I am spectacular at 5a. By 5a I [of course] mean 360’s, Nunchucks, Butterfly, the occasional Shoulder-Pop, and basic Freegens, which are really all I have ever mastered in order to demonstrate the style to kids. I have HEARD that some innovative players (Miguel Cohumnum, Takeshi Matsomething) have developed tricks outside of this range, but I can’t say I’ve really explored them much. Ok, so that may mean that I’m actually NOT so great at 5a. Despite the attempted interventions and clarifications I’ve received from the style’s founder, I’ve just never really gotten it to the extent that I’ve been inspired to make up 5a tricks of my own. I basically suck at it. That said, for whatever reason, I’ve always dug some Slippery Eel.
Slippery Eel is essentially counterweight yo-yoing without the counterweight. It originated as a fairly lame through-the-leg trick, and kind of stagnated into ignominious irrelevance after Steve figured out that a casino die on the string had more extensive applications. (For my part, I’ve tried attaching a casino die to a stapler, a skateboard, and most recently, a beagle with essentially zero effect upon the “creative floodgates”.) I’ve seen a [very] few cool essays into the realm of fixed axle 5a, but I’m not naive enough to think that my own perfunctory understanding of the basics would serve me much there. Eel tricks though, I dunno… I’ve got some ideas.
Eel’s obvious application to fixed axle is its allowance for real ambidexterity. This was one of SB’s inspirations in developing the Freehand style. His experience as a juggler was kind of at-odds with the “strings-attached”, dominant-hand-dominated mechanism of traditional yo-yoing. When you think about it, a lot of the stall tricks (particularly repeaters) we’ve explored this year tend toward symmetry, but are restricted by the yo-yo being tied to the throw hand. It’s a lot of fun to unhook that slipknot and experiment with using both hands to throw, catch, stall, regenerate, etc. This is true of modern 1a, too, of course, but in fixed axle, wherein the frequency of throws and catches is ramped up, the changes become more numerous and more challenging.
Exhibit A is just a warm-up, but if you’ve never tried fixed axle Eel (and I assume there are roughly 7-billion of you), you’ll want to get the feel down. This is just a series of trapeze stalls, changing hands in between and throwing in some somersaults. I find it really helpful to use a full-length string (I usually shorten mine) tied with an extra loop at the end. This gives me a bit more surface area to hang on to, which is dead useful when we get to the dragons at the end.
2nd trick is obviously Zipper Stalls, but you’ll notice something fishy (or EELISH – oh snap!). In this example, before every stall catch, there’s a hand change. It actually feels pretty natural, although I have an easier time starting out with the left hand for some reason.
After that I get into a couple of no-hands Kickflip-Suicide variations. First up is a simple and unimpressive flat spin, but it’s good to get under your fingers before moving on. Catching the loop and the loose string takes some getting used to. Next up is a sort of “Half-Cab”, which in skateboard jargon just means a fakie 180 ollie, so the orientation of your board and feet have changed directions at the end. Fun, but much cooler is the 2.0 version which follows, going from a Double or Nothing to a hand-changed trapeze. (I’ll note here that one of the coolest things about throwing a responsive yo-yo in Slipper Eel is your ability to end any trick with a Skyrocket.)
Moving ahead to 1:04, we start to get into some more laterally symmetrical repeaters in the style of Salvador Dali Windshield Wipers (originally given the unoriginal name of Glide Symmetry). The first example is kind of a reverse-suicide, catching the string on both sides (as opposed to the loop). Next is the closest to the classic Wipers, only changing hands before each stall (much like the Zipper example earlier). Same thing at 1:24, but offsetting the sequence so as to do reverse-trapeze stalls on both sides. I find both of these to be pretty easy and extremely addictive.
At 1:37, the video moves into a series of tricks based on what I call “Catch the Lashing Dragon’s Tail” (I’m never going to come up with a canonical T’ai Ch’i move, so I have to get mystical where I can). CtLD’sT (or just Dragons) involve grasping the short segment of string trailing behind a nearly-wound yo-yo. The first example is a trick I’m calling “Streamer” due to the catchable fly-away string segment behind the yo-yo. This is a little like a trick I did last year called Hydrangea Bomb, but grasping that string as it comes around injects a little leap of faith. I actually found that you DO get pretty good at this with a little practice, but don’t get it dialed on a yo-yo you’re nervous about banging up a bit. See if you can hit it in both directions.
As far as Dragons go, Streamer is pretty darn easy, as the yo-yo is stalled. The REAL Lashing Dragon Tail has to actually LASH, and for that to happen, the yo-yo has to be in a state of full spin. The 3 final tricks show some variations of this, including over-the-shoulder, from snapstart (SnapDragon! ©™®), and the original version catching the string with a kendo-esque two-hand clap. These tricks are waaaaaaay easier if you took my advice and tied that second loop at the end of the string. Dragon tricks are actually pretty difficult (nigh impossible) with a 5a setup, because the counterweight tends to initiate a FreeGen (awesome in its own right).
I really feel like these examples are just the edge of the wedge with respect to what’s possible (or even what’s obvious). The application of Eel concepts to fixed axle is a natural to me, and I’d love to see some of you kids come up with. While we’re at it, I’d love to see some more fixed-specific conceptual 3a, 4a and 5a.
Yo-Yo is the “eh” by SPYY & TMBR and the song is “Harold of the Rocks” by Primus.