Martial Arts for Teens & Preteens

Related Page:  Self-Defense for Teens

Parent Q&A

Martial Arts Class with Sparring? Feb 11, 2020 (3 responses below)
Martial arts class for preteen Nov 20, 2018 (7 responses below)
Jiu-Jitsu for teenage girl May 29, 2017 (2 responses below)
  • Martial Arts Class with Sparring?

    (3 replies)

    We recently moved to Berkeley.  My 11-year old was attending a martial arts class called Kar-Do-Jitsu Ryu Karate before we moved and would like to find something similar in Berkeley or nearby.  The instructor would give classes where the children learned various techniques and katas (sp?).  He would also have sparring sessions where the students could practice their moves on each other in a controlled way, wearing gloves and headgear, etc.  Can anyone recommend a similar class, preferably with a sparring component (she really liked that aspect)?  Thanks! 

    You might try the Shotokan Karate Institute. They are located near the freeway in Albany/Richmond (easy to get to). It is a very traditional dojo. My son was there from 4th to 12th grade.

    East Bay Seido, on Bonita Avenue near downtown Berkeley, has classes like that, although full-on sparring isn’t allowed until a student is a green belt for safety reasons. If your daughter is willing to be a little patient, though, the instruction is excellent.

    Both of my daughters attended the children’s and teens classes from six years old on, and have recently “graduated” to the adult program (at 16 years old).

    One huge bonus of taking classes at East Bay Seido from my girls’ point of view is that if you live in Berkeley and are in the public schools, the dojo has a relationship with Berkeley High; students who are taking classes at EBS can waive their  high school PE requirements.

    We do Kuk Sool Won -

    Kuk Sool Won is a comprehensive martial arts system that encompasses many of the other martial arts you have heard about like Tae Kwon Do, Akido, Judo, etc.   Sparring is a part of KSW from the start, simply google Kuk Sool Won sparring to see photos. 

    There are dojangs all over, including one in Berkeley, however, we go to the one in San Francisco where it used to be headquartered & many of the people who originally worked with the Grand Master are still practicing, but the headquarters moved to Texas because they wanted more space to practice with traditional weapons like various swords, spears, rope, bow & arrow, horses, etc...there are 24 different traditional Royal Court weapons within the tradition of KSW as well as sparring.  Also it includes meditation, breathing, etc. 

    Good Luck!

  • Martial arts class for preteen

    (7 replies)

    Can anyone recommend a martial arts class or style for a preteen boy who does not have previous experience?  Seeking an encouraging and affirming environment in the Berkeley/Albany/el Cerrito area.  Thanks for any ideas!  

    RE: Martial arts class for preteen ()

    I highly recommend Aikido Shusekai in Berkeley. I and both of our children are students there, and it's been wonderful - the kids range in age from 7 to 12, and they do a superb job of working with each other, training in a focused way, and having fun. I train with the kids myself on Thursdays just because they bring so much new depth to my own practice, and it's been one of the most powerful bonding experiences I've had with them. Previous experience is not required in any way; several of the kids joined in September with no martial arts experience to speak of, and they're doing great.

    RE: Martial arts class for preteen ()

    Hanabi Judo in Albany at San Pablo/Solano. My son began there at 14 with no previous experience and easily transitioned into the community. He started going 3x a week and now, at 16, happily goes 5x a week and attends the tournaments. It has worked out really well and this was after a few fails.

    RE: Martial arts class for preteen ()

    I highly recommend Hanabi Judo in Albany. They are very family oriented and excellent with kids. For parents they have “parents night out” and summer camp for the kids. 

  • Jiu-Jitsu for teenage girl

    (2 replies)

    I'm looking for a Jiu-Jitsu gym for my 14-year-old daughter. She's been doing mixed martial arts for years and loves grappling. I'd like to find a Jiu-Jitsu gym in the Berkeley area where there are other teens, especially girls, working out and the coaching is positive. Female teachers would be a great plus!

    RE: Jiu-Jitsu for teenage girl ()

    You need to check out Coach Lily Pagle at SBG on San Pablo near Gilman.  I think it would be a perfect fit for your daughter.  Lots of teen girls participate and they host women's nights on occasion.   Coach Lily has a black belt and she is also a lovely person.  

    RE: Jiu-Jitsu for teenage girl ()

    My son is 13, and has been going to Suigetsukan for 5 years. Sensei Gina is awesome and there are several teen girls there. It is unfortunately on 1st and International in Oakland but it is a small cooperative and we love the supportive environment so we make the treck from Berkeley, often carpooling. Cheers!

Parent Reviews

RE: Tween exercise ()

My two daughters were the same. I Ernie’s them at Terry’s wonderful Kuong Nu martial arts studio in Emeryville. It was great esp. for the older one.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Martial Arts for Unathletic, Anxious 12YO Boy

June 2012

My 12YO son is significantly over-weight, inactive, unathletic and suffers from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and anger issues. I'd like to find a physical activity/practice for him that will give him exercise, but also work on mindfulness, calming and building self-esteem. He would be overwhelmed by anything too physically demanding or competitive. I'm thinking a martial arts practice focusing on mindfulness or yoga classes would benefit him. Would appreciate any suggestions for these activities, or any other classes/groups you think might be helpful. Thanks very much in advance! Worried Mom

I'm not sure where you are located, but I highly recommend Hernandez Martial Arts in Union City. This is the only Martial Arts school for children that I have found that has taken the time and resources to develop a curriculum that is child based. The owners have been in business for 30 years and over the years have changed to focus of their teaching from how adults are taught to how to teach MA to children. They worked w/a child psychologist to develop the best program to meet children's needs while teaching Mixed Martial Arts. They focus on ''Common Sense Before Self-Defense'' Strategies while the friendly instructors develop students from the ''Inside Out'' through instilling Character and Values enabling students to do Better in School, Behave Better at Home and Attain the skills necessary to be Successful in Life. Call (510) 487-3790 or visit us at for more information. Re: Yoga, I do yoga w/my kids from an awesome DVD which is demonstrated by teen/tweens and are 30-45 mins long. It is called Shanti Generation Yoga skills for Youth Peacemakers. I bought it on We give it 5 stars. Teaches inner peace (w/o referring to religion), flexibility in an encouraging, calming manner. Good luck! anon

I recommend Berkeley Martial Arts on Sacramento,, 540-5425. Besides learning martial arts the kids learn self discipline, respect, and self confidence. Master Thomas Brewer is very inclusive and promotes community. My son has been attending classes for over a year and looks forward to it every week. First class is free so come try it out. Hope to see you there. Mom to boys

I think Kuk Sool Won (Korean Martial Arts) in Berkeley would be perfect for your son. He doesn't have to be athletic. The teacher, Master Brewer, has 2 sons of his own, and is extremely patient, while still being a good disciplinarian. All the classes are mixed ages, so there might be 6 year olds, 12 year olds, and adults all in the same class. Everyone is respected. It's near the corner of Sacramento & Dwight, near the Homemade Cafe. heidilee

I think your son might get a lot out of the martial arts classes at Kuk Sool Won (Sacramento near Dwight, in Berkeley). Kuk Sool Won is similar to karate, but it's not just about self-defense. The classes at Kuk Sool Won are not at all competitive (until the higher levels, when students can choose to compete) and although it is somewhat physically demanding, the beginner classes are pretty accessible. The teacher, Master Thomas Brewer, is great, and has just the right combination of firmness and humor to keep the kids in line without scaring them. There is definitely some focus on calming and mindfulness (for example, the ability to stay still and listen without wiggling). My favorite thing about the classes is that they are for all ages, so I can attend with my whole family (though kids or adults can and do attend without other family members). When there is some exercise involving partners, people partner with other class members roughly their size. Martial arts family

Martial arts for 16-year-old beginner

Sept 2010

Looking for a martial arts program for my 16 year old daughter. She's a beginner but doesn't want to be a a class with young kids. She's not a physical person (her description) and feels very awkward in sports but wants to try a martial arts to build strength and improve coordination. Cindy

Terri Giamartino is a female martial arts teacher with her own dojo and school on San Pablo and 48th. It is very popular with teens (as well as adults and young kids). Seems like more teen girls than boys. Entry level teens work with adults. My kids and I have been here for 7 years. I highly recommend it.

In Alameda, there is a great (sincerely dedicated and fun) martial arts studio that offers specialized classes just for teens and adults as well as children. Here is the link to their well done website: parent of two

She may enjoy Capoeira, a Brazilian Martial Art. United Capoeira Association in Berkeley has excellent, world renowned teachers. They are located on the corner of San Pablo Ave/Hearst in Berkeley. Intro classes are usually at 5:00. It is a very organic martial art that includes music, singing, acrobatics, etc. She would probably be with the beginning adults. The community is welcoming and often has other events (movie nights, etc.) My son started when he was 5, and is almost 14 now. He loves it and has gained so much from the community. google UCA Berkeley (I don't have the exact website). Good Luck Capoeira mom

Martial arts to help son be more assertive

August 2010

I am looking for a martial arts program for my son primarily to help him be assertive (not aggressive) with his peers. He's entering a new Middle School this Fall. I would like to take a class with him (if possible). Any suggestions? Concerned Parent

Berkeley Martial Arts, also know as Berkeley Kuk Sool Won is great and would be great for your son. I've been practicing there for over 11 years, and my son attended for several years. It is a very good program for kids, which teaches good values including respect, self discipline, self esteem, persistence, etc. The master instructor, Thomas Brewer, has a great reputation with kids and adults. Check out the reviews on Yelp. I believe you can get a free lesson to try it out. Kuk Sool is a great martial art with great variety that makes it fun and interesting. Rocky

Aikido is a martial art where the goal is to end the conflict without harm to the defender or the attacker. The founder was specifically looking for a nonviolent path. Watching experts 'spar' is like watching water -- it's beautiful. Not sure where you are but East Bay Aikido near Park St on Leimert in Oakland is a lovely dojo, great leadership and community. Aikido parent

You might consider Studio Naga, on San Pablo avenue. It's open to all ages, and one of their goals is assertiveness for kids (the theme of their summer camp this past June was 'Camp Courage' and my son got a very practical lesson in what to do when a peer upset him!) Karen

Martial Arts/Karate for 16-year-old girl

April 2010

Would appreciate any recommendations for Martial Arts or Karate classes for a 16yr old girl. She took some classes when she was young but didn't pursue it. She really needs more physical workouts combined with something that's fun and group activities to meet others. Any ideas or places for classes would be great. teen mom

My daughter studies Cuong Nhu at Hua Sen Dojo in Emeryville and enjoys it very much. There are lots of women instructors and a large cohort of teen girls in the upper (brown/black stripe) belts. My daughter has been lovingly mentored by these now-high-school-aged girls for years and has developed a lot of confidence from watching them, being taught by them, encouraged by them, etc.

Most of the teens are in the upper belts, but there are ''family classes'' where students who are above a certain age and/or belt can attend (no little kids!). For more info, check them out on the web: --Mom of little ninja

We have truly appreciated Hoa Sen Dojo on San Pablo at 48th St (Emeryville) for 7 years. There is a moderately large, dedicated group of sweet teens. The sensei is a fabulous woman, well-loved by all. Drop by to watch the teens/adults Mondays or Thurs at 6:30. BTW, I do it too, now.

Check out krav maga, an approach to self-defense/fitness that is a little different from the better known ''martial arts''. Start by perusing the website, There are lots of different classes and different skill levels. Then you could call and arrange for your daughter to attend a trial class or two to see if she's interested. Classes are held 7 days/week. The instructors and the students are friendly. My son has been training for 3 years and loves it. anon

Check out Studio Naga in Oakland/Emeryville border. The studio's commitment goes beyond fitness and self defense ~ the instructors follow the owner's vision of building confidence and community. Classes are fun, challenging and available with the opportunity to train up to 5 times a week.

There is a great mix of male & female instructors ranging in age from 15 - 50ish. The teens are great and come from Oakland, Berkeley & Albany to train. They are smiling when class is over ~ their parents are smiling when they pick them up...good stuff!

All students are mentored by black belts so training becomes a more personal experience. My daughter has been training for 8 years, was mentored by owner & head instructor Louise Rafkin, and is now mentoring others.

Studio Naga 5850 San Pablo Avenue 94608 510.652.6242

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Seeking Kenpo Karate for 13-year-old

Nov 2007

My 13-year-old son has been attending a karate dojo for the past three years, and enjoys it. I have become increasingly turned off by the head teacher's teaching methods; he yells a lot, talks to the students about ''kicking ass'' and tells them to practice until they ''don't suck.'' I understand that karate is a martial art and that it's tough, but I would like to find an atmosphere that's a little more zen and a little less Army boot camp. My son is not afraid to work hard -- he's in excellent shape and enjoys his accomplishments, but I would like to see martial arts taught and modeled in a more positive manner. Does anyone have recommendations for a kenpo karate dojo in South Berkeley or North Oakland? peaceful mom

My son has been with West Wind Kung Fu-Karate in Berkeley for about 17 years and is now Head Instructor at the Berkeley Dojo (University at Sacramento). I read your post to him and he said there is no way anyone at West Wind would teach that way. We first chose that school, when he was 6 years old, because they stressed the true ''art'' in martial arts, and they incorporate the history and philosophy of the discipline in their teaching, besides being top notch in martial arts skills. As one other student told me, ''They are like the Harvard of martial arts.'' You can go on a tour of the school and discuss taking introductory lessons. Drop in and ask for Mr. Shah. Or email me if you have more questions Barbara

Martial arts class for teen girls?

Sept 2007

I am looking for a safe class, preferably in the Elmwood/Berkeley area, for learning any of the martial arts for a 14 year old girl. We are hosting her from Germany, she is primarily interested in it as strength training, not necessarily defense. Any recommendations are greatly appreciated. Thank you. yvonne

West Wind Karate at 1551 University is an excellent place for women to learn martial arts. There are many strong, amazing women in the system as inspiration and their training is top notch. My son, ''Mr. Shah,'' is the head instructor and he can set you up for a tour and answer all your questions. Drop by. Barbara

Studio Naga has a fabulous program for kids of all ages (adults too)It is woman owned and run. Its phenomenally supportive and everyone can work at their own pace. And it is a wonderful community of people. It is in Emeryville on San Pablo. 510.652.6242 Kyree

2006 & Earlier

Class for a 14-year-old with engaging instructor

Oct 2002

My 14-year-old son wants to begin a martial art, and what's most important is a dynamic and engaging instructor. We're looking for someone who's a really good model/leader for teen boys. Any suggestions for a top-notch teacher? Lynn

My 7th-grade son has gone to Kuk Sool (Sacramento at Dwight, Berkeley) for about 1 1/2 years and now is a brown belt in this rather aerobic Korean-style karate discipline. Thomas Brewer (known by his students as ''Sir'') expects excellence from his students - expecting more as the kids advance in expertise (it will take as long for my son to go from brown to black belt as it took for him to reach brown) and stresses values/discipline as well as the physical aspects of karate. He also has been a good resource for our family as an ''extra'' adult to talk to our son about discipline, responsibility, etc. on a one on one basis. At 14, your son may also be eligible to study with the ''adult class'' which is quite mixed with teens. From what I see, its great for teens to be learning with adults, who must themselves be respectful to ''Sir'' and the discipline of karate. Karen

We found an amazing martial arts teacher at the TaeKwonDo Academy in Alameda. Dan teaches a class just for teens. He teaches them respect, life skills, concentration, many valuable skills. His focus in teaching martial arts is to enhance the students self-esteem and respect for self and others. I am so impressed with him. My son, who is not athletic, has learned so much about how to do TaeKwonDo. Even more valuable are the life lessons he is learning. I spoke with several martial arts teachers before finding Dan. He is everything I was looking for in a teacher. Good Luck, Patti

Class for a 14-year-old that meets frequently

April 2002

I am looking for a martial arts class for my 14 year old. Previously, he's gone to the Y kids' karate class, which is MWF 5-6pm. I was wondering if anyone had personal recommendations for other places around the neighbourhood that might have more classes per week; I used to go to a dojo that had classes 6 days. I've checked the web site, but there's little mention of frequency of classes. Must be sympathetic teaching style for a teenager and within walking distance of Albany High. Maybe I'd go again too if it would work for a very rusty middle aged mom! Dana

Hello, I can heartily recommend Golden Lion martial arts on San Pablo near Marin. They teach tai chi and kung fu, primarily the latter to their younger students. I took tai chi there for over 2 years. The head instructor, Sifu David Dong, is a wonderful guy, great with kids, and is excpetionally talented. Andrew

my daughter takes karate at the Northern California Martial Arts Association in Albany. the karate for kids (6 and under) class is 2-3 days a week. i believe the beginning Adults (14 and up) have classes 3 times a week plus a Saturday mixed rank class. they are located on the Albany/El Cerrito border next to El Cerrito Plaza but will be moving a little further north in El Cerrito (still very close). carrie s.