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JKA Kendamas

Discussion in 'The Sesh' started by htimSxelA, Nov 16, 2016.

  1. htimSxelA

    htimSxelA Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
    Location:
    Vancouver
    JKA Megathread!

    With recent news of the end of the JKA approved TK16, it's probably a good time to talk JKA. The Shin Fuji model is also no longer JKA approved, and supposedly there is a new brand that will be producing comp-sized JKA damas (they've been making minis for over a year now, with a red seal on them).

    Thoughts? Pics? History? Questions? Post it all in here!


    Brief history:
    Gloken has some good info here.

    The JKA has been around since 1975, and one of the things they do is certify companies to produce 'JKA approved kendamas'. The JKA owns a couple of patents in Japan, related to the string hole and exact size of the JKA competition damas, so they can regulate who makes 'competition damas' in Japan.

    I don't know much about the very earliest models (F16? I'm not exactly sure of the name).
    In the 80's the Mt Fuji seal and Sakura blossom seal kendamas were produced.

    In the 90's they updated the shape a bit, and the seals became pretty much the same for both Fujis and Sakuras. Its not too tough to tell the difference between them once you know what to look for though.

    In 2000 they made a larger shape update, to the modern design. New brands also emerged, the list was now: Shin Fuji, Shin Sakura, TK16, and Mugen. Ozora came onto the scene in... 2005? 2007? Not exactly sure. Mugens ended in 2008, and Shin Sakuras ended production earlier than that, though I'm not sure exactly when.

    Now, Shin Fuji and TK16 will no longer be JKA branded, but it seems that a new brand is coming (red seal... can't remember the name though!)

    Interestingly, I'm pretty sure that Yamagata Kobou was the maker of the Fuji models, but when it switched to Shin Fuji a new company took over production, and then YK came back with the Ozora later. I'll soon have an early Ozora prototype in my collection, that was a gift to another player when he visited the Ozora factory many many years ago. Its like a cross between the 90's shape and the modern shape from what I've seen, a very cool piece of history! I'll post a photo up once I've received it.
     
    Nov 16, 2016
  2. Ben Lowe

    Ben Lowe Slayer

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    Oct 11, 2016
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    Alex, posts like this are just fantastic! Thanks for sharing this stuff!

    So JKA approved kendamas are the only ones that can be used for...JKA competitions and ranks (dan etc)? JKA as a whole is a bit confusing to me still...

    Also, a question for you. With the changing kendama scene worldwide, and many competitions and brands that are straying away from JKA, what significance does JKA still have? And what significance will they have moving forward into the future?
     
    Nov 16, 2016
  3. htimSxelA

    htimSxelA Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Here's some pics:

    80's models. Mt Fuji left, Sakura Blossom right
    In general, the giveaway sign for fuji vs sakura is the spike diameter. Sakura models are reeally skinny!
    IMG_8243.JPG

    90's models. Fuji left, Sakura right
    Again, check the spike diameter. Another difference is the slip stop shape. Fujis are squared off on both sides, sakuras have a slight angle on the bottom. The sakura pictured is actually made from sakura (cherry) wood! I have another one that is beech, so there are a couple of different species of sakura out there it seems
    IMG_8244.JPG

    The 'modern' line up:
    Shin fuji (rokurosen stripe), Ozora (OG green), TK16 (my second dama, I sanded some stripes into it), Shin Sakura, and Mugen (wine).
    I have one of the minis with the red seal, but its on the wall in our new retail shop so I can't snag a pic at the moment.
    FullSizeRender.jpg

    I'm actually on a quest to acquire every JKA dama produced, all with a red tama. I already have the tough to get ones, now just need to pick up an ozora, shin fuji, a fresh TK16 (my first dama was a red tk, but someone peeled the sticker off), and a mugen. With TKs and shin fujis being discontinued I guess I probably shouldn't wait!
     
    Nov 16, 2016
  4. Cheech_Sander

    Cheech_Sander Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2016
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    I have a mugen right now that I acquired from some n00b... he had taken the JKA sticker off it, and I asked why he did that he said "I thought you peeled it off when you opened it!"

    What a legend hahaha
     
    Nov 16, 2016
  5. htimSxelA

    htimSxelA Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
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    The JKA is basically a not-for-profit with the mission of promoting kendama in Japan, and they do this largely through school programs that include instruction, certification, and arranged competition. To take a dan test or compete in their contests, you must use a JKA kendama (and it must be in reasonably good shape, basically can't be modified or beat up in any way that might affect performance, compared to a fresh dama).

    Note that I said 'promoting kendama in Japan'. GLOKEN was actually formed by two ex-JKA members who wanted to address the global community forming around kendama. They took their ideas to the rest of the JKA board, and the JKA voted against acting on them, since their focus is traditional style of play, in Japan.

    The JKA is a positive force with kendama and young kids in Japan, no doubt, but they've also legit disrespected the new, more freestyle-loving kendama scene that has formed globally. I have respect for the work they do, but they're basically 'JKA or die' in their mission statement. It is important to note that the JKA is a not-for-profit group (I think they have one full time, paid staff member, the rest are volunteer), so in reality it is a group of board members that make decisions, and each will have their own ideas and motivations. Some deviations from the JKA norm have happened lately, like all of the special Ozora models. Historically they kept a tighter hold on what models were produced, and what price they were sold for. (this was one of the factors that lead to Mugen production ending: Kazuma Iwatta wanted to make some fancier stuff, but the JKA puts limits on the retail price of a JKA approved kendama, in an effort to keep kendama affordable for all players). I guess with a large kendama market forming, they needed some fresh designs to stay relevant and drive sales?


    To exemplify the JKA approach: at the JKA 40th anniversary event in Tokyo, they held a freestyle competition. As a competitor, you received a sheet with a bunch of blank spaces to fill in the names of all of the tricks you were going to attempt on stage, and you had to mark off whether they were 'balance tricks, kenflip tricks, spike tricks... etc'. It was like... you really don't get this whole freestyle thing, do you? A lot of the western players in attendance were not impressed, to say the least.

    Moving forward, I expect the JKA will continue doing their thing. It seems to work well, and they don't seem too interested in the N American style of play. Although I have seen them send some players to N America once or twice to run some workshops in the US, which I found very interesting, I imagine this was arranged through the Japanese embassy or something similar? Jake W might have more info, he was at the most recent one of these events, in SF.
     
    Nov 16, 2016
  6. htimSxelA

    htimSxelA Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
    Location:
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    Haha when I first started playing one of my friends bought an Ozora and peeled the sticker off. He was like... "isn't that what you do? Buy a product, peel of the stickers?" I always thought that was funny. A true collector will be able to discern one model from another, even without a sticker I guess.
    May bring down the resale value though :p
     
    Nov 16, 2016
  7. Cheech_Sander

    Cheech_Sander Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2016
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    ^ yeah you can totally tell that it's a mugen, but it would sell for pennies, so I still jam it.

    Gave the guy a pink ooz and just said "I'm taking this, here's a new one"
     
    Nov 16, 2016
  8. htimSxelA

    htimSxelA Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
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    Ha, perfect. The sakura blossom pictured above came to me through a random friend too, his family had owned it for probably like 15-20 years. I let him know it was something cool, and traded him 3-4 different kendamas for it, so he was hyped. Worked out well for both of us! I honestly don't know where the hell I would find one otherwise
     
    Nov 16, 2016
  9. nikki_deo

    nikki_deo Slayer

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
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    ATX
    Thanks Alex for the history lesson!

    Was there any reason why Shin fuji and tk16 aren't JKA approved anymore?

    not too long ago, my cousin got his 2nd dama from a friend in Singapore and i saw his picture of a shin fuji packaging but with a different circular seal with mountains on it and i freaked out because i thought he copped like an old/rare shin fuji. turns out, it's just the new non-jka seal lol XD
     
    Nov 16, 2016
  10. rTTn

    rTTn Slayer

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    Oct 11, 2016
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    So much knowledge! We need a Downspike podcast. I'd love to hear discussions like this in real time.
     
    Nov 16, 2016
  11. Steezdiaz

    Steezdiaz Slayer

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    Nov 1, 2016
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    Chico, CA
    ^^^ for real! I love geeking out about this type of stuff!
     
    Nov 16, 2016
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  12. kotakago

    kotakago Member

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    Oct 11, 2016
    Location:
    JAPAN
    Red seal kendama is called "Hajimete no Kendama". it means "First kendama for beginners" this is from company called "Gentosha".
    And they just released new kendama series "STANDARD ONE-16 " with JKA recommended seal.

    http://www.gentosha-edu.co.jp/products/post-243.html
     
    Nov 17, 2016
  13. htimSxelA

    htimSxelA Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
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    Gentosha! Thats it. I've been thinking Gentoshi but but I knew that wasn't quite right.

    Thanks for the info @kotakago
     
    Nov 17, 2016
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  14. Chad Covington

    Chad Covington Slayer

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    Sep 30, 2016
    Location:
    Lexington, KY
    Interesting that TK-16 will no longer be JKA approved. Sol Kendamas has a pretty nice stash of JKA approved TK's in stock haha! It will be interesting to see what the new JKA approved kendamas will be like from Gentosha. Probably something with sticky paint :')
     
    Nov 17, 2016
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  15. Koisuru Stephen

    Koisuru Stephen Honed Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2016
    There are other people who are more qualified to talk about this than me, but here's my ¥2

    I used to think of JKA as the outdated version of the Kendama world. I saw them as conservative, and far too strict. Yeah, those players could probably do 100 earth turns in a row, but could they do it with style? could they experiment with new tricks? I think a lot of people see JKA the way I used to, and I think they’re missing some perspective.


    The way JKA approaches Kendama is a lot like other Bushido sports/arts/whatever you want to call them. There is a lot of respect and culture attached to it that you can't really separate it from. You wouldn't expect the core of Karate or Kendo to change very much in response to new trends, for example.


    I've only been to one national tournament, but it was pretty incomparable to say, KWC. It felt a lot more serious and formal. It was more like a duel/sword fight than just messing around. In fact, you treat your ken like a sword, sheathing it in the tama when you're not using it, or while you're bowing, etc.


    Because JKA has a set list of rather orthodox tricks, I think it promotes a mastery that freestyle kendama does not. I think this represents a major difference between the two.

    A freestyle player may consider themselves to be on another level because they’re doing lunar taps and juggles, whereas their JKA friend is doing what they consider easier tricks.

    A JKA player may consider themselves to have mastered their trick list. Their freestyle friend may have some “hard” tricks on instagram, but they’ve only landed them once or twice out of 50+ tries. They can’t really “do” them, they have “done them” once or twice.

    (obviously there are all types of players, I’m painting in very broad strokes).


    Going to the tournament really made me change my mind, and reevaluate myself as a player. I know a lot of players who can do a double house, but I don’t know a lot who never miss them. I got my ass handed to me by a middle school girl who was honed af (on a slippery, brand new oozora). It was also an incredibly welcoming experience. We showed up late, I forgot my Dan certification and didn’t bring a pen, I forgot to bow to my partner, and probably made a million other mistakes, but everyone was friendly and helpful. I even saw another foreigner there who showed up without knowing any of the Japanese trick names, and they did their best to accommodate him.


    It’s also worth noting that this year’s SA class trick list had some pretty unorthodox tricks. There were lunar flips, crazy penguin base cup double flips, and a lot of surprising stuff. Many of them were still somewhat JKA style though (the lunar flip was just a lunar flip, not a lunar flip to in. That kind of thing drives me crazy). They also had a great performance section, which was super freestyle. Once dude was using a frying pan instead of a tama!

    Is it a perfect organization? probably not, I doubt any volunteer-based organization is, but I think it’s very important for kendama.


    I got my ass kicked at the JKA event, and i kicked some ass in ken game after it was all over. Freestyle players have a lot to learn from JKA players, and vice versa. If you really want to be a well rounded player, you should dabble in both. But just like the invention of parkour and tricking didn’t take anything away from gymnastics, and the invention of Jazz didn’t take anything away from Wagner or Mozart, I think JKA and Freestyle kendama both have an important place.


    /rant
     
    Nov 17, 2016
  16. Cheech_Sander

    Cheech_Sander Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2016
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    hint hint
     
    Nov 17, 2016
  17. Cheech_Sander

    Cheech_Sander Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2016
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA

    This.

    I mean the parallels between this and FIS are... well... unparalleled?

    Because competitions are sooooo unorganized... different sizes, different prizes, locations, etc, without a governing authority it would be impossible to really rank players. But also, the whole point of any governing body is usually to slow down changes to the institution. To that end, the JKA does a good job. But also its values are very Japanese. Repetition, uniformity, quality control, and respect. Those don't translate well to American / freestyle play. FIS took years to allow inverts in moguls, and the fact that it groups ski aerials with slopestyle shows it has no understanding whatsoever.

    cc: @Mr.Bishop
     
    Nov 17, 2016
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  18. HNickmans

    HNickmans n00b

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2016
    Some additions I was thinking of:

    - Shin Sakura disappeared due to a fire at Art Yoshii (source: Tamotsu Kubota). Which is probably also why there is apparently less stock of it going around compared to Mugen.
    - @htimSxelA , Yamagata Koubou did produce the Fuji kendama first (starting in 1985), as noted in their company info (http://www.kendama.co.jp/english/company.html)
    - The people producing the Gentosha kendama made some competition size kendamas for the JKA 40th anniversary. It was named GT-16, although they might have abandoned that name due to Grain Theory. They had the silver anniversary seal. I know there was a red and grey one (and maybe more).
    - I think the company behind Shin Fuji has already started making kendamas without JKA seal. Apparently, they now go by the name "Fuji" again and have more color options (both plain and rokurosen). Check out: http://www.goodsfromjapan.com/kendama-fuji-beech-p-1950.html
    - Maybe they're letting TK16 go since it is Chinese made instead of Japanese? I hope they continue making kendamas, even without the seal. They have been my favourite for a long time.
     
    Nov 18, 2016
  19. RyanArthurWalker

    RyanArthurWalker Slayer

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    So many things to be said, but first. While Shin Fujis and TKs ever achieve the rarity and prestige of a Mugen?
     
    Nov 18, 2016
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  20. Koisuru Stephen

    Koisuru Stephen Honed Member

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    Nov 4, 2016
    Btw:
     

    Attached Files:

    Nov 18, 2016