Join Ryosuke Kawamura from One Drop & Yoshinori Kawamura of the mighty mighty Fist Salud crew for a minute of clean technical 1A as they put the Summit through its paces. Nice one, boys!
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.
Welcome back to Fixed Friday, where the tricks are made up and the points don’t matter. Because you don’t score any points. Huh? Moving on. This week I’m proud to present some original content that I’ve been working on, a z-axis flip that lets you transition between stall mounts. Let’s take a look:
The first trick is the simplest version of this idea. Throw a trapeze stall, swing and flip the yo-yo as though you were throwing a kickflip suicide, but instead of catching the loop, chop into the string. It takes a little practice to figure out the timing of the chop and the spin, I find it helps to use a two-tone yo-yo so that you can remember which side was facing you when you threw the suicide and chop when you see it come back around. If you don’t have a two-tone yo-yo, I recommend covering the sidecaps in stickers… but then, I pretty much just recommend that anyways. I should also mention that while trapeze is the simplest version of this trick, it may actually be easier to execute from a double or nothing, so if you’re struggling with the trapeze you might want to try 2or0.
The next move is an interpretation of the first pop of the classic trick, Kwijibo, and it illustrates how the kickflip can be used to move from one mount to another. Learning the chop with the opposite hand usually requires a lot of focus on providing enough slack to cushion the yo-yo’s landing without letting it fall off. All of you kids catching kendama fever will be thrilled to learn that it’s all in the knees… okay, maybe you don’t have to full-on crouch, but it definitely helps to move your hands along with the yo-yo to soften the landing a bit.
Now, at this point, you’re probably wondering why you wouldn’t just go with the flashier kickflip suicide. The answer? Half-flips! As you may recall from earlier lessons, one of the primary challenges of stall tricks is that you can only catch the yo-yo on one side of the string, which means transitioning from mount to mount occasionally requires elaborate restarts. With a half-flip, the yo-yo flips over halfway (natch), meaning you can transition between stall sides in the middle of mounts or combos.
The next trick is an example of such a combo: first, a half-flip from a double or nothing stall to a trapeze bro stall, something not possible with a simple hop, and then after throwing the bro stall back into double or nothing, a full flip back down to trapeze. It’s definitely not the easiest transition, but it is fun, satisfying, and has lots of possibilities for expansion.
The last trick is the brainchild of my Takeshi Kamisato, who is a gentleman and a cupcake. We start out with the 2or0 half-flip to trapeze bro, but on the catch, you pinch the string in order to keep the slack of the suicide loop from disappearing. After that, toss the yo-yo off to the side with the loop intact and catch the suicide, much in the style of Takeshi’s immortal Hans Rocks! tricks. Bam! Easier said than done, of course, but a great example of how to incorporate modern new school 1A elements in your fixed axle play.
2011 saw National Master Steve Brown present us one yo-yo trick a day at the 365 Yo-Yo Tricks project. Next year Steve is ramping up the project by making it a team effort, with an incredibly diverse and remarkable roster. From YoyoFactory, in addition to Steve Brown himself, David Ung will be showing off his tricks, which are mostly seen in his amazing clip videos. This will be a great chance to catch up with David’s tricks, as he’s seldom seen freestyling at contests.
Finally, Drew Tetz of Duncan Crew will also be part of the roster. Drew, who’s always been a trick creation enthusiast, he used to run a now-defunct YouTube channel filled with single trick videos, and will no doubt have plenty of new material for the project. We caught up with Steve Brown himself to talk a little more about this very welcome surprise:
YoYoNews: Thanks for taking the time for this little chat, Steve!
Steve Brown: I always have time for my funk soul brother from another mother.
YN: That’s quite a crew you got on board! When did you decide you wanted 365 Yo-Yo Tricks to become a multi-man project?
SB: A couple of months ago I started thinking about the project, and realized I needed to make a decision…was I going to just end it when I hit the last trick, or keep going? I’ve put so much work in to the whole thing this past year…but at the same time it’s been a MASSIVE time drain for me and I haven’t made any money off it. The actual video editing and uploading is the easy part…finding time to spend an hour or two every day to make up a new trick isn’t easy for me at all. I’ve got two kids, two small businesses that I’m trying to get off the ground, the Triple Crown of YoYo, and a beautiful wife who prefers to spend time with me instead of just seeing the back of my head while I’m sitting at my desk.
After thinking about it for a while I realized that I didn’t want the project to end, but I really needed help. And after winning the Trick Innovator Award and seeing people come out of the woodwork to tell me that my tricks suck and that I’m no good anymore, I have to admit…I was really rattled by that. I’ve been a professional yo-yo player since 1995…that’s 16 years. Hearing that kind of crap, especially from a bunch of people who have been around half as long as I have (or less), really stung. So I decided that I needed help with the trick creation, I wanted to take some of the focus off myself because I’m sick of being a target, and I wanted to expand the project beyond just being another piece of vanity on the web.
At that point, the only logical decision was the bring in more people. It helps me with the workload, gives the viewers a wider variety of tricks, gives me a chance to show off how awesome some of my friends are, and still accomplishes the same goal of giving yo-yo players a new trick, every day.
YN: Why these players?
SB: David Ung’s video “Broke” was amazing. The way he started and ended every single trick with a trapeze, the pacing, the flow, the style…I loved every bit of it. I had the same reaction that Ben McPhee did…I had to stop in the middle and catch my breath because it was just so much to take in. I’ve always known he was a really good player, but that video specifically sealed the deal for me.
Drew Tetz has been doing some absolutely amazing counterweight stuff for the past year, and some of his wrap concepts really are next level. He also has a style that’s really effortless but earnest…when you watch him play you know he’s working hard but you know he’s really enjoying it. It’s a neat combination, and the end result is a player that I can watch all day long and never get tired. I also like that Drew is local, which means if he doesn’t get me his videos in time I can show up at his apartment and completely ruin his day.
I defy anyone to come up with a single valid reason why Ed Haponik is not one of the most inspiring and awesome yo-yo players in the world. If you don’t love watching Ed play, then you don’t love yo-yos. Ed will be completely mortified and embarrassed by this…which is part of why we love him. And his personal challenge to only throw a custom-built wooden yo-yo for the entire year is pretty awesome. I can’t imagine limiting myself to just one throw for an entire year, so I’m really looking forward to see how he does with it.
I’ve known Nate for a really long time. I was doing a demo many years ago at A-2-Z Science and Learning Center in Northampton, MASS and the original Freehand was the hot yo-yo at the time. I had a couple of rare colors of them in my bag and announced “Best trick wins one of these. Go!”. All the kids came up and showed me the hardest trick they knew, and for anyone who knows me you know that I didn’t care at all. Then Nate came up and said “I’ve got something”…he threw a suicide, but grabbed the loop as it came around his throw hand so the loop never actually flew across….and stuck out his catching finger anyway, and looked at it. We all looked immediately at the catching finger, and it took a full 5 seconds before any looked at his throw hand to figure out where the loop went. It was brilliant, and hilarious, and perfectly executed. I handed over the yo-yo immediately, and have kept an eye on Nate ever since.
I love watching Sebby play, and every time he picks up a yo-yo I feel like something incredible is going to happen. His freestyle at Worlds 2011 was my absolute favorite of the year, and to me it really highlighted everything that I love about watching him play. He’s got a really casual style, and when he’s nailing his tricks he tends to pace, but tightly wound like a panther. His tricks are all built around singular concepts, and even his combos will always revolve around getting into and out of one particular movement that defines the larger sequence. His style and creativity are exactly what I always hope my one tricks look like to other people, and what I see in him forces me to re-evaluate what I do and try to make it better.
YN: Do you plan on having a new roster every year?
SB: Yes, although it’s almost impossible for me to think about saying goodbye to any of these guys before we’ve even started. But I think for the project to really push creativity and keep people interested, a new roster every year is the best way to go.
YN: What else is changing in 2012 for 365 Yo-Yo Tricks?
SB: Some people have noticed that I’ve started posting the videos from my Vimeo account instead of YouTube. They’re still going up on YouTube for now, but starting in 2012 they will ONLY be uploaded to Vimeo. It’s a better quality service and I’ve had tons of copyright issues with YouTube…having content taken down for using music that I actually had the rights to use, having audio deleted without any notification, and the fact that if you do use a piece of music that gets flagged as a copyright violation, they don’t offer you even the smallest window to delete it yourself and avoid penalty. I’ve used songs from my friends bands that I wasn’t aware had been licensed out to a larger company for something, and gotten a copyright strike…even though I submitted documentation from the band that said I had permission. I just hate the way YouTube handles all that stuff and Vimeo seems way more artist-friendly.
I’m also in the process of upgrading the site and moving from Tumblr to WordPress. I’ll keep the Tumblr active and probably mirror the posts to there, but the main site will be moving to WordPress, and I’m working on organizing the tricks better to be more of a searchable database.
YoYoExpert.com has come on board as a sponsor and provided some nice perks for the players that I’m pretty excited about, and all the manufacturers involved seem excited about helping to promote the project. Most of the changes really are just technical, though…behind the scenes stuff that is going to be a huge time-suck for me but will ultimately make it a lot easier for the fans to enjoy what we’re creating.
YN: Thanks for your time, Steve! We’re looking forward to seeing yet another full year of yo-yo goodness!
SB: Thanks for the interview!
Be sure to tisit 365 Yo-yo Tricks’ players page for full bios of the new team and more information about the project!