Martial Arts for ADHD Kids

Parent Q&A

  • I have a very active 8yo diagnosed with ADHD who has trouble following the rules of some organized sports. Our doctor recommended martial arts, but it sounds like the teacher is the one who can make the experience incredible or tortuous for ADHD kids. Can any ADHD parents recommend somewhere we can check out for our kiddo? He needs a physical outlet and a boost of self confidence! Thank you

    My son also has ADHD and has been taking silat (Indonesian martial arts) for years at Soja - the owner, Peter, is really good with him and has built him up over the years!

    There is a special class at Kuk Sool Wan of Berkeley (AKA Berkeley Martial Arts) on Sacramento in Berkeley. It is run by Nicole Yee. It is for kids with challenges including ADHD and Autism Spectrum. She is a great instructor with a kid on the spectrum and the assistant is young woman with developmental disabilities. I highly recommend you contact her at nyee26 [at]

    Hi there-

    Our ADHD kid is very happy at Seido Karate . They offer lots of classes during the week and on the weekend.  Sensei Todd has great patience with kids like ours and a good sense of humor. My son says that he not only feels physically stronger, but also has learned some grit that helps him at school. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Aikido for ADHD & Tourette's Boy?

Nov 2009

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

I would talk to the chief instructor/owner of East Bay Aikido and ask him what he thinks. They have some wonderful instructors there for the kids' classes, starting from age 5 or 6. Aikiko would be a good activity for your son, in my opinion. It's an non-aggressive form of martial art, and I think especially excellent for children, as it teaches them how to resolve conflict without resorting to violence. My husband trains there and my son goes occasionally. The dojo is located just off of Park, on Leimert Blvd. The Sensei's name is Tom Gambell. Here is the info: 510 531 0303. sensei [at] aikido fan

I would check out West Wind karate school on University just above Sacramento. They have been wonderful with my son who has challenges with learning, focus and impulse control. The phone number is 841-1426. laura

Hi Berkeley Mom, I want to recommend Studio Naga to you and your son. They are on San Pablo Ave in Oakland near the Emeryville border. They practice an Indonesian form of martial arts called Poekoelan, but I recommend them not because of the particular kind of martial arts (although this one seems very accessible to even quite young kids) but because of the nature of the studio itself. It is a very supportive and nurturing place (although the folks their are also very serious about their practice and set high expectations for the kids who work out there). There are a lot of kids involved, all different ages, temperments, talents, and backgrounds. My 7 year old ADHD daughter studies there and it has been great for her. She gets what I had hoped she would get from martial arts study (discipline, self-control, respect, perserverence) but additionally everyone there is especially attentive to respect, inclusiveness, and a sense of responsibility for each other. I really appreciate the diversity of people there, the fact that the studio is operated by a woman, and the fact that kids and teenagers are represented in all ranks of practice. This last factor means that age has little to do with rank: you often see a 15 year old black belt instructing a 35 year old white belt. I see kids really thrive on the fact that their hard work can earn them real, significant respect -- respect that translates into adults taking them seriously. The young people then rise to the occasion and use their position (their rank) to seriously respect, teach and care for their juniors (younger kids, but also anyone junior in rank). As a result, you see lots of kids who I suspect are awkward or don't quite fit in other environments (my daughter has a lot of social troubles) really developing a sense of self, pride, and maturity. I am extremely impressed by the young people there and know they would include and respect your son. They also have regular events for kids (a ''kid's night out'' once a month, a summer camp) which allow the kids to continue to build community among each other. Feel free to contact me if you have more questions. Stephanie

Hi. We have a 10 yr. old w/both adhd and ts. He's been doing martial arts (kung fu) since about age 7 with great success. His tics diminish when he's moving and concentrating and he seems more organized after classes (2x week for 1 hour each). (no ''e'') in Albany. I'd think Aikido would be great as well; I like that both forms work on the being one's best self as opposed to pure fighting or self-defense (eg. non-aggressive). Good luck. Martial Arts Family

Aikido of Berkeley, run by Sensei Kayla Feder, is the most welcoming and nurturing place imaginable. Sensei manages to provide an atmosphere in which all are encouraged and none of the kids are unkind to each other, seemingly without ever having to raise her voice or speak sharply. While my son was attending aikido classes there, his confidence increased visibly, as did his physical coordination. I saw kids who might be ''loners'' or ''outcast'' in other settings, who were accepted by the group and whose strengths were celebrated instead of having their weaknesses highlighted. I can't speak highly enough of Sensei Feder or the program she has created. You can see a bit more about the program at, but I'd personally recommend that you go watch a kids' class to see what you think. Kathleen