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Kendama – Playing with a Sword and a Ball 2

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/18 Traditional Culture , ,

Kendama, as what we learned from our previous post is a traditional Japanese “ball-and-cup” game. The basic tricks that one can perform with the kendama is to catch the ball using any of the three different-sized cups or with the spike. One time, in our Japanese class, our sensei brought a kendama and let us play with it. I thought that playing it is as simple as 1-2-3 but it needs precise and accurate hand movements. Well, maybe that’s a bit exaggerated but I did try many times just to be able to catch the ball once and worse, with the largest cup.

The Japanese Kendama Association

As I read more about the kendama, I found out that it is more complicated than what I thought it was. There is one organization in Japan, known as the Japanese Kendama Association that established a criteria on how one can become a kendama master. The Japanese Kendama Association (日本けん玉協会, Nihon Kendama Kyoukai) is a nonprofit association founded by Issei Fujiwara in 1975. Based in Tokyo, the JKA sets the technical specifications for licensed competitive kendamas, establishes rules and regulations, organizes competitions, and awards level rankings to kendama players. Because the JKA was reorganized as a nonprofit association in 2002, it support itself with license fees from a small number of kendama makers who make competitive kendamas that are JKA-approved and with seal, corporate sponsorships, and annual dues collected from members who wish to compete and receive an official level ranking.

As indicated in the previous post, the category levels set by the JKA is divided into three. The lowest is the kyu level. To be able to advance to the next category, you must master ten tricks. For each level you need to successfully perform the trick at least once in ten tries. In addition, you need to perform the trick for the level below the level attempted twice in ten tries, and the trick below that three times in ten tries. For levels 6 through 1, an additional trick, the moshikame (もしかめ) must also be performed. The moshikame trick is a familiar trick even with children. It is performed by juggling the ball between the big cup and the center cup. It is called by that name because children used to do the trick while singing the Japanese children’s song called “Usagi to Kame” (The Rabbit and the Turtle). The name moshikame comes from the first line of the song which goes “Moshi moshi, kame-san, kame-san yo …

Zoomadanke, Modern Kendama Masters

The kendama has greatly improve through the ages. A popular duo known as Zoomadanke is known not only in Japan but also overseas. Zoomadanke is a professional kendama performance duo that was formed in 2010. It is composed of Kodama and Iijima. Using hip-hop, beatbox and even traditional Japanese music, Zoomadanke performs tricks using a kendama with a combination of smooth, graceful and sharp movements. The two men have performed on television, at public spaces, parks and have even gone abroad to destinations such as Brazil and Hawaii.

To have a glimpse on how Zoomadanke performs, watch the video below:

Do you know how to play the kendama? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

References:

1. Kendama.org

2. Zoodamanke’s Twitter

3. Featured image by hibadog on Flickr.

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