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Are We Lying About The Best Beginner Kendama?

Discussion in 'The Sesh' started by CodyGriz, Mar 22, 2017.

  1. CodyGriz

    CodyGriz Honed Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2016
    Location:
    Minneapolis, MN
    I am sure there is a thread in here that talks about great damas to start with so please forgive me if this is redundant.

    I continue to see posts where people new to kendama ask what the best kendama to start with is, and in general people still say TK16 or Ozora.
    Now, before I go on, I will always agree these are great kendamas.
    But,
    Are they actually the best to start with?

    The old school purists who argue "I had to learn on an icy TK" or the Natty or Die fan boys will always fight this, but with the progression of paint styles, clear coats, and ken shapes, why not suggest new players get something else?

    Can we all agree that a tama with a stripe or halfsplit make learning so many of the first tricks so much easier?
    That sticky or rubber clears allow some satisfaction sooner and may stop someone from rage quitting?
    That some new shapes don't feel as chunky in the hand?
    That a younger player is more likely to be into something they think looks cool?

    I understand the history, the culture, and the joy of picking up a fresh Ozora.
    But there is no way I would give a natty Ozora to a brand new player. Personally. (although I could use a freshie)




    aaaannnnnddd FIGHT
     
    Mar 22, 2017
  2. sambarboo

    sambarboo Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2016
    Location:
    Oceanside
    I think I have to agree with you. A low cost kendama with a stripe or a half-split and with some sort of paint that has grip (and maybe even a slightly wider bevel than the JKAs) is probably the best first kendama a newbie can get for the reasons you articulated.

    I started with a KUSA Classic, and after about 3 weeks of Lighthouses infuriatingly sliding off, I purchased a Sweets aTack and in like 2 days was getting Lighthouses. I admit that now after a year I love the challenge of Lighthouses and Lunars on a slick Shin Fuji, it is probably not the best way to get beginners to stick with the game.

    You'll get no argument from me.
     
    Mar 22, 2017
  3. Nick Lectura

    Nick Lectura Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2016
    Location:
    Santa Cruz, CA
    I definitely agree. I started off with a red tribute. I remember grinding out my first lighthouse in the ESPN restaurant in Disneyland lol. It took me forever and even though I was aware that learning tricks on this trib would pay off in the long run, I didn't care at the time. I just wanted to get the feeling and muscle memory down quickly and worry about the slippery paint later. About a month later, I purchased a white aTack and leveled up super hard with it.

    I just suggest they pick up something cheap from a good brand. My go to suggestions are KUSA and Sweets for those cheap yet quality beginner damas.
     
    Mar 22, 2017
  4. Mr. Von Braun

    Mr. Von Braun Honed Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2017
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    First, I would like to formally thank you, @CodyGriz, for starting this fight. I never like to throw the first punch, but since you have officially punched me in my 'purist' balls, I now must respond.

    I would argue that yes, a TK-16 or an Ozora is the best kendama to start with. Yes, a green Ozora was my first kendama, but that's not why I recommend them to beginners.

    The satisfaction we feel from learning tricks is a product of the work we have put in to achieve them. One of the greatest lessons I feel kendama has to offer is that hard work pays off. Will beginners learn tricks faster with a huge bevel, huge cups, rubber bands, sticky paint, and some stripes? Absolutely! However, when learning the basics, I believe it makes more sense to learn the proper movements/balance/precision involved. Without learning the intricacies of the basic tricks, a player would be handicapped when attempting even more precise, advanced tricks. Rage quitters? I'm ok with letting them go. I would find it more frustrating to spend a month learning tricks, only to find out that I can only do those tricks with a specific kendama.

    Anyone caught with damafever will seek out different kendamas to suit their needs. In my personal experience, I've actually found that kids/people are more intrigued by a kendama that's actually from Japan with an official Japanese seal, than a pretty tama. Plus, with the amount of options Ozora now offers, how could you not recommend one?

    Our first kendama does not dictate whether or not we will stick with the game, we do. Stay pure.
     
    Mar 22, 2017
  5. goenKendama

    goenKendama Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Location:
    Metro Manila, Philippines
    While I agree that some newer features help with landing certain types of tricks I'm not as sure that starting easy is necessarily the best way to build a solid base. Part of the kendama experience is supposed to teach a number of things beyond just hitting a trick. It changes the way that you attack problems, teaches patience and persistence. Kendama isn't supposed to be easy, if it was then everyone would be superstars and there wouldn't be much point. There are tons of tricks for which a sticky tama is irrelevant. As a person works through those tricks they earn their stripes so to speak and have a much stronger base when they go after the harder stuff. It's a progression and if you start in the middle you probably aren't going to reap the same benefits.
     
    Mar 22, 2017
  6. htimSxelA

    htimSxelA Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Hmm I like this thread, good arguments on both sides.

    I think that there is merit to starting with a JKA dama and learning the basics on it. Stripes are very nice though, and I think they help teach the player to pay attention to the tama spin. I don't think there are any wrong answers really.

    Ok how about this: we just recommend that everyone buys a red TK16, and a newgen dama of their choice? Double down!
     
    Mar 23, 2017
  7. azleonhart

    azleonhart Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2016
    Location:
    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    The "purist" idea is really the roads that led to kendama, for me.
    I started yoyoing from a Proyo (wooden axle), then some years later i got myself a Bumble Bee (ball bearing).

    Tricks like Breakaway, Man On the Flying Trapeze, and Sleeper become much better, due to the good technique and form that i've built up during the time i used the Proyo.


    So naturally, starting off with an Oozora (or similar) for me is the best thing to do, to build a really strong foundation and form, before graduating to a better kendama.

    And while definitely being more challenging at first, compared to using a rubber/tacky kendama, i come out of it in much better shape to take on the better gear!
     
    Mar 23, 2017
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  8. htimSxelA

    htimSxelA Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Here's a summary of responses so far:


    Starting JKA:
    Pros:
    - builds strong fundamentals
    - fairly affordable and accessible
    - mental training on max
    - history & cred
    Cons:
    - more difficult to play, especially tama grip balance tricks

    Starting new-gen:
    Pros:
    - easier to learn
    - stripes are awesome
    - way more options for customizability / aesthetics
    - also fairly affordable and accessible
    Cons:
    - lacks fundamental skillset that many advanced players first spent time on
    - encourages cheaper thrills (ie mental game on weak)
     
    Mar 23, 2017
  9. bonerkid

    bonerkid Honed Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    Slicetown, Denmark
    Hmmm... There has to be a middle way. I knew some guys once who couldn't do a lunar to save their life, if they were not playing on a rubber - although they were really good on EXACTLY those kendamas.

    I just think that the paint on a ozora is kinda perfect for beginners. You spend the first weeks banging the tama around on the cups, and breaking it slowly in and it gets pretty good at lighthouses fairly quickly.

    Short analogy: If anyone has played the Dark Souls games, they are praised for being challenging in a good way. Now, how do you measure a "good challenge"? This one guy who talks about the game, said that if something is challenging in a good way, you will feel ACHIEVEMENT when you overcome it, and if something is challenging in a shitty way (because of bad design) you will feel RELIEF.

    Now, is the TK-16 paint "bad design", in the sense that it can be annoyingly difficult to do balance stuff on a fresh one? Or is it the rubber mods that are holding the players hands?

    Again, I think both things are "bad design" for beginners anyway, and Ozoras - especially the premiums - are just that really nice sweet spot in between for me. Great shape, nice bevel, paint that rewards you for playing it. If the Premiums were a bit cheaper, there would be absolutely zero doubt in my mind that such a kendama is perfect for beginners - well maybe add tracking (but I think they started doing fade-splits?)
     
    Mar 23, 2017
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  10. juzkimmi

    juzkimmi n00b

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2016
    nice topic! I find that getting sticky or tacky first damas are good for keeping the new players motivated. first we want them hooked onto the game yeah? then slowly as they progress, they will feel the urge/ need to do the same tricks on a natty. so I do agree with getting a 'cheater' kendama as a first kendama. keeps it fun as well! oh this is coming from someone who only plays natty.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2017
    Mar 23, 2017
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  11. lategreat808

    lategreat808 DS Legend

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2016
    Location:
    Tucson, AZ
    This is SUCH a great argument by the way, I'm over here really scratching my head thinking on this one. I am going to have to go the TK-16 Ozora route and here is why.
    You can always go to a rubberized LOL style paint, they are becoming increasingly common in the ever evolving world of modern kendama. You will always have great choices when it comes to super awesome tamas that just catch any trick you are willing to grind out for half an hour. Now with that being said, players really only get to be apart of something special that one time. By getting a traditional JKA style ken, you are passing on a kendama tradition that so many players have had a chance to experience. That feeling of grinding out that first light house on a glossed up all red tama is something that you will always remember, taking away the challenge from that makes it far less memorable IMO.
     
    Mar 23, 2017
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  12. Jenny Cho

    Jenny Cho Slayer

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2016
    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    I'm always in the camp that there is no wrong way or right way to learn something. Everyone learns at their own pace, everyone learns differently, and that's what makes learning fun, and that's what makes kendama fun!

    I'm VERY against people who are ONLY about being purists because I find that way to be extremely rigid and it kills the fun for people, especially new players. That said, I have a very healthy respect for the purist road in dama, and my personal favorite kendama of all time is an Ozora - I find that it is an essential for any kendama player's collection.

    I think the best answer to this awesome question is - why one or the other? And why not eventually both? I always recommend for a new player the cheaper-side kendamas in general because you know that noobie's first kendama will definitely be thrashed. But beyond that? I think it depends on that person - how set are they on learning fundamentals perfectly, or how much do they want to just grab it, learn it quick, hone themselves later, and have a good time?

    If someone says that they are fascinated with the skill-side of kendama - recommend them a TK-16 or a painted Ozora! If they learn all their tricks, especially their balance tricks on those icy things, they will become incredibly skilled and be able to land them on any other paint-finish and shape types in the future. If someone says that they just like to have fun, want to land tricks quickly, or like the collecting aspects of kendama - recommend them something with a stickier paint, larger cups, or more paint variations - like a Prime or a Krom or a Kaizen!

    I say that for me? Kendama is about all of those things! Being skilled, having fun, collecting, and the thrill of progressing. That means eventually, owning both! Anyone who loves and is seirous about kendama eventually ends up owning more than one anyway (let's not even try and hide that fact :p). So I say - why not a variety? I started on a KUSA Silk. A week later, I had a Sweets aTack. A week later I had an icy Ozora. I feel like my dama journey has been better for playing all of those.

    TDLR ^^^ Basically; There is no right or wrong way. We all know that starting on a JKA or a natty makes for a strong skill base and people who can land lunars or lighthouses on those have an automatic advantage with skill. But some people just want to progress quicker and easier, and I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The great thing about kendama is that you can take either path! It's about having fun - really.
     
    Mar 23, 2017
  13. Ben Lowe

    Ben Lowe Slayer

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    Port Angeles, WA
    Guys the answer is both. Get both.

    Grind and play the slick/natty tama as much as you possibly can. Then switch over to the rubber/sticky tama once you've hit some balance tricks on your slick/natty. Play them both and get a feel for both. Try your hardest to work on stuff with an "OG". The thing about the slick and natty tamas is you can usually move from slick/natty to rubber/sticky with good results. Not quite the same moving the opposite direction. However to play devil's advocate to my own argument.....I learned lunar on a sticky tama, and then I was able to go back to my ozora and hit it. I think the time learning lunar on the ozora would have been harder, taken longer, and not been as productive. So what is the answer? It is subjective. It is personal. But the answer is:

    Both. (Or either.)

    If I HAD to pick just one, it would depend on the person. If you the person is definitely likely to be stoked on kendama and they're gonna be in it for awhile....if you somehow just know they will stick with it, go JKA/natty/slick. Then pick up a rubber/sticky later. If they may or may not stick with it, go for max fun with a rubber/sticky and see if they get hooked.

    (@htimSxelA breakdown of the current state of the argument is good. And I think illustrates my point as both offer significant PROS and the CONS seem negligible.)
     
    Mar 23, 2017
  14. Ben Lowe

    Ben Lowe Slayer

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    Port Angeles, WA
    Haha yes! Looks like you were posting similar thoughts as I was typing out my post. Agree with this!
     
    Mar 23, 2017
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  15. Instagrom3

    Instagrom3 Honed Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    Vancouver
    I would argue that a TK or Oozora would be the better way to go, simply because most people are gonna slam the hell out of their first kendama and realistically those kendamas have stood the test of time. we don't call TKs the tanks of kendama for nothing right.

    however most kids getting into the game now a days want colours, stripes, something cool and although oozora offers those now the price point is not for a beginner. Therefore id suggest something newgen like from KUSA or Sweets. However i have another reason why they'd be better.

    The teams, kids look up to people who are older, we all did this at one time. When you see something you like you usually try to mimic it and i think having big teams from Sweets and KUSA who have been in the game awhile, and have their own style, really shape a kids future in kendama. And both companies have tonnes of videos and tutorials for tricks online so kids will watch those and want those kendamas in the videos.

    This is not to say the people who play for Oozora or the JKA aren't incredible or have their own style but lets face it, where do we see them online?
     
    Mar 23, 2017
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  16. goenKendama

    goenKendama Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Location:
    Metro Manila, Philippines
    Depends on what language you use to search. Japanese don't always post in English anymore than non-Japanese speakers post in Japanese. It's also a bit of the culture I think. It's just not the way they do things, or more importantly the way they have done things for the last 40+ years. They've been doing this the longest and do seem to be opening up but like most who have done things for a long time and been successful at it I would imagine that the thought "why change what's worked for us so well in the past" has crossed more than a few minds.
     
    Mar 23, 2017
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  17. Instagrom3

    Instagrom3 Honed Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Good point, and I agree, I'm sure if i knew any id be able to find plenty, however that is not the case. Im not saying i haven't seen the JKA online at all, I'm simply saying that having a strong social media presence really helps to push products into the hands of beginners, who are growing up with so much technology around them.
     
    Mar 23, 2017
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  18. Aloysius_hung_

    Aloysius_hung_ Honed Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2016
    Location:
    Earth
    Agreed. i started off with unbranded kens, fully painted with both icy tama and ken. the paint also keeps coming out revealing a soft low quality wood in it. i nvr learnt lighthouse on it. but when i got my kaizen ghost silk, i started progressing really fast. I learnt lighthouse, lh trade spike, swing sling spike etc. that ken really got me really hyped and into kendama as i got to feel the joy of unlocking and landing tricks more often.
     
    Mar 23, 2017
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  19. goenKendama

    goenKendama Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Location:
    Metro Manila, Philippines
    No arguments really, I wouldn't mind seeing more digital content and a bit more Westernization of the Japanese kendama culture. On the other hand if we had kendama entrenched in our schools and culture the way it is over there then we might be having a different conversation.

    I think the kendama culture on whichever side of the ocean in part is responsible for the shape and features of kendama. The goals of the game aren't necessarily the same for either group and that drives the features and shape as well. Here in the Philippines it nearly always comes down to price above all else and there aren't a lot of the newest features on the lower priced kendama of good quality. If it's a choice between similarly priced functional rubber coated kendama and a JKA kendama I'll recommend the JKA. The added story and cachet behind the JKA kendama is a plus and for a lot of people this matters. You don't hear a too many people say "oh your collection isn't complete unless you have an XYZ kendama" but you will frequently hear it's not complete without a TK16 or an Ozrora.

    As for Japanese search terms you might try some of these: 日本けん玉協会 or けん玉日本 or just けん玉. Players and teams of course will have their own as well.
     
    Mar 23, 2017
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  20. Rob Mauk

    Rob Mauk n00b

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2016
    Location:
    Omaha, Nebraska USA
    I am still under a year into Kendama, but I always recommend a TK. For two reasons. Durability being a HUGE factor. The amount of times someone is going to drop a ken being new... Plus its going to be harder, so if you get to the newer styled kens out there after playing a substantial amount of time with a TK, it feels like a cake walk. Those points I always bring up. As well as mentioning the amount of time to break it in to even begin to land balance tricks is way up there.

    After that I strongly recommend the new Primes... I mean 15 bucks 20 after shipping for something you can start lacing with out of the box... bigger cups, all that. C'mon. Anything else is hard for me to recommend because its going to hit over 20 dollars and I dunno if they are ready for it.

    Bottom line, I give them a few options ( my friends ) and let them go from there. We all know the addiction is real, and it doesn't matter after about a month into it. They will have about ten damas anyways.
     
    Mar 23, 2017