All About KanJam: Origins, Rules & Playing Tips

KanJam, an incredibly popular disc game that originated in the 90s, is the perfect way to liven up your next party. Learn how to play KanJam with this guide.

You know that really fun-looking game where people are throwing a disc at what appears to be a black trash can? That’s KanJam, and it’s awesome.

And now, you want in.

Of course, it helps if you know how to play. And to make sure you don’t get into any disputes over how many points you get for a Dinger or how far apart the kans should be, we here at DICK’S Sporting Goods have put together a quick overview. You’ll even find a few pointers from one of the world’s top KanJam players.

WHAT IS KANJAM? 

KanJam is an incredibly popular disc game created by Charles Sciandra and Paul Swisher—two friends from Buffalo who enjoyed the simple thrill of throwing discs into banged-up metal garbage cans. As the game began to catch on in the Buffalo area in the 1990s, Sciandra and Swisher got serious and eventually established the KanJam company, making their first official sale in 2005. By 2007, 14,000 units had been sold, and the game continues to grow in popularity. It is now available in DICK’s Sporting Goods stores throughout the country.

HOW TO PLAY KANJAM

You and a partner stand at opposite kans (which are placed 50 feet apart in regulation play) and alternate throwing and deflecting the disc. Essentially, you and a partner work together to get the disc to do one of three things: hit the kan, go inside of the kan through the top opening or, best of all, go through the kan’s slot opening for an Instant Win. One player throws the disc toward the kan and the other can redirect it.

WILL ANY DISC SUFFICE? 

Well, yes, if you’re just messing around with your buddies, but you’ll get much better results with the official KanJam disc. Weighing exactly 168 grams, the official disc is specifically designed for KanJam, and it is the only accepted disc for official competition.

FROM WHERE DO YOU THROW THE DISC? 

According to the official KanJam rules, all male players over the age of 12 must throw from behind the kan’s front edge (women and boys under 12 have the option of standing 10 feet closer). No part of the body can cross that line. So, even if your feet are planted behind the line, but your arm crosses over as your throw, you are in violation of the rule. It is recommended that you stand at the back edge of the goal; this way, when you follow through on the throw, you will not be in danger of crossing the line.

WHO THROWS FIRST? 

The throwing order can be decided with a quick round of “odds or evens” or coin-toss-like flip of the disc. The winner gets to decide whether to throw first or second. And, like in baseball, it’s actually advantageous to throw last—known as having “The Hammer.” If you have The Hammer, you always have a chance to win the game via the Instant Win described in the next section.

Each member of a team takes one turn throwing and one turn deflecting before passing the disc to the opposing team.

HOW DO YOU KEEP SCORE? 

KanJam scoring is relatively simple. It takes 21 points to win. Here is a breakdown of how it works:

  • DINGER (1 point): Your teammate deflects the disc to hit the kan.
  • DEUCE (2 points): The disc throw hits the kan, unassisted by a teammate.
  • BUCKET (3 points): Your teammate deflects the throw into the kan.
  • INSTANT WIN: The disc throw goes into the kan through the small slot opening in the front. Game over.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU GO OVER 21? 

Your team must get exactly 21 points to win. If a throw raises a team’s score above 21, the points from that throw are deducted from the team’s score. For example, if your team has 20 points, and your teammate redirects the disc into the kan for a 3-point Bucket, your score is reduced to 17 points.

WHAT IF THERE IS A TIE? 

If both teams score 21 points in the same number of rounds, the game goes to overtime. Each team takes a turn, with the team with The Hammer going second.

Here is an example of how overtime could play out:

  • Team A and Team B head to an overtime round.
  • Team A throws first and gets two points. Team B gets a three-point Bucket on their first throw. TEAM B WINS.
  • Team B scores less than two points. TEAM A WINS.
  • Team B scores two points to tie Team A. A SECOND OVERTIME ROUND WILL BE PLAYED. Overtime can continue until a winner is decided.

An Instant Win still automatically ends the game in overtime.

TIPS ON TIPPING

  • The official definition of a clean tip is “tip with hands together, striking the disc’s middle edge or the disc’s top center.”
  • Deflectors cannot attempt to control the disc in any fashion, known as a “carry.” If a deflector carries or double-hits the disc, no points are awarded.
  • Deflectors can move as necessary to redirect the disc, even in front of the goal.
  • Players waiting to tip can NEVER touch the goal.
  • If a player interferes with play on purpose, his or her team forfeits the game on the spot.

ADVICE FROM A CHAMPION 

Even though KanJam is often played for fun, it also makes for world-class competition. The two biggest tournaments of the year are the KanJam Klassic and the KanJam World Championships, with the latter hosting the very best KanJam players from around the world.

Jon Sandino—one-half of the Stallion Survivors along with Eric Klavoon—has won multiple Klassic titles and world championships.

“KanJam gives anyone the ability to get out there and play,” Sandino said. “It could be a game of runs; you’ve got to be on your toes.

“And I’ve met some great individuals and made some great friends.”

Here are Jon’s tips for players hoping to win their own KanJam World Championship some day:

  1. Play the numbers, especially if you have The Hammer. Try to stay on 3s, and avoid 16.
  2. Play often, and play with different people. The more people you play with, the more styles you learn.
  3. Practice in the middle of a wide-open space, during a windy part of the day. Don’t practice in calm, perfect conditions. If you learn to adjust, it will help, especially in the World Championships where you don’t know what the conditions will be.