Advancing Level by Level in The American Cane System

The American Cane System is an internationally recognized martial arts system which teaches the students self-defense techniques with the cane as major tool.  If you don’t use a cane, it’s ok, since empty handed techniques are taught as well.  Students in the American Cane System are advancing level by level, belt by belt. 

If you love the structure of this type of advancement, read on to discover the training and requirements level by level until you reach the first degree Black Belt. There are 100 fundamental self-defense techniques (CTs) and 8 Katas (aka Forms or Sets) that must be learned in order to test for black belt.


Level 1, the yellow belt, introduces the student to the style’s fundamentals, including an overview of the system, safety and training considerations, parts of the cane, and how to work with and without a training partner

The student will learn three fundamental grips, four stances, five empty-hand basics, ten required blocks, twelve striking angles, five methods of punching with the cane, the single-handed jab set, side twirls, front kick, and more.  This level presents the first three CTs(cane techniques.


Level 2, the orange belt,  builds on the student’s level one knowledge introducing partner drills (blocking and striking cane-against-cane with a partner).

The student will learn two new grips, one stance, punching with and without a cane, eight fundamental blocks, swing strikes, double-handed jabs, figure-8 swings and flow drills, six double-handed crook strikes, crook strike combinations, and more

The student’ self-defense technique repertoire expands to include four more techniques (CTs 4-7), which deal with punches and a bear hug, and an introduction to the 11 elements of self-defense


This Green belt level expands beyond the student’s fundamentals in blocks and strikes to include more self-defense techniques and advanced skills. Among the advanced blocks and strikes are the accelerated torso block, helicopter twirls, reversing the horn (flipping the cane), and more.

Students are introduced to traditional martial arts philosophy.  Here, we explore concepts like time relevance, repetition, and the “three eyes” of the student.  It isn’t all about philosophy –  We’ll introduce new bag drills and add exercises for new muscle groups.

Thirteen new self-defense techniques are presented (CTs 8-20) including defenses against punches, bear hugs, frontal bear hugs, sleeve grabs, kicks, and more.  This segment expands on the elements of self-defense.  The partner drill sets are expanded and new empty-hand techniques are presented.


Level 4, the blue belt, prepares the student for the advanced material and concepts that exist at levels 5-8.  The emphasis for quality in the material at levels 1-3 continues, and 13 new self-defense techniques are added (CTs 21-33) which include throws, defenses against kicks, punches, grabs, attacks from behind, and attempts to take your cane.

To better develop cane control and flow, new grips and shifting between grips are explained in detail. New empty-hand techniques, stances, cane blocks, and cane strikes are presented, expanding the student’s fundamental knowledge.  The single-handed and double-handed partner 8-point partner drill sets (cane-against-cane) are completed.


Level 5, purple belt, continues the student’s training with a focus toward self-defense, teaching 14 new techniques (CTs 34-47), which involves more complex joint locks and counters.

The theories and techniques covered at this level are 17 vital striking targets, 8 double-handed striking angles, 7 new blocks and 4 new strikes are introduced, spinning back kick (taught but not a requirement for advancement), and new drills are added.  In addition, 3 styles of crane stance and more empty hand techniques are explained.


Level 6 is the tan belt.  It marks a shift in the student’s training from “scientific/systematic” skills toward practical application of the self-defense techniques.  This is strongly presented in both the techniques.

The student will learn 17 new self-defense techniques (CTs 48-64) involving joint locks, double-punches, cane retention, disarming an attacker (such as wielding a stick or pipe), defense against underhand and overhand knife assaults, and more.  New blocks and strikes are added, and combination techniques are introduced.  The standard 12 block partner drill and the 12 block variations partner drill are presented.  Other areas include empty-hand techniques, back kick, bag work, and more.


Level 7, the brown belt, teaches 14 new advanced self-defense techniques (CTs 65-78) including seated self-defense, throws, headlocks, and many other scenarios.  New empty-hand techniques, strikes, and self-defense concepts are presented. The 12 standard double-handed partner drill is presented.


This is the level students have dreamed of achieving since day one.  Level 8 prepares the student to test for the prestigious rank of 1st Degree Black Belt. As a black belt candidate, the student is both reminded of the importance for proper martial arts attitude and etiquette, but also for quality of technique in all 8 levels. Those who earn 1st Degree black belt may have the opportunity to become certified American Cane System instructors.

The Level 8 curriculum completes the documentation of the first 100 required cane self-defense techniques with 22 new techniques (CTs 79-100) which include defenses against punches, grabs, knives, guns, from a seated position, and much more. New empty-hand techniques, strikes, and concepts are introduced.  The last of the 11 elements of self-defense is explained, including concepts for defending against a gun.  Continuous blocking drills are explained and demonstrated (cane against cane blocks and strikes that are not pre-determined, similar to sparring.

Note: We understand that there are many adults who use the cane to assist with physical issues, and as such will not be able to perform all the techniques that are incorporated in the system. The important task is to learn to use those aspects of the cane that are the most beneficial to your own personal style, and to pass along the advantages of the cane to others. Additionally, we will work with you to create appropriate modifications to meet your specific fitness and self-defense needs.  As the American Cane System evolves, we add new curriculum and areas of rehabilitation. Because so many of our students have such a wealth of experience, we welcome your constructed feedback