As we gear up for the 2013 World Yo-Yo Contest, we take a step back to appreciate and admire the greats of years past. We will be posting the top 5 in each division in the weeks leading up to the World Yo-Yo Contest.
This time we take a look at the history of the offstring (4A) division. The inception of the style can be traced back to the 1950 Duncan instructors pushing the limits of yo-yos. Rumor has it that Duncan demonstrators would sometimes show the kids a single offstring trick—a front mount, and high toss—at demonstrations; it was intended to be just enough for the kids to try, break their yoyo, and buy another one. It wasn’t until 1990 when Dale showed a group of people the concept and Jon Gates took the style to a whole new level by introducing diabolo and Single A concepts but most importantly: the offstring bind. Later Jon collaborated with John Higby, and with the popularization of ball bearing axles and rubberized rims, Jon was able to push the boundaries another step further. After Jon led the Japanese Hyper Viper tour of 1998, which featured offstring, the style spread like wildfire. With the ground work established, players like Hironori Mii and Sky Kiyabu began to add offstring tricks to their routines. Due to the unprecedented nature of the style, offstring was initially accepted within the Single A division before being moved to the X Division and then eventually being granted its own dedicated division. Today offstring is one of the most intense divisions—any mistake can end up with a yo-yo flying off the stage. Regenerations, solo-ham, technical, whip catches and so much more—the growth from a challenge among friends to a highly competitive world-wide division remains a testimony to the creative possibilities of yo-yo and the ingenious minds who foster it.
5. Bryan Figueroa –
- 6x National Champion, 12x Regional Champion, 4x State Champion
One of the few players on these lists to not have a World title, Bryan’s six straight National titles are impossible to overlook. Dominating—which is perhaps a dramatic understatement—an extremely tough 4A division in the United States for six years, Bryan is clearly one of the greatest to play 4A. Bryan is known for his technically difficult tricks and extreme accuracy—rarely does he lose a yo-yo. With two near victories at the World stage, Bryan is a World title away from cementing his legacy further.
4. Naoto Okada –
- 2x World Champion, 3x National Champion, 4x Regional Champion
One of the four players on our list to own two World titles, Naoto is the ultimate performer. His on-stage persona is more artistic than anything else, taking yo-yoing in a direction that highlights its expressive beauty. With a number of near flawless routines to cement his extreme professionalism, Naoto never seems to disappoint. Even in the midst of a less than perfect routine, Naoto maintains his composure—something only a true performer can do.
3. Rei Iwakura –
- 2x World Champion, 1x Asia Champion, 3x National Champion, 8x Regional Champion
The curse of 4A World Champion—no one has ever won back-to-back 4A World titles and after taking the top spot at Japan Nationals, Rei has perhaps the best chance ever to accomplish this feat. And with it, he will certainly have an argument for the greatest of all time. Already one of the most out-of-the-box thinkers in yo-yo, and now incorporating his brilliant Artistic Performance routine concepts into his 4A routines, Rei is truly a master of offstring. With no end in sight after taking the top spot over Naoto and company at Japan Nationals, he only seeks to climb the list.
2. Tsubasa Onishi – /
- 2x World Champion, 2x Asia Champion, 3x National Champion, 2x Regional Champion
Tsubasa holds the interesting feat of winning both US and Japan Nationals. Not to mention his two World titles, his resume is only to be expected with the creativity he exhibits year after year. One of the few to make full combos that incorporated his ears, Tsubasa is undeniably one of the most ingenious offstring trick creators. Add in his arm stand whips & jump behind the back whips and it is clear Tsubasa belongs among the greats.
1. Eiji Okuyama –
- 2x World Champion, 1x Asia Champion, 1x National Champion, 2x Regional Champion
The first ever to capture two world titles, Eiji is the original offstring superstar. Creator of the classic trick which bears his name, Eiji Regeneration, Eiji pioneered offstring and pushed it to levels unheard of. With his signature extremely long string, Eiji was at the top of the offstring division for many years. Incorporating full arm grinds, long regeneration combos and intricate string tricks, Eiji was diverse in his repertoire; Eiji also had an aura of confidence and swagger which emanated on stage. All of these qualities came together to cement his place at the top.
Honorable Mentions: Hironori Mii (World Champion), John Narum (World Champion), Lim Aik Hwee (4x Asia Champion), Kazuaki Sugimura (2x National Champion)
Who do you think are the greatest offstring players of all time? Feel free to post your thoughts below!
As a reminder, these rankings take into consideration competitive players from around 2000 and on.
Adam Brewster says
I realize Kazuaki as a competitor doesn’t have a World Contest winning freestyle – but considering he’s the only competitor (and to my knowledge – of ANY division) to have a completely flawless freestyle without so much as a string flutter – he easily is my #1 4A player.