Aikido ( 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: 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, 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

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 ( 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

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: arl

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) 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

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 \xc2\x93what-if\xc2\x94 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: 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! 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 ( 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 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\xc2\x92s 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: 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

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 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 ( 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\xc2\x85why 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, \xc2\x93Blackbelt \xc2\x93 is not a rank. Just as a sergeant has several chevrons on his shoulder, he is not called a \xc2\x93three chevron\xc2\x94. Seargent is the rank, the insignia of the rank is the chevron.

For kendo you can go to Another martial arts school with people who are very good with children is at the following url. 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

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 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

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

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 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.

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:

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:

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:

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:

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

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)


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

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 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 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 You can always come by and try a class for free. Good luck! terri at


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

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.


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


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?


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).


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.