English

Now let’s play Kendama

yokohaneken

Yokohane-ken 横はねけん

Yokohaneken is the technique of turning the ken (handle) horizontally and catching the kensaki (tip) of ken in the ana (hole) of the tama (ball).

1. What is Kendama?

Kendama is a hand-held game which is very popular in Japan and enjoyed by people of all ages. The modern Kendama has a wooden handle (ken) with three shallow dishes (sara) and a bluntly pointed tip (kensaki) which the player uses to catch a wooden ball (tama) using a variety of fun techniques (waza). Although a player holds the Kendama with his or her hand, it is a game that uses one’s whole body, mind, and spirit to perform a variety of fun and entertaining waza (techniques)while at the same time helping develop the player’s sense of balance and concentration.

2. Parts of the Kendama

The Kendama consists of a ken (handle), a tama” (ball), and an “ito” (string) as shown in the picture below.

parts of kendama

3. The JKA Nintei-Kendama

The JKA Nintei-Kendama is a Kendama made to specific JKA standards and approved by JKA. The Nintei-Kendama is the only type approved for official JKA games and JKA rank qualifying examinations. The JKA Nintei-Kendama is available from JKA and some retail stores throughout Japan.

4. Waza (techniques) 技

There are many kinds of Kendama waza (techniques) ranging from the most basic technique “Ozara” to higher level waza such as “Uchu-Yuei.” With Ozara the player simply catches the tama (ball) on the ozara (big dish). However, with Uchu-Yuei the player uses the ken (handle) to swing the tama upward, then releases the ken causing the whole Kendama to spin upward into the air. While the tama and ken are still spinning midair, the player catches the tama with his or her hand, then, using the tama, catches the ken with the kensaki (tip) inserted in the ana (hole) of the tama.

Basic Lesson

Mochikata (holding method)

For each Kendama waza there is a specific Kendama mochikata (holding method) for the ken (handle) and tama (ball). Four typical mochikata are Ozara Mochikata, Tomeken Mochikata, Tama Mochikata, and Rousoku Mochikata.

 

Ozara Mochikata: With the chuzara (middle dish) pointing upward, lightly grasp the ken (handle) between the thumb and first finger just behind the sarado, and rest the middle and ring fingers on the kozara (small dish). Ozara mochikata is used for waza such as those shown in the table below.

 

ozara mochikata

Ozara Mochikata

 

Tomeken Mochikata: With the kensaki (tip) pointed upward at an angle, lightly grasp the ken (handle) between the thumb and first three fingers just behind the sarado. Tomeken Mochikata is used for waza such as those shown in the table below.

tomeken mochikata

Tomeken Mochikata

Tama Mochikata: Lightly grasp the tama (ball) between the thumb and first three fingers with the ana (hole) facing upward. Tama Mochikata is used for waza such as those shown in the table below.

tama mochikata

Tama Mochikata

 

 

Rousoku Mochikata: Lightly grasp the kensaki (tip) between the thumb and first two fingers with the chuzara pointing upward. Rousoku Mochikata is used for waza such as those shown in the table below.

rousoku mochikata

Rousoku Mochikata

Stance

Stand with knees slightly bent, feet shoulder-width apart with the right foot slightly forward if right handed, or with the left foot slightly forward if left handed. To perform Kendama waza successfully, proper stance and knee flexing movements are very important. (See next paragraph.)

Example of basic waza (techniques)

1. Ozara 大皿

ozara

While holding the kendama ken (handle) [Photo #1], Ozara is the technique of pulling the tama (ball) vertically upward and catching the tama on the ozara (big dish) [Photos #2, #3, #4].

2. Tomeken とめけん

tomeken

While holding the kendama ken (handle) with the kensaki (tip) upward [Photo #1], Tomeken is the technique of pulling the ball vertically upward and catching it with the kensaki inserted in the hole of the tama (ball) [Photos #2, #3, #4].

3. Nihon isshu 日本一周

nihonisshu

While holding the kendama ken (handle) in one hand [Photo #1], the tama (ball) is pulled vertically upward to be caught first on the kozara (small dish) [Photo #2], then tossed to be caught on the ozara (big dish) [Photo #3], then flip tossed so that tama is caught with the kensaki inserted in the hole of the tama [Photo #4].

4. Hikoki 飛行機

hikoki

While holding the tama (ball) in one hand with the hole in the tama facing upwards [Photo #1], Hikoki is the technique of swinging the ken (handle) away from the body [Photo #2] causing the ken to flip a half turn in midair so that you catch the tip of the ken in the hole of the tama [Photos #3, #4]. During this waza the ken flies through the air like a hikoki (airplane).

5. Toudai 灯台

todai

While holding the tama (ball) in one hand with the ken (handle) hanging vertically from the tama with the kensaki (tip) upward and the chuzara (middle dish)toward the floor [Photo #1], Toudai is the technique of pulling the ken vertically upward [Photo #2] and having the chuzara come to rest on top of the tama (ball) with the ken held upright and balanced in this position without any movement for at least three seconds [Photos #3, #4]. The position of ken at the finish this waza makes it look similar to a toudai (lighthouse).

Kendama skill levels and examination

The JKA has three established skill categories for Kendama players, a basic (kyu) skill level, a middle level skill (jun-shodan) category, and a high skill (dan) level. The basic (kyu) skill level starts from the lowest 10th kyu level, jyukyu, to the highest basic level, 1st kyu (ikkyu). A player must achieve ikkyu before attempting middle and upper skill levels. The middle skill level category, jun-shodan, follows ikkyu and comes before the first dan level, shodan. The top dan skill level is10th level, jyudan.

The table for Kyu level(basic level skill) category 級位認定表

No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
movie
1                    
2 1                  
3 2 1                
  3 2 1              
    3 2 1           (4)
      3 2 1         (10)
        3 2 1       (20)
          3 2 1     (30)
            3 2 1   (40)
              3 2 1 50

 

Explanation:

  • Official JKA Kendama (Nintei-Kendama) required
  • Only the certified JKA examiner can examine kendama skill level.
  • Perform waza in numerical order
  • Each waza may be attempted up to 10 times, but must be successfully performed at least the designated number of times shown in the table.
  • Must qualify at each kyu level before eligible to take examination for the next higher kyu level rank
  • For ikkyu (highest kyulevel rank):
    • § Successfully perform waza No.1 through waza No.10 the designated number of times shown in the table.
    • § Perform Moshikame waza at least 50 times without failure at a rate of at least 135 times per minute. Two attempts allowed.

The table for Jun-shodan(middle level skill category) 準初段認定表

No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
movie
5 5 5 4 4 3 2 1 100

Explanation:

  • Official JKA Kendama (Nintei-Kendama) required
  • Only the certified JKA examiner can examine kendama skill level.
  • Perform waza in numerical order
  • Waza No. 1 through waza No. 8 may be attempted up to 10 times each, but must be successfully performed at least the designated number of times shown in the table.
  • Perform Moshikame waza at least 100 times without failure at a rate of at least 135 times per minute. Only one attempt allowed.

The table of Dan level(high level skill) category 段位認定表

No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
movie 60秒
45秒
4 4 3 3 2 2 1 1 1 1                 200
5 5 4 4 3 3 2 2 2 2                 300
    5 5 4 4 3 3 3 3 1 1             120 500
    6 6 5 5 4 4 4 4 2 2             60 1000
            6 6 6 6 4 4 3 3 2 2 1   45  
            8 8 8 8 6 6 5 5 4 4 3  

Explanation:

  • Must qualify at each dan level before eligible to take examination for the next higher dan rank
  • Minimum time in rank before competing for next higher dan rank:
    • § 1 dan through 5 dan – at least one month
    • § 6 dan and above – at least one year
  • Official JKA Kendama (Nintei-Kendama) required
  • Only the certified JKA examiner can examine kendama skill level.
  • Perform waza in numerical order
  • Each waza may be attempted up to 10 times, but must be successfully performed at least the designated number of times shown in the table.
  • Moshikame waza (1 dan through 4 dan): Perform moshikame without failure at least the number of times shown in the table at a rate of at least 135 times per minute. Only one attempt allowed.
  • Timed kyogi B (3 dan through 5 dan): In the order listed, successfully perform all waza in timed kyogi B at least once within specified time limit. (May attempt each waza as many times as necessary, but must successfully complete all 10 waza within the time limit specified.) Two attempts allowed to complete timed kyogi B within the specified time limit.
  • 6 dan: Jiyu shumoku Instead of timed kyogi B, successfully demonstrate two waza of the technical level suitable for the 6 dan ranking. No time limitation. Up to 10 attempts are permitted to successfully perform each waza once.

After skill examination, a board of JKA judges evaluates each candidate’s continued involvement with Kendama.

Timed kyogi B

1.Maefuri-rousoku, 2.Ken-isshu, 3.Nihon-isshu(2times), 4.Sekai-isshu(2times), 5.Yoroppa-isshu,

6.Chikyu-mawasi, 7.Uguisu-ken, 8.Haneken, 9.Ikkaiten-hikoki, 10.Sakaotoshi

Explanation:

Examinee must successfully complete all ten waza (techniques) in order listed at least once within a specified time limit. Examinee can attempt each waza any number of times until they are successful, and then move on to the next waza without penalty.

5. Example of Competition Rules

Basic rules:

Two competitors confront each other one-on-one and perform waza (techniques) alternately. They continue as long as each competitor performs a waza as well as the other competitor. When one competitor successfully performs a waza, but the other competitor does not perform the same waza correctly, the successful competitor wins the bout and moves up the competition ladder. Tournaments are carried out according to this rule.

6. The Japan Kendama Association—a nonprofit organization

Purpose of the Japan Kendama Association (JKA):

The Japan Kendama Association (JKA) was established in 1975 with the purpose of promoting Kendama awareness and heritage, and to encourage Kendama play and the development of Kendama waza (techniques). JKA is the largest Kendama organization in Japan. The JKA wants to share the enjoyment of Kendama not only within Japan, but also all over the world.

Business outline:

(1) Passing on the tradition

  • Aims to pass Kendama to the next generation as a traditional Japanese game.

(2) Promotion of the sport

  • Aims to promote Kendama as a modern sport and promote its technical progress.

(3) School/Club subject

  • Aims to utilize Kendama for school cultural education and club activities, and to cooperate with schools and clubs to promote Kendama education.

(4) Lifetime sport

  • Aims to promote Kendama play as an enjoyable lifetime sport for everyone regardless of age and to encourage Kendama play as a useful part of health and leisure activities.

(5) Internationalization

  • Aims to increase familiarity with Kendama abroad and to encourage international exchanges.

Competitions, training courses, and events hosted by JKA:

(1) JKA holds various annual competitions:

  • The All Japan Championship (competition for those most skilled with Kendama)
  • The Junior Kendama Championship
  • The Kendama Painting Contest
  • World record trials of successive Kendama playing – The Moshikame World Record Competition.

(2) Instructor training course for Kendama trainers

(3) Kendama technique exam:

  • The JKA has three skill categories for Kendama players, the basic (kyu) levels, the middle (Jun-shodan )level, and the higher (dan) level.

(4) Chapters in Japan and abroad:

  • Chapter members hold Kendama events and enjoy Kendama.

kendama events

Japan Kendama Association membership information

(1) Benefits of JKA membership:

  • Official JKA membership card
  • “Kendama tsuushin” newsletter—filled with interesting articles and useful information. Published five times each year.
  • Eligibility to participate in JKA competitions, the JKA technique exam, and JKA instructor courses for Kendama trainers.
  • Discount prices on JKA approved Kendamas, and Kendama books/DVDs.

(2) Membership of JKA

  • Membership period—1 January through 31 December each year
  • Annual dues and membership types:
    • ¥5000 – Adult Membership (HS students and those age 16 and older)
    • ¥2000 – Youth Membership (Jr. HS students and those under age 16)
  • No separate initial application fee is required
  • Full annual membership fees are required regardless of when annual membership begins.

(3) Method of enrollment

  • Contact JKA by phone, fax, e-mail, or postal mail and provide your name, date of birth, address, gender, and occupation or school name and school year, telephone number, mobile phone number, and e-mail address.
  • Submit membership dues via electronic bank transfer:
    • Mizuho Bank Kudan branch code : 532
    • Account number: 2054911
    • Subscriber name: Nippon Kendama Kyokai
    • Note: Applicant responsible for cost of transfer fee

If you want to try Kendama or are interested in JKA, please contact us:

Japan Kendama Association

Mailing address: 1-29-4 Kanda Jinbocho Shoukou Building 6th floor, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0051 Japan

JKA sealPhone: +81-3-6273-7766

FAX: +81-3-6273-7760

Email: info[at]kendama.or.jp (replace [at] to @)

URL: http://kendama.or.jp

Notifications

The Japanese words that describe kendama parts, techniques, and terms for judging kendama competition, etc., are the only words officially sanctioned by the Japan Kendama Association(JKA). English word translation for kendama terms (often shown enclosed in brackets) are not official terminology and should only be used to help English speakers understand the meanings of the official Japanese kendama words by JKA.

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