All over the world every day, players pick up their kendamas to accomplish a trick they've never landed before. You may have even seen some players, like Jaume Saltó posting every day for an entire year (and on an Indo Board, no less!), or Yui Nakamura, who is less than two months away from posting a video on her Instagram every day for over 4 years straight; two stellar examples of constant growth.
With so many tricks possible, you can always find a new idea to try or to build onto, but sometimes it just isn't "clicking". Aside from grinding until you land what you want, there are things you can do on top of your current practice routine that can push your game to the next level, no matter what type of trick you're working on!
If you struggle with a combo, take to think about the trick from a different angle. For example, rather than focusing on the entire trick when you're making an attempt, focus on achieving each transition one at a time. By worrying about landing the last piece of the combo during your attempt, you might mentally block yourself from landing the parts of the trick you can do well. Give every trick the respect it deserves; kendama can be unforgivably difficult if you don't put in the proper effort!
Don't be afraid of the kendama; you can control every movement it makes. If it does get out of your control, sometimes it's best to follow the Juggler's rule, just get out of the way, and let it fall. Most often, you'll be playing a kendama that has a string attaching the tama and ken, so there's a very low chance that it will get out of your reach; the exception being if you're practicing aerial tricks like mooncircles and spacewalks.
A piece of advice that's drilled into beginner's heads, bending your knees may be one of the best tools you can use when playing kendama. Go all the way, don't just stop halfway if you think you got the trick. By fully committing and pushing your body to the limits, you're much more likely to land the trick you want, improve your kendama play overall, and your physical health to boot.
Going for a trick that has two or more rotations involved and having trouble counting? Try adding more! Sometimes it's difficult to see how many times the tama or ken has flipped, especially when we make it go faster and faster. If you're struggling with a double, try a triple. By getting our brains conditioned for an even faster speed, when we come back to the double, you'll likely perceive each rotation more clearly because it is rotating more slowly than what we were training our brain to spot. This tip doesn't necessarily make the trick you're attempting easier, but it provides a great mental boost once you see the effect in practice. Who knows, you might even land the triple unexpectedly and surprise yourself!
Kendama isn't a race, it's a staircase. Don't rush yourself! Practice patience and take proper time to breathe, think, and reset between your attempts. Take every step with confidence in yourself and remember to reflect on what you learn through your practice. It's very easy to rush your play when you get frustrated, and the more frustrated we get, the less likely we are to go into an attempt with a clear head and succeed. It's always better to take your time and land the trick rather than wear yourself out and end the practice session without achieving your goal.
At the end of the day, kendama is hard. Making our lives easier and grasping a better understanding of how kendama and our minds work is vital for growth. I hope you can apply a few of these talking points to your practice routine in the future and level up!
Cody Booth is a kendama player of 5 years from Huntington, WV who helps with multiple organizations pushing kendama forward. Cody's Instagram.