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Void's review of BKO 2013 weekend.

The BKO weekend began for me on Thursday when Mr Jumpshoe was an early arrival in town. After collecting him from the train station and taking him to his hotel, we mooched around a bit, wandered to the park to play a little kendama, and generally had a natter. Early night.

On Friday, Mr J had a shot at getting his 1st Dan grading, but the evil Moshi Kame got him, as it does so many. After that, we had a play session, working on Spacewalk Fast Throw Spike, both of us getting it after a while. Then it was off to the airport to collect KendAlex, flying in from the Netherlands for his 2nd BKO. We all headed back to BKA HQ for the evening, squeezing in a few games of Spin-Off before dinner. Alex and I headed off to meet Mirek at the airport, while Mr Jumpshoe got some zzzs. Mirek's flight was a little delayed, so Alex and I had a session in the arrivals area. More Spacewalk Fast Throw Spikes (I got applause from onlookers after finally getting it!) and I managed my first 3-Swirl Aeroplane too. Mirek finally strolled through the gates, and then it was off back to the hotel, where we met up with Mikey, Matt and Robin, who were busy recovering from their 8-hour drive down from Dunfermline. (Many superhero points to Matt for doing all the driving!). After a 20 minute chat, I headed off back to my bed.

Saturday dawned with a bright sky and a bit of breeze. Mr J and I strolled into town after a leisurely morning breakfast watching kendama videos. We arrived at the meeting point by some fountains to find Adam kicking his heels, so we soon started a little jam. After 15 minutes or so, we were joined by Yoko, Arthur, Mirek and Alex, and Matt, Mikey and Robin strolled up not long after that. Many hellos and smiles followed, and we had sunshine too! As an icebreaker, I got everyone in a circle, and we went around, each person sharing a trick or "trick idea" (not necessarily one they had achieved). Let's just say the world may be waiting some time to see "Around Oban"… During the circle, local player Rich turned up "..just to say hi, I can't stop long…". Well, he managed to hang around for an hour and land his first Spacewalk. :)

Time for a game! Last Man Standing. Krom kendamas had kindly offered us some nice prizes for our Social Day, so the first one on offer was a glow in the dark blue Krom… which was won by Alex. After we had whiled away an hour or so, and grabbed a bite to eat, we headed off for a short stroll to our next stop, by a ferry landing, with a semicircular plaza to play in, plus a raised dais, and a view of some local skaters grinding away on some steps. (In fact, Alex discovered that one of the skaters owned a kendama and could play a few tricks.) The next game was to be chosen by Alex, as he'd won the last one. It was to be K.E.N., but with Alex calling the tricks. This time it came down to Matt R and Mikey… who both missed! Resetting, Matt came out on top and claimed a Sweets Natty. Time for another Krom prize: This was a big one, so, wanting everyone to have a fair chance of winning, I called a game of Candle Conkers. Mirek came away smiling with a voucher for a Krom XXL. Then Mikey claimed a cup and ball for Running Backwards Aeroplane.

bko social crew

We moved on, this time to Millenium Square, which was surprisingly quiet for a sunny weekend day. With a water feature, a huge mirror ball and some statues for company, we had a practice run of the Dan Jam competition. Players each had 60 seconds to freestyle, and they were judged on Difficulty, Style/Flow, Originality, and Hit Rate. Yoko, Matt R. and Jumpshoe took the judging podiums, and 5 or so players had a bash. Alex came out on top, with a Yomega kendama for his prize.

Throughout the day, we'd had several curious people come over and ask what that funny thing was. It seems like if you kendama on your own in public, you're a crazy person, but if there's a group of you, you're all the height of cool! Well, several people had a little play, or took photos, and I handed out plenty of cards, so hopefully we will have made a few converts.

After a few coffees and muffins had been consumed, it was onwards for another stroll. This time uphill… quite a lot uphill. We gently plodded up Brandon hill, to the site of Cabot Tower. Those with good stamina and energy decided to climb all the way up the tower, to be rewarded with some great views of Bristol. Meanwhile, those of us who'd lost our puff stayed at the bottom and took photos anyway.

From here, it was a gentle amble to the Victoria Rooms - or more precisely the fountains outside - for another stop for photos, tricks and filming.
bko social crew
We were all a bit weary now, but one last push folks! Onwards for a walk up to the viewpoint over Avon Gorge, looking down onto the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Here we played a few more tricks, just for kicks, whilst being observed by a few local picnickers. They were intrigued, and 3 or 4 of them had a play, and got enthused about "mad cup and ball" stuff.

Now the sky was darkening, and grey clouds decided that they'd have a little drip on us. That was our queue to head back towards the Victoria Rooms, where the magnificent Raj Moni Indian restaurant had a table waiting for us. (Of course, we had another small bunch of curious onlookers while we stopped at the cashpoint in the meantime!) Well, it was a lot of walking, and I don't think I completely killed anyone's legs, but boy, were we all ready for a nice meal. My girlfriend had joined us, and oh, and just in time, in walk Matt, Sam and Luke! After we'd ordered, I realised that I still had one prize left from Krom that I'd forgotten to run a game for. Well, in the small annex filled with tables, there really was no room for any kendama play, so it had to be… lucky dip! I pulled up a random number generator and pressed the button. Arthur was the lucky number 5, and won a voucher for a Krom XL. (Thanks Thorkild for sending us the vouchers for our Social Day!)

After filling up on spicy food, my energy levels were sagging badly, so it was off to deliver Jumpshoe (or "Jumpsuit", as autocorrect will have it) & Adam back to their hotel. Not much energy… sleeeeeeeep….

Sunday. Competition day. Well, I'd got *some* sleep, and a good breakfast always helps. So with the car loaded with all the competition gubbins, plus Adam and Jumpshoe, it was off to the hall. We managed to sneak in a little early, so we were all set up by 12.15, and I found time to do one or two kendama tricks. That was the last time I did that for the day! People began to filter in, and with my friends Chris and Helen kindly manning the registration desk for me, I was off to start taking some gradings, along with Matt N and Mr Jumpshoe. Moshi Kame did for a few people, but mostly people did very well on their first attempt at a grading. Star pupil was Robin who leapt straight up to 2nd Dan. (I was pleased to hear that he'd been studying & training the tricks with the aid of KendamApp!) And so to the competition.

This was the first year that we had moved the BKO out of the British Juggling Convention, so as a result we "lost" some juggler-clickers from our ranks. So our numbers were a little down, with only 14 competitors. Although this was a bit disappointing, everyone agreed that they'd had a really good time on the Saturday, so I felt that the decision to go to a weekend format was the right one.

All the usual suspects were there, plus Mark and Rich P from Bristol. With the return of Rich W from yesterday, and the unexpected though welcome arrival of Broady, I now found that I knew 2 more kendama players from my own city. Bonus! Ali from Gravity Outlaws also showed up, with some limited edition keyrings for all attendees, plus a range of other goodies for folks to browse.

I won't do a full write-up of the whole competition (the results are at the bottom of the BKO 2013 page), but I'll just say that I was pleased that the Dan Jam format seemed to work out just fine, and I was amused (as ever) that only 5 people managed to hit a trick during Best Trick. You all try too hard, folks! :) Thank you to everyone who helped on the day, and a big shout out to Kendama Europe for being our generous core competition sponsor, plus the other sponsors who chipped in.

I was pretty exhausted at the end of the afternoon, so I was pleased to head to the pub for a big tasty pizza. After clearing our plates, it was time for goodbyes and to head off into the night.

Very early the next morning, I taxied Alex to the airport. He said he'd had a great time and it was well worth the trip. Now that's what I wanted to hear! :) Back in town, Mr Jumpshoe (still around) and I found time to film a little something. More of that later. Then it was taxi service, again, to drop Mirek off for some sightseeing, and Arthur at the airport.

Well, I had a great weekend, and met some great people. Thanks for coming, everyone! And for those who didn't… shame on you… be there next time!