Kendama has a way of hooking you in. From your first catch of the ball in the cup or on the spike, the feeling is unimaginable (especially if there are other people around to see it!). Once you’ve tasted the glory of landing that ball in the cup, there’s no going back. With a bit of consistent practice and play, soon you’ll be able to land the ball in every cup, be able to switch between cups, and even catch it on the spike!
Kendama originated in Japan. It was sort of popular in the early 1900s but eventually began to become more of a souvenir, that is until the Japanese Kendama Association (JKA) was formed in the 1970s. Since then, the JKA has been refining and standardizing the size and shape of kendamas for competition use.
Most recently, in the past 15 years, kendama has surged in global popularity. Its rise in popularity greatly evolved the game, providing more access with more companies investing and innovating. This evolution really crystalized when the first Kendama World Cup (KWC) was held in 2014 in the birthplace of kendama, Hastukaichi, Japan. Today, kendama continues to delight and engage individuals of all ages across the globe. Its easy to see why this unique activity captures the heart and interests of so many.
I had my kendama awakening in July 2012 when I was introduced to kendama by my brother (below is a photo of us with kendamas, circa 2013). From the instant I tried kendama, I was hooked - I immediately ordered my own - a week later, it arrived. Now, 10 years later, I haven’t been able to put down my kendama.
At its core, kendama is about self-improvement. Unexpectedly, this toy has taught me one of the most important life lessons. No matter how many times I try and fail at something, if I don’t give up, success will come. Kendama demonstrates working hard to achieve a goal, figuring it out through trial and error. Kendama is built on failure. To get better at kendama is to become consistent. To become consistent, practice is required. If you repeatedly practice the same trick, you will quickly see those little victories and improvements - that you are able to land it more often, that you’re building the muscle memory of landing the trick. Before you know it, you can land that ball on the spike nearly every time! Often times, while honing your kendama skills, people can experience sort of meditative state. In this present mindful state, the stresses of your daily life ease as your focus is poured into achieving your kendama goal.
There are so many different elements that contribute to Kendama. Different brands have developed different shapes, which effects how the kendama plays. There are different wood types, that can be painted or left natural. Different play styles and categories of tricks. Even different preferences on string length! I could talk about kendama for hours, but this quote from kendama legend Jake Wiens, says it best.
“Kendama is whatever you want it to be. Kendama could be your sport. It could be your hobby. It could be your timewaster. It could be your break from the office. It could be your meditation. It could be your workout. It could be just straight up stress relief. Or it could be what you do with your friends. So, when it comes down to it, it's your kendama, and it's your choice of whatever you want it to be.”
A simple toy with infinite possibilities can be anything you want it to be. So, grab your kendama, put on your Staheekum slippers and lose yourself in the beauty of the world around you.
Here are some links where you can get your very own kendama, as well as some helpful tutorials to start honing your skills!
Online Kendama Stores