Shanghai’s best martial arts classes

From MMA to BJJ, akido and beyond, here's where to train in the city

Photograph: Nathz Guardia via Unsplash
Self-defense, fitness, discipline, a little bit of competitive action... whatever your reason for getting into martial arts it can be difficult to know where to actually start (and what's the difference between aikido and taekwondo anyways?). Here's a quick breakdown of different martial arts and where to do them in Shanghai.

By Heng Hui Mei

Brazilian 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 – even after one class at Shanghai BJJ, we learned that 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 wrist grab or how to subdue an attacker.

How much? Free trial class; 200RMB (per drop-in class); 1,200RMB (one-month membership); 3,200RMB (three-month membership); 4,800RMB (six-month membership); 8,400RMB (one-year membership). 

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1855 Qixin Lu

Taekwondo at Jae Hun Kim Taekwondo Institute

What's it like? Despite how it might look, physical strength isn’t everything when it comes to Korean martial art taekwondo. To gain an edge here it’s all about flexibility, speed and technique – perhaps unsurprising given that the sport is most recognised for its fast head-height and jump kicks. With this in mind, at Jae Hun Kim, instructors take the time helping students perfect their stance and positioning for even the simplest of moves.

How much? Free trial class; 900RMB (twice-weekly classes costs for two months); 1,890RMB (twice-weekly classes costs for three months); 3,570RMB (six-month unlimited class membership);  6,720RMB (12-month unlimited class membership).

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1037 Biyun Lu

Muay Thai at Absolute MMA

What's it like? The national sport of Thailand, sometimes called the ‘art of eight limbs’ for its use of the entire body – it's not only punches and kicks from fists and feet, but also elbow and knee strikes – Muay Thai is all about movement and agility. Absolute MMA, instructors demonstrate different techniques and then have students pair off and practice during timed partner drills.

How much? 10RMB trial class available via Dianping; 250RMB (drop-in class). Contact the studio for longer term class packages.

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800 Changde Lu

Aikido at Aikido Shinju-Kai

What's it like? Witnessing people getting thrown down (onto mats, phew) might seem intimidating at first, but this self defence-focused, non-aggressive Japanese martial art is all about finding peaceful solutions to conflict. During an introductory class at Aikido Shinju-Kai, instructors walk students through some basic anatomy of the human body, then the class gets to work starting to manipulate a person’s joints to restrict his or her movement effectively. While this still sounds pretty intense, the movements executed in Aikido are graceful, with a lot of respect given to the opponents during training.

How much? 50RMB trial class; 5,400RMB (six-month pass); 9,940RMB (annual pass).

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1533 Beijing Xi Lu