It’s a bit mind boggling how Matthew Ballard of Wenatchee has turned his passion for the game Kendama into a paying gig.
Ballard and fellow enthusiast Keith Matsumura of Wenatchee are in Miyajima, Japan, competing in the Kendama World Championships. “Matthew’s now sponsored by a Kendama company out of Denmark called Krom,” his father Scott Ballard wrote in an email. “So he’s officially a ‘pro’ now,” he continued.
They held the World Kendama Open on Saturday and Matthew Ballard said he and Matsumura “lost pretty quick.” But they did achieve rankings for their expertise — Matsumura received a 2nd Dan designation and Ballard was awarded a 4th Dan. It’s much like the rankings in karate, Ballard explained.
Ballard also competed in something called the expert class elimination and was the only foreigner to medal.
The Kendama craze is really quite amazing in how it has taken hold. Our local Hooked On Toys store has sold more of these toys than any shop in the country. Ballard and Matsumura will be part of a West Coast tour that will include San Francisco, Sacramento, Eugene and Seattle. The tour will make a stop in Wenatchee at Walla Walla Point Park on Friday, July 26.
What I find interesting and compelling about the Kendama craze is that it is more than just a game of individual skill. There is a strong social aspect that encourages kids to work together to build coordination, develop tricks and share the experience.
Ballard’s skill with a video camera also continues to evolve. The self-taught videographer recently shot a music video for the local band Blackburn that was shot in East Wenatchee. His father said it’s a miracle that no one called the fire department. Here’s where you can watch the video: vimeo.com/69448339.
It is wonderful to see individuals with talent and creativity find ways to use their skills and carve out niches for themselves. Ballard will be taking his formidable talents to Loyola Marymount University this fall. That young man is going places.