Register for NAKO 2021 HERE!

The North American Kendama Open is happening once again, broadcasting live on Twitch for the second year in a row! You might have a lot of questions:

  • When is it?
  • How do I participate/compete?
  • How can I watch the event?
  • What are the tricks/divisions?

We’ve posted this article to help you find out all you need to know about the biggest Kendama competition in the United States and how to get involved!

How Can I Watch?

NAKO 2021 is going down on November 5, 6, & 7th, streaming live on Twitch. Giveaways on our Twitch stream are “Subscriber Only”, meaning that in order to enter the drawings, you’ll need to subscribe to the channel. Subscriptions cost $4.99 or you can link your Amazon Prime account for a FREE sub.

Make sure to follow our Twitch Channel to be notified when we go live!

How Does the Competition Work?

Even if you’ve played sports before, you may have never heard of an “Open” style competition. To top it off, this year we are including “Double Elimination”, which is another added layer of competition that gives the players more chances to do well in their division. Furthermore, there can sometimes be some confusion about the term “Open”, given that often times, one of the divisions you can register for is also named “Open Division”.

Firstly, all tricks in the competition are chosen ahead of time in order to provide players with enough time to practice and be prepared to compete by the event days. Each existing division has a full list of tricks that are used as a bank from which to pull during the competition at random during each match. During an in-person event, this might be a stack of cards that are shuffled between each game. Each match is head-to-head, meaning that each will consist of one player versus another player, competing against each other for 3 points to win the match.

Once registration is completed and the number of players in a division is finalized, the competitors are randomized and sorted into a bracket. This bracket serves as the order by which each match is played and who plays against who. You can see a basic visual example of how an Open Style Bracket looks as pictured below.

Open Style Competition - Bracket Example

How a Match Looks

At the beginning of each match, the judge helps the players decide which will go first - usually with a round of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Whoever wins this initial decision is given the choice to go first or second. Once the starting player has been designated, the match begins.

A point is won by landing the trick successfully, either by being the starting player, thereby “setting” the trick, or by being the second player who lands the trick after the first player misses their attempt. Given this, each round of play during a match can last as long as 1 attempt per player or can go as long as all three attempts. If a starting player sets the trick by landing it on their first try, the second player can avoid losing the point by also landing the trick, called a “match”. If both players land all three attempts or miss all three attempts, the trick is “nulled” and no point is awarded for that round of play and a new trick is pulled for the next round.

Each trick pulled in a match could be considered a “round”. In every round, both players are given 3 attempts to land the selected trick in an alternating sequence; one player attempts the trick, then the other player, repeating in this order until each player has tried the trick 3 times total. A player wins the point for the round if they are able to successfully land the trick chosen where their competitor could not, on any given attempt. A player wins the match if they are able to win 3 points before their competitor.

Double Elimination

Double Elimination - Bracket Example

This year, we’ll be including Double Elimination in our competition. At the start of the competition, every competitor is entered into the “Winner’s Bracket”, and players are moved to the “Redemption Bracket” after losing their first match. You can see a small example of a Double Elimination bracket above. Notice how the red X’s signify a lost match on the left side and the arrows show how the player moves on through competition on the right side.

Without going into the nitty-gritty of how this affects a bracket, the simplest way to explain it is: each player who competes has TWO lives. If you lose in the first match, you still continue to play on in the Redemption Bracket, but once you’ve lost a second match, you’re out. 

Double Elimination can make the entire competition run much longer, due to the extra matches created by the Redemption Bracket, but also provides everyone with an extra opportunity to succeed. Even if you lose one match, you can still place in the competition by winning all of your other matches! Note how at the top of the example bracket pictured above, represented by hearts, one player still has two lives (left) while the other player has one life (right); this means that if the player on the right can beat the player on the left TWICE, they can win the entire competition.


Not sure which division is right for you? Check out the trick videos below and see where you fit in!







Kentei Testing

We utilize Kendama Kentei as a prerequisite for all players who are registering for competition in a few specific divisions to help them make sure that the skill division they are entering is the best one for their skill level. Sometimes players can find themselves unsure and conflicted between certain levels, as Kendama proficiency is a wide spectrum, so we have players get Kentei Tested before the event so they can make a more educated decision when registering for a competition. 

A great rule of thumb is, if you’re between two levels, we always recommend pushing yourself to improve, succeed, and go for the higher level. All players registering for Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced must be Kentei Tested prior to event day.

CLICK HERE for more details about Kendama Kentei!


Kendama events are often a communal effort; players and companies come together to make the entire competition run smoothly, and this one is no different. We’re asking for volunteers who would like to help judge matches for any division to please reach out to us. You’ll need:

  • Knowledge of all the tricks in the division you want to judge
  • Knowledge of how Open format works
  • Experience with judging (preferred, not required)

If you would like to volunteer, please send an email to

Register for NAKO 2021 HERE!