When it comes to modern yoyoing that is equally creative and competitive, Anthony Rojas’ tricks are basically everything that you could possibly want and more. Anthony has proven himself countless times in winning several contests, and will undoubtedly remain a relevant name in yoyoing through his creative style and memorable freestyles. I decided to catch up with Anthony on his recent contests, creative process, and more!
Anthony, you’re one of the most creative and talented players I know of that’s around today, how did you start yoyoing?
I had a yoyo or two as a kid in the 90s, but it was only a toy to me then. I got into Astrojax some years later, and through that I started discovering modern yoyoing. I consider August 2005 the beginning of my serious yoyo “career” when I got yoyos like the YoyoJam Dark Magic and Free Agent. I also started going to the Sunshine Kite Company in Redondo Beach, CA because of their yoyo classes/ hangouts. Lots of great players learned at that shop. It’s actually really crazy thinking how I’m in Europe right now because of yoyoing, along with other players that also came from the kite shop.
That is crazy, who were some of the other players that frequented the shop?
Yoshi Mikamoto from YYJ taught at the shop. There was also Grant Johnson, Patrick Borgerding, Alex Hattori, Alex Kim (RecRev), Dylan Benharris, and others too.
What was your approach to learning tricks early on?
Learning tricks early on, I didn’t necessarily have an approach. I just learned what I could from people in person, or watched tutorials and videos. I never dwelled on tutorial watching too long though, I liked making up my own tricks and learned things along the way. I think it’s good to have a solid foundation as a beginner, but I never had a plan or a goal at that time. I just did what felt right.
I also agree with that being a good approach. Being known best for your really creative tricks, when would you say that you started to become good enough at making tricks to be recognized within the community?
I definitely started to get more attention outside my area when I won South West Regionals in 2009. Not long after, I got 5th at Worlds. Looking back my style has changed a little over time, but I’ve always tried to be both a creative and competitive player. Right now it’s a little difficult, I wish I had more time to focus on both realms. After this year’s worlds I almost feel a little behind. So many good players right now!
I totally agree! I’ve only been yoyoing for a few years but I’m even amazed at the amount of talent that’s came out since I’ve started. So, you just kind of decided to start competing eventually?
I started competing pretty quickly. January of 06 was I went to my first contest and did sports ladder and 4a in X division. I don’t think I thought about it much at first, but I believe it’s good for beginners who are serious about competing to get some stage time. Even if you think you won’t do well, just worry about doing the best you can and gain experience. Learn the system, learn how you can improve. Even now, if I execute my freestyle flawlessly and still lose, I can’t complain much. I did the best I could and will learn from that experience.
Did you have any aprehension at first about combining creative and competitive yoyoing on stage?
I never had any apprehension when it came to doing certain creative moves in the past, but recently it’s more difficult. You have to find the right balance of creativity while still keeping in mind points and the judging system, at least when you’re trying to win. In the future, I’d like to show less point driven freestyles that are just nice looking creative routines, whether it be filmed or on stage.
Definitely, your tricks are so good that I think they look good just about anywhere. What’s your process like in making up tricks?
My process isn’t really set in stone, but it’s usually a lot of experimenting and trial and error. It depends on the trick, but I’ll usually just have an idea or mount, and keep exploring possibilities until I like the outcome. Sometimes you have to scrap ideas that simply don’t work, or keep working on them for months before something comes out of it. There’s not really a secret formula for good tricks or concepts I guess, just don’t limit your exploration.
Yeah, I feel that like that’s definitely true. I just started getting serious with making tricks a little while ago, and it really did take me about a month to figure out where to go from the first few moves of a trick I made up. What are some of your favorite elements or mounts to use? I know you like a lot of arm/body tricks.
Some of my favorite tricks are made of simplified elements in general. Or things that have a nice movement to them. I do like arm and body stuff, but that’s really just me trying to be different when I can. It’s funny because I think maybe there’s kids watching freestyles who haven’t met a lot of other yoyoers, and probably think those are the kind of tricks I always do in my free time. Or that such and such person always yoyos super fast or something. I think some yoyoer’s styles are the same on and off stage, but it’s not like I normally do weird, kneeling, horizontal, body tunnels when I’m just chilling haha. I think the same goes for a lot of others.
You recently took 5th Place at the 1st ever Duncan IYYC, which is definitely impressive. Did you plan on placing so high?
I was surprised I got 5th actually. I wasn’t sure how landing my freestyle perfectly would place, because it was slower paced and wasn’t as tightly based on points. I just wanted to do a cool freestyle. Unfortunately I messed up with two restarts. So getting 5th is kind of alright in a way. I was more bummed out about not making Worlds finals, although the contest itself was probably one of my favorites I’ve been to ever. IYYC was nice and I hope they can keep it going, but Worlds was a really amazing experience.
They both seemed amazing! At both events, who had your favorite freestyle in 1A?
Maybe Zach’s Worlds freestyle. I’ve seen some of his tricks over and over, but they just don’t get old. Takeshi’s freestyle was also nice, and Sebby’s music choice and execution at IYYC had this really nice feeling to it.
I love Zach’s tricks, his Worlds freestyle was one of my favorites too. What other contests are you planning on entering in the near future?
I plan to go to South West Regionals, maybe the DXL Battle, Nationals, and the Las Vegas Open. I’m actually really looking forward to all of them for different reasons. They should all be nice contests. I especially want to see how the Vegas one turns out, and want to see some of the things going on with SkillCon too. I’m not going to be able to make 44 Clash this year, but I hope I can make it to Japan for Worlds next year.
The Las Vegas Open does sound like an awesome contest, nice! Do you have any other non contest related yoyo endevours planned?
I’d like to say the clip video Grant and I have been planning will come soon, but I can’t be sure. We’ve continued to push back filming because our schedules never meet up right. At this point it will happen when it happens, I’m just sitting on tricks and making up new ones until we can do it right. No need to rush and have a bad video. I’m working on a logo for a small company right now too, so that, and hopefully other design related work in the yoyo world will happen.
Awesome! Lastly, what advice could you give to someone just starting to yoyo and looking to compete and innovate in the future?
People starting out and thinking about innovation and competition could mean a lot of different things, depending on who you are and what you want out of it. Assuming it’s someone that wants to win contests or be known for innovation or something like that, I think for both categories you should try to understand what makes others successful. Study others not only for what they do, but why it worked for them.
Competition has a lot to do with the system, the rules, so learn that first. Try to understand the specifics over time, and gain experience by entering contests even if you think you won’t do well. Try to worry about improving yourself and not worrying about how you place. Remember that not everyone has a competitive style. It also helps if you not only know the rules, but eventually learn how to judge yourself.
For innovation, there are of course no rules or directions for that. Being innovative takes knowledge of what’s been done, but you have to be the one to discover something new on your own. A lot if times, the ideas I had for things that I made up just came to me unexpectedly, or I took something known and added upon it to make something else. Competing or being the next innovator may seem like a daunting task for newcomers, but I think it’s very feasible if you stay dedicated and always remember to have fun 🙂