Sometimes, we want fitness to be about more than just going to a gym, lifting weights, or going on long runs. Martial arts can absolutely achieve this for you. The practice is a great way to improve your fitness, enhance your concentration and develop self-defence skills. What’s more, rooted in ancient traditions, the practice of martial arts is a wonderful way to learn about a new culture whilst joining a community and making new friends.
Whether your child is interested in taking karate lessons, or you – as an adult – would like to learn a new skill, it’s vital to find a top-quality martial arts school with professional trainers and a safe, encouraging environment.
In this article, we’ll share our favourite martial arts schools in Canberra. These institutions are inclusive of all experience levels and help their students gain strength, body awareness, and confidence.
Let’s get right into it.
What makes a great martial arts school?
When deciding which martial arts school to try, we recommend looking out for the following must-have traits:
- Commitment to traditions. There are many types of martial arts that you can take up right here in Canberra. Whether you’re interested in jujitsu, karate, or even kickboxing, look for a school that stays true to the traditions of the practice – whether ancient or contemporary.
- Qualified and experienced instructors. The best martial arts schools are run by qualified, experienced, and passionate instructors. With a welcoming attitude and enthusiastic approach, they can answer your questions and make you feel at home.
- A convenient timetable. When it comes to taking a class, logistics are important. Look for a martial arts school with a timetable that suits your schedule.
- Well-priced classes. At the end of the day, you don’t want to over-pay for classes at a martial arts school.
Agree with this list? What else would you include?
The best martial arts schools in Canberra
RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and maintain a minimum average of 4/5 stars on both Google and Facebook reviews.
With over 350 Members, the Canberra Martial Arts & Fitness Centre (CMA) is one of the best in the Canberra region, offering classes in Woden, and bootcamps in Jerrabomberra.
With a commitment to providing a safe, nurturing, and inspiring environment, CMA is a fantastic place to try martial arts, no matter the experience or level of fitness. CMA's motto is "Fun, Safe, then Martial Arts" and it works to ensure each class isn't too rigid - or old school - and that everything they do is safe enough for people with injuries or physical impairments. Both kids’ and adults’ martial arts classes at CMA are taught with a focus on non-violence.
CMA boosts students’ confidence with long-term programs, fitness challenges and gradings which allow students to really see their improvements progress over time.
Run by an Internationally Certified Chief Instructor with more than a decade of teaching experience, and backed by a team a team of Certified Black Belt Instructors and Fully Qualified Personal Trainers, CMA is sure to be a fun and fulfilling class.
Google reviewer Kyle Moes writes, "Fantastic place to train, with very knowledgeable and friendly staff. They create a welcoming community atmosphere and I would highly recommend training here."
The Canberra Martial Arts Academy, established over 30 years ago, boasts a wide range of classes and styles available, including traditional Japanese Karate (Kyokushin), weapons, mixed martial arts and kickboxing, available for all ages and all levels of experience. The classes are structured so students will enjoy their training, get fit, gain confidence all whilst learning practical, real world self-defence.
The Academy's teaching record and team of qualified instructors are equally impressive. Over the years, they have produced dozens of Australian and state champions in almost all forms of martial arts competition. The principal instructor, Shihan Gibbons, has decades of martial arts teaching experience and is the highest ranked Kyokushin karate instructor in the ACT. Shihan Gibbons is also a Government Accredited Judge and Referee.
As Google reviewer James Tuckerman writes in their review, "Owner has unparalleled practical experience and is an excellent teacher. Great with everyone from kids, to beginner adults to training for competitions."
Kumiai Ryu Martial Arts (KRMAS), in Weston Creek, offers martial arts and self-defence and fitness programs for the entire family, kids, teens and adults. Ladies only classes are available. So too are individual classes and group classes.
KRMAS has been operating in Australia for over 30 years, with the Canberra club opening in 2016. The program has evolved over these years and is based on proven, realistic and effective self-defence.
KRMAS has helped build fitness, confidence and self-defence awareness. Classes contribute to greater health and wellbeing, including through new friendships formed. Many KRMAS students have advanced to become state, national and international champions.
The unique programs available through KRMAS are traditional Muay Thai (Thai Kickboxing) and traditional Okinawan and Japanese karate. They’re designed around greater fitness and self-defence with measurable goals. Classes cater to all fitness levels.
To protect students of all ages, KRMAS instructors are accredited, including through Sports Australia and the Martial Arts Industry Association. They meet ACT Government requirements, are first aid trained and registered in working with vulnerable people.
Sarah L wrote in a website testimonial, “New friends, overnight training camps and one amazing Sensei! The end result is protection for herself or friends if they are in bad situation… The goals along the way are building resilience, determination, mindset, discipline, respect and mental strength – priceless!”
Korean Martial Arts Academy is a full-time professional martial arts studio with over 20 instructors. It has been operating for more than 35 years. The Academy offers engaging Taekwondo classes for all ages from 3 years, 6 days a week, in a safe, family-friendly environment. Classes are for students of all abilities, from beginners to black belt. Two complimentary trial classes are available for new members.
On Google, Clinton Pollheim wrote, “We highly recommend the safe, professional, and family friendly environment.”
Dedicated to the practice and preservation of traditional Okinawan Karate-do and Kobudo, Cummings Karate Dojo is a not-for-profit martial arts school that has operated in Canberra since 2009.
With classes for kids, families, teens, and adults, Cummings Karate Dojo caters to all levels. The team at Cummings Karate Dojo promises a committed and professional learning experience.
As Facebook user Tracey Em writes, “An amazing dojo, wonderful Sensei and community of teachers - now streaming Zoom classes. I am very appreciative as my two teens love karate and now can keep training! Thank you Reece and teaching team.”
If you’re looking for other ways to exercise in a fun environment, check out our articles on the best boxing gyms in Canberra and the best dance classes in Canberra for some more interesting recommendations!
Your Experience with martial arts schools in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback, if you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you attended classes at a martial arts school in Canberra? Share your experience below.
Frequently Asked Questions
How fit do I need to be to get into martial arts?
There is no level of fitness required when starting martial arts. When you start, most programs will put you into a category such as "White Belt" or "Beginner". As a beginner you'll be learning the basic moves, starting to learn techniques and more. It will all feel foreign and different. Even fit people struggle at the start. All you need to be is keen to start training.
Do I need a uniform to get started in martial arts?
Most places will organise a uniform for you, but many will allow you to try martial arts without one. If you're concerned about the uniform, ask the instructor if a uniform is necessary during a trial.
Will I get injured training in martial arts?
Avoiding injury is an important part of any physical exercise. The best strategy is to work on your flexibility and fitness. You should also make sure you try things at a comfortable pace to ensure your body can do the moves. Whilst rates of injury in martial arts can be similar to playing a sport or doing a workout, if you are being guided by friendly, professional instructors, you are almost certain to be safe from injury.
Can I watch a class before I join, or get a free trial?
Most clubs should be absolutely fine with you sitting in and watching a class. However, when it comes to a free trial, one class is unlikely to give you all the information you need, and most clubs are on pretty tight budgets anyway. The best policy is to ask if they have a paid trial program – that way you'll get more than just one class, you'll show the club you're keen to really get a feel for the martial art and the instructor will be grateful for your support.
Which style of martial arts should I train?
There are a variety of martial arts styles and each has its own fitness benefit. Some styles are strength-based, others are agility-based, others require speed and flexibility, and most require a combination of these. You might find that you are more suited to one style over another. On top of the physical aspect, each martial art also has its own philosophical focus. A good way to look at which martial arts style is to see how the arts' focus aligns with how you see the world. Find a club that offers multiple styles – or more specifically, find a club where the instructors cross train. You can ask them why they got into their practice, and see if that aligns with yours.