A yo-yo, a small spool-like toy reeled up and down by a string, can provide
hours of activity any place, any time. With a little practice and patience,
people of all ages and abilities can learn to yo-yo.
"The yo-yo is the second oldest toy known to mankind. The only older toy
is the doll," says John Stangle. He is a world yo-yo champion and president
of the American Yo-Yo Association.
"The yo-yo also is the most famous toy in the world. Just ask a two-year-old
who is barely speaking -- they will say 'yo-yo' and reach for it. Show an
old-timer and you are sure to get a story!"
The yo-yo fits into the palm of your hand. That makes it easy to carry
or to tuck into a purse, pocket or backpack. That means one can participate
in this sport from any location. Many cities throughout the world have yo-yo
clubs, which can be located through the Internet or local toy and hobby shops.
"People like being recognized, and if you practice, you will get recognized,
even if just by your peers," Stangle says. "Keep your eyes peeled while driving
through the city, on the freeway or wherever. You are bound to see a stereotypical
picture of a kid outside their house yo-yoing."
The use of the yo-yo around the world and throughout history is unmatched.
This toy goes through periods of hibernation, but its popularity always returns.
Since the 1930s, over half a billion yo-yos have been made and sold. (That's
from the Yo-Yo Book by John E. Ten Eyck.) Yo-yos are extremely popular currently
in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, England, Canada and South America.
Yo-yo is truly international.
"We've seen the largest growth in the last few years, but I would have
to say that over the next five to 10 years, we are sure to see it grow more,"
says Jennifer Baybrook. She is a national and world champion yo-yo professional.
"I recently have toured in China, and the yo-yo craze is just starting there."
Yo-yo contests, which began at candy stores, are today being held in large
recreation centers and arenas. A 1997 yo-yo show in Japan attracted an audience
of 40,000 fans.
To get started with a yo-yo, Stangle suggests you watch a video or attend
a yo-yo event. The Internet offers several sites that have videos to play
in slow motion so one can observe various yo-yo techniques.
Learning from another person is perhaps the easiest way to learn to yo-yo,
Stangle says. And then "practice, practice, practice," he adds.
Yo-yo champion Rob Davies suggests that beginners start with the basic
tricks and a basic yo-yo, then move up to bigger and better tricks. Basic
tricks include sleepers, breakaways, loop the loops and trapezes. Work diligently
on proper yo-yo techniques, as all complicated yo-yo tricks fall back on basic
Start with the basic throw. Put the yo-yo string on your middle finger
between your first and second knuckle. Hold the yo-yo in your hand with your
palm facing up. Throw the yo-yo straight down, tugging slightly to bring it
back to your hand. Repeat.
After mastering the basic throw, you can move on to various tricks, ranging
from beginner to advanced. Trick categories include string tricks, looping
tricks and picture tricks.
String tricks have the yo-yo landing on the string one way or another.
Looping tricks have the yo-yo staying in constant, repetitive motions with
stopping, known as "sleeping" in yo-yo language.
Picture tricks are tricks that resemble something, such as the Eiffel Tower
and the Texas Star.
Yo-yos can be found in hobby and toy stores almost anywhere. There are
a number of designs of yo-yos, but the three most common are imperial/standard,
butterfly and modified/modern styles. The best yo-yo is the one you prefer
to use for your level of experience.
The imperial/standard is an all-purpose yo-yo good for looping tricks.
The butterfly is basically an inverted imperial/standard that has a wider
slot to perform more string tricks, like Man on Trapeze. The modified/modern
styles are slim-shaped and have the most weight on the rims of the yo-yo,
allowing longer sleeps.
"You can get a really good playing yo-yo for around $20 or less," Baybrook
says. "If you take care of it, then the only thing you have to replace is
the string and oil. I would say it's one of the least expensive sports one
Yo-yo accessories a participant can buy, but that are not necessary for
the sport, include various yo-yo cases, holsters and bags to transport the
toy, stands to display the yo-yos, power rings to increase the speed, as well
as various lubricants, waxes and how-to videos and publications.
Anyone can take part in this sport, regardless of age, size and physical
fitness, Baybrook says. "It improves many things such as eye-hand coordination
The yo-yo also helps develop dexterity, provides an active versus passive
activity, develops self-esteem and gives one a sense of accomplishment.
Those playing with a yo-yo may get a few bruises here and there, but no
serious injuries or broken bones common to other sports, Baybrook says. Accessories
for the more serious participant include finger armor and gloves to protect
one from bruises associated with the yo-yo.
While the yo-yo provides hours of entertainment, people also can enjoy
careers through the yo-yo as well. Moreover, collecting yo-yos is a popular
hobby. Professional opportunities involve demonstrations, teaching and toy
Davies is a distributor and instructor for PlayMaxx Inc.. He has been yo-yoing
since he was nine.
The yo-yo has been Baybrook's career since she was eight. Today, the 20-year-old
travels the world promoting and teaching the yo-yo as a part-time job.
Soon after Stangle started yo-yoing, people began to hire him to do yo-yo
demonstrations. Today, he is a successful toy company owner in California.
"Always remember to have fun and take your time," Baybrook says. "Learn
as much as you can, when you can, and be willing to give back the knowledge
that was given to you."
American Yo-Yo Association
The Yo-Yo Book,
John E. Ten Eyck
Workman Publishing Company Inc.
You Can Yo-Yo,
History of the yo-yo
Read about the history of the yo-yo
A list of yo-yo tips
How Yo-Yos Work
Read more about the science of yo-yos
Learn a trick