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March 31, 2020

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The Future Of Media’s Role In Kendama

Honed media kendama company

The year 2020 isn’t just the beginning of a new decade for kendama, it is the dawn of a new age for kendama. The global kendama community is by far the largest it has ever been. Modern kendama influences have spread country by country, city by city, community by community, comrade to comrade. Kendama’s global reach has primarily been produced under the umbrellas of only a handful of dominant sources, all of which are brands that sell kendamas. It makes sense to me; A company needs a way to market its wares, and in the past decade all have turned to social media platforms as the primary outlets for communicating the message of spreading kendama... by buying one of theirs.

Kendama Exists As It Does Today Because Of Social Media

Whether it’s by announcing the next drop, sharing photos of the newest pro model, or uploading a video of a player doing a trick concept that inspires others to experiment, social media has shaped kendama’s online landscape. With high-quality trick edits appearing on Youtube more often than ever, kendama groups emerging on Facebook, and Instagram making the hashtag #kendamalife an actual influencer lifestyle, it is safe to say social media is here to stay.

Kevin DeSoto hanging out at a kendama event

To go further, we can thank the offices of Kevin Systrom at Instagram, for allowing kendama to manifest itself in the most shareable way humanly possible. I like to joke that Instagram was meant for kendama as you can really explore all of Instagram's content capabilities through playing kendama. It is common that players create Instagram accounts for the sole purpose of sharing their kendama journey with the world. Take a look at #28TricksLater and how it has become a traditional part of online kendama culture.

Not only that, but Instagram has allowed kendama awareness to escalate extremely quickly, something I think the entire kendama community takes for granted. Skateboarders, BMX riders, and Inline skaters just 20 years ago had to wait weeks to see any new footage, photos, or stories from pros and amateurs alike. Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook permit players and brands to instantly experience not only promotional content, but build personal relationships together like never before.

If the Japanese Kendama Association had had an Instagram account in 1975 when they first started, there’s a good chance that kendama wouldn't still be referred to as a “traditional Japanese skill-toy” in the year 2020. As a matter of fact, I have never even played an officially Japanese kendama. I started playing in 2014 and I’ve never owned an Ozora; I started with a cheap Chinese kendama, then moved on to American brands that sourced them from China. So, when we answer curious onlookers who ask what we're doing by saying, “It's an 18th century traditional skill toy from Japan”, we actually are speaking a fallacy. Sure, it originated in Japan, but Japanese skateboarders don’t call skateboards a "traditional American wooden toy." They’re too busy making skateboarding their own.

So with that said: without social media, kendama would still be an obscure Japanese souvenir to the rest of the world. Playing kendama as we know it today requires learning a lot of new information very quickly to be able to wrap your head around the vocabulary, play styles, and especially the physical science that kendama demands. But not to worry, a quick Google search can take care of that! So, let's take a moment to thank Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the original founders of Google, for helping us understand how to play kendama.

Troy Monteagudo playing with a Muumuu collab kendama

Can The Internet Be Too Fast?

With modern kendama becoming popular in the early 21st century, there is simply no doubt that it has benefitted from the instant connections the internet provides. But there’s a catch: kendama players have very short attention spans. Perhaps that’s why they play kendama in the first place, as a sort of fidget device. Or, maybe it’s because of the instant, short-form online content that they have been so conditioned to engage with.

It would be easy to say that kendama seems pretty well covered, then, within the online world; however, social media is not without its limits. There is something that kendama culture lacks as a whole, and that is long-form content. The article you are reading this very second is one of those longer-form pieces that I am talking about. Another great example of long-form content is the Dama Nerds Podcast, where episodes usually go for well over an hour. Longer-form content allows an in-depth exploration of kendama culture and unveils the deeper connections players have with kendama and with each other.

The Future Will Create The Past

Kendama culture has been created and cultivated at an expedited pace through social media, and it’s easy to imagine why some people may feel that it’s “always been this way,” despite modern kendama being a relatively new concept. When I was interviewed for another blog called The Street Feed, I was asked what I enjoy the most about working in kendama media. I answered that being able to bring something new to the table and make a difference in a culture that is still young and malleable is the most rewarding part, by far.

The primary goal of my kendama blog, Honed Media, is to provide an alternative source for kendama-related content that isn’t solely focused on new products or tricks, but also shines a spotlight on the surrounding culture that makes kendama more than just a game. The way I see it, spreading kendama is best done “on the ground,” so to speak; and the best way to sustain a community is to double down on the stories of people who make up the community - the people who are out there on the front lines. Having this perspective has helped me, through Honed, find ways to make a difference not only in my local community, but also online with the global community as well.

So, if my role in serving the kendama community - my community - is being behind a computer creating and curating media that is made by and for kendama players, and providing a platform and a space for players to come as they are and feel welcomed and accepted, that is a challenge I will embrace wholeheartedly; the future of kendama depends on it.

Written by Ryan Reese of Honed Media

Dama to the Death 3

February 29, 2020

Dama to the Death is Honed Media's controversial annual kendama event. It is, what I would consider to be, the first "high stakes" kendama event. The risk in competing is simple:

For both contests, if a player is ultimately eliminated they must cut their tama off and add their ken to the BURN PILE. So as a disclaimer, it is possible that you may lose your ken to the tournament. But don’t worry, it has become a sort of rite of passage to lose your ken in Dama To The Death and it inspires solidarity amongst players!

That's right- if you lose, you burn your ken. Kendama events, especially events that are head-to-head competition, are pretty renowned for being nerve-intensive, high-pressure, etc. This competition tries, and succeeds, at elevating this elation.

dama to the death kendama burn pile

The Controversy

The heart of the controversy surrounding this event revolves around a principle of the greater kendama community that it is gravely important to share the dama love with everyone. It can particularly mean passing a usually older kendama on to a beginner. Many are irritated with the fact that an upwards of forty kens will be burned at the end of the event, given that you could potentially be inviting 40 new people to join our world.

Honed Media, in the block quote above, argued that a group burning creates a level of solidarity. It isn't hard to see how a level of military-esque lose together, grow together kind of mentality would play out in this situation.

A number of players are using older, semi-beaten kendamas, minimizing the pain of losing in the competition. Others, like Christian Frasier, are willing to toe the line of a fresh kendama. At the 2019 event, he burned his newly released Decade Mod after making a lowly third place.

My Take

I always try to make a counter case and play devils advocate in many situations in an attempt to understand the other side. In this case, I'd be making a case for Dama to the Death, as it seems to be defending itself of a new idea. I'm also fond of new ideas. I like the case they make for solidarity in loss, and I think there is something to be said for the heightened competition. We've been firm supporters of Florida's kendama scene, coincidentally making us a supporter of this event. As far as kendama selection, I'd say stick to using a completely jammed and older kendama. ;)

The Winners

DTTD does an amateur and pro bracket, to the relief of the ams. Here's the list of pro freestyle winners:

  • 1st - Zachary Magnuson
  • 2nd - Josh Kim
  • 3rd - Kevin DeSoto
Order from Left to Right in the picture: Josh, Zach, Kevin

dama to the death pro kendama freestyle winners

The Losers

Everyone else.

Should You Attend?

We're biased, because we think everyone should attend every kendama event. Community is what makes us, and what makes kendama. If only for the fellowship, you should attend this event. Bring a couple of seshed kendamas, and then, if you decide to put it all on black, you can compete. Its always a good time, and we are appreciative of Honed Media for consistently celebrating and enriching their community.

Written by Shelton Covington

January 06, 2020

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Kicking 2020 off right with Kendama

Welcome to the new decade, dama players. Here's what the next decade looks like. New shapes, new tricks, new edits, new players, new pros, all wrapped up in the same amazing community.

Battle at the Border 2020

picture of the kendama event battle at the border 2020 located in nashville tennessee

On January 3rd and 4th, Sol continued to coordinate and operate the longest-standing event in the United States: Battle at the Border. Hosted annually at Rocketown in Nashville, TN, we choose to kick off every year in grand style with a fun, yet competitive event to help ensure that the kendama scene stays alive and well.

Here's a list of things that happen at BATB:

  • Freestyle competition
  • Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Open ladders (head-to-head)
  • Raffles for prizes
  • KendamaCares - accepting donations (food, jackets, blankets) to donate to those in need
  • Vendors of all your favorite brands (and discovering new ones)
  • Spending time with the amazing kendama players who make up our community

We left out one major bullet point....

Alex Mitchell is now a Sol Kendamas Pro!

picture of sol kendamas new pro kendama player Alex Mitchell

A lot of you will probably say: a long time coming. We agree completely. Alex has been honing in his skill, his community, and his pro model. It is modeled after the Tokyo subway system, and is going to be amazing. It is tentatively releasing and will be available in February 2020.

Starting the Year with Thanks

picture of sol kendamas co-owner shelton covington at battle at the border 2020

Shelton and Chad are so thankful to have the opportunity to serve the kendama community, whether it is hosting an event, creating new kendama designs, refining kendama shapes, or making a podcast.

picture of chad covington, owner of sol kendamas, kendama pro, kendama designer, genius

Here's to a huge next year, and a huge upcoming decade. Hang in there with us, we're ready to rock and roll.

July 05, 2018

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Types of Paints Used for Kendamas and Why It Matters

There are many different types of paint used for kendama, and each of them change the way you play kendama drastically. We are going to teach you about each of the different paint styles, and why choosing the right paint is crucial when playing kendama. There are many different paint styles used by a variety of different kendama brands, but the main paint types include natural (no paint), glossy, sticky, and rubber/silk paint.

Natural (no paint)

So you've chosen the wild side, eh? In the Kendama Community, kendamas with no paint are referred to as natural, or "natty" kendamas. Natural kendamas are classic, and a must have for any true kendama player. These kendamas come in a variety of wood types, and can even have a finish or a polish on them. Natural kendamas tend to be very "slick" when doing tama grip tricks, but can become very "grippy" after breaking them in well. In very humid areas, natty kendamas become much easier to use, because the wood absorbs the humidity and increases the traction between the ken and the tama. This same effect can be replicated with sweat absorbed in the wood from your hands, or by licking the bevel of the tama to make stall tricks much easier. Licking the bevel of the tama might sound crazy, but many professional kendama players can be found doing this in competition, or when chasing a very difficult trick for a kendama edit.

Walnut Halfsplit Flow

Glossy Paint

It is very rare that a kendama company produces glossy paint anymore, but there are many kendamas out there that have glossy paint, so we will still include it in our list of kendama paint types. Glossy paint was a standard in kendama for many years, until paint with more grip was introduced into the Kendama Community around late 2011. We do not produce kendamas with glossy paint anymore, but this style hasn't been completely fazed out just yet. Glossy paint is very slick right out of package, and takes many months of play to break in properly. Once broken in, this paint will have some grip, and will most likely look very beaten up by then. You might like glossy paint if your prefer a challenge, and don't mind putting in the work to make it play like a dream.

TK16 Master Kendama

Sticky Paint

If instant satisfaction is your name, then sticky paint is your game! The most popular paint style nowadays is sticky paint. Sticky painted kendamas allow you to learn tricks faster, progress in difficulty quicker, and innovate kendama tricks even further than ever before. Kendamas with sticky paint have the most grip directly out of package, and tend to keep that grip for their entire lifespan. Many tricks in tama grip become significantly more achievable with sticky paint, and that is why it is so popular. In some weather conditions, sticky paint may lose its grip, but this generally isn't the case. Sticky paint tends to be very durable, and while some paint chipping may occur, the tama will generally retain its grippy nature. Definitely get your hands on a sticky kendama if you want to progress your kendama game.

Lavender Sol Pastel

Rubber/Silk Paint

Smooth to the touch, but it comes in clutch. Rubber/Silk paint can be deceivingly grippy at times, despite its smooth silky feel. This paint type started to become popular around 2012, and many people actually considered rubber paint a form of cheating at the time! There was a stigma around making kendama tricks easier, but as kendama began to develop more, progression became necessary. Rubber painted kendamas began to inspire a new generation of kendama play, and kendama has progressed significantly since its introduction. This paint style looks and feels so nice, and it plays like a dream. Rubber/Silk paint can be best described as a happy medium between natty or glossy paint and sticky paint. It is grippy enough to increase the playability of the kendama, but allows enough slip for you to correct your mistakes while playing. This paint is very forgiving, and makes for a great addition to any kendama collection. As far as durability goes, rubber paint isn't the strongest, but again, retains its grippy nature through getting broken in. We have a nice variety of rubber painted kendamas available with several unique designs to choose from. 

Mahi Mahi Sol Vibe

 

July 05, 2018

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What Kendama Should I Buy?

Variety of Sol Kendamas

Where do I start?

So you're in the market for a kendama, and you have no idea where to begin. We are here to give you some advice on what to look for when buying a new kendama, and to help you make a more confident decision when purchasing your first kendama. As a beginner, it is hard to go wrong when buying a kendama, because most kendamas will be able to accomplish the same tricks at a beginner level. Different kendama models, wood types, paint types, paint designs, and tama patterns start to come into play when the difficulty of tricks progress further. Below are three lists of varieties of kendamas that we have available on our site. Click any of the selections to see what these kendama look like.

Wood Types (learn more)
Maple
Beech
Walnut
Ash
Oak
Mahogany

Paint Types (learn more)
Natural - No Paint
Rubber/Silk Paint - Grippy
Sticky Paint - Extra Grippy

Tama Designs
Natural Wood
Solid Colors
Horizontal Stripes
Half-Splits
Wood Laminations

What difference do these varieties make?

Each variety of kendama has its own benefits, so it is up to you to decide which model you prefer most. If you are looking for a kendama that will last you a long time, we suggest going with a wood type like maple, because it is very durable. All of our Sol Vibes are made of maple wood and feature several unique paint designs. If you are looking for a kendama that is simply beautiful, we would suggest going with one of our Natural Sol Flow Kendamas. These kendamas are made from a combination of wood types, and make a great addition to any shelf. If you want a kendama that is very simple, but is easy to learn tricks on, our Sol Pastels are the way to go. The Sol Pastels are made of beech wood, which is very traditional for kendamas, and they feature very sticky pastel colored paints. Sticky paint allows you to learn intermediate to advanced level tricks with ease, and helps you grip the ball when doing tama grip tricks. As we said in the beginning, it is hard to go wrong when buying a kendama, so don't get caught up in all of the details, and try to pick one that fits your style best. These products above are our baseline products, and often times, we will release limited edition kendamas on our site. If you think that your interest more aligns with our limited edition drops, make sure to stay tuned on our instagram account @solkendamas for when they release. We hope that this post has answered some questions for you, and has helped you make a good decision for your new kendama. If you have further questions, make sure to contact us, and we will get back with you shortly.

Ash Cups Flow

Black Friday 2018

You're googling, emailing, sliding into DM's, asking others, and going crazy trying to figure out what's on sale. I'll give it to you straight: 20% off. Everything. Guac included. 

Shipping? Forget about it. We're pretty much Amazon Priming it. Unless you're outside of the US. In that case, forget about like 30% of it. 

 Here's the meat:

Flows | $15.99

FLOW

Pastels | $18.99

Sol Pastels

Pro Models | $31.99

Pro Models

 Kenditioner | $11.99

Hittin' you with these thicc deals. 

March 13, 2017

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How to Make a Flyer For Your Kendama Event

How to Make a Flyer For Your Kendama Event

So you have planned your kendama event, and decided how, where, why, what, and many more details. We understand, you want to start getting the word out. Flyers are a great way to let anyone know about your event. They can be shared on Facebook, Instagram, text messages, and in other random places.  While they are easy to share, it is a little harder to gather peoples' interest. The better your flyer looks, the better your event will be. If your flyer isn't planned well, who is to say that the event won't be either?

Show the Right Information

Less is often more when it comes to design. You want people to know good, valid, and specific information about your event. Keep it clear, concise, and concrete. Your flyer needs to have at least this information:

  • Name of the event
  • Date
  • Time
  • Location
  • Kendama sponsors/prizes

Anything else can usually be talked about in the captions below when sharing your flyer. Type of event is a popular one to be described in captions, but sometimes it can be useful to just sum up your event type by saying something like, "Jam Session," as it gets the point across and people know what to expect.

As for all of the other details, I would rank them in importance and decide by their importance how you will arrange them.

Make it Obvious

Once you've decided which information is important, and you've ranked them, you can arrange them in a way that makes the most sense. Typically, the name of the event goes at the top. It is the first thing people look at, and that can be used to make the idea stick. Once kendama players have read the details, when they talk about the event by name, others will know all of the other details associated with the name.

Next, everything else follows. The more important things are usually bigger, The size of the text conveys importance!

Kendama companies/sponsors are usually all at the bottom. Sponsors of the event are important, but there are often many of them which can clutter your flyer. The details are the most important for your sweet kendama event.

Spread It!

Share your flyer with as many people as you can. Then get them to share it as well. The more kendama players you can get to an event, the better.

If you've gotten this far, and you like the idea of hosting an event, check out our guide: How to Host a Kendama Event

 

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