Grant sophomore Ryley Richards talks about making new friends, doing fancy tricks and being original.
Hobbies: “When I’m not doing kendama, I’m playing soccer, BMX bike riding, skateboarding, snowboarding or watching kendama videos.”
How often do you train? “At least two hours a day.”
How would you describe your style? “Abstract.”
What types of kendamas do you have now?
What is a kendama and what do you do with it?
It’s a Japanese wooden toy consisting of three cups: big cup, small cup, base cup, a spike and a (ball) with a (hole). You have a million tricks you can do with it. Competitions…they judge you based on a set of tricks you’re gonna do, and each trick is worth a certain amount of points.
When did you start?
It was about six or seven months ago. I have a lot of friends who do it and then one day my friend, he kinda handed me one and made me do it. I haven’t been able to put it down since.
How has kendama changed other aspects of your life?
I used to be really bad at concentrating, and now I can concentrate better because it’s something that involves a lot of concentration. A major part of kendama is Kaizen, which is constant improvement. I started doing it through kendama. I was like, “This is working really well,” so then I changed it to another hobby and I was like, “Well, it’s going pretty well here, too,” and then I changed it into a lifestyle. Like if I get a C on a test, I need to improve that, not for my grade but for myself. I wake up every morning and I just think, “What can I do today that will make it better than yesterday?”
You just started at Grant this year, right? How has that transition been?
When I was at Milwaukie, it was like halfway through the year that I even started playing kendama, and so a lot of people just saw this instant change in me and they thought it was really weird, and so I’d get like teased by some of my friends sometimes. Everyone thought I was just messing around with it. They didn’t think I was serious about it, so I ended up losing and gaining a lot of friends. And then at Grant, like walking into it with it, it’s kind of like, “Hey, it’s that kid who plays with the wooden toy.”
Has it been easy to make new friends?
It really sucks being alone. For a while, I’d just be like sitting alone at lunch. When I went to Milwaukie, I didn’t really have that problem. But for Grant I didn’t know anybody. So for the first couple days I would sit alone and I noticed how lonely I was.
How would you describe your style?
I have a very unique style. I met somebody who’s one of my good friends now at Grant who came up to me and said, “Dude, you always have the coolest outfits, I swear.” I want to be somebody who gets noticed. I don’t want to just be wearing what everyone else is wearing because that doesn’t help with originality and if I strive for originality, why would I dress the same with everybody? You just have to sit back and think: Why be the same? Why is that important?
What are your plans this year for kendama?
In the next couple months I really want to get sponsored. And so I’m just gonna enter in a couple different companies.
What does your future with kendama look like?
I’m hoping that within the next two years I’ll be able to go to Japan for the World Cup.
Have you given any thought to a career down the road?
Yeah. If I could pick up as a pro I definitely would do that, and if I couldn’t I was thinking about working for a bigger company. It’s something I really enjoy and I can’t imagine where I’d be without it. I don’t know where I’d be social-wise, because there’re a lot of conversations at Grant that have started with kendama. ◊