Martial Arts for Preschoolers

Parent Q&A

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  • My 4 year old daughter is interested in taking martial arts classes. I don’t have any experience with martial arts so I’m not sure where to start. Does anyone have recommendations about which kinds of martial arts are good for young kids (jiu jitsu because less hitting?) Also, any particular studios in the Berkeley/Oakland area that are great and positive for little kids, especially girls? Any recommendations / thoughts welcome!

    Studio Naga in Emeryville is woman-owned and many of the mentors are female. The program is focused on skill development, not just fighting, and they offer a program especially for the littles. My son has been there for a couple years and loves it. They are currently training outside.

    Highly recommend Studio Naga, Indonesian-American art of Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen. They have been training outdoors at Hollis-Doyle park, masked, in Emeryville; studio is located at 55th and San Pablo Ave in Oakland. The studio is extraordinarily community minded, they have a kid's class for 4-6 year olds, and the studio is LGBTQI+/women led. They host self-defense classes for girls, too. Might be a good fit. Our kid has been practicing for a couple of years and loves the community and mentors (adults and teenagers!) and looks forward to practicing few times a week.

  • Pre-Martial Arts Class for Preschooler

    (1 reply)

    Our about to turn 4 year old has been watching her brother's karate class for a while now, and really wants to learn some moves herself. I know that there is a pre-judo class for this age at Hanabi Judo, but I am curious about what other preschool age martial arts classes are around the Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito area. I know she is too young for formal training, but think she would love something where she can run and roll and learn some stances to feel like her big brother (his school doesn't take them until 7). Thanks!

    Studio Naga has a great "Jungle Gym" program for pre-school kids.  The staff is amazing and the classes are fun -- as well as constructive.  Kids learn animal movements of the art as well as strikes (formal training aspect I think you're talking about) which are done in the air or into pads.  The Jungle Gym program has been around for 11 years and many of the Jungle Gym graduates are now in the kids program.

    Your daughter can try out a class to see if she likes it.  

    Studio Naga, / 510.652.6242

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Berkeley Martial Arts Class for 4 year old

July 2012

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

Hanabi Judo. They are on San Pablo in Albany. My 6 year old has been going there for a year now and it has been absolutely wonderful. I don't know what their age limit is, but I'm sure I've seen kids there as young as 4. The guy who runs it is greatCbhis name is Dan. cindy

Hanabi judo in albany, they have a pre judo class that would be perfect for your 4th year old. Kristin

I would highly recommend Golden Lion Martial Arts Academy for your four year old. My nine year old started in the Cubs class there at age four and has loved it. He has grown physically stronger, developed self confidence, built great friendships and all while having a lot of fun. The teachers for the kids program are amazingly patient, nurturing and just wonderful. The school is located in Albany, right near the Berkeley border. Their website is : Feel free to contact me if you have specific questions. Best of luck. Kelly

Kuk Sool Won in Berkeley takes 4 year olds, and is an excellent martial arts school. The teacher is very patient with the little ones. It's near the corner of Dwight and Sacramento. heidilee

Kuk Sool Won near Homemade Cafe in Berkeley has a class for 4 & 5 year olds and it's great. About 30 minutes long: information-for-berkeley-martial-arts.html You can try a class for free. My son loved it. Anon

Studio Naga, in Emeryville, has terrific classes for young kids (ages 3 to 6). The martial art practiced there is called ''Poekoelan'' and is an Indonesian form. The class for young kids is called ''Jungle Gym'': it draws on the animals associated with different forms/movements to teach the kids martial arts. Its fun,taught by great teachers, and the studio itself is very warm and kid friendly. I also found it especially good for my daughter, as there are lots of women and girls at the studio so it does seem as male-dominated as some martial arts studios (this was a concern for my daughter when she started there at age 5, because she viewed any activity with many boys present as something ''for boys''). Check it out! Stephanie

Pre-Capoeira Lessons for 4-Year Old?

April 2012

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

My grandson loved the pre-capoeira arts classes he took at Capoeira Arts in Berkeley. The instructors were amazing, the classes were fun but also a great learning experience. He not only learned Capoeira movement but also music, drumming and Brazilizn songs and language. I would highly reccomend the class. jomedeiro

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

Karate class for 4 year old

Sept 2011

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

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

Martial arts for four year old

June 2011

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

Hanabi Judo on San Pablo by Solano has amazing teachers--both adults and teens. We have been very impressed with such a loving place. Lots of 4 year olds we know are taking classes there, and my 10 year old loves it. Mama to a Judo Boy

Hi Wendy, Check out Hanabi Judo, nearby on San Pablo Avenune and Solano (Albany)!! It's FAMILY friendly, not competitive (although if you want to and are ready to compete, they are Olympians who will train you for competition). Dan Augustine is like a child whisperer, who is gentle, firm and inspiring to the kids. Many of the pre-judo classes are taught by younger students (teens) - one of them, Flora, is 16 and is the judo team captain of Berkeley High as well as a blackbelt and national champion - I'd love to have her babysit one of these days. They are also offering summer camps (half and full days). Are you on Facebook? Their page is: Hanabi Judo Dojo: Dan Augustine 841 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706 510-530-8312 maria

I cannot recommend Hanabi Albany Judo club more highly! Dan Sensei and his energetic and talented blackbelts lead fantastic classes for kids. My 5 year old is gaining great confidence & taking great pride in his mastery of each new skill. The classes are athletic, rigorous and fun: blending running & jumping exercise with practice in basic judo moves (the younger kids class does them solo on the cushy tatami mats, the older kid's classes offer opportunities to practice moves on a partner). Each class includes games that get their hearts pumping and the laughter echoing off the walls of the new, light-filled studio, located close to the intersection of San Pablo & Solano (lots of free on-street parking). The kids are also learning some Japanese beyond ''Judo Japanese'', last month was body parts, this week was basic introductions in Japanese. Dan Sensei often films the kids and ''screens'' the film during the same session, so the kids have a chance to see themselves on screen immediately, which they LOVE! You can tell that Dan has a background as an elementary school educator--with 2 kids, I've had ample opportunity to observe instructors and he is really in a class of his own. I drive here from Kensington and would easily drive twice as far! There are also family classes, should you want to join in (I've taken a class myself and had a blast!). Hanabi Judo Dojo Dan Augustine, Sensei 841 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706, 510-530-8312 FACEBOOK: Happy Mom to a Judoka

Judo for 4 year old

March 2010

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

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

Class for a 4-year-old

April 2009

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

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

Best of luck! James' mom


Karate or Kung Fu for preschooler with language delay

March 2009

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

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

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

Nov 2007

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

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

Class for 4 year old in Alameda

May 2006

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

Hello, try Pokoelaan in Oakland. It's not far from Alameda; I believe they're located on (or around)San Pablo Ave, downtown by the whole Home Depot area. It's an Indonesian martial arts program based on animals, so the kids' classes are extrordinarily captivating; they mimick the animals' walk, etc. My son tokk their courses and they earn belts, etc. The instructors are POSITIVE and engaging. They put on events in the studio, focus on postivity and respect and are like a family. It is AWESOME! Lisa

My recommendation is to forget about martial arts for a year or two. Instead find out if she'd like a dance or tumbling class. Those will give her strength, balance, and coordination. Then, in just a year or two, she can decide if she'd like the martial arts.

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

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

Class for kids 4 and 7, plus parents

April 2006

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

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

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

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

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

Martial Arts for a 3 Year Old

July 2005

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

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

Martial arts for 2.5yr. old?

Mar 2005

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

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

Karate class for 4 year old boy

Mar 2005

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

My six y.o son has been taking karate classes for the last two years and we are very happy with his instructor. Dara Connolly of Albany Karate for Kids is great with the kids. She's patient, supportive, but with the seriousness and discipline of a blackbelt. The classes are small (in a cosy room at the Albany Rec Center), non-aggressive, with minimal body contact. Each class is started with a few minutes of meditation. The kids are encouraged to help/support each other and have memorized sayings like ''the goal of success will lead to success.'' My son is clearly not a natural at karate, but loves learning and has made much progress. Shirley, proud mama of an orange belt

I HIGHLY recommend DragonFly Karate in Berkeley. My son started when he was 5 1/2 and he loves it. The instructor is awesome and classes are both one on one and small group. This is serious martial arts (they progress through the colored belts) balanced with philosophy, discipline and good behavior skills. My son has gone twice a week for a year now and shows no signs of slowing down. I suggest email Mr. Boone at ''boonechai AT'' or calling at 776-0040

Kuk Sool Won of Berkeley has Mighty Mouse classes for younger children. I'm not certain what the age requirements are but you could contact Sir Thomas Brewer at 510-540-5425 and the address is 2438 Sacramento, Berkeley. My son started martial arts at age 7 and is now a black belt at age 13. I couldn't recommend this school highly enough. Sir stresses values, discipline and respect (among other things) and has been a great instructor over the past 6+ years. The school is owned and operated by Sir and his wife Eunice. If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to call me at 510-559-6056 (w) or email me with any questions you may have. Denise

Modern Combatives in Berkeley is wonderful. They are located on University Ave. next to Andronico's. They teach preschool martial arts through play. The instructor, Lily, is amazing with the children. Aside from being a black belt, she is also a lisenced family counselor. Our son has been attending for about 5 months now and we love it. They have a website Jennifer

My son was almost 4 when he took up Tae Kwon Do at Yu's Martial Arts in Lafayette. Master Yu is fantastic with the children. He also offers private classes. He is willing to start them as young as 4, but willing to make exception on a kid by kid basis.  (925) 962-1000 3371 Mt. Diablo Blvd Lafayette, CA 94549

Toddler martial arts program

Nov 2004

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

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

try destiny arts center in oakland. their martial arts start from 3 y/o. janet

karate/martial arts class for my 4 yr old

October 2002

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