Happy New Year, everyone! We kick off 2012 with a chat with team SPYY’s own zen master, Ed Haponik! As announced on his blog, this year Ed will spend the entire year throwing a single wood axle yo-yo. We approached him to ask a few questions about this quite unusual decision.
YoYoNews: Hello and Happy New Year, Ed! Thanks for joining us for this little chat.
Ed Haponik: Hey Red! Psyched to be involved in Hired To Win [note: now YoYoNews]!
YN: This is it, 2012! For the next 365 days, you vow to only throw a single fixed-axle wood yo-yo! What do you expect from this upcoming year? Is it a challenge, a vacation, or an experiment?
EH: It’s really a bit of all 3. I’ve always been the type of person to do better with an endeavor if I make some sort of “sweeping pronouncement” about it beforehand. Like, if I say “I should really drink less soda”, it’s very unlikely that I’ll change my behavior at all. Whereas if I say “That’s it! No soda for 6 months!” I stick to it easily. To be honest, I’ve wanted to try this for a long time, but the timing wasn’t right. My tricks are naturally gravitating toward a more fixed axle-inspired style, and I’ve always been into the idea of focusing on one single instrument, getting to know it through and through. I expect it to be spectacularly difficult and frustrating, but also rewarding, in that it’s exactly what I want to do. I’m stoked to be starting out on it.
YN: This is not the first time you engage in a year-long experience. Tell us a little bit about Cones to Balls. What was it, what did you get from that?
EH: I feel as though that project really set the stage for this one. I got a great deal from the process of using the thick, unwieldy, type 10 cotton from that cone, and it reinforced a growing belief of mine – that the materials we associate with yo-yoing don’t matter as much as our mindset. I got really into the ritual of twisting the string. It’s like tuning up an instrument before playing music or applying pine tar to a baseball bat. You can’t separate the “trivial” rituals from the art, itself. That project really taught me that nothing is trivial, and that yo-yoing extends beyond the boundaries of throwing and catching. In Japanese swordsmanship, there are arts associated with tying the cord onto your belt, for bowing to the sword, for kneeling in armor. The art extends outside of what we normally associate with it, and your attitude toward yo-yoing is irresistibly manifested in your attitude, well before you ever throw down.
YN: Do you still have/use your cone string?
EH: Oh, totally. I actually found a backup cone of the same stuff. It’s great string, and I’m sure I’ll use a ton of it this year. It’s perfect wood-axle string; nice and thick. It’s the kind of string that sort of smacks your hand on sidewinders. Even the stringburn feels nice and even.
YN: You are also part of Steve Brown’s 365 Yo-Yo tricks’ roster for 2012. What do you expect from that extra challenge?
EH: I’m looking forward to it. 365 has obviously been a huge deal this year, and the other guys in the line-up are not only incredible yo-yo players, but also close friends. I think we’ll all really push each other to come up with high quality content. I’m not really stressed about coming up with 52 decent tricks on wood. Between old tricks I want to lay down ‘for posterity’ and the new stuff that always leaks out, it’ll be more an issue of challenging myself to hit stuff fluidly and to be discerning in the tricks I choose. With six guys putting out tricks every week though, it’ll definitely be something to watch.
YN: You do throw fixed axles more often than most yo-yo players. What was the longest period you went throwing only fixed axles?
EH: 40 days. I gave bearings up for lent one year. I’m not really a practicing Catholic, but I love the ritual of lent; of giving things up. I had a lot more growing to do with bearings and wasn’t ready for something more lengthy or permanent, but now I feel like I’ve kind of “gone where I’m going to go” with ball bearings, and it’s time to see where this path leads.
YN: For the first time in yo-yo history, a significant amount of yo-yo players learned everything on unresponsive yo-yos. What are your feelings about that?
EH: I don’t think it’s good or bad. I do think that we stand on an interesting precipice, because while what you say is true, most of the “heroes” of yo-yoing, the players at the top, still grew up having to manage response, and still kill on a responsive yo-yo or fixed axle. That’s starting to turn over now though, which is interesting. I can’t imagine a future in which elite players can’t shoot the moon or lacerate a stock gade. But at the same time, what I like most about yoyoing is that it’s always in flux. We’re perpetually redefining it, which is what keeps it relevant and fresh. If most modern players were to trade yoyo’s with Pedro Flores, each would probably be pretty flummoxed as to how to approach the other’s tool, but that’s as it should be. Arts are always on the move. You either accept where yo-yoing is headed, or you make a statement about where you’d like it to go through your own play.
YN: Is there a renewed interest in responsive play? The fixed axle challenge at the World Yo-yo Contest and your recent fixed axle battle against Drew Tetz were quite popular.
EH: I think there’s always been an undercurrent of appreciation for fixed axle yo-yoing. It’s where we started, collectively, and some people will always go to that well to test themselves or experience the past. In terms of response, I think being able to manipulate a yoyo that comes back teaches useful habits, especially when it comes to regenerations and dealing with slack. I’m old fashioned, but I definitely don’t feel a trick is “mine” if I can’t hit it with aggressive response. It’s not for everyone, but I think more and more people are getting a kick out of the simple, carefree flavor responsive playing evokes. The deeper you dig into it though, the more unforgiving (and also addictive) it becomes.
YN: We’re looking forward to follow your progress on your blog, Ed! And we’ll no doubt talk to you again after your endeavor comes to an end! Any shout-outs to wrap this up?
EH: Thanks Red. It’s so cool to be part of yo-yoing, where you can literally be best pals with your heroes. You know I could rattle off a list of shout outs as long as my arm. I guess major thanks and props to the Steves though. First to Steve Buffel of SPYY, for his willingness to embrace this commitment despite the obvious repercussion that I’ll only be able to rep one of his products this year (and not even one we’re selling). Also to Steve Brown, who really helped set me on the fixed axle path, and with whom I’ll get to collaborate again on his 365 yoyo tricks project in the new year.