This Friday we’ll take a step away from purely instructional videos and instead focus on something that can’t be taught: style. To help illustrate this, I’ve rounded up some footage from one of the most unique and original yo-yo players in the world, Spencer Berry. New players may recognize Spencer from his contributions to the current season of 365yoyotricks (he’s the one with the mustache that isn’t Steve), while older heads will instantly know him as the father of the Laceration. Spencer, along with the Spindox, provided a staggering amount of the trick vocabulary we associate with modern 1A, and tricks such as Ragnarok and Rancid Milk are still regarded as masterpieces a decade later.
Watching Spencer yo-yo for the first time, though, you’re less likely to notice the timelessness of his transitions or his deep back catalogue of tricks and more likely to duck out of the way to avoid his rowdy regens. This is not to say that he can’t be smooth! Breath is still regarded as one of the gold standard 1A tricks, and he plays with the classic ease of the generation brought up on Renegades and Freehand1s. Many of the Spindox actually attribute the smoothness of their styles to learning to play on crazy responsive yo-yos, which is where the application to modern fixed play comes in (see how neatly I tied that up?).
As I said earlier, style is something that can’t be taught, and copying somebody’s style to a tee is somewhat self-defeating, but let’s at least analyze Mr. Berry’s style for a little bit. He once told me that he’d like to write a piece for Fixed Friday, titled “Embracing Chaos, and Why Messing Up on a Fixed Axle is More Fun (AKA How Much Fun it is to Flail Around with Insane Regens Instead of Doing Tricks)”. I may be stealing his thunder somewhat by featuring him this week, but that title is fairly telling to his approach to fixed axle. The short spin times, unpredictable hardware, and heightened response of fixie play can be frustrating when trying to hit big complicated modern 1A tricks, so the lens focuses in a little bit and there’s a heightened emphasis on throws, catches, and regens: things that would be considered minutiae or “filler” in a contest freestyle suddenly become the whole show. Spencer’s style really comes to the foreground here, as practiced combos come apart at the seams and shift into wild improvised swinging loops. He proves that you don’t necessarily have to hit your tricks to have fun and look good doing it.
Part of this, though, undoubtedly comes from having enough variations and material to keep things interesting while your yo-yo runs off the rails. It helps to have a firm grip on the foundations: basic inside/outside loops, planet hops, hop the fence, shoot the moon, regenerations into and out of trapeze. It’s good to develop the habit of just looping out of everything to make yourself more comfortable with regens. Another thing that Spencer does is regens within a mount, or “assisted loops” where he controls the regeneration with his free hand. These can help you build up spin or change spin directions for a stall without sacrificing the setup of a mount.
Also, he does “Pop the Clutch Hands Must Touch (your head)”. This trick frightens me, but it is worth noting.
I wanted to call particular interest to one regen, the frontstyle throw > behind the head planet hop > trapeze sequence. This move, most likely invented by Steve in 1997, is super fun and I recommend it to everybody! I put Spencer’s in slomo and added one of my variations of it in hopes that it would help with learning, because honestly there’s not too much to teach. I will say that you should definitely practice it in front of your body first until you’re comfortable, ’cause this one can definitely sneak up on you, and nobody likes taking a yo-yo to the face… but once you get it, it’s one of the most fun & flashy simple regens out there.
Also, as a bonus trick, I threw on a chopsticks stall repeater inspired by Spencer & Jason Lee’s classic clip The Fidget. That should keep your fingers busy for a bit.
Thanks to Spencer for letting me film him in Kansas this fall. If you want more Spence (and don’t we all?), check out his demo at Finnish Nationals and his weekly contributions to 365yoyotricks. Keep an eye out for his upcoming yo-yo, Walter, which I can honestly say is one of the best slimline metals I’ve ever played.