In November 2012 the Kendama USA Pro Team traveled to Japan to explore Kendama’s roots, players, and experience the homeland of this game that has changed all of our lives. This is the full length edit of our travels and tricks. Edited by Colin Sander.
Kendama USA, Gloken, and Razor Sports teamed up to put on Yo-Dama Fest 2 on Oahu with special guest Krom Kendama. This was a 3 day event of non-stop kendama action! There were competitions, mini games, classes with pros, and much more! We had a ton of fun putting this on and we cannot wait to come back! For more information on the event and our trip to Hawaii check out a write up Keith Matsumura did right HERE
Japan. It’s the birthplace of Kendama, and over one hundred years since the invention of this wooden skill toy that we all love so much, it’s still there and becoming more popular. For me this past summer, July of 2013 to be exact, I was able to travel to Japan to go to the World Kendama Open and the first ever Global Kendama Cup, which will make a return as the Kendama World Cup this coming July. I got to go in large part because of the prize money from my win at Dama Fest, and I can’t think of anything else I should have spent that money on instead. I got to go and meet some of the most legendary kendama players alive, as well as experience Japanese culture in a way I would never have imagined doing. Gloken (Global Kendamas Network) helped me out by letting me attach to their group of players and foreigners that were seeing Japan and going to the competitions. I can’t thank Mr. Imata and the Kubota family enough for housing me and feeding me while I was there!
A lot of players from outside of Japan made the trek as well. Matt Ballard, my good friend that I grew up with, came along with KROM and to shoot video (see above!). Rodney Ansell, Kristin Olinyk, and Alex Smith came from Canada, Thorkild May and Philip Eldridge came from Denmark, and Matt Decoteau and Trevor Starnes also came from the United States. These people plus our Japanese guides and friends composed a group of people that I had the time of my life with. It’s amazing what Kendama can do. It can bring people from all over the world to the same place to meet and do what they love together.
I even had the opportunity to meet Kazuma Iwata!
He met us on Miyajima Island and let us have the privilege of being the first people outside of the project to see the new Mugen Musous. Kazuma’s personal kendama that he was using was an emerald mugen. That day he told me that I could practice with and use his personal kendama for the World Kendama Open and Gloken Cup. He then went on to tell me that if I won Gloken Cup he would let me keep it. Well, I didn’t win. I tied Kenta Sakamoto for 3rd place with a loss to Satoru Akimoto (who better to lose to!), which I was ecstatic about except for the fact that I understood that this meant that I would need to give the emerald mugen back to Kazuma. Kazuma was not with us anymore and my instructions were to give it back to Tamotsu Kubota, who would get it back to Kazuma. We all went out to a park after Gloken Cup to set off fireworks, play kendama, and apparently to release all kinds of energy that we found somewhere. After it was all said and done, Tamotsu told me it was time to hand back the emerald mugen. I gave it back to him, only to be presented it as a gift from Kazuma right back. As far as epic moments in my life go, this was certainly near the top. Thank you Kazuma!
Some of us got together for a group photo during World Kendama Open.
I also had a really great time getting to know and hang out with Easy from Zoomadanke (Hiroki Iijima). My last day in Japan was spent with just Tamotsu and Iji. We ate good food, got too many mosquito bites trying to film around a small river, and sessioned in the train station for an hour or two before Easy’s train left.
I was there in Japan for less than a couple of weeks, maybe really just a bit over a week, but it was without a doubt some of the best times in my life. I had so much fun there it’s indescribable. More than that, though, was my joy in getting to be immersed in Japanese and Kendama culture entirely for a little while. I’m half Japanese myself, and because of that I have always been interested in that part of my heritage. I’ve wanted to see Japan since I was very little, and to get the chance to do it in such a fashion as I got to is amazing. I encourage all of you, if you ever have the chance to make it to Japan, do it, and enjoy the vending machines for me! (Everything comes in such small cans, I love it).
It was a big step for me in my kendama career to play kendama in Japan, even see the birthplace of Kendama, and hang out with legendary Japanese players. I can’t wait to go again someday. Huge thanks to KendamaUSA and Global Kendama Network for helping me and giving me the opportunity to live out dreams and do what I love. I’m working so that someday I can hopefully provide that same kind of dream-fulfilling opportunity to others.
Always have to get some food after playing Kendama all day long.
A personal thank you goes to Tamotsu for making this trip work for me. You’re the man! (This picture was in the airport right before I left)
I hope you all enjoy the video from the trip, and if you read what I had to say than I hope you enjoyed that too!
Dama on friends, here’s to community and good times with Kendama!
Alex Smith brings you a whole new way to keep up with your favorite pros. Alex is going to be doing a series of Podcasts with different pros and other people in the community! The first installment of this is an interview with Keith Matsumura!
Turner Thorne takes you through his favorite kendama setups! From old beat up kendamas to some brand new out of the box choices!
10. The Cook color shift Tribute
Not only do I love the way this dama looks, it is in fact the same one I did boarders balance flip with in japan.
9. Gold Kanji Tribute
The reason I chose this one is, well… just look at it!
8. Sky Blue Oozora
This was one of the first kendams I ever owned, I also filmed my KendamaUSA Entry video with this!
7. Kendama USA classic woodgrain
I chose this one because i love the way that woodgrain kendamas play! And if you haven’t tried a Classic yet, you’re missing out!
6. Beech Wood Grain Theory. (sourmash tama)
I chose this dama because it is made for the players by the players, it is made by Jake Wiens and Matt Rice, the craftsmanship is amazing and the balance is on point, not to mention the worm hole! pick one up at Graintheory.com
5. Keyaki oozora ken with Pro model tama.
This is one of my favorite choices to jam because the keyaki wood is much more sturdy, so it is my goto whenever I decide to play over concrete!
4. Yellow Mugen
This is one one of my most prized kendamas, it was given to me by a good friend and it plays amazing!
3. Wood Grain Oozora
This is the dama that I used most often when learning a new trick, I love the way these play after being broken in!
2. The Cherry Wood Pro Models
I know it sounds pretty biassed, but I truly do love playing these kendamas, from the weight of the wood to the tacky paint I just cant put it down!
1. Blue TK16 Master
This was my first kendama ever, and is signed by Tim Durtschi, the person who first introduced me to kendama! I still play it regularly too. Without this kendama I would have never started playing so it had to be my #1. Also Once a Tk16 gets broken in, it can be one of the best damas in your collection!
Thank you for reading everyone! Stay posted for more updates everyday!
Do you listen to music while you play kendama? Well our newest Kendama USA team member Haley Bishoff does, and now you can listen to her exact Playlist on Soundcloud! Who knows you might just get some special dama powers while listening!
Colin Sander is our most veteran player here at Kendama USA, he has paved the way for Kendama in the Untied States by being one of the first to start making progressive edits online. Here we are showcasing all his edits in order from 1-9 (except #6 DVD only) plus some single tricks and some other videos he has put together! Enjoy!
Ever wonder what Dave Mateo’s Kendama collection looks like? Well now is you’re chance! Check out the assortment of Kendamas Dave has collected over the years! Not to mention the cleanest Puma collection in the game!
Yo everyone! If you’re reading this right now, that means you’re somewhat interested in what I’ve been doing these past couple of months. Man has it been crazy theses past few months! Lots of traveling, keeping up with school, and playing volleyball for my school, with everything else in between. I’m here to explain a little bit about what I do on a day-to-day basis. Fuegz life perhaps?
2014 started off exciting with tons of news about up coming travel plans for Kendama USA. HAWAII IN JANUARY!? How could I say no to that? This worked out perfectly because I was on winter break, which lasted from Dec. 17th-Jan 21st. Let me back up a little bit. I am currently a student at the University of Nevada, Reno studying Nursing. With constant school grinding, I was stoked to be able to take a break for a month and head on over to Hawaii for a portion of my break.
It was my first time flying into Hawaii (Oahu), so my stoked factor was through the roof! Jake and I stepped off the plane with the smell of Hawaiin air, tropical greatness and motivation to kill it out here in Hawaii. Haley and Dave arrived a bit later so Jake and I had an airport dama sesh at baggage claim. For some reason, when Jake and I play games of ken, it lasts insanely long and we stomp the craziest tricks. It’s like we go full trib mode and lacing a trick feels like second nature. Dave and Haley arrived while Jake was off fetching the rental car. We all got picked up, bags shoved in the car, windows down with Hawaiian music blaring.
Ko Olina Resort is where we stayed and my god was it paradise. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when we stepped out of the car. I instantly got the GoPro out and went vid mode to document the awesomeness around me. We checked into our room and I stood in the doorway with awe. Hawaiian hospitality is by far the greatest I’ve experienced. Anyway, enough about that, it’s time to explore!
If you haven’t seen Hawaiin Adventures Vol. 1 on the Kendama USA YouTube page, GO CHECK IT OUT! I’ll leave the video link at the bottom to explain how the rest of my Hawaii trip was. Just a few things I’d like to go over… 1. Hawaii is killing it with the Kendama Community. 2. Huge thanks to Dave and his crew from Razor Sports and Concepts. 3. I can’t wait to come back.
Being in Hawaii from Jan 9th-18th felt like I was only there for 2 days. Back to reality for me. I headed back up to Tahoe for a couple days to visit my family before heading back to school. Got the chance to update my mom and step dad about my crazy Hawaii trip. I headed back to Reno a couple days later to start up school and volleyball again.
A new semester started so all new classes. Being a nursing major, I try to make sure I get all A’s. Keeping my GPA up is the most important, while playing volleyball and having the time to travel for Kendama. Monday morning walking into class, I already wanted this semester to be over. Maybe it was the fact that I wanted to be back in Hawaii, or the fact that my 21st birthday was coming up. Me turning 21? I still feel like a kid! Anyway, my 21st birthday was crazy to say the least and I’ll leave it at that. Being legal to drink finally!
New York City was the next trip I was taking. The 2014 Toy Fair is somewhat a tradition for me so there was no was I was missing it. It was my 3rd year attending the Toy Fair and I couldn’t be more stoked to be back out in NYC with the crew, plus the new rook, Bish.
The previous Toy Fairs I attended in NYC were more like “OH MY GOSH, toys and things I can break everywhere and candy and other miscellaneous objects I wanted to grab and touch. “ This time I was intrigued by the business side of Kendama and really honing my skills in on sales pitch, knowledge of our product and having a good time all in one. It was a rough start to the tradeshow due to an east coast storm delaying all of our booth material. Luckily for us, we are the show. Us being able to perform and actually show people what Kendama is, is what we live for. Once we got our booth squared away and up and running, things started to fall in place perfectly.
Unfortunately I had to leave halfway into the last day of Toy Fair to head back to school. Dang school getting in the way of my travel plans haha. Overall, it was a super successful trip to New York. Got the chance to see Jero, walked the streets of NYC, grinded homework at 3 am, and managed to play Kendama too.
Back to school again. Just a side note real quick, my games for volleyball are usually on the weekends. We practice Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for 2 hours a night. So, juggling school during the day, managing the Kendama USA Instagram, playing volleyball at night and weekends, and leaving some time to eat and sleep too.
I guess this is a good time to introduce this topic. As much as I was on Instagram on my personal account, I figured why not take over the Kendama USA one as well? So as you know, I run and manage the Kendama USA Instagram. It started off being only a couple posts per month, when I wasn’t really engaged in it. Social media is a huge aspect in our generation so I realized how much of an advantage it would be if I took control of it seriously. I wanted to update everyone on what the Ken USA crew was up to.
I love taking pictures of my teammates, Kendama related things, and artsy things. It was the perfect job for me because I love doing it. Now, I try and post as much as I can to update all of you about where we are, what our setups are, current updates on new Kendama product, contests, and scavenger hunts. So feel free to follow us on IG! I’ll tag the Ken USA IG and myself at the end.
Next up was the most recent trip I took. I went from Tacoma Washington to SF to Oahu to Maui, back to Oahu then back to SF. Can you tell I like being on an airplane? This trip was long and I’ll try to cut it down as best as I can. The Tacoma Takeover was tons of fun with all the companies together. Cooper and Ernie put on an awesome event for the dama players up in WA.
Jake, Keith and myself all flew up to represent Kendama USA. Bro do you even mosh? and Thor Mosh were the highlights of that trip. Picture a 10 lb bowling ball being juggled by a jumbo tribute ken… yeah pretty epic. Now imagine a KROM mini with a XXXL tama… Even more epic.
Event was over with the first place winner being Chris Do representing Folken and SacKendama. Congrats again Chris!
Of course we didn’t sleep that night because what is sleep when we are on a dama trip? We decided to eat pizza, film dama, sit in wheelchairs, and try out death trick b. (Ask Jake, Keith or myself about death trick b) : ).
Keith flew back to CO. Jake and I flew into SF to get some stuff taken care of before heading back out to Hawaii… AGAIN!
This time the whole crew was out in Hawaii.. Excpet that one dude who wears spirit animal shirts and snowboards…. What’s his name again? Uh… OH yeah.. Zack Yourd. Zack couldn’t make it out do to pure grinding on school and being prez of his snowboard club. You were there in spirit though Yourdils.
Anyway, the whole crew was here. Smith, Keith, Mateo, Wiens, T Thorne, Sandeezy, H Bish and myself. Tori and Dana came along for the trip as well to enjoy the Hawaiian lifestyle. This time we got to participate in the first ever 3-day Kendama event held by Pearlridge Mall, in association with Razor Sports. Also, Tamotsu-san and the Gloken Crew, Thorkild, Philip, and Matt Ballard from KROM Kendama, AND Zoomadanke came out to shred in Hawaii. It was an honor to meet some of my favorite Japanese players and to see Hajime and Tamotsu and the KROMIES.
To sum this trip up, we got the chance to swim with sea turtles, teach kids how to progress in Kendama, saw the Zoomadanke performance live, filmed in amazing locations, and got to hangout with the greatest friends I could ask for. Hawaii Adventures Vol. 2 will recap my whole trip so stay tuned for that!
While the whole crew was in Oahu, Jake, Dave and myself had to fly to Maui Tuesday morning for an event put on Kaleidoscope. Man was Maui beautiful. I really hope we have the opportunity to go out there again. To sum this trip up, we flew into Maui early Tuesday morning, got breakfast, had mopeds waiting for us to cruise around Maui for a couple hours, did the event from 3pm-8pm, got dinner and headed to our resort for sleep. But of course you all know, we don’t sleep. The resort they put us in was absolutely amazing! Too bad we got in when it was dark and had to leave the next morning at 5 am. It’s all good though, I know we will be back out.
Back to Oahu we flew. We said our goodbyes to everyone and headed back home. Until next time Hawaii!
And now I’m back at school, dealing with mid terms and nationals for volleyball this weekend. As much as I love traveling for Kendama, it’s a lot of work to maintain my grades and keep up with volleyball but I love my life and what I do to inspire others to be just like me and live the way I do. At the end of the day, I may be stressed out with the multiple things I have going on but it’s what I live for. I hope you all enjoy what I’ve been up to these past couple months and realize that you should never give up on your dreams no matter what your circumstances are. I love you all and thank you for reading all of this. Until my next check in. SHOOTZ!
Ps. I’m currently in grind mode to get another self edit out so be prepared!