Having mentioned to Krom, one of our main suppliers of Kendamas, that we were considering a day trip to see their shop, myself and our brand ambassador Ali were invited for a full weekend during the Danish Kendama Open (DKO). One of the company’s busiest weekends of the year.
We knew the Kendama celebrities (pro-players) would be there including personal favourites Bonz Atron and Rolf Ganer. This was a big deal! We also knew they would be extremely busy and thought they would have very limited time to spend with us, so we intended to make the most of it.
Krom were so helpful and enthusiastic for us to come, they guided us to the best accommodation options and arranged for us to be met at the shop on our arrival. We planned our trip.
For those who don’t know Kendama is a Japanese toy / sport / hobby that Sweet Circus have promoted for the last few years as a way to improve physical, mental and brain health. Personally, I am somewhat addicted to it!
Having left a dark and cold Eastbourne at the crack of dawn to pick up Ali and make our way to the airport we enthusiastically tucked into a breakfast you can only justify in an airport (as in it included beer!). We speculated on what it will be like to arrive at the Krom shop, whether or not we would talk much to our Kendama heros and whether there was any chance of us actually taking part in any of the competitions.
We were not however prepared for the somewhat surreal welcome we received….
We knocked on the door and entered the shop to find 3x Freestyle World Champion and World Cup winner Bonz Atron sitting on the sofa … now bare in mind this guy is literally a Kendama Superstar, travelling the world and making a living from his Kendama skills … he quietly says “Hi guys, I’m Bonz”. Ali and I, a little taken back replied in unison “We Know!”
With the ice broken we get talking framed by a backdrop of every size, shape and colour Kendama you could conceive. Bonz offers us beers which magically appear from the depths of the shop and invites us to go with him to meet the rest of the team at a pub in the meatpacking District.
Cut to 1 hour later and I'm flying down the road gripping the handle bars of an electric scooter for dear life as Bonz is zipping ahead doing all manner of tricks and Ali is behind struggling to keep up on Bonz’s push bike. Bonz stops to show us some cool parts of the city. At one point, mid conversation, a hat falls out of his hood, identical to the hat he's wearing. He picks it up and attempts to put it on his head and is taken by sheer confusion when he finds he's already wearing a hat. Squirreling away this cloned excess hat in his pocket we’re off again. Next stop was a kind of trampoline play park in what seemed to be the middle of the road, cue Ali back flipping his way down the road to cheering and other appreciative noises from our Kendama A-List host.
When we get to the pub we are literally surrounded by prominent kendama people and simply accepted as part of the group. We hang out, play dama, and chat the evening away. It felt just like having an evening with your mates, except some of these mates are proper famous (in our world) and I’d only just met them.
On day 2 of the trip it was competition time, the main event! We're fairly early to the shop and there's only about six people. Slowly over the next hour, more hungover Kendama players shuffle in as well as a large number of younger kids who are probably already better than I could ever be! In total, at the busiest time, there's maybe 50 people in this tiny shop. All jamming out and playing Kendama, teaching each other, sharing skills and chatting away. By this point Rolf has decided to start the various competitions, staggering them with 30-40 minute breaks. Speed Ladder time and Ali is up – he was 1st to qualify and came third overall - kudos to my travel buddy! Rolf went on to win the DKO (Danish Kendama Open).
After the event we go for pizza with Bonz, Markus (one of the main guys at Krom) and the only other British guy at the event. We head back to the shop where we find only Rolf and a guy called Timothy from Kendama France. We'd met Tim the night before and the group all hung out well into the night. Essentially, we had a Kendama Lock In … There was Kendama, then drinking, then Kendama themed drinking! I was confused at one point to find myself taking a ‘knee break’ from the slaying sitting opposite Bonz who was enthusiastically consuming a large bowl of muesli! Turns out, as he travels about so much, the Krom shop basically have a bed for him on site – it’s very Harry Potter under-the-stairs style but a perfect place to store your muesli, multiplying hats and get your head down between flights.
By the time it gets to about midnight everyone says their final goodbyes, gifts are given and gratefully received (including a super special Kendama given to me by Rolf!), we all head in the various directions of our beds (which for Bonz was in a cupboard inside the krom shop).
As a 19yr old myself, I am still (just about) considered to be part of the ‘youth’ which is so often criticised for being anti-social as well as an occasional critic of ‘young people these days!’. However, I have experienced community on this trip. Krom were so friendly and accommodating, not in a corporate way, in a Kendama community way. Everyone we met, regardless of skill level, age or status in the Kendama world was equally friendly and supportive of each other. I think along with the list of health benefits of Kendama – Physical, Mental, Brain - we need to add social & community health as mine has definitely received a boost during my time in Copenhagen.