Kemari Ball Game. - Football Player Holding Football
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How to Play the Japanese Game of Kemari: Keeping a Ball in the Air

Kemari is a traditional Japanese game that dates back over a thousand years. It is a unique and captivating sport that involves keeping a ball in the air using only your feet. In this article, we will explore the rules of Kemari and how to play this ancient game with grace and skill.

Understanding the Origins of Kemari

Kemari originated in Japan during the Asuka period (538-710 AD) and was widely popular among the nobility. It was a game that symbolized elegance, grace, and cooperation. The objective was to keep a ball made of deerskin filled with sawdust in the air for as long as possible without letting it touch the ground.

Gathering the Necessary Equipment

To play Kemari, you will need a Kemari ball. Traditionally, this ball is made of deerskin and filled with sawdust. However, modern versions may use other materials such as synthetic leather. The ball is typically smaller than a soccer ball and has a soft, lightweight feel to it.

Forming a Circle

Gather a group of players, ideally between six to eight people, and form a circle. The players should stand facing each other, with a distance of about 2-3 meters between them. This circle formation is crucial for the smooth flow of the game.

Starting the Game

One player, known as the “shinshi” or the “master,” starts the game by kicking the ball gently into the air. The objective is to keep the ball in the air using only your feet and prevent it from touching the ground. The other players must work together to keep the ball in the air, using a combination of kicks, taps, and delicate footwork.

Maintaining Balance and Coordination

Kemari requires a high level of balance and coordination. Players must be mindful of their body movements and use precise footwork to keep the ball in the air. The key is to strike the ball gently and accurately, ensuring that it stays within the circle without going too high or too low.

Embracing the Spirit of Cooperation

Kemari is not a competitive sport but rather a cooperative one. The objective is not to win but to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible, working together as a team. Players must communicate effectively, anticipate each other’s movements, and adjust their positions accordingly to maintain the ball’s momentum.

Adding Variations and Challenges

Once you have mastered the basic rules of Kemari, you can introduce variations and challenges to make the game more interesting. For example, you can increase the number of players or reduce the size of the circle, making it harder to keep the ball in the air. You can also set a time limit or count the number of consecutive kicks as a measure of success.

Appreciating the Beauty of Kemari

Kemari is not just a game; it is an art form that celebrates grace, elegance, and the beauty of movement. Watching a skilled group of players gracefully keep the ball in the air is a mesmerizing experience. It is a sport that encourages mindfulness, teamwork, and appreciation for Japanese culture and heritage.

Conclusion: Embrace the Spirit of Kemari

In a fast-paced world filled with competitive sports, Kemari offers a refreshing change of pace. It is a game that encourages cooperation, balance, and appreciation for the simple joys of movement. So gather your friends, form a circle, and let the ball fly as you embrace the spirit of Kemari.