Through my lurking among the social media channels, I’ve seen plenty of people ask about how they can start a kendama community. Often, they are met with a wave of positive comments and feedback, but as we all know, it can be difficult to find what works best; every individual thinks and works differently. I’ve heard many times “Just go for it!”, and while I do love and agree with the sentiment behind it, saying it and doing it are two very different things.
Rather than give a blanket statement about how you should go about starting your own local community of slayers, I’d like to provide some insight into what I think about and the actions I’ve taken in growing a budding community of players in my own community of West Virginia.
Take time to consider these questions. Reflect on how many people you have introduced to kendama, if any, since you’ve started playing. How many of these people are close friends, and how many of them are strangers?
In my case, I already had a small handful of close friends whom I had gifted kendamas in the past. Luckily for me, these are the types of friends who are willing to show up if I give them a call. If I wanted to have a jam/meet-up, the easiest thing for me to do is to contact these people and give them an invite, whether that be over to my house or at our local park. On occasion, I would set up a booth at a Vendor Show to sell kendamas to the public, which these friends were even willing to travel with me to help.
If all you are looking for is a small group of people to play with on a regular basis, connecting with your closest local friends is the best solution, bringing them together around kendama. If none of your friends have kendamas, try to bring enough of your own spares, if you have enough, so everyone can enjoy together.
Obviously, this advice can be a little difficult to act on during the Covid era; I suggest your favorite video chatting application or a socially distanced version of the same jam! Wear your mask and don’t share kendamas back and forth with one another. If you do bring spares for people to play, make sure they are properly sanitized and do the same afterwards! You can never be too careful; we are gathering to have fun, so whatever we can do to minimize the risk is extremely beneficial.
Make yourself a loose itinerary for your jam! Whether it be a few small mini-games to keep things on track, or a mock competition, having a plan for your session can help everyone have much more fun while they are there, ideally keeping them coming back for future jams! I like to bring at least one thing to give away each time I organize a meeting, but my attendees never know if there will be something to win that day! I might be a little too generous, but I do my best to keep the focus of jams on the fun and less on the products and actively change my plans if too many students are asking if there will be something given away that week; I prefer to reward fun and good times rather than a tenacity for gaining material items.
Also keep in mind not to stick too adherently to your plan if it doesn't stay on track, there's a fine line between a jam feeling like a hangout and a class. Thinking about how you want your jam to feel and what you want to do with your jams long-term is important when considering how much you want to add to your to-do list. If you feel like people are getting bored with your current activity, maybe switch it up to something else! Keep it fun, keep it interesting, and they'll keep coming back.
Hopefully after a few experiences of hosting a group you will, at the very least, have a small group of people who really enjoy kendama. A small group is always the start of larger ones, and as people gain interest, the spiderweb of knowledge spreads and more people will find out about you, kendama, and your own small budding community!
From ten years ago just last month, you can see how much fun a kendama jam/battle can be. Check out this historic video of the January Kendama Battle of 2011 hosted by Jake Weins.