Beginner – Intermediate

Introductory Challenge
Even before you get to the “official” testing levels there is an entry level challenge.  It’s called Nūmonkyū (入門級) which means “introductory level.” While it is often used to help younger or older players interested in kendama it offers some fun challenges to keep players interested.  Several of the challenges work well as “race” tricks against another player or against the clock.

For completion of each trick the player receives a stamp in the square corresponding to that trick.

The tricks are:

  1. Ken Drop (hold middle cup) – Otoshi ken (落としけん(中皿かち持ち))
  2. Tama Drop (hold string) – Otoshi dama (落とし玉(糸持ち))
  3. Hold candle for 10 seconds – Tenose rōsoku (手乗せろうそく 10秒間)
  4. 6 Position ball balance (on floor) – Tama tenose roku kasho (玉手乗せ6力所 (けん床寝せ置き))
  5. 3 Position ken balance (on floor) – Ken tenose san kasho (けん手乗せ3力所 (玉穴床置き))
  6. Takoyaki Icchō (on floor) – Takoyaki icchō (たこ焼き一丁 (玉ー糸ーけん・床))
  7. Scooping Loach Fish (on floor) – Dojyō sukui (どじょうすくい (けんー糸ー玉・床))
  8. Hanging 2 handed catch – Tsurushi mochi (つるし持ち ~両手けん玉キヤツチ)
  9. Tama jump 3x (big cup) – Tenose ōzara janpu (手乗せ大皿ジヤンプ 3回)

Nūmonkyū Certificate (front)

Nūmonkyū Certificate (back)

Kendama skill levels and examination

The JKA has three established skill categories for kendama players, a basic skill level (Kyu), intermediate skill level (Junshodan), and a high skill level (Dan).  Ranks must be achieved in order from lowest to highest. For example: Kyu 10→1 then Junshodan followed by Dan 1→6. For Dan levels 7-10 special considerations are required; they cannot be achieved by testing alone and are considered honorary ranks based on more than physical skill alone; for example teaching, promoting, and other activities to further kendama.

NAME OF LEVELLOWEST RANKHIGHEST RANKNOTES
Basic Skill Level (Kyu)10 (Jukkyu)1 (Ikkyu)
Intermediate Skill Level (Junshodan)N/AN/AOnly one rank
High Skill Level (Dan)1 (Shodan)10 (Judan)7-10 honorary

The certification system is a helpful means for players to keep their motivation high. The trick tables were constructed to bring players through all the basic tricks step by step.

Trick table for Kyu level (basic skill level) 


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Trick
(Waza) →



Level
(Kyu)  ↓
Big cup
(Ōzara)
Small cup
(Kozara)
Middle cup
(Chuzara)
Candle
(Rōsoku)
Spike
(Tomeken)
Airplane
(Hikoki)
Swing in
(Furiken)
Around Japan
(Nihon Isshu)
Around the world
(Seikai Isshu)
Lighthouse
(Tōdai)
Moshikame
10
(Jukkyu)
1









9
(Kyukyu)
2 1








8
(Hachikyu)
3 2 1







7
(Nanakyu)

3 2 1






6
(Rokkyu)


3 2 1




*4
5
(Gokyu)



3 2 1



*10
4
(Yonkyu)




3 2 1


*20
3
(Sankyu)





3 2 1

*30
2
(Nikyu)






3 2 1
*40
1
(Ikkyu)







3 2 1 50

*At these levels Moshikame is OPTIONAL

Requirements:

•The tests must be taken using an official JKA Kendama with either certified (Nintei) or recommended (Suishō) seal. 

•Only the certified JKA examiner may perform skill level examinations (tests)

•Tricks must be performed in numerical order  

•Each trick 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 Kyu level rank): (1) Successfully perform trick No.1 through trick No.10 the designated number of times shown in the table.

(2) Perform Moshikame at least 50 times without failure at a rate of at least 135 times per minute. Two attempts allowed. 

Key Points:

For the Kyu level, basic necessary tricks such as Big Cup, Spike, Airplane, Swing in and Lighthouse need to be learned. At this stage, we need to learn correct way to hold the Kendama and the body movement to perform the trick. If you master these basics, you will improve your Kendama skills quicker and your body movements will be smoother.

Kyu Level Certificate

Trick table for Junshodan (Pre-Dan/intermediate skill level)


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Trick
(Waza) →



Level↓
Spike
(Tomeken)
Airplane
(Hikoki)
Swing in
(Furiken)
Around the Prefecture
(Ken Isshu)
Around Japan
(Nihon Isshu)
Around the World
(Seikai Isshu)
Light house
(Tōdai)
Slip on Stick
(Kensaki Suberi)
Moshikame
Junshodan 5 5 5 4 4 3 2 1 100

Requirements:

  • The tests must be taken using an official JKA Kendama with either certified (Nintei) or recommended (Suishō) seal. 
  • Only a certified JKA examiner may perform skill level examinations (tests)
  • Tricks must be performed in numerical order  
  • Trick No. 1 through 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 at least 100 times without failure at a rate of at least 135 times per minute. Only one attempt allowed.

Key Points:

The Junshodan level was added more recently, 1991, because the skill levels gap between 1st Kyu and 1st Dan was too wide. Many of the tricks at the Dan level use combination tricks which include Kyu level tricks. For example: Earth turn has elements of Swing in, Falling Down includes Lighthouse, and Jumping Stick starts with Airplane.  Tricks like Slip on Stick (also called Slip-stick), Bird, and Slip Grip Special also require the same skill to pull the ball straight up without rotating it just like the trick Spike. If you are practicing for Junshodan you need to aim for consistency. By succeeding in mastery of basic skills you will be more prepared for the rigors of the more difficult Dan levels.

Junshodan Level Certificate