FL MORRIS | FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tyler Yafuso juggles backstage before his performance at Pearl Ridge Elementary School.
Kids show magical flair
Members of the local Society of Young Magicians increase poise and self-confidence
LOTS of teenagers can make things disappear -- lunch pass, bus card, house keys. It's called losing stuff. But when they do it on purpose, in front of an audience, well, that's called magic.
SOCIETY OF YOUNG MAGICIANS
Open to children ages 7 to 16.
Meetings: 2 to 4 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month (next session is Dec. 10 at Kauluwela Elementary School). Members also meet on other Saturdays at Zuke's Magic & Jokes store in Kalihi.
Annual fee: $20 to join the national association
Call: 428-6019 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Also: Ron Ishimaru teaches private classes for small groups; $5 per person, plus supplies.
Tyler Yafuso, 13, was just 6 when his grandmother gave him his first magic kit. Now he can make objects disappear into thin air -- and reappear. He is already performing at birthday parties and other affairs.
"I like amazing people -- and tricking them," he said.
Tyler is one of 20 members of the Society of Young Magicians, which meets monthly to give young tricksters a place to practice and perfect their art.
Keith Yafuso, Tyler's father, says his son has gained lots of confidence through magic, even competing in a national competition in Las Vegas when he was only 10. "He is usually a quiet, shy kid, but up on stage he explodes."
In fact, young magicians seem to be better students, Keith said, as magic requires a good memory and focus.
Ron Ishimaru, who leads the local Society of Young Magicians chapter, said the group's intent is to create an interest in magic as a wholesome hobby.
Ishimaru took up magic as a kid himself. He is now a member of the Society of American Magicians (the adult counterpart of the Young Magicians) and continues to perform.
He believes magic develops self-confidence, skill, an ability to speak in public and discipline -- from learning, practicing and performing. "Learning is an important aspect of magic. They need to read, understand and follow instructions."
The kids also learn a sense of service -- both through teaching magic to others and performing at charitable events.
"The kids are very professional," Sherrie Fujioka said after watching a recent performance that included a few Houdini-style acts.
Scott Tan won applause as he transformed a quarter into a Mexican coin. Scott has been in the club less than a year. "It's fun to do something different and not have to stress out about anything."
Kevin Tsunoda, 15, and Ryan Catalani, 12, teamed up to present the "magical box of mystery." They pulled string and scarves out of an empty cylinder placed inside a square tube.
"I've learned about the importance of audience participation," Kevin said. He's been practicing magic for five years. "I've learned to be more confident around people, especially when I'm speaking. Before, I got really nervous."
Added Catalani, "I've learned to speak louder."
ISHIMARU critiques acts and conducts monthly meetings in a sharing-session fashion.
"They need to come with a basic understanding of magic," he said, suggesting the public library has a good source for learning material. "Some of the kids have a certain flair for magic."
And some start at an early age. Eight-year-old Taylor Komatsu came to last month's meeting equipped with a magician's table and props. Her tricks were believable and seemed advanced for someone her age.
"We have lots of fun. I really like to do the shows," she said. "My favorite trick is the disappearing handkerchief."
Seven-year-old Terry Tsujioka just joined the club, and has already mastered a disappearing-coin trick.
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From left, Ryan Catalani, Ryan Yamauchi and Tyler Yafuso get psyched up for their show.
"Magic teaches them to keep things in order. They need to be organized or the tricks won't work," said Terry's mother, Amy Tsujioka.
"We have people from all walks of life, from both private and public schools," said Ishimaru.
Some will make a career of it. Kristi Toguchi, one of the club's charter members, is now a professional magician in San Diego.
But for others it will be a passing phase, so Ishimaru advises that parents not invest too much too soon. Implements for tricks can get costly, he said, so to begin with, purchase only simple magic kits and see if interest continues.