Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question that is not answered here or elsewhere on the site, please contact us at info@sevenstarwomenskungfu.com or call (206) 720-1046.

How old do I have to be to train?

The minimum age for Kajukenbo students at Seven Star is 13. We teach self defense to girls age 11 and up. Students under 18 need to have a parent or guardian sign their Minor Release of Claims Form.

Who can train at Seven Star?

Seven Star welcomes students who identify as girls/women, either cisgender or transgender, and students who identify their gender as somewhere on the spectrum between male and female (non-binary/gender diverse/genderfluid/genderqueer).   We refer transgender men to local co-ed schools that are a part of our school’s lineage and extended Kajukenbo family. See our full gender policy for details.

Do you have a uniform? What should I wear?

No uniforms are required. We have school T-shirts available for sale, but you are not required to wear Seven Star gear. People who continue training after the Beginners Cycle often get black kung fu pants and a school T-shirt (this is our “uniform” for demos and other formal occasions), but sweats and other casual wear are acceptable for regular classes.

Wear long pants that cover your knees, and a T-shirt or tank top (no midriff tops or spaghetti-strap tops). Your clothes should be loose-fitting so that you can move freely. You must remove all jewelry, including piercings, before training. Street shoes may not be worn on the training floor.

Am I physically ready/able to start martial arts training? What if I have a previous injury or physical limitation?

Seven Star welcomes women-identifying individuals/non-binary folks of all ages, backgrounds and fitness levels.  We accept students as young as 13 and have current students in their 50’s and 60’s. Our student body encompasses a wide range of sizes, ages, and athletic ability.  Many individuals who did not previously consider themselves athletic (or still don’t) have become excellent martial artists.  Our beginner’s class is designed to accommodate all fitness levels and includes  stretching and warm-up exercises, as well as a gradual increase in workout intensity to prepare students to join the All-School classes.

Kajukenbo is generally more open to modification to suit a person’s strengths or limitations than many traditional martial arts. In most cases, we can help you find ways to train safely. Please check with your health practitioner before starting to train if you are unsure about training with a past injury or other health concern.

Speak to the instructor about any concerns before or after your first class, so they are aware of them and can help you identify exercises that you may need to modify. You are also welcome to discuss any physical issues with Sifu Allyson Riley, allyson@sevenstarwomenskungfu.com before you decide whether or not to sign up.

Why train with Women and Non-Binary people?

As a school built for and by women, transgender, and non-binary students, we've created a great environment for developing good fighting and self-defense skills. You will quickly find that we believe in challenging each other to push the extent of our skills and abilities, while also being mindful of individual needs and constraints.

There have historically been major barriers for women and transgender people trying to break into the male-dominated martial arts world. Seven Star Women's Kung Fu's lineage comes from women who fought hard to earn their place, and also formed their own schools so the generations after them would not have to fight for acceptance. We are proud to continue a martial arts community, where students are accepted and can focus on building their own skills and community.

What is the promotion/ranking system? How long does it take to get a black belt?

Students who complete the beginner’s cycle are considered white belts, though they do not receive a belt for this rank. When the instructors decide they are ready (typically after 6 months to one year of training), students test for orange belt. Next is purple, followed by blue, green, brown and black. After that there are various degrees of black belt.

Students who train regularly and frequently may reach black belt in 7 to 10 years, though it is not unusual for it to take longer. Students progress through the art at their own pace, supported by our teaching staff.

In many styles and schools, serious training doesn’t really begin until black belt, which is achieved relatively quickly. At Seven Star, students are considered intermediate ranks at purple and blue belt, and join the advanced class and become eligible to teach at green belt. Black belt is awarded only when a student demonstrates sufficient mastery of the core Kajukenbo curriculum, teaching principles, and martial arts philosophy. 

Do you compete in tournaments?

Some individual students have competed in tournaments, with the full support of the school, but the school as a whole does not participate in tournaments. We do a style of sparring that uses additional targets and different rules than tournament sparring.

Can I come watch a class?

Yes! Women-identified folks are welcome to observe a class, as long as they arrange it beforehand with the instructor. (See our class calendar.)  Because some students may have issues with being watched by men—whether due to a history of abuse, religious restrictions, or simple discomfort—in most cases we do not allow men to watch classes. However, you can invite men to your belt tests, so don’t worry that your male friends and relatives will never get to see you in action!

How is self defense incorporated with the martial arts training?

We teach beginners both verbal and physical self-defense, focusing on de-escalation, projecting confidence, attacking vulnerable targets, and escaping from grabs. Though beginners also learn the basics of Kajukenbo, self-defense is a major focus, as we want our students to have the basic skills to defend themselves even if they don’t continue martial arts training.

After the beginner’s cycle, the focus turns more to Kajukenbo, but we continue to practice self defense and teach more advanced strategies, such as how to defend against multiple attackers or attackers with weapons. As students move up through the ranks, they also begin learning aspects of Kajukenbo that are directly applicable to self defense, such as street fighting.

How much does it cost to train? Will I have to sign a contract?

The six-week beginner’s cycle at Seven Star costs $160; after the completion of the beginner’s cycle, dues are paid month-to-month. The amount is determined by a sliding scale based on income, and ranges from $90 to $150 per month. Seven Star does not have contracts or annual fees. You do not need to buy a uniform or any special equipment, though you may want to purchase your own sparring gear.


Scholarships are available to help with the cost of both the beginner’s cycle and regular dues. If you would like to apply for a scholarship, complete our online Scholarship Form.