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Yo-Yo!

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Did you know that playing with an ancient simple toy can help you live longer and happier?  It’s true.  That simple toy?  The yo-yo.  Long before there were fidget spinners to relieve stress and anxiety, we are talking thousands of years ago, the yo-yo helped take the edge off of life, thus helping people live longer and happier.

It is believed that the yo-yo most likely originated in China. The first historical mention of the yo-yo, however, was from Greece in the year 500 B.C. These ancient toys were made out of wood, metal, or painted terra cotta disks and called just that, a disc. It was customary, when a child turned of age, to offer toys of their youth to certain gods. Due to the fragile nature of the material, it is presumed that the disks made of terra cotta (clay) were used for this purpose rather than for actual play. Even in ancient Egyptian temples, drawings of objects have been seen in the shape of yo-yos (Oliver). Later, in the 16th century, yo-yos were used as a mid-range weapon for small game hunters. It was more like a rock with a string wrapped around it so that when you throw the rock, it comes back to your hand. It was like having an endless supply of rocks and saved the hunter from having to collect more than one good rock.

Now fast forward 2517 years from 500 BC into the future, and now we can take a look at modern yo-yos. The modern yo-yo really started with the Duncan Imperial.  Duncan was the company name and imperial was the name for the physical shape of the yo-yo.  Basically, a string was tied to a spool, wrapped around the spool, and then tied to your finger — you let the spool drop and then tugged the string (tied to your finger) to make the string wind back up and the spool return to your hand.  Today’s yo-yos are more high-tech and quite a bit different from your classic Duncan Imperial. The majority of yo-yos today come with a ball bearing and an axle system. Additionally, they also come unresponsive a lot of the time. An unresponsive yo-yo is a yo-yo that does not return to your hand with a measly tug of the finger, it requires a little more skill and finesse.

The majority of unresponsive yo-yos made today are made from aluminum and high tech hard plastics. Some are made from higher quality materials, such as titanium, but mainly just aluminum or plastic. Another distinct improvement is the shapes of newer yo-yos. Almost all use wide flared designs in order to push weight out to the rims, which makes yo-yos more stable. The most common shapes include: the imperial, the modified, and the butterfly. Firstly, the imperial shape, which is the classic shape, is similar to a half-sphere, where it’s rounded on the outside faces, but the inside has a hard edge. Secondly, the modified shape is rounded everywhere, with no hard edges. And finally, the butterfly shape, which is (in its simplest form) an inverse classic shape.

 

Image courtesy of yourfriendtony.wordpress.com

There are many other shapes, and shapes are often customized for the user’s preference, but these are the most common shapes; the ones you see for sale on the shelves of stores.

As some people may know, there are two halves of a yo-yo, and for the yo-yo to work properly, the two halves have to be exactly the same size and weight. The modern  axle system allows yo-yoers to take the yo-yo apart in order to access the bearings, which are used to make the yo-yo spin smoothly. There are a few different reasons why you would want to be able to access a yo-yos bearings easily. First, If you buy or have a different bearing that you want to put into your yo-yo, whether it be simply a newer one or a different type, then being able to easily take it apart will be nice. Secondly, If you need to apply some thin yo-yo lube to your bearing, you will need to take the yo-yo apart. Another reason you might want to take your yo-yo apart is if you had gotten a wrap around the bearing. A wrap is like a knot in the string except on the bearing. With the improved technology of the yo-yo has come an improvement in skill and the ability to perform yo-yo tricks never before possible.

Yo-yos, and doing crazy tricks with them, have gotten popular enough that they started doing competitions to see who is the best. There are local, semi-local, national, and world championships. The world championships are held at different locations around the world each year. Last years’ championship was held in Ohio, and this year’s will be in Iceland. These world championships have been going on since 1993. There are divisions for men, women, and 5 different styles of yo-yoing. The first is called 1a; 1a is a style where you have one unresponsive yo-yo in your hand and do tricks that are “normal”. The next style is called 2a; 2a is where people use classic yo-yos (responsive yo-yos) to do cool tricks. In 2a you use two responsive yo-yos (yo-yos that come back up with a tug), one for each hand. 3a, the next style, is where you have two 1a yo-yos. This style is definitely not as popular as 1a and 2a, and is very challenging. 4a is a style in which the string is not attached to the yo-yo. On to the next and last style, you guessed it, 5a. 5a is similar to 1a except that the string is not attached to your finger, but instead the end of the string that is normally tied to your finger is tied to a counter-weight. A counter weight can be pretty much anything as long as it has approximately 13% of the weight of the yo-yo.  A lot of people tend to use a die or a bouncy ball as the counter weight. Not having your finger attached to the string allows the yo-yoer to do more complicated tricks, which are “cooler tricks” and have come to be expected for yo-yoers to have a chance at winning competitions.

Believe it or not, not only can you compete and have fun yo-yoing, but there are numerous benefits as well. One of which is anxiety control.  For a lot of people, Including myself, yo-yoing can help deal with stress and anxiety. It allows people, like myself, to take their mind off of the world and really focus on the yo-yo. Another thing that it tends to help with is hand-eye coordination. Generally younger kids and people who don’t have the best hand-eye coordination will benefit from this. One thing really surprised me is how much better I can understand physics; I can now comprehend centrifugal force, and momentum. I didn’t even realize how much I had learned until I had a conversation about those natural forces and that I could now relate to them. Another potential perk from yo-yoing, if you go to competitions or events, is that you’ll get to meet other people with at least one guaranteed similar interest.  

Yo-yos have come a long way, from simple toys offered up to the gods to high-tech, seriously engineered, competition driven toys that people “geek out” over. Yet one thing has remained constant since the dawn of the yo-yo…they are fun and they are good for you.

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WORKS CITED

Oliver, Valerie. History Of The Yo-Yo, Copyright Spintastics Skill Toys, Inc.  ,www.yo-yomuseum.com/museum_view.php?action=profiles&subaction=yo-yo. Accessed 25 May 2017.

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “Yo-Yo!”

  1. NIcholas on June 7th, 2017 10:41 am

    I like this article because of all the different types of yo-yo’s, i really enjoyed learning about the history of the yo-yo’s and how the competitions are set up. I thought it was great that the article really described the way the competitions are set up

    [Reply]

  2. Christopher Pittenger on August 25th, 2017 12:18 pm

    I love this article because it includes so much history about the Yo-yo’s. This article is easy to read and understand well, one thing that I didn’t like about this article though is that it includes too much history and not the modern yo yo. I’m glad that I know more about yo-yo’s then I did ever before like how it was healthy and made people live longer back then.

    [Reply]

  3. Zayne on September 11th, 2017 12:28 pm

    I enjoyed this article for It caught interest. It spoke about the yo yo’s evolution through time and I learned that a yo yo style weapon was once used for small game hunting. I like this article for I believe it was well written and did a good job at explaining the yo yo’s history.

    [Reply]

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