Howdy all. Ed here with an unapologetic change-of-pace this week.
I was at the skatepark this afternoon, and it occurred to me that my skating is pretty much all centered around the expression of joy and simplicity (ok, and falling down). I’ve been on a board since I was about 7, idolizing the Bones Brigade, Blind crew and Girl team through the successive decades. However, though I’ve skated for as long as I can remember, my skating has not “matured” in the way you might assume it would. Although I learned kickflips, shuv-its, and street-plants, I pretty much never saw any value in tricks I vaguely deemed “too technical”… and so I never mastered them. What I did see value in was in crusing, in bombing hills, in dropping in and carving deep. Big ollies and rock n’ rolls are about as “tech” as my skating ever got… and yet I have never stopped LOVING it.
It’s interesting for me to reconcile my skating with my yo-yoing. On the one hand, no one in the know would ever classify me as a technical stylist. However, I’m certainly surpassing the yo-yo equivalents of ollies and carves. For me, Fixed Friday has been a double-edged sword. Its design gives Drew and me a platform to share a style which we are consciously trying to move forward. This column has been the launch pad for new tricks, new concepts, and collectively, a new approach to old tools. I’m really proud of the 40+ episodes we’ve pulled together this year. But Fixed Friday also serves to pull me back; to ground me. Whatever else I’m working on, it MAKES me take some time each week to appreciate “roots yo-yoing”. For all of the Dumptrucks and Fakie-regens, and Insta-bucket Stalls I do on a given Friday, I generally do twice as many Shoot-the-Moons, Loop-the-Loops, and Ferris Wheels. It reminds me that I initially gravitated to fixed axle, not because it offered any fertile creative territory, but because the sensation of the string sliding against a wood axle is just TOPS.
Rock the Baby is the quintessential classic trick. I’ve probably been asked to do it 100 times, and if I dug, there are probably as many ways to show it. Virtually any mount can be Baby-fied, but some variations have almost transcendentally crossed over into autonomy, becoming unique tricks in their own right. A few are shown below, but don’t assume the circle is complete. As is always the case with yo-yo, there is room for you to reach into the void and pull out your own classic version.
Don’t overlook the value of Rock the Baby, because to do so is to overlook the value of the innocent joy which started all of us down this weird road to begin with. No, it’s not a difficult, technical trick, and no it probably won’t “impress” people, even if they ask. But it will make them HAPPY, which is an altogether different sort of power, and every bit as real.
First off, there’s no wrong way to rock. From the front, back, side, whatever. I’ve taught a few hundred kids to do this trick, and one of the ways that seems to work for the less coordinated is the over-thumb method. Make a LOSER sign with your throw hand, and then pull the string through and over your thumb like Bow-&-Arrow. Young kids tend to have trouble with the pinching, and this avoids it (but it does make Dizzy Baby more difficult later on – speaking of Dizzy Baby, that’s shown next in the context of Throw the Baby Out the Window).
John Higby is one of my favorite people ever, and he showed me the next two variations (he does a bunch in his show). Itsy-bitsy Baby requires that you know the length of your string to the inch. You can make 2 or 3 triangles, but the yo-yo has to fit, which makes it a trick worth practicing if you actually want to perform it. Not the case with Lazy Baby, which is a delicious intentional cop-out, and as easy as the name implies.
The next four tricks have been around since the golden age (not the Chuck video), and used to be pretty considered pretty difficult before rim weight and transaxles made a 15-second sleeper automatic. Joint Custody always gets a chuckle (or the stink-eye from divorced people who actually have to deal with that reality). Rock the Baby Down South is one I vaguely remember from an Arne Dixon video, and I have no actual idea if I’m doing it correctly or if it originated with him. I guess you could also call it Rock the Baby in Jamaica, but I live in North Carolina and drive by 3 Confederate flags on my way to my kid’s school (sigh). Rock the Baby in the Eiffel Tower is still pretty tough to do well, and I can totally see it separating the men from the boys in the 60’s (pretty sure about 10 girls total played yo-yo then, too… SIGH).
At Worlds ’10, there was a great Rock the Baby trick circle featuring some incredible players. Some of the hilarious ideas shared were Kohta Watanabe’s Minimalist Baby (using an inverted 7 to form an incomplete cradle) and Hidemasa Semba’s trick, which may have a name, but which I’m calling Slack Parenting. The brilliant Nate Sutter has also repeatedly shown one of his versions, Rosemary’s Baby (essentially Rock the Baby in a pentagram).
I showed Infant CPR a few weeks ago under the name Wake the Baby. Basically just a Pocketwatch that you rock and then wake up. The next two are also mine. Plush Safe He Think is a random reference to the painter JM Basquiat. I thought the trick was worth including because the yo-yo passes through a Trapeze-Baby as a means to fold the string (which I later Tunnel out of). I do a similar thing with the next example – part of my trick Hyacinth – but fold in the opposite direction. It’s worth noting that Babies can be embedded into tricks and move the formation along. The Doc Pop trick Trap Door could be thought of as a similar example.
Chinese Cradle is one of my favorite picture tricks, and it has an interesting story. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, there were way more yo-yoers, but way FEWER people calling themselves professionals. Those that did had an actual job – traveling around from town to town and from school to school, setting up small contests and building up the infrastructure of a micro-community which was developed incrementally over time. Some of these pros were more legitimate than others, and some of the rivalries were pretty intense. Chinese Cradle was a sort of “calling card” trick that only an initiated few (generally the legendary Duncan Men) actually knew, and rarely (if ever) taught. In Helen Zieger’s book “World on a String”, she shows the trick but offers no explanation for how to get into it. When I visited Larry Sayco in his workshop, he confirmed that no one would teach it to him (which is crazy considering he could do Bank Deposit into my cousin’s pocket 1st try at age 89!). I asked Dale Oliver about the trick a few years back, and he said that there’s no place for trick exclusivity in the modern era, which was a relief.
I finish up with another of my favorites from a bygone era. Rock the Baby on the Launch Pad is a variation on Pop the Clutch, and is best done with a fairly long string. Throw hard so as to get a good launch, but recognize that you might well nail yourself in the elbow!
And that’s the news. I know there’s not much there that pushes the envelope, but if you really believe that’s the only reason to play yo-yo… I gotta say I think you’re missing out.
Yo-Yo used is an unfinished Tom Kuhn No Jive I got from Chuck Short and the song is “Film” by The Bad Plus. Have a great week!