Wednesday, December 3, 2008

yo-yo #1: no jive

well... i guess i lied about there not being an order... this is undeniably my favorite yo-yo ever.
it's certainly the one most of my friends would first identify with me. in truth though, i didn't pick it because it's my favorite. i picked it because i already had so many pictures of it, and didn't feel like taking too many more. there are other no jives that are special to me, but it would feel a bit strange to start off with one of them. i call this one "#1" not as a reference to it's (or my) awesomeness, but because victor wooten calls the fodera 4-string bass he most often plays "#1".

i could seriously write a book about this yo-yo. i will grant you that it would not be a very good book.

the no jive 3-in-1 yo-yo was invented by "dr. yo", tom kuhn in 1976. i bought this particular yo-yo from dave's skill toys in arizona in 2005. i had recently gotten back into yo-yoing (hard), and was reading a lot of the yo-yo message boards. from time to time, these message boards become embroiled in various 'archetypical' debates (meaning there are only a few debates and we just have them again and again in different ways. it's sort of annoying, really.). one of the hottest at the time was the debate over response. a 'responsive' yo-yo will come back to the hand when tugged. an 'unresponsive' yo-yo will not and will need a string bind to return to the hand. generally speaking, playing with an unresponsive yo-yo is easier because it won't snap back and whack your hand in the middle of a trick, and that irritates a lot of the old guard because they had to learn it 'the hard way' before unresponsive yo-yo's rose to prominence.

anyway, i was reading these rehashed debates over response, and was really intrigued by what a lot of people [especially on the duncan crew (which then contained guys like steve brown, jack ringca, seth peterson, and spencer berry)] were saying. there perspective was generally that "unresponsive is fine, but if you learned the right way, you should be able to hit anything on a responsive yo-yo, too". i agreed with this, but couldn't really manifest it in my play. watching ringca's 'shut up' video featuring hard tricks on thin, responsive avengers and ballistics brought into relief my own inadequacy. also, growing up in the 80's, and witnessing the yo-yo boom of the 90's (during which ball-bearings became de rigeur), i always kind of viewed fixed axle yo-yo's as the real deal and transaxles as handy cheats. i no longer hold the same views, exactly, but when i think of "yo-yoing", i think of yo-yo's that "come back" first.

so in part to hone my skill (and probably in part, to escape from the fact that i wasn't improving quickly with bearings anyway), i bought this yo-yo from dave's for about $18 shipped. i probably spent my first month with it in total frustration because i was approaching it as i would a bearing yo-yo that just had way less spin time. i decided to dedicate my lent (though not a serious practicing catholic, i always liked the ritual of lent) to relinquishing bearings and just playing this one yo-yo. it was the best thing i ever did for my yo-yoing.

i abandoned my earlier view and looked at playing wood as a completely different endeavor. it was absolutely like starting over, and i had to re-examine my throw, and virtually all of the fundamentals i had taken for granted. i didn't get great in 40 days, but i stopped feeling embittered over it, and i recognized that which i still believe today; that yo-yoing is absolutely a spiritual deal.

no jives spin for about 20 seconds (my longest sleeper is 47, but i've never really practiced long sleepers... because they're really, really boring). compared with a bearing yo-yo, which can go on for minutes, that's pretty ephemeral. this appealed to me because it reminded me of life.

here's a haiku i wrote (i suck at haiku):

Life unwinds and spins
Then is pulled back to the hand

contrary to what i used to assume when i was young, we don't actually hang around on earth forever. my life may snag and i may get pulled back as i type this here. there aren't any guarantees and you pay for every misstep. this doesn't render life meaningless. rather, it ensures that nothing is trivial. the fundementals of your life MATTER. it's the same way with fixed axle yo-yo. you can take nothing for granted. the meaning is in the basics. in every breath. in every throw.

the yo-yo, itself, is just an everyday, run-of-the-mill 'tom kuhn no jive 3-in-1 yo-yo'. there is nothing special about it. i have beaten the crap out of it over the years, and it's pitted and blackened around the areas where it gets handled the most (i like that my dirt and sweat are literally part of it now). it vibrates a lot and has this "hum" that just kind of resonates with me. it doesn't bother me at all. this summer, i carved the impression of one of my tattoos into one side, and a very rough-textured "no jive" logo on the other. only a small part of me regrets it.

a lot of people ask me how i set up a no jive. mine has one completely dead duncan sticker inside (i do this to even out response) and a tiny rubber o-ring from an 888 hubstack (this shims out the gap a hair, and reduces some vibration). it's obviously flipped butterfly, and i often adust the axle to line up the wood's grain. cotton string, always. the great thing about wood yo-yo's, though, is that no two are alike. you should be able to blend with any yo-yo and "allow" (not "make) it to do what you want. i set up every no jive differently.

some incredible people have handled this yo-yo, which is another reason it's important to me. last month, when national yo-yo master steve brown stopped over with his family on the way to a wedding (and suggested we throw a bit with an imperceptible downward flick of the wrist), it was the one he picked off the wall, 'cause it was the most beat (read: 'loved'). world champs like yuuki and tyler have rocked it (both are of no less titanic skill with wood than with metal). brandon jackson, adam brewster, joey fleshman, and red collectively invented "the spirit bomb club" on it last summer. virtually all of the yo-yo friends whom i most admire have played it, and so a little bit of all of them dwells within it, also.

honestly, it's just a yo-yo. it's not even a good one. and yet, to me, it represents the best of all yo-yo's. and after 3+ years of exploring its mystery, i'm no less inspired; no less amazed...

yeah... damn... what in god's name am i going to choose tomorrow?

1 comment:

Sicyo said...

I love this entry, great read :) Really makes me glad that I hold onto my old yo-yos that I learned on.