European Kendama Open 2014
The European Kendama Open is the premiere kendama event on the continent of Europe. New players and well known players alike all come out for this event and make it a special time. This year the EKO was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. A pre-event tour with activities for foreign players making the trek to Denmark was arranged by Kendama.Dk x Krom Kendama, and what a great job they did. Tours around Copenhagen and a multi day kendama friends only beach house was reserved for us on the other side of Denmark. We even had the chance to drop in on Michael Williams and Denmark’s oldest indoor skatepark; needless to say, our group contained a whole lot of skating/blading/scooter talent. Denmarks own Rasmus Hetoft took some really sick photos from our skate session, one of which can be seen below.
We toured Copenhagen on foot for a couple of days before heading via bus to Middelfart, where the beach-house/chalet was. Middelfart is the town in Denmark where the founders of Kendama.dk and KROM Kendama grew up together. I immensely enjoyed getting to see this place and understand the roots of the KROM style more. We had a really nice relaxing time with everyone, despite putting off sleep to have more time to hang out with foreign friends. When it came time for us to take the bus back to Copenhagen everyone was hitting some really impressive Sleep Trick B times. I think that almost the whole bus was full of sleeping kendama talent and bobbing heads.
We arrived after the amazing Pre Tour back in Copenhagen for the main event, the EKO! Void from the British Kendama Association joined us to hang out, facilitate the knockout competition part of the EKO and do a lot of the workings of the events in conjuction with KROM. The event was amazing. There were even certified Japanese Kendama Association examiners there to do dan testings for those who wanted to. I was so stoked to have the opportunity to test for and receive my 5th Dan alongside the legendary Alex Ruisch while we were there. The beginner, intermediate, and advanced ladder competitions went off with some excitement, and then came the Dan Jam. This signature EKO event is for anyone with a dan ranking. Each player has a minute to go up and show their most creative and difficult kendama tricks. The contestants are judged and the winners are recognized shortly after. Iji from KROM/Zoomadanke went up and put on an electrifying show for everyone and deservingly walked away with first place in this division. Philip Eldridge from KROM grabbed second place, making him European Dan Jam champion since Iji is from Japan.
The Krom Deluxe girls were working the merchandise booth during the day, and thank goodness they had sandwiches and fruit for us to buy. There were all sorts of kendamas for sale, and the turnout for the event was spectacular. The word from Void was that this was the biggest EKO ever in attendance and participation.
The first rounds of the knockout competition got underway. With so many world class players there to compete, it was quite the show. There were many upsets early on like favorites to win Matt Jorgenson and Rodney Ansell going out in the first round. In the end it came down to a faceoff between Theo from Denmark and Joris Schweppe from Holland for the third place title, but also for the European Kendama Champion title because the first and second place faceoff was between Tajima Akira and Shimadera. After a grueling 5 point-to-win match between these two Japanese legends we finally ended up with an EKO champion: Shimadera!
There was still more competition though. The EKO saw the first ever Seven To Spike competition in Europe. This competition is a freestyle battle done king of the hill style, with challengers trying to defeat the current “king”. Each player throws down their own unique freestyle every time, and the judges decide who wins the battle. The winner gets a point, first to seven points wins, and there are no breaks within the competition rounds. Four preliminary rounds went down, and the top two from each round were chosen to go through to the final round. When it came down to it, Matthew Ballard of KROM and Wenatchee Kendama Team took top honors and claimed his spot as freestyle champion (along with being the North American champion in the knockout rounds too!). I actually ended up getting second place, and Iji rounded out the podium in third. I could not have been any more honored and excited to stand up on the podium with my two friends like that.
Besides all the competitions there were lots of mini games, nerve wracking dan tests, hanging out and good times with people from all over the world. The European Kendama Open is one of the most exciting kendama events of the year. I’m beyond stoked to have been here to experience it, and now I’m going to leave you all with that so I can grab some falafel here in Copenhagen where the event was held.
words by Keith Matsumura
Enjoy some photos by Rasmus Hetoft Hansen! He accompanied us this past week for the EKO to take pictures, play kendama, and be an all around good guy! You can find a bunch more of his photos in an album on KROM Kendama’s facebook. (Pictures are thumbnails, click on them for full size viewing)