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Teaching kendama

Started by Peter, 17 November, 2011, 23:26:21

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[Mod edit: This thread has been split from this original thread as it turn to a different and interesting direction.]

Hi folks,

just another fairy tale about this issue: I have a Kendama at my office, and a colleague of mine is sometimes playing with it. Well, let's say, he is up to 15 min a day by know. At least :-)

He is improving, and such, as it is, he asked me for showing him some harder tricks. I mean: imagine someone, who never visited the Kendama site so far, having no clue at all... so I told him about the Lighthouse. Beside your "Placement" and "Look at the top of it" tips, I furthermore told him the "secret" of "press the Dama against the Ken in the millisecond of catching", thus enhancing the friction a bit. Guess what - I mean, yes, he has more talent than I have - He caught it four times today. after let say a gross training time of 15 hours Kendama playing at all in his lifetime?

And that is the the thing: I am really jealous about. He has a trainer. ah-mm... me. I needed 3 Months before catching my first lighthouse. All learned by myself, gross training time 45 hours. 9 Months for the first Bird.... I never caught this bamboo horse / stilt things before I met Elliott in Zlin..., and then I got it in 7 minutes

@ GbH: shouldn't we focus much more on mentoring young players???

Currently: I am seriously thinking about offering a course in Munich, at a School or somewhere. Anyone, who has experiences with this???


I'd be interested in some reports too.

I'm a coach in a youth circus for many years. Since I started Kendama this year, learned so much in Munich, and have so much fun with it, I decided to offer a course in Kendama with the new school year. So far I've got only two pupils :(
Anyway - since the decision was on short term's notice, I didn't have a well prepared concept when I started. I took the EKO 2011 beginners' ladder to base my course on. And otherwise we just play around, trying stuff.

@Peter: Why don't you ask a circus school? I know the Circus Leopoldini in Schwabing (it's an activity of the Waldorfschule Schwabing). They are very nice and maybe interested. I have the e-mail address of one of the coaches (should have ...). If I find it, I can PM it to you.
EKO 2012 - European Beginner Champion


I would love to have a Mentor here in my city, but I'm the one being a mentor (with only a month playing or so). One of my best friends bought a Sunrise for him just one week after trying my Oozore and I bought another Oozora to other friend in his birthday. They don't search for new tricks or videos and I'm the one teaching them tricks, but they are learning fast and playing everyday a little. I have some experience teaching yoyo tricks in a shop here in Spain and I really like to teach to the people and saw how they improve, it's a very nice feeling. If you can do it in your area, enjoy doing it!


April, 23th. 2010. Nearly 4 Months, after I get my first Kendama from DrJochum. That is my uguisu anniversary. I will never forget this day, when I landed the bird for the first time. No, actually, it was the bird, that landed, not me.

Alex, you are so right. Breakthrough moments, there are a lot with Kendama. Everlasting moments. So meaningless, because it is only a toy. And so valuable, because you will never forget them.

Sense of life? Just practice and get better :-)

And yes, Lars, I would appreciate if you could name a contact at this school circus. I don't believe, that Kendama fits into a circus surrounding, yet maybe they have an idea on how to start this "Kendama School Munich" ;-) or what so ever...


This is certainly turning into an interesting and thought-provoking thread.

On the subject of mentoring (or, what I understand it to mean), well, yes, I've introduced kendama to many people and, when the interest is there, taught the basics as far as I can.  This has happened at juggling conventions, local clubs, at work at music events and in environments where I've been booked to perform.  To be honest, I have no great motive for doing this beyond giving people a few minutes of fun.  Maybe some of those people have gone away and taken it further, but it doesn't bother me that most won't have done.  There are, most certainly, pro-active things I could do locally to try and promote kendama further, but it's not something that I feel particularly driven to pursue for the sake of it.  Also, being realistic, I'm probably the last person who's ever going to be in the position to promote something as being in any way 'cool'!

As far as the connection with 'circus skills' goes, the situation is probably not so straightforward.  A kendama is, at heart, a 'skill toy' - something to be played with and enjoyed for its own sake.  If you look at the instructions supplied with many models, there's little mention of sport or performance or anything like that - it's just intended as a challenging (children's ?) play thing.  In fact, much of the current non-Japanese (and maybe Japanese too...) kendama scene, as seen via the internet or in person, reflects this too.  Video 'Edits', collecting, informal 'battles' and social meet-ups are all about having fun - it's got nothing to do with circus.  Obviously, as is established in Japan and growing in Europe, a separate 'sport' aspect is possible if set -up and administered in the right way (I guess this includes formal Dan-style grading, too).  For competitors to do well at this, a different sort of discipline and approach to learning is required - something requiring directed training.  In this context, it is probably then fair to consider kendama as a genuine sport - but again, this has nothing to do with circus either.  However, there's more...

If you consider many established circus skills (trapeze, trick cycling, ball juggling, hula hoop...even clowing) you'll soon notice that many of them are just children's toys and games taken to extremes of technique and, crucially, mixed with performance and theatre, so as to make something that's entertaining to a wide audience.  In theory, there's no absolute reason why kendama can't be treated and developed like this, too.  There is/was a video of a circus-style bilboquet routine somewhere on the internet (can't remember where), which is close enough to prove that such skills can be made to work as an actual circus act.  Also, if you look beyond the confines of traditional circus acts, then kendama based cabaret shows, street theatre and 'walk-about' routines are possible too (yes, I've done each of these myself).  The problem with all this, though, is that standard kendama play isn't well suited for performance use.  Standard kendamas are probably too small to be effectively used in front of a large audience.  Many advanced moves are difficult to get the required consistency for performance purposes.  Additionally - and this may upset some of you - most standard tricks can be, frankly, rather boring to watch.  So, to turn kendama into a workable and entertaining circus/performance skill, I think a very different approach is required - something that, draws attention away from the difficulty of the core tricks and towards some other purpose instead. 

It's probably obvious to many people posting here that, in the UK, there's a strong connection between kendama stuff and the wider juggling scene.  All TeamKD members are experienced performing jugglers, some with successful internationally-renowned careers.  Indeed, the whole idea of creating such a team in the first place came about on a coach journey taking us from a juggling convention site to a theatre venue.  Further to that, the sterling work that Void, in particular, has done to promote kendama has been built from using the established convention scene as a base.  Yes, it's quite obvious that there is a skillset that's common to both juggling and kendama and that it was always likely that at least some jugglers would take an interest.  However, I don't think it's necessarily the case that because juggling is commonly regarded as a 'circus skill', that kendama should naturally be thought of it the same way.  Thus, including kendama as part of a general circus skills course should probably be approached with caution, with appreciation of the issues associated with kendama performance built in from the start.  Otherwise, isn't the danger going to be that you're just encouraging people to have fun playing with toys?


Ouch!  :o

Thanks for the warning. Really, the last thing I would like to do is encouraging anyone to have fun! I think of Kendama as some disciplinary tool, in case you don't practice enough you should be punished by doing 100 furiken before getting dinner, or something like this. And then, on the other hand: the reward in case you made 1000 Moshis as a warm up, afterwards you could be allowed to do 5 minutes of freestyle tricks. But not more, because there was still one miss in the beginners tricklist, thus we have to work on it further!!!

No, seriously, I have seen Void doing a Circus routine with Kendamas somewhere on, well, let me see, where was it, ah, here we go:,29.0.html

As always, this is something which is not only about the skill level and tricks, but depending on the full setting, including theatre and so on and so forth. Yet, I am not the circus guy, maybe that is where my scepticism comes from. Well, thus, Kendama might be a good thing for those circus pupils, yet I might not be the right teacher for them. Hm... I will definitely talk to them, then we will see.


I come from yoyoing and I never feel that yoyoing has anything to do with "circus" or "juggling". For me is all about having fun, improve and relax myself with something that requires my attention and makes me forget to think...

Kendama is the same thing for me. I "play" with yoyo and kendama, I'm not juggling or anything. For me they're just skillTOYS  :)


Currently, I'm far from seeing Kendama in our ring. I just happen to work for a youth circus and the people there are generally open for stuff like that - at least that's what I thought :(

Anyway, I decided to give the course not to get another act for our end-of-the-school-year shows but to extend the students' view on hand skills. Although some are quite advanced and aware of the meta-levels of e.g. juggling, many still have the idea that juggling should be like this and that and they don't look left or right (might be my mistake). And the shows are often the major motivation to practice. Sometimes I have the impression that some kind of "X-factor" effect seems to take over youth circusses. That it's not about practicing, becoming better and then performing. But that it's enough to hang around the courses to get your share of the spotlight. I'm often torn between kicking them out for lack of cooperation and self-discipline and keeping them in the hope that trying to make them practice a little bit keeps them off the road (and the casting studios of X-factor). And maybe they finally get the idea ...

I wanted to introduce something that can be done mostly (but not completely) for yourself (or together with others) and that is interesting to anyone (remotely) interested in juggling and hand skills. Something that centers on your own discipline, persistence and you-know-all-that-stuff. To my understanding, going to a youth circus should not only teach you how to juggle and the like. It should also teach you soft skills. And have a good time, play around, and have fun (yes: have fun!).

Maybe "juggling" is a little bit misleading. But to me, many things that have to do with hand skills and playing around are "juggling".
EKO 2012 - European Beginner Champion


Over the summer, I got around 10 people into kendama. One of them went to Chile for a year and is no known there for her tricks. Another one went after the lunar and is now far more consistent than me. So as far as jealousy goes, I know the pain...

I came out of the circus world as well, got my first kendama from Matt Hall at EJC 2008. And the reaction I get from the people at the circus school and the store that sells juggling equipment is that its size is just not workable for performance. I know there are the Taiyo and Performer models, and even though they are easier in some aspects, to create new and original routines with them will be difficult. But we will never know what artists will stand up and raise the bar for this simple toy, which has also happened for juggling in the time that I have been part of that community...

Kendama Belgium!