Des Moines Martial Arts Schools: Capoeira, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Kung Fu and Muay Thai

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Des Moines Martial Arts Schools: Capoeira, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Kung Fu, and Muay Thai

Many people automatically think of Karate and Taekwondo when considering martial arts. However, there are many other offerings with a wide variety of programs and benefits for physical and mental health that should be considered as well. Some of these include Capoeira, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Sambo, Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Muay Thai. Review this list to learn about the other martial arts and classes offered throughout Des Moines, Iowa.

Note: Jiu-Jitsu can be hyphenated or not and both spellings are correct. Spelling will be according to the school’s preference.

Des Moines Martial Arts Schools, Capoeira, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Kung Fu, Muay Thai, Des Moines, kids activities

Des Moines Judo and Sambo Academy

Address: 2625 86th St., Urbandale, IA 50322

Phone: (515) 979-2286


Classes Offered

This school teaches both Judo and Sambo techniques in the same class starting at age 4. Classes include Little Kids Judo/Sambo for ages 4-5 which focuses on games to improve coordination, confidence, and attention as well as helpfulness and manners. The Kid’s Judo/Sambo class is for ages 5-12 and is based on throwing and groundwork using different games and emphasizes helpfulness, manners, and confidence. 

The Adult Judo/Sambo class is for ages 13 and up and focuses on throws, takedowns, and grappling (holding and counter-bending techniques to stop the opponent’s movement). 

Des Moines Judo and Sambo Academy offer a free trial class.

What is Judo?

Judo is an Olympic Sport and was created in Japan in 1882. Like Kung Fu, it’s also a soft martial art meaning it’s defensive (versus karate where the opponent is attacked). Judo is known for its throwing techniques where the purpose is to unbalance the opponent and throw them to the floor. Sambo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu were created from Judo.

What is Sambo?

Sambo was created in the 1920s by the Soviet Union’s Red Army to improve their soldiers’ combat skills. The name came from the acronym of a Russian phrase meaning “self-defense without weapons.” It originated in Judo and includes other techniques found in boxing, wrestling, and Jujutsu (Japanese martial art). While Judo and Sambo are very similar, the main differences are in the rules that are allowed in competition. 

Who should take these classes?

Students that want a full body workout and to learn practical self-defense and groundwork skills.

On their website, instructor and 5th-degree black belt Bret Parkhill states “I believe that the biggest value in training in judo or sambo is the effect it has on your mind and your body. By training yourself in attacks and defense, you will improve your balance, strength, flexibility, and stamina, all the while developing a more active and alert intellect. You will become more decisive, more thoughtful, and less susceptible to panic and anger, thus becoming a better person. These attributes will help a person succeed in life more than just the ability to throw or submit someone.”

No Coast Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Address: W 86th St., Urbandale

Phone: (515) 207-0318


Classes Offered

No Coast Brazilian Jiu Jitsu offers Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes for kids and adults starting at age 4 including Little Kids Jiu Jitsu for ages 4-6, Kids Jiu Jitsu for ages 7-13, and the Kids Competition Team. Adult classes are available as well as a Women’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Class. The school hopes to use the classes to improve confidence, and discipline, learn self-defense, and obtain new friends and mentors.

What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) has origins in Judo and Japanese Jujutsu and is based on grappling (gripping or seizing the opponent) and groundwork (techniques when the fight is on the ground). Classes incorporate essential movements, self-defense, fundamental techniques, escape techniques, and submission basics. A smaller person can use BJJ techniques to win against an opponent through leverage and submissions.

Who should take these classes?

Students who are looking for an intense workout, enjoy rolling (wrestling) techniques, and want to learn self-defense skills.

Renzo Gracie Academy Des Moines

Address: 4711 University Ave., Des Moines

Phone: (608) 772-1085


Classes Offered

Owner and instructor Carsten Carlsen earned his black belt in Jiu Jitsu and has competed nationally and internationally. Classes are for teenagers and adults including Jiu Jitsu Fundamentals, Drill Class, and both Gi and No-Gi classes. No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu means you don’t have to wear a traditional uniform, just a t-shirt, and shorts as well as a mouthguard, and relies more on wrestling grips and body mechanics to stop the opponent. They offer a free trial class.

Who should take these classes?

Students who want to be well-rounded grapplers (able to grip or seize the opponent) through learning takedowns, submissions, and positional control. Techniques are used from Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, and Judo.

Roots Capoeira De Ouro

Address: 1131 42nd St., Des Moines

Phone: (515) 661-4556


Classes Offered

Roots Capoeira De Ouro offers Capoeira (pronounced cap-wearer) classes starting at age 8 at three different locations. Kids classes are held Saturdays for ages 9-12 years at The Spot in Des Moines, Mondays, and Thursdays for ages 8-12 years at Moulton Elementary, and Wednesdays for ages 12-15 at Harding Middle School. Adult classes are also offered throughout the week.

What is Capoeira?

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art created in Brazil in the 16th century during slavery when Africans were taken from West Africa to Brazil. Over time they used Capoeira as a way to train to fight their oppressors while disguising it as a dance. Currently, it’s recognized as an official sport in Brazil and it’s performed to music and traditional Brazilian songs.

Who should take these classes?

Students that want to develop self-expression, and confidence, decrease stress and enjoy music and dancing.

Teacher Monitor Cajú states on their website, “Capoeira has been and continues to be an experience that challenges and fulfills many aspects of my life; physical fitness and preparedness, teamwork and unity, social outreach and activism, travel and cultural awareness, and a balance of mind, body, and spirit. I am driven to share and participate in this art form to promote the empowerment of people and communities and help create positive opportunities for adults and children alike.”

Round Kick Gym

Address: 4421 112th St., Urbandale

Phone: (515) 276-5254


Classes Offered:

Round Kick Gym offers Muay Thai classes starting at age 7. Classes include Junior Thai Open for ages 7-13 Beginners, Junior Thai Advanced for ages 7-13 for Blue Rank and Above, and Adult Thai for ages 13 and up. The school has a second location in Carroll, IA which also offers a class for Kinder Kickers ages 4-6.

They also offer online workouts, Muay Thai Audio Workouts, and Self-Defense Workshops. They offer a 50% discount to law enforcement officers.

What is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is the National Sport of Thailand which embodies respect and is known as the “art of eight limbs” since it uses strikes from hands, elbows, knees, and feet. It’s completed in standing and sometimes called Thai boxing. 

Who should take these classes?

Students who have some flexibility for kicks and want to learn to throw strikes and use their elbows and knees.

Shadow Fist Kung Fu and Tai Chi

Address: 7676 Hickman Rd., Windsor Heights

Phone: (515) 380-5590


Classes Offered

Shadow Fist Kung Fu and Tai Chi teaches a variety of classes for ages 5 and up including Eagle Claw Kung Fu (a traditional style of Shaolin Kung Fu), Wu Style Tai Chi Chaun, Stretching and Conditioning (to help with Kung Fu and Tai Chi classes) and Tumbling. Tumbling classes start at age 4 and up and are meant to help with Kung Fu training. Attendees may learn moves like cartwheels, headstands, and handsprings.

Try a free first class and a 10% discount is offered for families attending with 2 or more people.

What is Eagle Claw Kung Fu?

Kung Fu was developed in China and uses punches, kicks, and locking techniques to use an opponent’s force against them. While many people are familiar with Karate and Taekwondo, the school states these are known as “hard styles” where punches use just the upper body with rigid shoulders. Kung Fu is considered a “soft style” using twisting at the waist for explosive power. 

What is Wu Style Tai Chi?

Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan consists of slow movements and is low impact and beneficial to improve movement, balance, and strength. It also works to turn an opponent’s force against them. It focuses on the inner energy or “qi” and is more meditative. Adults typically attend this class, but sometimes teenagers attend as well.

Who should take these classes?

Eagle Claw Kung Fu is best for students wanting a well-rounded technique for self-defense and fighting skills. Wu Style Tai Chi is best for students wanting to improve balance and strength. As a result, it’s also recommended for older people for fall prevention.

Talon Muay Thai Academy

Address: 601 SW 9th St., Suite D, Des Moines

Phone: (515) 250-2357


Classes Offered

This school is recognized as a World Thai Boxing Affiliate Academy and was founded by Rhonda Rae Kness, a former educator and fitness instructor. She studied under Grand Master Chai, who brought Thai Boxing to the US in 1968. Classes start at age 7 for Youth Classes and Adult Classes are for ages 14 and up for Foundational/Learning, Training Class, and Introduction to Sparring.

While it’s a contact sport the school states students don’t have to fight and can just practice the techniques.

Who should take these classes?

Students that want to complete a contact sport, learn self-defense and improve physical and mental conditioning.

Schools with a variety of martial arts classes:

These schools allow students to try more than one type of martial arts class.

Des Moines Jiu-Jitsu Academy

Address: 841 11th St., Des Moines

Phone: (515) 999-0278


Classes Offered

Des Moines Jiu-Jitsu Academy offers adult instruction in Muay Thai Technique and adult and youth classes for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Kids Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes are for ages 8-12 and teach techniques as well as games to make it fun. Students wear the traditional Jiu Jitsu Gi.

Muay Thai classes are for ages 13 and up and include more self-defense techniques. Classes are more non-traditional.

Collaborate with your child to choose the martial art that would be the most beneficial and increase physical conditioning, self-confidence, and discipline. Consider joining with your child to reap the benefits as well!

Iowa Martial Arts and Wellness Center

Address: 2425 Hubbell Ave., Suite 200, Des Moines

Phone: (515) 664-1900


Classes Offered

Iowa Martial Arts and Wellness Center offers adult and youth classes for Grasshoppers ages 6-11 for Gi and No-Gi Jiu Jitsu, Open Mat, Kickboxing, and Boxing. Teen and Adult classes are offered for the same categories as well as MMA and more advanced courses. They offer a free trial class.

Iowa Martial Arts West

Address: 5715 Hickman Rd., Unit B, Des Moines

Phone: (515) 901-8794


Classes Offered

This is the second location for the Iowa Martial Arts and Wellness Center (see above). Iowa Martial Arts West offers adult and youth classes for Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Boxing, and Competitive MMA (mixed martial arts). Their philosophy is to guide children and keep them safe and off the streets.

Porcelli’s Training Center

Address: 5160 NE 12th Ave., Pleasant Hill

Phone: (515) 661-4782


Classes Offered

Porcelli’s Training Center offers a variety of classes for adults and youth for Wrestling starting at age 3 and Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, and Muay Thai Kickboxing through the Des Moines Mixed Martial Arts Academy. 

The youth classes are No-Gi Jiu Jitsu geared to help students learn how to protect themselves from bullies and learn what to do if they are knocked to the ground. The center states classes not only help with self-defense but mental strength, problem-solving, and discipline.

Youth Boxing classes are also offered and teach basic techniques with the purpose of learning self-defense, improving physical fitness, and improving self-confidence.

Muay Thai Kickboxing classes are offered for teenagers and adults. Students use their fists, knees, elbows, and legs against their opponents. Classes improve physical fitness and can decrease stress levels.

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L is an occupational therapist turned (mostly) stay-at-home mom. She has worked with adults to young toddlers and has a special interest in early childhood development targeting fine motor skills, feeding, sensory processing, and coordination. She loves incorporating this knowledge with her own two little boys through play. When she’s not running after her little ones she enjoys traveling, cooking new recipes and eating chocolate from her secret stash.

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