Check out the Sweets Kendamas Foundation page HERE to find a Certified Sensei and get Kentei Tested!
With Kendama becoming more and more common and popular, we must always be thinking about how we can make Kendama more approachable for new players, as well as creating a good structural foundation for current players to assess their own skills. The Japanese Kendama Association (JKA) created the roots of this idea of “Kendama Testing” and have their own forms of testing and certification, but historically has not been as accessible to Kendama players worldwide who cannot travel to Japan and has only, in recent years, been offered in the United States on a more frequent basis.
In early 2019, Tamotsu Kubota of GLOKEN began the Kendama Kentei Certification and has swiftly become the gold standard across the globe for Kendama testing. In order to bring Kendama more accessible to a broader audience, the Kentei tricks range widely in difficulty level. The lists include many tricks that Kendama players would be used to seeing, but also includes an entire section dedicated solely to youth getting more easily acquainted with Kendama.
Kendama Kentei has been designed for players of all ages and skill levels to systematically acquire techniques in organized steps, to help them “Hop, Step, Jump!” to new successes. We hope that through Kendama Kentei, more people will exclaim,
and use Kendama Kentei as a tool for enjoying Kendama.
Most of the tricks in the Medal Challenge consist of basic working principles and focus on teaching the player foundational skills and helping them gain an understanding of how all of the parts of a Kendama work together.
Each skill level consists of 15 tricks total, divided into three groups of five with incrementally increasing difficulty, beginning with 3rd Class and finishing with 1st Class.
Generally, the starting point for many Kendama players is learning to catch the tama (ball) in the big cup. With the addition of the Medal Challenge, Kendama Kentei attempts to create a new level of difficulty even easier than the first big cup, meaning that even more people can experience the “I got it!” feeling that is so strongly associated with successfully landing a Kendama trick.
Once the Medal Challenge has been achieved, we can begin to work our way into the next levels, including Basic, Advanced, and Expert. Much like how the Medal Challenge is formatted, each section begins with 3rd Class and ends with 1st Class.
You can see videos showing each of these three levels below:
All of the tricks in the entirety of the Kentei program stay the same year-to-year, with the exception of the Master Level tricks; a brand new list of 15 Master Level tricks come out each year.
This way, even Kendama players who have successfully completed all of the Master tricks can continue to challenge themselves, as each year new tricks chosen are based on that year’s Kendama World Cup Tricks, as well as popularized Kendama trends of the past year. This keeps players engaged and challenges them to keep their Kentei Rank updated every year, and ensures that you’ll never get tired of Kentei challenges.
More and more often, Kendama events are requiring Kendama players to get Kentei tested in order to register for some competitions, especially larger ones, like NAKO (North American Kendama Open). While Kendama Kentei was designed independently by GLOKEN as a tool for growing Kendama worldwide by providing a pathway for learning Kendama in some ways, it also serves as a perfect standard for measuring the skills of a Kendama player.
The spectrum of Kendama proficiency is broad and wide, but it isn’t easy to include all of the different divisions that would be necessary to fully grasp the entirety of the community in one single event; it would simply take too long. Due to this, events often include at least 3-4 divisions, including but not limited to Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, & Open. Excluding the Medal Challenge, the four divisions of Kentei usually align roughly to a division in the competition.
Once a test has been administered, the Certified Kentei Sensei will provide the player with a card containing their achieved Kentei class and be able to offer more insight regarding which Event division is best suited for each player on a case-by-case basis.
While not always concrete as there are plenty of exceptions, the chart below roughly outlines how a player might register for a competition, based on how they rank when Kentei tested:
BEGINNER DIVISION: IS FOR PLAYERS IN BETWEEN BASIC 3RD CLASS AND ADVANCED 2ND CLASS IN KENDAMA KENTEI.
If you can easily land Advanced 2nd class tricks, you should compete in Intermediate.
INTERMEDIATE DIVISION: IS FOR PLAYERS IN BETWEEN ADVANCED 2ND CLASS AND EXPERT 2ND IN KENDAMA KENTEI.
If you can easily land Expert 2nd Class tricks, you should compete in Advanced.
ADVANCED DIVISION: IS FOR PLAYERS IN BETWEEN EXPERT 2ND CLASS AND MASTER 2ND CLASS.
If you can easily land Master 2nd Class tricks, you should compete in AM.
Furthermore, utilizing Kentei Testing before competition day helps prevent "sandbagging" - entering a division lower than what you should be entering in order to have a higher chance of winning. Sandbagging is unfair to the other competitors who are pushing themselves to accomplish the tricks in that division, so using Kentei testing as a form of vetting process can help deter this behavior, as well as prevent it from slipping through the cracks.
Sometimes there are scheduled times throughout the week that you can join to be tested along with other players online, so we recommend following the Sweets Kendamas Foundation Instagram page for updates regarding free online testing. You can also find more information about getting Kentei tested on the Sweets Kendamas Foundation website.
Check out the Sweets Kendamas Foundation page HERE to find a Certified Sensei and get Kentei tested!