Maybe you're like me, who got into kendama unexpectedly by buying one because it looked interesting, but not really knowing the depth of what I was getting myself into. Alternatively, maybe you saw what kendama play looked like and got hooked!
No matter what the introduction may have been, we all share a synonymous experience in playing: learning about a new trick, practicing, and eventually landing it. Over time, our muscle memory kicks in to help and we can land these tricks with better accuracy. The big question is, how long does it take till you can consider yourself "good at kendama"?
Right away, we must keep in mind what we mean by asking the question. "Good at Kendama" means different things to different people. Folks who have never seen or heard of kendama before are often wowed and/or confused, sometimes a combination of both! Any show of skill, no matter the difficulty level of the trick relative to other tricks, will often give your audience the impression that you are "Good at Kendama".
That is to say, you could do all three cups, a spike, or even a single cup catch, and onlookers will assume you've got skills. So, while you as the player may not necessarily think of yourself as good, the people who are observing you most likely do!
A layperson is someone who is uninitiated or unknowledgeable in a skill. Put simply and in this context, someone who knows nothing about the vast range of difficulty among kendama tricks is unlikely to understand the miniscule technical changes that make one trick harder than another, let alone even know that they exist. I'm reminded of when I got home after buying my first kendama; I had no knowledge, so everything and everyone I saw was good!
As negatively as the word "practice" might ring in some readers' heads, we're lucky that our hobby is so fun; If it weren't enjoyable, we wouldn't be doing it. Aside from mindset changes, playing kendama as much as you can is the best way to get better at kendama. Time spent is key to improvement in any skill, and kendama is certainly no exception! Have fun and enjoy yourself because that's what we're here for, but don't forget to apply good mental strategies to your play when you are feeling frustrated. We can never "Get Good" if we give up, so we always want to find ways of pushing beyond our plateaus. In the first couple weeks of my kendama journey, I recall my progression rate being very slow at first, but then dramatically increasing as I spent more time on landing tricks, learning new ones, and playing in general, whenever I could!
In my opinion, if you're playing, you are already good. That's it, I said it. ALL KENDAMA PLAYERS ARE GOOD AT KENDAMA. EVEN YOU. The question implies that there is some sort of mythical goal we must achieve before becoming a "good kendama player", when we know that, like difficulty, the measure of skill is subjective. Like we've established, what's "good" to you and what's "good" to other people varies widely. For every moment you spend worrying about getting yourself to this metaphorical finish line, there is a moment where you've wowed someone with that new trick you've been working on. Don't let the pursuit of skill shield your vision from the accomplishments you've made and the skills you've built already. Just by picking up the kendama for any amount of time, you've already become more honed with it than 99% of the population!
I can guarantee you, you're better than you think you are!
Keeping with today's theme, one fantastic way to improve is challenging yourself with the yearly "28 Tricks Later" challenge, coined by Sweets Kendamas, where you land a brand new trick every day of February. In fact, the challenge begins today, February 1st! Here's a compilation I made in 2019 with a Sol Opposite Day model. Even at this point in my journey, I didn't feel that I was "good" at kendama, but now I know I was using the wrong measurement system!
Cody Booth is a kendama player of 5 years from Huntington, WV who helps with multiple organizations pushing kendama forward. Cody's Instagram.