CMIA Ranking Curriculum

Cane Masters International Association

American Cane System Ranking


These are the NEW requirements in order to complete the American Cane System ranking for 1st Degree Black Belt, and proceed to becoming a Canemaster©. As the cane is a tool, which anyone can use, it is important to note that these are general guidelines. We understand that many folks who use the cane are hampered physically in one way or another, 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. As the Cane Masters System evolves and grows, we will be adding new curriculum items from time to time. Please be advised that we are open to your constructive thoughts and criticism.
Ranking Requirements

LEVEL 1 introduces the new American Cane System student to the style's fundamentals, including an overview of the system and its founder, 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, kicks, and more.  The student will also learn the introductory level of the cane exercise system which includes proper stretching and strength training, which will develop control, power, and speed for cane techniques.  There are 100 fundamental self-defense techniques (CTs) that must be learned in order to test for black belt.  This level presents the first three CTs(cane techniques).  The curriculum concludes with the style's first required kata, Reflection 1. 


LEVEL 2 Builds on the American Cane System student's level one knowledge introducing the philosophy of the American Cane System and traditional martial arts concepts including style structure.  New topics include training on a heavy bag with a cane and 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 exercise system adds new strength training sets including stretches to improve shoulder mobility and lower body stretches. 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.  The curriculum concludes with instruction in the required kata Reflection 2.


LEVEL 3 expands beyond the American Cane System student's fundamentals in blocks and strikes to include more self-defense techniques and advanced skills.  Grandmasters Shuey and Crandall introduce the student to new traditional martial arts philosophy and concepts including the relevance of time, repetition, and the "three eyes" of the student.  New bag drills are introduced. Students will learn proper cane care including how Cane Master canes are hand-crafted.  The exercise system adds exercises for new muscle groups.  Among the advanced blocks and strikes are the accelerated torso block, helicopter twirls, reversing the horn (flipping the cane), and more.  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. The curriculum concludes with instruction in the required kata Reflection3.


LEVEL 4 prepares the American Cane System 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.  As with each level, Grandmasters Shuey and Crandall introduce the student to new traditional martial arts philosophy and concepts including the student-instructor relationship.  The exercise system now includes the introduction of resistance bands that will allow the student to accelerate their training in the system.  Some exercises include triceps extensions, the back squat, curls, and more. 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, The curriculum concludes with instruction in the required kata Reflection 4. 


LEVEL 5 continues the American Cane System student’s training with a focus toward self-defense, teaching 14 new techniques (CTs 34-47), which involves more complex joint locks and counters.  Grandmaster Shuey discusses representing the style, including through tournament competition and Grandmaster Crandall presents advanced concepts regarding tradition.  The exercise system expands into front and lateral raises, wrist flexion, the front squat, leg abduction, and more.  17 vital striking targets are demonstrated and explained, 8 double-handed striking angles are taught, 7 new blocks and 4 new strikes are introduced, spinning back kick is demonstrated, and new drills are added.  In addition, 3 styles of crane stance and more empty hand techniques are explained.  The curriculum concludes by presenting the last of the Reflection family katas, therequired kata, Reflection 5.


LEVEL 6 marks a shift in the American Cane System student’s training from “scientific/systematic” skills toward self-defense.  This is strongly presented in both the techniques and kata.  17 new self-defense techniques are taught (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.  The video begins with an in-studio interview with Grandmaster Shuey, introducing the student to more information about the style’s founder and his background.  The exercise system adds the overhead press, row, lat pull-down, Romanian dead lift, good morning, band twists, 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.  The curriculum concludes with instruction in the required kata Natural Walk. This kata is a fighting form and does not follow the pattern or symmetry of the previous 5 Reflection katas learned. 


LEVEL 7 prepares the American Cane System student to test for BROWN BELT, one step below 1st degree black belt.  The DVD begins with an outdoor interview with Grandmaster Shuey, filmed as television coverage of the system, and it presents some of Grandmaster Shuey’s philosophy and beliefs for the style’s future.  The exercise system adds new exercises such as the inverted row, floor press, overhead lunge, leg raises, and more.  14 new advanced self-defense techniques (CTs 65-78) are taught including seated self-defense, throws, headlocks, and many other scenarios.  New empty-hand techniques, strikes, and self-defense concepts are presented.  The focus of the DVD is to prepare the student to become a brown belt, ready to learn the final content required to test for black belt.  The 12 standard double-handed partner drill is presented.  The curriculum concludes with instruction in the required kata Autumn Wind.


LEVEL 8 prepares the American Cane System 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.  The DVD begins with a special introduction by Grandmaster Shuey.  Those who earn 1st Degree black belt may have the opportunity to become certified American Cane System instructors.  This DVD 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.  The exercise system is completed with advanced stretching techniques, hybrid exercises and complexes, progressions and scaling for individual training, and 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.  The curriculum concludes with instruction in the required kata Old Man with a Cane.  This kata is performed and instructed by Grandmaster Shuey, and it is also demonstrated in its full competition version as an added bonus.


Testing up to Level 4 (Blue Belt) may be done via video. All other levels must be viewed in person by a Certified Instructor.  Testing for 1st Degree Black Belt requires the student to host a seminar.


Testing Fees:

Level 1 and 2 (Yellow and Orange Belt)



Level 3 and 4 (Green and Blue Belt)



Level 5-7 (Purple, Brown, and Tan Belt)



1st Degree Black Belt



Please understand that the American Cane System is constantly evolving with the introduction of new and varied techniques from all corners of the martial arts world. As such, we will be adding and/or deleting curriculum items from time to time. As a student and a member in good standing of the CMIA, we will keep you apprised of these changes as they occur.
We at Cane Masters appreciate your willingness to go to the next level with your training and to further your education in the ways of the most awesome self-defense and exercise system available, THE CANE.

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