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JKA Kyu Level Waza

Written by goenKendama on .

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Here we will cover the Kyu Level Waza (basic level tricks). The Japan Kendama Association (JKA) structures their tricks similar to karate levels with Kyu levels similar to the colored belts and Dan levels equivalent to black belt levels. The first and most basic trick level is 10 kyu: Ōzara/big cup. The hardest of the Kyu Level Tricks is 1 kyu: tōdai/lighthouse.

While more is generally required to pass the JKA test (discussed below) for each level than just doing one trick, here is a list of the Kyu Level Tricks  in order from easiest to hardest.

10) Jukkyu (十級) – Ōzara (大皿) – big cup
9) Kyukkyu (九級) – Kozara (小皿) – little cup
8) Hachikyu (八級) – Chuzara (中皿) – middle cup (base cup)
7) Nanakyu (七級) – Rosōku (ろうそく)–candle (candlestick)
6) Rokkyu (六級) – Tomeken (とめけん) – spike
5) Gokyu (五級) – Hikoki (飛行機) – airplane
4) Yonkyu (四級) – Furiken (ふりけん) – swing spike
3) Sankyu (三級) – Nihon Isshu (日本一周) – around Japan
2) Nikyu (二級) – SekaiIsshu (世界一周) – around the world
1) Ikkyu (一級) –Tōdai (灯台) – lighthouse

An additional trick is required to pass certain levels of the JKA ranking: Moshikame (もしかめ). The name comes from a children’s song about the Tortoise and the Hare and they sing the song to help with the rhythm and speed of the trick. The JKA specifies 135bpm for the speed of the Moshikame trick.

We found an English translation of the lyrics, translated by Mai,on the Japan Forum BBS. Check out this YouTube video of the song with some kendama play.

(The hare)
Hello Mr. Tortoise
You’re the slowest creature in the world
Why are you so slow?

(The tortoise)
You impertinent Mr. Hare
If you think you’re so fast
Let’s have a race to the foot of the hill over there
And see who wins

(The hare)
No matter how much Mr. Tortoise tries
He won’t be able to get to the hill before dark
I’m tuckered out from hopping, so I’ll take a nap
Snore, snore, snore

(The hare)
Oh my, I’ve overslept!
Hop, hop, hop

(The tortoise)
You’re too late Mr. Hare
I’ve beat you to the hill
You shouldn’t have been so overconfident!

JKA Examination

There are three levels for testing purposes: Kyu (basic levels: 10-1 (1 is highest)); Jun-shodan (middle level); Dan (high levels 1-10 ( 10 is highest)). To test for the next higher Kyu Level all of the previous levels must be tested and passed. (i.e. to test for 1-Kyu level all of previous Kyu levels (2-10) must be passed). Additionally only JKA certified kendama may be used for testing and only a certified JKA examiner may be a judge.

The test structure for the 10-7 kyu levels is:
Complete the waza for that specific level once out of 10 tries
Complete the next lowest waza twice in 10 tries (if applicable)
Complete the second previous waza three times in 10 tries (if applicable)

For example:

  • Testing for 10 kyu you would only need to complete Ōzara once in 10 tries to pass.
  • Testing for 9 kyu would require completing Kozara once in 10 tries AND Ōzara twice in 10 tries
  • Testing for 8 kyu would require completing Chuzara once in 10 tries AND Kozara twice in 10 tries AND Ōzara three times in 10 tries

The test structure for the 6-1 kyu levels is the same as the previous levels with the addition of Moshikame of varying repetitions.  Usually Moshikame is performed first since it generally takes the longest to complete at least at the higher levels.

For example:

  • Testing for 6kyu would require completing Tomeken once in 10 tries AND Rōsoku twice in 10 tries AND Chuzara three times in 10 tries + Moshikame 4 times (at a rate of 135 times per minute, 2 tries only)
  • Testing for 5kyu would require completing Hikoki once in 10 tries AND Tomeken twice in 10 tries AND Rōsoku three times in 10 tries + Moshikame 10 times (at a rate of 135 times per minute, 2 tries only)

Kyu Level – 10 tries per trick (moshikame 2 tries)


Well this should get you started and give you a little background on the Japanese structured method of testing. Will most of you ever actually take the JKA test, probably not but it’s good to know the Japanese names and structure. If you try the test on your own you might find out it’s bit more difficult than you imagined. Sure you can do UFO and Lunar but can you pass 1 Kyu using the JKA testing methods? The next two JKA levels will be covered in a separate post: Junshodan and Dan Level Waza



Reference: JKA (English) page