Our Curriculum

Tensoku Ryu has an extensive and fully documented curriculum. New students begin with the fundamental skills necessary to allow them to readily incorporate more advanced material when it is presented. We provide an orderly introduction of material that allows students to become progressively more effective and efficient as martial artists. We generally introduce a skill set or concept in one belt and then explore its practical uses in another. You will see this pattern of instruction used consistently throughout all of our studies.

You may use any of the links below to go directly to curriculum overview information for any ranking.

Overview Links

White to Yellow BeltYellow to Orange Belt
Orange to Purple BeltPurple to Blue Belt
Blue to Green BeltGreen to Brown Belt
Brown to Black BeltYudansha Curriculum

At each belt level students are provided with a detailed curriculum card that lists everything they are required to know to achieve the next ranking. A check box is provided for each skill so that the instructor and student can both track progress toward the next belt rank. The material on each curriculum card is divided into four roughly equal sections. Students work through these sections in order so that intermediate milestones can be more readily accomplished. This provides a clear and precise way for everyone to navigate through the curriculum materials. A curriculum card can only be obtained from your certified Dojo.

Along with the curriculum card each belt has an associated and quite detailed student manual. Some of these manuals are hundreds of pages in length. They are detailed so that students can achieve the greatest degree of knowledge about what is being covered. The manuals start out relatively small for the first belt ranks and naturally focus on fundamental skills development. But once students achieve the third belt ranking (Orange belt) the manuals become more expansive. There is a great deal to learn in Tensoku Ryu and the student manuals are a reflection of the ever-increasing knowledge advancing students acquire. The detailed manuals also serve as a reference for those instances where a practitioner has forgotten or become rusty at a particular skill. The manuals allow students to quickly refresh on the materials they may not have practiced in some time.

This website also contains an extensive deposit of information relevant to each belt ranking. Click on the link provided in each belt discussion below to more fully explore the information studied at each level. Remember, you cannot fully understand or appreciate this material without the wisdom and experience of a practiced and certified instructor.

Each belt rank naturally builds upon the skills learned in prior belts, but they also introduce entirely new concepts and skills as well. A student who progresses through all of our belt rankings will be exposed to literally thousands of pages of training material. They will have learned and developed hundreds of skills and hundreds of conceptual elements that work together as a cohesive system. Here is an overview of our belt rankings and what you can expect to study at each level.

White Belt (Yellow Belt Student Manual)


New students focus on development on what we consider to be fundamental skills. Some of these skills are taught at higher levels in other martial arts styles, but we teach them at the White Belt level. This is simply because it fits with our pattern of student development – not because we think we are superior to other martial arts styles.

At this first level we teach what might be considered singular fundamental skills. We teach every kick, block, hand strike, and other fundamental skill that involves a single action. For example, students study every kicking method that employs a single kick (not multiple kicks). Some of these skills will be of a fairly advanced level.  But we have learned nearly all students can readily learn this material even as a white belt. Having these singular skills allows students to readily apply them when combination skills are addressed in subsequent curriculum materials.

We introduce two Kata in this first belt. The Kata are simple to learn and provide a ways for students to practice and consider the fundamental blocking skills they have learned. But these Kata can also be quite advanced. Students who have achieved their next belt ranking will return to study these Kata from different perspectives as they offer additional learning opportunities for practitioners.

You may explore much more detail about the requirements for achieving the Yellow Belt ranking by exploring our extensive set of postings regarding the Yellow Belt Curriculum.

Students who successfully complete this level of training will advanced to their Yellow Belt ranking. (Top)

Yellow Belt (Orange Belt Student Manual)


Once students have achieved their Yellow Belt they will work on more complex fundamental skills. These skills generally involve multiple combination movements. This might involve delivering multiple kicks or hand strikes, or employing a combination blocking sequence.

This is also the belt at which students begin weapons training. Students learn to use the Jo (stick) weapon through individual and combined usage skills. Through the course of this belt students will learn to be quite proficient at fundamentalSome Tensoku Ryu Weapons uses for the weapon.

The widely practice Pinan Kata are also introduced at this belt level. Students learn and practice the first three Kata in this series. They also practice three Jo Kata as well. These forms provide an opportunity for exploring an infinite number of skills and movements over time. This is in keeping with our approach to Kata, which it quite different from most martial art styles.

The requirements for advancing to the Orange Belt ranking can be explored by visiting our Orange Belt Curriculum postings. (Top)

Orange Belt (Purple Belt Student Manual)


Practitioners who advance to Orange Belt continue with Jo Weapon training and study the remaining two Pinan Kata. They also study both the Bo and Hanbo weapons. This is a fairly extensive area of growth for students who are introduced to a great many concepts, weapons, and skills.

At this level students also begin to study human anatomy. This will become a common theme in all subsequent belts where one system of the human anatomy is studied in some significant detail. We think these studies are essential so that practitioners learn about anatomical vulnerabilities and so they can work to prolong their well-being. In this belt students study the various organs and functions of the circulatory system.

Added emphasis is placed on Tensoku Ryu conceptual studies at this level. Students still work on some fundamentals but they are now being prepared for entry into the intermediate belt ranks. As a result more sophisticated and demanding skills are explored. (Top)

Purple Belt (Blue Belt Student Manual)


When students achieve the Purple Belt they continue weapons training. Here they explore the Yantok and Escrima skills. They also study the Tonfa and Yawara weapons. This ultimately enables students to gain extensive experience in the use of a wide variety of fundamental wooden (or stick type) weapons.

Kata training continues with various weapons Kata and study of the Naihanchi and Empi Kata. These are interesting Kata that teach innumerable ways in which a particular movement sequence might be employed in varying circumstances.

Anatomical studies continue. In this belt students study the various organs and processes involved in the digestive system. This may seem like an odd system to study this early, but the reasoning behind these studies becomes more obvious when you consider how widely exposed the digestive organs are during a potential attack.

In addition to increased emphasis on conceptual materials students begin to study sparring. I phrase it that way because we do not simply put someone in gear and then throw them into a ring. We teach students how to spar. We study both Kumite (point fighting) and full contact sparring. No student is forced to fight, but these skills are considered essential for anyone serious about defending themselves. So even students who do not wish to fight will be taught the fundamentals of these skills and will be encouraged to practice them in a non-contact manner. Students who wish to experience contact training will have ample opportunity to practice those skills. (Top)

Blue Belt (Green Belt Student Manual)


The Blue Belt is very much a watershed belt. A great deal of emphasis is placed on speed development, efficiency of movement, minimizing exertion, and conservation of energy. Students typically make tremendous improvement in movement and conceptual understanding as they progress through the material in the belt.

Sparring skills development continues. But students now begin to work on some fundamental grappling skills. This follows our general approach to training. We first introduce fundamental skills and then later put those skills to work. In this case students learn and practice a large number of skill drills that provide the underlying basis for future grappling activities.

Weapons training continues, this time introducing the first normally metallic weapon. Students learn to use the Nunchaku and the Sai weapons through both numerous drills and relevant Kata.

Open hand Kata training continues with exploration of various Passai Kata. We study Passai Dai, Passai Sho and Passai Gwa (sometimes called Passai Koryu). These are powerful Kata which can take full advantage of this belt’s increased focus on efficient and rapid movements. (Top)

Green Belt (Brown Belt Student Manual)


The primary focus at the Green Belt level is on grappling skills development. We think it is vital that every practitioner have a reasonably sound understanding of how to defend themselves if a conflict descends to the ground. Too many martial artists are good while on their feet, but incapable of handling themselves well if taken to the ground by someone who is proficient at grappling. The only solution to this problem is to be good both on your feet and on the ground. That is the primary focus of the training in this belt.

But we continue with weapons training and some limited Kata training as well. Students explore use of the Bokken in a variety of contexts. The skills explored in this belt will be put to use in future studies of the Katana. Practice with a Bokken is both beneficial and essential for those who wish to study the sword. (Top)

Brown Belt (Three Different Student Manuals)


Throughout the Brown Belt students work on what we refer to as Ad Hoc fighting. This is generally close quarter fighting, but may involve any level of conflict interaction between two (or more) people. This might include sparring, grappling, Nage, or any number of other skills students have previously learned. The goal is to be able to fluidly employ all of these skills and the innumerable conceptual skills develop over time in a seamless onslaught of continuous motion and manipulation of an opponent to swiftly put an end to a conflict. This is not easy to learn, but students eventually become quite capable at these skills.

Another area of fundamental development is study of the Katana. These studies involve extension of many of the skills studied with the Bokken, but also begin to integrate skills found in many Iaido Kata. Throughout the Brown Belt curriculum students will ultimately study two different Iaido styles. (Top)

Black Belt (Numerous Student Manuals)


At the Black Belt level everything changes. The rough and tumble approach to the martial arts begins to give way to more internal studies. While part of this involves continued anatomical studies, it also involves a shift toward Chinese martial arts skills. At the Sandan (first degree Black Belt) level practitioners study various forms of Tai Chi. This has a completely different pace and rhythm than anything the practitioner studied earlier.  Yet it sets the stage for future learning and exploration. We ultimately want our Black Belt practitioners to have a sound understanding of nearly every form of martial arts training. That is the focus of training for those who have achieved Sandan and any future Black Belt ranking. (Top)