The best martial arts classes for kids in Shanghai

Children's classes that offer safe instruction, a fun way to socialise and a solid physical alternative for kids who aren't big fans of team sports

Photograph: VCG
Getting started in the world of martial arts can seem daunting, especially when it's your child you're signing up. Is it safe? And what exactly is the difference between karate and taekwondo? Here we break down some of the options for kids across the city that offer safe instruction, a fun way to socialise and a solid physical alternative for kids who aren't big fans of team sports.

By Heng Hui Mei

Jiu-Jitsu at Shanghai BJJ Academy

What's it like? Ground fighting is a major part of Brazilian jiu-jitsu training, and overall emphasis is on technique rather than brute force. Taking down an opponent larger than you is not as hard as you might think (as long as you've got your technique down). The sport is also helpful for learning self-defence moves, like how to break away from a simple wrist grab. The academy also incorporates games for kids to learn through play.

How much? For kids five years and up. First class is free. After that, each class costs 120RMB.

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1855 Qixin Lu

Karate at Kyokushinkai-Kan Karate

What's it like? Tucked away in a sports hub with facilities like a swimming pool, Kyokushinkai-Kan has a big dojo (training space). There is a weights and cardio section so while junior does some karate, delivering and blocking blows, you can check out the space. Classes are easy to follow, as everybody is lined up and executes the moves after a brief demonstration by the sensei (master). To up the challenge, karate moves are interspersed with push-ups, sit-ups and other body weight exercises. How's that for both physical and mental training?

How much? For kids four years and up. First class is free. After that, an annual membership costs 3,980RMB, and a 10-lesson package costs 1,000RMB.

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151 Kangding Lu

Taekwondo at Jae Hun Kim Taekwondo Institute

What's it like? Despite being pretty important in other sports, strength isn't everything when it comes to taekwondo - to gain an edge here, it's all about flexibility, speed and technique. This is evident in even the simplest of moves during a class at Jae Hun Kim, where instructors spend time helping students perfect their stance and kicks (which we found surprisingly impactful despite using minimal strength).

How much? For kids 6-10 years old. First class is free. After that, a package for six classes costs 180RMB per lesson, a deal for 18 classes charges 170RMB per lesson and one for 72 classes costs 150RMB per lesson.

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1037 Biyun Lu

Kickboxing at Animal Martial Arts and Fitness

What's it like? Get sweaty in Animal Martial Arts and Fitness' children's kickboxing or family fitness class, an MMA-'inspired' circuit course. A 60-minute children's kickboxing session at this family-run gym focuses on both imparting the skills (taking into account the child's abilities) and keeping it fun. If you wish to do more than just send your kid to the gym, partake in the family fitness class geared for the entire family.

How much? First class is free (be sure to book ahead). With a six-month membership (3,500RMB) or a one-year membership (6,500RMB), you can attend one class per week. Drop-in classes cost 200RMB. Ten-class passes cost 1,500RMB. Private lessons available upon request.

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1715 Zhongshan Bei Lu

Jiu-jiutsu at Absolute MMA

What's it like? Train (aka bond) with your kids at Absolute's Family BJJ classes with content like learning how to roll, fall and get up. Just because your child knows martial arts does not guarantee he or she is equipped with the skills to handle real life situations. In this instance, Absolute teaches how to avoid confrontation, become confident and most importantly, trust yourself.

How much? For kids three years and up. Book your trial class for free. 300RM per additional class.

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800 Changde Lu

Aikido at Shinju-Kai

What's it like? At Shinju-Kai, they keep their class sizes small to ensure every child gains the most out of the lessons, whilst keeping him or her engaged. The lesson plan is drawn up to cater to the different age groups, be it teamwork for the younger ones or perseverance for the older ones. The movements executed in Aikido are graceful, with a lot of respect given to the opponents during training.

How much? For kids five years and up. A six-month pass is 5,400RMB and an annual pass 9,940RMB.

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1533 Beijing Xi Lu

Refuge MMA

What's it like? Gubei mixed martial arts school Refuge Little Heroes programme focuses on teaching kids self control and respect for boundaries in a fun and safe environment. According to the school, this programme promotes coordination, helps teach respect and is a total blast. The class also has a rewards system that helps keep little ones motivated inside and outside of class too. The details classes are designed for kids between four and eight years.

How much? Classes take place on Saturdays or Tuesdays, and eight-week programmes start from 4,000RMB.

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708 Huangjin Chengdao, near Gubei Lu.

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