Practical Martial Arts & Marin Karate Kids is a very different kind of martial arts school.  Two names, one philosophy: take the progressive techniques of mixed martial arts and unite them with the traditions and principles of the past.

Our physical curriculum is balanced with non-violent conflict resolution, scenario-based self-defense & altruism projects. We have been providing an exceptional martial arts experience to students of all ages since 1993.







Train in a safe environment in our Corte Madera dojo. Safety is a number one priority and that is why we use only the best Norbert’s seamless, non-porous mats. At Practical Martial Arts we are trained in safety for Boxing, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Wrestling, Submission Grappling, Judo & Jiu Jitsu techniques. All of our equipment is top of the line and carefully maintained. For advanced levels, we have all the safety equipment for our light contact sparring on site: Headgear, Mouth Pieces, Groin Cups, Boxing Gloves & Shin Pads.

Our clean, healthy dojo is of utmost importance to us. It is cleaned every day before classes begin. We use a local company, Building Care Systems. They take great pride in their work and have values aligned with ours. As we are the first dojo in Marin to be certified as a Green Business, BCS was the 1st Commercial Janitorial Company to be recognized and green certified in the Bay Area!

For students and family members, you will find hand sanitizer and tissue available all around the dojo to reduce the spread of germs. See our etiquette section for more on keeping the dojo clean through personal hygiene.


Practical Martial Arts Certified As A Green Business

Self-defense training is a big part of the martial arts. It is our experience that just about everyone, martial artist or not, wants the ability to protect his/herself and his/her loved ones from harm. Many of us are much more likely to be hurt—and even killed—by things we do to the environment, by how and what we consume, and by our attitudes about things such as race, gender, and consumerism, than by any kick, punch, or throw. From our perspective, as experts in self-defense, learning how to reduce one’s footprint on the planet is a thousand times more relevant to personal protection than are lessons in how to block punches or throw an opponent to the mat. This is why, today, authentic self-defense training must include lessons in subjects such as environmental self-defense, conscious consumption, and attitudinal defense.

In order to do so however, we must “Walk the Talk”.

In April 2005, we applied and were certified as a Bay Area Green Business!

The photo above shows Karen Valentine with 2 Green Belts at the Marin County Board of Supervisors Meeting. Certification consisted of interviews and walk-throughs of our recently remodeled dojo. During the remodel, we managed to reuse about 95% of the existing materials including sheet rock and studs! We use 100% recycled paper products, we recycle dojo waste, use energy efficient lighting, gentle cleaners, fans instead of air-conditioning and we’ve pared down our pro-shop; no more trinkets and little knick-knacks that just end up in landfill and reinforce that happiness is something you buy. In Spring 2006 we finally replaced our water cooler with a drinking fountain saving 100+ paper cups per day not to mention to emissions from the shipping of water. And in 2011, we replaced our water heater with an on-demand one.

February 2006, PMA Green Team Joins the Ultimate Black Belt Test to Clean East Fort Baker

Our very own Green Team (the FIRST of its kind in the world), Luca, Trevor, Austin, Stephanie & Rona turned out to celebrate Ms. Patti and Ms. Valentine’s 2nd degree graduation from the Ultimate Black Belt Test on February 11th, 2006.

The class of 25 Black Belts spent three days and three nights performing their tests, training in Brazilian Jiu- jitsu and Non-violent Communication, contemplating the words of Thich Nat Han, as well as walking across San Francisco and the Golden Gate before dawn, down into East Fort Baker for a beach clean-up with the return trip including running up Divisadero Street!

The beach clean up crew produced more garbage & debris than ever has been gathered before on that beach! Some pieces took 6 men to carry. Dan Millman, author of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, shared with us this tremendously rewarding experience.

Read about us in Orion Magazine

and here in How Stuff Works


We are a FAST Defense certified school. Karen Valentine has been certified as an instructor since 2006 and Mike has been a certified “Bulletman” and instructor since then as well.


FAST Defense is the latest evolution of personal protection/conflict resolution called adrenal stress response training. We train you how to control the adrenal stress response that anyone gets in a confrontation, whether it is a small verbal engagement or a physical attack, and even to use this powerful emotional bio- chemical response as an incredible source of power!

You don’t need bulging muscles or a black belt in karate to take care of yourself. If you have ever been in a tough spot and afterwards thought, “I sure wish I could have handled that better”, then FASTDefense.com is for you! Imagine the Peace of Mind you will experience when you learn you have the power to be your own protector.

At Practical Martial Arts we host yearly full length seminars in FAST Basics, Weapons Defense and Ground Defense and all of our standard martial arts curriculum aligns perfectly with FAST training scenarios. Therefore students that train regularly are engraining life-saving skills into their body’s motor memory so that they will have access to it should they experience the adrenal rush that a verbal or physical encounter produces.

Check out this article about adrenal stress training by founder, Bill Kipp.

Bill Kipp – Fast Defense- Adrenaline Scenario Training

Symmetric vs. asymmetric training

By Bill Kipp: President FAST Defense Inc

Self-defense has become a hot topic in our world as stress levels rise and violence increases. Hence, in our land of opportunity various groups have capitalized on this trend to espouse their particular form of scenario-based training. It’s been my experience that few of these groups truly understand how adrenal stress scenario based training is meant to work.

Scenario based training is not a new concept by any means. Warrior cultures have embraced these concepts for millennia to prepare their soldiers for combat. Today, application of this technology is not just limited to combat. Scenario based training is used to train athletes. It’s used to train members of debate teams. In fact the concept is used in so many vocations, that its use in self- defense has become somewhat confused. Add to this the current situation of liability issues when training students, and true adrenal stress scenario based training has become diluted even more.

To get a grasp of how to use scenario based training effectively, we must first look at the difference between Symmetric and Asymmetric training and how the use of adrenal stress response training applies to each:

Symmetric Training: Stated quite simply, this is an event where 2 or more participants engage in a pre-ascribed athletic contest with rules and regulations to keep the event safe and orderly as they compete towards whatever victory or goal they have agreed to. A good example of this is sparring in a martial arts class. Although it may well be a good adrenalizing experience for the participants, it is still being done in a symmetrical fashion. Both sides know the rules and agree to abide to them. Both sides know this is not a life or death struggle, and both sides come into the event psychologically prepared.

Martial Arts sparring can become quite spirited and intense. Perhaps the most extreme case of this is the Ultimate Fighting Challenge or the various other no holes barred full contact events that exist. There can be no doubt that the participants are extremely adrenalized and that the stakes may include possible bodily injury. But still, the combatants show up for the event well trained (or at least should be) and psychologically prepared to engage the competition. Boxing matches fall into the same category, as does wrestling, Judo, and the myriad of other sport combat events.

Training for such an event typically consists of symmetrical exercises to practice various skills, building upon each other in complexity and stress levels. Eventually the combatant achieves a good skill level and confidence in their ability to apply these skills and techniques against a determined opponent. Although the training may be arduous, it typically does not meet the level of nervousness and anxiety that is experienced in the actual event. Through repetition one obtains the experience of dealing with this nervousness and eventually becomes accustomed to it. Often it is the ability to deal with this nervous fear that dictates the winner versus the loser. Two opponents of equal skill will not be equal if one is better able to work with the adrenaline than the other. I have heard world class fighters say that a ring fight typically comes down to 80% skill and 20% spirit.

Symmetric training focuses more on technique and not as much on spirit.

Asymmetric training: Although similar in some ways to symmetric training, there are some important distinctions between the two. The similarities are that there are usually pre-determined rules as well as specific techniques that should be applied to address the particular parameters of each scenario. Safety is still an important issue (or should be).

The primary distinction is that the actual technique is secondary to the more important factor (for real life situations) of training the student to apply that technique under duress. When done correctly the technique is taught first in a slow motion no stress environment where the body motion and mechanics are stressed. Each time the technique is practiced the stress level is increased in bite sized chunks. The instructor team works with the student in a deliberate manner to push the student as hard as possible while still ensuring a positive outcome at each step of the way. Rather than focusing on the fine points of technique (which typically go right out the window in real encounters anyway) the focus is on teaching the student to deal with the level of intimidation in each scenario and respond in a congruent and effective manner.

Adrenal Stress response training is predicated on 100% success for every student through every scenario. If one student is particularly stronger or weaker than another, the woofer simply modifies his “woof” accordingly and the coach takes a more active role. If the instructor team feels that the student would benefit from doing it again, they bring that student right back out and repeat. The scenarios are specifically designed to increase in bite size chunks so that the students never get bored nor conversely are they overwhelmed.

At its most extreme, a padded attacker fully adrenalizes the student and attacks in an unspecified manner requiring the student to channel the adrenal fear rush into action and power. This is indeed extreme self-defense and the padded attacker needs a great deal of skill and safety equipment to survive the onslaught of a fully adrenalized individual. These fights look very much like real fights, where fine motor skill is non existent and the victor is the one who can flip the switch and go for it with power and conviction. The techniques that work best must be sustained simple gross motor strikes to vulnerable areas on the attackers body. Most of the participants don’t even remember what happened during their fights, and afterwards are shaking and weak in the knees. But they sure performed when they needed to. In fact we video each fight to show the student what they actually did in their training scenarios. Most say that the scenario seemed just like real fights they have been in.

I consider this training to be concept-based rather than technique-based. By this I mean that real life encounters have shown that the person most able to deal with and apply the adrenal rush through simple gross motor techniques will respond much better than someone with incredible physical dexterity (and perhaps multiple stripes on their Black belts) but who have not learned to deal with the adrenal rush. This is not a knock on traditional Martial Arts. They are a wonderful way to build self-discipline, strength, endurance and much more. I have been doing various martial arts for 29 years and hope to continue to a ripe old age. But the Martial Arts need a bridge to help students apply their symmetrical training learned in a MA school out in the real world where events happen in a very asymmetrical manner.

Many people familiar with adrenal stress response training consider it to be strictly physical where the students learn to channel adrenaline into the fight. Although this is certainly true, most of our students rarely have to use their physical skills because of the awareness and verbal skills taught to them. These skills require the ability to deal with fear as much or more than physical defense. Over 75% of assaults on women are successfully carried out with verbal threat alone. This means that over most women will freeze up by the verbal crap or “woof” that an attacker gives. Men also fall prey to a good woof, getting hooked by verbal provocation more often than not. Dealing with a verbal threat can be as adrenalizing or more than physical threat. Many people succumb to fear and choke up because they have never learned to deal with this verbal intimidation correctly.

Therefore the scenarios must encompass not only physical drills, but verbal as well. As mentioned earlier, for training to have a lasting effect we must affect three areas: Mind, Emotions, and Body. The scenarios we put our students through are designed to start at an easy level easy and work up in intensity and difficulty. In each scenario, the entire class lines up along one wall of the school. First we instruct the students on exactly what they will be doing in the drill, explaining what the woofer will be doing and what they the student will do. (This = MIND) Then each student will come out one at a time in and in front of the entire group be prepared by the coach to do the scenario. The very act of being in front of fellow students elicits an adrenal rush (fear, nervousness, performance anxiety). Usually it doesn’t take much (or sometimes any verbal stimulation by the woofer at all to achieve the adrenaline state). = EMOTIONS Finally, the student (who is always assisted by a coach) performs the particular required action as called on by the scenario, and returns to the line. = BODY