A kendama is a Japanese skill toy that is comprised of a wooden handle, cups, and a ball. You can order it from any kendama online store. They are all connected by a string, and the traditional game focuses on creative balancing tricks. The word “ken” refers to a handle or a sword, and the word “tama” is a ball in Japanese. By trying to catch one component with the other, different hand maneuvers synchronized with body movements can be achieved. There are thousands of intricate techniques and a whole spectrum of DIY tricks that people enjoy exploring. Kendama’s popularity in Japan took a detour around the world to gather a global audience to the game. With design upgrades and customizable features, kendama stores continue to launch unique styles, as there are several different types of these handheld skill toys.
Apart from fun pastime games, kendama has a competitive avenue filled to the brim with challenging stunts. It takes a lot of practice and hand-eye coordination to balance and juggle the ball on the three cups. The ken spike is used for spiking the ball before connecting the move into a sequence. There is more dynamic scope to string together interactive possibilities with the kendama. This Japanese sword ball is both simple and complex and has perfect attention to detail in design as well as execution. Since you move along with the kendama to achieve balance, there is a martial arts element of agility and trick neatness that makes the game very addictive.
Kendama anatomy and grip styles
The kendama is made up of a ball, a ken spike, a connecting string, the big and small cup body, the actual ken, a slip grip, and a bottom cup. There are different ways to hold the kendama, and each type of grip is designed to optimize handheld tricks.
The Sara Grip is similar to how you hold a pen, and this pen grip is where you hold the kendama between your thumb and index finger.
The Ken Grip is also known as the Common Grip in which you hold the ken with your thumb underneath it and the other fingers resting on top.
The Tama Grip is the Ball Grip, and it requires you to hold the ball between your thumb and two fingers in such a way that the hole faces upwards.
The Candle Grip is the way you would hold a candle stand, and your thumb and two fingers are used to hold the ken spike.
Kendama players experiment with various routines and improvisations to get better at their games. It is fun to try out new styles and perform tricks with different kinds of kendama. This gives greater exposure to the types of games and stunts you can practice. Kendama tricks are generally divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels to diversify your executions and offer competitive brilliance during kendama tournaments. Here are some of our favorite styles of kendama under each category. There are several techniques and variations, but we have handpicked the most popular and creative ones for this list. As you will notice, the names are as inventive as the artistic craft of performing these tricks.
This is one of the fundamental kendama tricks. It starts by holding the kendama in a Sara Grip and making sure that the hanging ball is aligned and stationary. By bending low and rising up, you make the ball move upwards too before catching it in the big cup. The next step is to juggle the ball to the bottom cup by giving it a small lift. You then repeat the back-and-forth movement to alternate the ball between each cup for a simple, hassle-free Moshikame trick.
In the Candle Stick, you hold the kendama with its base cup pointing upwards. By letting the ball swing lightly, you pull it up just in time to catch it on the base cup. It requires timing and focus to tug the ball at the right moment, so it lands neatly on the cup. As with all kendama tricks, you need to use your knees to bend and rise with the ball’s movement for better stability.
In this trick, you will hold the kendama in a Sara Grip and toss the hanging ball into the big cup. By tossing it again so it hits the bottom cup and re-swings, you can catch it once it returns to the bottom cup. So, the cup gives the ball a slight hit for the perfect inertia to send it into one more oscillation – and this is where it gets the name. You can tug on the string to pull the ball towards you mid-swing.
Around the World
To perform the Around the World kendama trick, you can start off by holding the kendama in a pencil grip, horizontally this time. The ball moves between the small and big cups first, then lands on the base cup, and finally ends on the ken spike. This trick makes use of all the components in a kendama to add versatility even as a beginner-level technique.
Faster Than Gravity
Without using any upward pull, you will first hold the kendama high on your raised arm, with the ball hanging straight. By keeping your eyes fixed at the ball alone, you will move downwards in sync with the kendama and faster than gravity – as the name suggests – to catch the ball in its slow descent. In this way, the ball ends up on the spike, and there is more input from your knees and arms.
The Cold Pizza is quite dynamic and unique in its execution. You first hold the kendama in one hand with the ball placed on the spike and aimed downwards. Using your other hand, you add more tension on the loose string with one finger. In effect, this arrangement allows you to swing the kendama on your finger, keeping it tethered to the finger at all times. The kendama goes around a couple of times before you grab the ken in the Sara Grip on one hand and allow the detached ball to land on the base cup. One final throw brings the ball back to its spike. The Cold Pizza has different variations to step up the challenge, including catching the swinging ball by using one finger to anchor the string.
The Lazy Lighthouse is a ground-based linear trick that starts with the kendama placed upside down with the ball on the ground and the spike pointing upwards. You hold the ball this time and tug it up so that the ken moves upwards. Just as it comes back to the ground on the now-empty base cup, you place the ball on the spike to complete the move. This trick is very fast, neat, and precise.
Definitely one of the most complicated intermediate tricks, the Space Walk is a combination of different aerial maneuvers. You begin this trick by holding the base cup so that the remaining components point downwards and the ball hangs loose. The kendama goes into a swing, and you hold the ball end mid-oscillation to tether the ken back towards the ball. The Space Walk first builds the right momentum before you let go of the kendama for a split second during which it moves on its own. The single-handed move makes it look very cool, and the end result appears effortless once you practice your form.
The UFO kendama trick starts with a horizontal position and relies on your body’s simultaneous movement to each throw. You hold the ball alone and control the kendama by flicking it towards the ball as it descends vertically. The same motion is repeated as you slowly bend downwards and switch the trick to horizontal rotation – just like a UFO. It is a very advanced execution and takes a lot of input from your knees to make the whole sequence appear multi-dimensional. There is better spatial use here that gives your trick a good stage presence.
The Whirlwind consists of two parts. You start from the lower ground level and launch the trick as you rise up. The kendama stays upright in your hand, and when you give the ball a throw, you quickly flip the ken at the same time. As a result, the ball lands back on the spike while the ken flips mid-throw. Individually, both parts move around before converging right where they started. The trick can extend into longer sequences by repeating the Whirlwind as you stand up or bend low on your knees.
This trick starts with the ball in your hand and the ken hanging below it. You basically swing it up so that the big cup lands on top of the ball. Following this step, you throw the ball to the spike. The idea is that the ball acts as the moon, and the ken lands on it using the big cup. It seems quite simple for an advanced trick, but the secret lies in outward swinging and precise landing forms.
The Root Canal is definitely one of the most challenging and technical tricks within advanced kendama games. Though we are all haunted by the dental procedure, its kendama adaptation feels more welcoming. We will take the lesser of the two evils! You start by letting the ball hang loose with the kendama in one hand and the other hand ready to loop the string as the kendama swings. The intricate knot gives the ball some anchor as you maneuver this arrangement to make the ball land on top of the base cup.
Kendama online stores
We have chosen two of our favorite kendama online stores in the US and explored their innovative missions in detail. These businesses think outside the box, and their passion for kendama is reflected in their uplifting collaborations. Both of the kendama online stores follow a community-inspired approach: by the kendama players, for the kendama players.
A leading initiative
Headquartered in Marietta, Georgia, Kendama USA is the original leading kendama online store that sells its products online. Established in the year 2006, the company was a unique collaborative effort of passionate kendama players. The website provides insightful guides into the world of kendama through trick tutorials and event programs.
The kendama online store offers a vast range of kendamas from various brands. These include Ozora Kendama, Sunrise Kendama, Krom Kendama, DownSpike, Terra Kendama, and Gloken. The catalog features kendama designs and essential accessories to add to your cart. There are also apparel and sticker pack options from these brands to personalize your buying choices in this kendama online store.
Kendama USA organizes its skill toy collections into top-rated products, under-15 prices, beginner-friendly designs, American brands, Japanese brands, and resourceful bundles. The CLASSIC kendamas are designed for affordability and traditional structures. TRIBUTE kendamas are durable and have been built for clever design upgrades in terms of the cups and holes to create better ergonomics. The KAIZEN product line is inspired by the Japanese principle of continuous improvement, as reflected in the superior craftsmanship of each kendama. PRO MODELS target the professional-level pursuits of kendama tricks and are customized for advanced players. The CRAFT line is a detail-specific assortment of kendamas with more wood species to choose from, including maple, ash, cherry, hickory, birch, and red elm.
Accessories from Kendama USA kendama online store are a great way to customize your collections. By accessorizing your shopping list, you can have color-coordinated strings, on-the-go holsters, and a showcase display for your favorite kendamas. There are trick books to guide your learning curve. Replacement strings and kendama parts support compatible backups to maintain your set. These accessories are often available as a kit bundle to include kendama glues, bearings, and extra strings. Available in one of kendama online stores.
Kendama USA’s product comparison page gives a bird’s eye view of the CLASSIC, TRIBUTE, KAIZEN, and PRO MODEL categories. At a glance, you can easily browse through comparative prices, available colors, wood types, sizes, and finishing materials.
From a backyard shed
Sweets Kendamas was founded by Matt “Sweets” Jorgenson in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The company’s player-centric focus on its production ensures that each kendama design promotes user-friendliness and improved ergonomics. Its first production line was launched in a backyard shed in the year 2010, and the company expanded into a fully-fledged business over the years. The store’s kendama add-ons quickly leave the virtual shelves, as kendama players keep an eye out for extra strings, display wall hooks, ken-only products, etc.
The kendama online store’s catalog is a diverse mix of talents from the Sweets team. With incredible collaborations on graphic design and brainstorming freedoms, the founders and team members get to create their own kendama lines. The kendama online shop displays the inspiration behind each kendama, with the artist’s story explored in videos.
The BOOST series features creative color models and ken-only options. Some of its unique kendamas include the Northern Lights, Moonlight Safari, and various signature models. The PRO MODELS collections have the Matt Sweets Jorgenson kendama as a Legend design. Moreover, the company’s SWEETS LAB has different options for community pack discounts, with several stand-alone pieces that all have eye-catching design aesthetics. There are SIGNATURE SERIES and PRIME KENDAMAS as well as SPECIALTY options, just when you thought you had seen it all!
Sweets Kendama has a top-notch PRIME CUSTOM and PRIME STANDARD series. The kendama paints optimize the slip-to-stick ratio to help players execute neat balance tricks. The artistic freedom and hands-on approach throughout the production stages increase the scope for innovative competence. These PRIME kendama ball colors take inspiration from basketball jerseys, shoe designs, tropical vibes, breakfast foods, hardwoods, gemstones, and – you guessed it – sweets!
Ideal manufacturing and intricate engineering standards allow kendama tricks like the Lighthouse and Lunar techniques to be performed gracefully. Moreover, the kendamas have a trackable design for guiding hand-eye coordination to land precise tricks on the spike. The PRIME ken shape caters to beginner practices as well as advanced strategies, thanks to the streamlined components that work cohesively.
The Community Kendama is a contest initiative from Sweets Kendama to encourage people to participate using the #CommunityKendamaSeries Instagram hashtag. Participants can enter the contest using this hashtag; they are required to download a template, design their best ideas for the tama, and upload the final creation on Instagram. These tama designs should be original works and can take the form of hand drawings or digital graphics. The 10 best tama designs will be picked from this talent pool, and public votes will elect 3 winners. It is an exciting opportunity to allow winners to have their own designs appear on kendama sets that will be awarded to them. Way to give back to the community!
Kendama and pandemic
Skill toys have seen a dramatic rise during the coronavirus pandemic. They easily became addictive quarantine games to chase away some of the boredom at home. Kendamas are no exception, as these toys continue to move from virtual aisles to digital carts to people’s doorsteps. With brick-and-mortar stores closing down rapidly, customer queues have moved from window shopping to create web traffics at online stores instead. Kendamas are single-player skill toys, so social distancing is not a problem, and COVID-proof kendama events are still a promising incentive. It is all about little joys that save the day in the face of a global pandemic, and yes, we are talking about kendama Zoom virtual backgrounds during school lessons and business meetings!