Over the course of realizing Sound Kendama, we have always had conversations about 'the community' and what it means to be part of it. For Sound Kendama, it is an interesting position to be in both the passenger seat and the driver’s seat of this movement.
When we started playing kendama, we were just a small group of players, all figuring things out from what was online, from what we taught each other and from what we discovered ourselves. What is it about this piece of wood that brings us together, that allows us to be ourselves among like-minded people and create such a strong bond between players?
Kendama has become a crossroads between different cultures and communities. Many of those who play are often part of other physical/urban activities for example: skateboarding, ski/snowboarding, tricking, parkour, climbing, juggling and so on. Kendama naturally resonates with these sorts of practitioners, but why? One reason could be that kendama requires less physical effort/risk, while still giving you a satisfying challenge. This makes it perfect for those who are injured or who want to stay mentally engaged between sessions (or when it’s raining!).
This leads to many already skilled people quickly developing a relationship with Kendama over a short period of time. Making our community a melting pot of different kinds of thinkers & learners, all exploring and finding connections between their previous skill-sets and philosophies, through a common medium, kendama. So what is the difference between a 'community' and a 'group/brand’?
A community is individuals coming together of their own accord, for a common purpose and/or value. These values are developed socially, over time, by working together with other people — the main motive being the betterment of the collective as a whole. A 'group/brand', on the other hand, isn't so intrinsically/socially tied. Individuals can share common characteristics, but not necessarily shared interests or vision for the future. Sound Kendama considers itself a ‘community brand’ – meeting somewhere in the middle of these two points-of-view.
So, what makes up the 'kendama community'? We have noted that many people from other skill-sets find it fairly easy to transition into kendama. Looking at what values connect the communities, a few reasons become apparent. Many of the core values and learning processes are the same, which means a 'common language' for learning new skills is already established.
In each of the disciplines mentioned there is an understanding that, in order to achieve your goal, failing is part of the process. These people are already resilient to failure and have the tools to figure out what happened/how to change it. Socially, they are used to making mistakes and don’t feel embarrassed to mess up in front of others — it is in the nature of kendama for mistakes to happen, otherwise there wouldn't be a string.
A community is just a group of people all agreeing to support each other through the same activity. Which means whether you have played for 1 week or 5 years, your input is still valuable. By creating an environment where players and the public come together to achieve a higher level of understanding, both in the activity of playing kendama and in developing philosophies, the bonds between players and the community as a whole are elevated and strengthened for future generations to enjoy.
Written by Calum Johnston
A veteran of the Glasgow kendama scene, parkour practitioner and coach, living and working in Germany to promote community through parkour, kendama, circus and other disciplines.